From the very beginning of our creation God established an evening and morning as the wo defining moments of a day (Gen 1:5). They act like two bookends, helping us to distin­guish the start and finish of daily consideration and activity. As such they become significant markers, allowing us to pause and reflect upon the events of a day’s service before God when we rise and when we rest.

It is not surprising, therefore, to see this theme repeated throughout Scripture.

Under the Law, Israel was commanded to bring pure olive oil every evening and morning so that the Lampstand could remain alight throughout the day and night (Ex 27:20–21). Two intense activities by the priests (crushing the donated olives by hand followed by cleaning and trimming the lamps) both at the start and end of a day, allowed the light to burn for 24 hours.

Similarly, a lamb was offered on the altar every morning and evening, together with its accompany­ing meal and drink offering (Exod 29:39–42). And lastly, the high priest himself burnt sweet incense every morning and evening at precisely the same time that the lamps on the lampstand were trimmed and re-lit (Ex 30:7–8).

No other times were designated. The morning and evening were highlighted as the critical times of the day. They were considered by God to represent the most appropriate times to renew and review the work of commitment and service; just as God did during the days of creation.

Israel were being taught by these continual of­ferings that they had a daily need and were required to offer a daily response in return. Their need was very clear: they were sinners and required forgive­ness. In return for His mercy, they were to devote themselves and their labours wholly to God. They were to become lights, dispelling darkness and evil. They were to offer praise and petition continually and neither evening nor morning was allowed to pass without this recognition.

As each day began, they were being asked to pledge their lives to God in fullness of love. As each day drew to a close, they were being asked to reflect upon the day’s activities and prepare themselves with renewed resolve for the morrow.

What lofty ideals were being expressed and the wonderful thing is that we find them being out­worked in the early ecclesia. They “were continu­ally in the temple, praising and blessing God” (Luke 24:53). The apostles declared that they would give themselves “continually to prayer, and to the min­istry of the word” (Acts 6:4). They were living ex­amples of the very lessons embedded in those regular offerings. This is why Paul encouraged all believers with this appeal: “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Heb 13:15).

In Psalm 92:1–2 the psalmist wrote that “it is a good thing to give thanks unto Yahweh … to shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night”. So the morning was the designated time to declare God’s steadfast love and to hope in His continued mercy during the rest of the day. What a wonderful way to start the day – banishing any semblance of irritability or complaint – ready instead to face the hours ahead with thankfulness and appreciation.

And when evening arrives the time of reflection and calm allows us to contemplate the day that has passed. At this time there ought to be a keen sense of gratefulness in our hearts when we consider the evidence of God’s faithfulness in our lives. He has watched over us and directed us. He has brought us through the day and kept us from evil. How appropriate then for us to respond with complete praise and gratitude.

Here is the ideal God was seeking: a “day by day” service “continually”. Every morning and evening was designed to reflect this constancy of devotion. It was seen in the Lord Jesus Christ, who “in the morning, rising up a great while before day … went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). In the evening he could be frequently found praying (Matt 14:23; Mark 6:46) and on at least one occasion he “continued all night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12). As the psalmist predicted of him: “my God, I cry in the daytime … and in the night season, and am not silent” (Psa 22:2).

There were times, however, when the evening and morning principles were set aside. In 1 Sam 17:16 the champion Goliath drew near to Israel “morning and evening” and sadly the nation, losing its trust in the living God, fled in fear every time he appeared.

During the reign of Ahaz, the king moved the appointed altar from before the house and replaced it with a new altar based on the one he had seen in Damascus. He still kept up the evening and morning offerings but he was completely oblivious to the principles of dedication they represented (2 Kings 16:12–15).

In contrast, look at Paul’s dedicated service night and day, morning and evening in Acts 28:23: “And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.” The light of the truth lit morning and evening in the tabernacle was now being diffused morning and evening in Rome by Paul.

In Troas he preached all night until break of day (Acts 20:6–12) and it is significant that the record tells us that “there were many lights in the upper chamber.” The single lamp of Paul’s labours night and day had ignited the zeal of many others besides. At Ephesus “by the space of three years [he] ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31). He told the Thessalonians (1 Thess 2:9): “For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God”.

Widows may feel that they may not be able to contribute much to ecclesial life but their prayers morning and evening are a wonderful sense of faithful commitment and care.

Perhaps we may think that we do not have the opportunity to emulate this level of commitment; but look at this example of constancy: “And [Anna] was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Luke 2:37). She was like an individual solitary lampstand and her service was seen in her constant prayers. Paul made the same point about the widows in the ecclesia: “Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in sup­plications and prayers night and day” (1 Tim 5:5). Widows may feel that they may not be able to contribute much to ecclesial life but their prayers morning and evening are a wonderful sense of faithful commitment and care.

Paul’s prayers were offered in the same vein: “I thank God,” he wrote to Timothy, “whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day” (2 Tim 1:3). The apostle’s prayers did not come in fits and starts. They were constant and they were continuous. May we grasp that same sense of dedication, delighting and medi­tating in the Scriptures “day and night” (Psa 1:2) as we await the day of glory when we shall stand before the Lamb’s throne “and serve him day and night in his temple” (Rev 7:15).