Posted by: rcottrill | October 6, 2017

The Shadows of the Evening Hours

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Words: Adelaide Anne Procter (b. Oct. 30, 1825; d. Feb. 2, 1864)
Music: St. Leonard (or Hiles), by Henry Hiles (b. Dec. 31, 1826; d. Oct. 20, 1904)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (The Lost Chord)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: English author Adelaide Procter was a friend of Charles Dickens, and he printed many of her creations in his monthly publications. Proctor also wrote The Lost Chord (inspiring, though not strictly a hymn) and My God I Thank Thee Who Hast Made.

We have various words for the time between sunset and nightfall: evening, dusk, twilight, and gloaming are a few. The word “evening” comes from the ancient word aefen meaning late (i.e. late in the day.). It’s come to refer broadly to the period between sunset and when we go to bed.

That in-between time is spent in a variety of ways. Usually, it’s been thought of as the end of the workday. “Man goes out to his work and to his labour until the evening,” says the psalmist (Ps. 104:23). But that was before electric lighting and other developments. Now there is shift work ’round the clock, or sometimes a second job to go to, for economic reasons.

Apparently more than a third of the population has some kind of paid employment in the evenings. Still, for many, this is family time, or television time, or an opportunity to take care of household chores or, for those in school, a time to do homework.

But let’s take a few moments to consider some of the activities of the Lord Jesus in the evening hours. After one busy Sabbath day, Jesus and His disciples went to Peter’s home for supper. But then we read, “At evening, when the sun had set [and the Sabbath was officially over], they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed….Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons” (Mk. 1:32, 34).

The evening was also used as a time for personal reflection and prayer (cf. Ps. 141:2). On one occasion a multitude of the Jews tried to “take [Jesus] by force and make Him king” (Jn. 6:15), it was clear they understood neither the plan of God or His timing. And “when He [Christ] had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray” (Matt. 14:23).

The evening before His arrest the Lord celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples and engaged in an extensive time of instruction described by John (Jn. 13–17). This was followed by His time of prayer in Gethsemane. For Jesus, then, the evening hours were a time for ministry, for personal prayer, and for the teaching and encouragement of those who believed on Him.

There were also meetings of Christ with His followers on the evening of His resurrection. He met two of them on the road to the town of Emmaus, walking and talking with them. And when the couple reached home, “They constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them [briefly]” (Lk. 24:29).

“Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (Jn. 20:19).

The beautiful hymn by poet Adelaide Procter speaks of the evening as a time for meditation and prayer.

CH-1) The shadows of the evening hours
Fall from the darkening sky;
Upon the fragrance of the flowers
The dews of evening lie;
Before Thy throne, O Lord of heav’n,
We kneel at close of day;
Look on Thy children from on high,
And hear us while we pray.

One stanza (CH-3) not included in every hymn book may speak of a personal sorrow of the author. We know that although Miss Procter was engaged at one point, she never married. And the following words seem to speak of turning away from earthly disappointments to consider the eternal blessings up ahead.

CH-3) Slowly the rays of daylight fade,
So fade within our heart
The hopes in earthly love and joy,
That one by one depart.
Slowly the bright stars, one by one,
Within the heavens shine:
Give us, O Lord, fresh hopes in heaven
And trust in things divine.

CH-4) Let peace, O Lord, Thy peace,
O God, upon our souls descend;
From midnight fears and perils, now
Our trembling hearts defend.
Give us a respite from our toil;
Calm and subdue our woes.
Through the long day we labour, Lord,
O give us now repose.

Questions:
1) What is your usual occupation most evenings?

2) Do you prefer to have your daily devotions in the morning or the evening? (Why?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (The Lost Chord)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org


Responses

  1. I prefer my devotions in the morning. It is not my most awake or rational time but perhaps that is why I prefer it. Instead of my thoughts I am more open to Jesus changing me.

    • H-m-m… Well, I’ve certainly been there. With a foggy brain, early in the morning, trying to read a passage of Scripture with understanding, and pray without nodding off! But what you say does concern me at another level. What the Lord uses to “change” us is the Word of God. It’s not a matter of just sitting idly by and having God somehow Zapp! us with change.

      As the psalmist says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path….The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Ps. 119:105, 130). One thing that has helped me is to discipline myself to write down what I’ve learned from the passage. I do this before I have my prayer time. Then, I’m able to turn what I’ve learned into a prayer (such as “Lord, help me to be faithful to you, like Daniel was.”) Just a thought or two.

      • Thank you for your response. I will do that. I really appreciate the hymns. I read them very often. You are an awesome writer and full of faith. Thanks again for your response.


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