Posted by: rcottrill | April 13, 2011

Work, for the Night Is Coming

Words: Anna Louisa Walker (Mrs. Harry Coghill) (b. June 23, 1836; d. July 7, 1907)
Music: Lowell Mason (b. Jan. 8, 1792; d. Aug. 11, 1872)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Mrs. Coghill wrote this song while she was still an unmarried teen-ager. As explained in the Wordwise link, Lowell Mason edited Miss Walker’s poem slightly to make it fit his tune.

Words such as “work,” “labour,” “travail,” and “toil” are found in the Bible over 850 times. Work is a part of our lives, and has been since the beginning. Even in the innocence of Eden, before the fall, there was work to do. Adam was placed by the Lord “in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). And after the future consummation of all things, and our entry into the eternal state, there will still be things to do. There and then, “His servants shall serve Him” (Rev. 22:3).

Of course it must be noted that between the times described in those two texts, something significant happened. Adam and Eve sinned, and God put a curse upon the natural world that affected them both, and their descendants afterward. It became a continuing object lesson of the painful effects of sin. Adam was told:

“Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are , and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:17-19).

Suddenly, the rewarding service for God assigned in Eden (that wouldn’t have been excessively burdensome), became “toil” (vs. 17)–a very negative word suggesting that hardship, pain and sorrow would be involved. In addition to the weeds in the garden, specifically referred to in the text, work would involve such things as: drudgery and boredom, selfish competition and greed, the enslavement or oppression of workers, failure and frustration, injury, and ultimately death. Labour would be a necessary part of living, but often not pleasant.

Our work, by its very nature, is hard. Of course, that does not mean that there is nothing at all enjoyable or fulfilling in it. It is especially so when we are conscious of serving the Lord. And not all service for God is “church” work. Slaves in Bible times were encouraged to see all they did as being for the glory of God (Eph. 6:5-8; Col. 3:22-24). Indeed, each Christian is told to “do all to the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:31). We are exhorted to see our “secular” full-time employment as that which gives us the needed resources to serve the Lord in helping others (Eph. 4:28).

When, by our efforts, we are able to show our love and gratitude to God for all He’s done for us, that is rewarding. When we can be of help to others, when we can be productive in our work, not only doing something that is meaningful for time, but is also an investment for eternity, then all of that puts our toil in a more positive light, even when it is difficult.

In Anna Walker’s song, the centuries of man’s earthly labours, from the dawn of creation to the ushering in of eternity, are compared to the brief period of a single day of work. It begins in “the morning hours…while the dew is sparkling” (CH-1), but always with the awareness that “the night is coming, when man’s work is done.”

As time passes, we come to “the sunny noon,” (CH-2) and we’re encouraged to “fill brightest hours with labour, [because] rest comes sure and soon.” Finally, we reach “sunset skies, [when] the last beam fadeth…to shine no more” (CH-3). As Jesus put it, “The night is coming when no one can work” (Jn. 9:4; cf. Ps. 104:23). Then, for believers, comes the day of accounting, before the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10).

1) What difference would it make to all we do if we were more conscious of doing it for the honour of the Lord Jesus?

2) What different priorities might we have if we were more aware that the end of this earthly life was swiftly approaching?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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