In our congregation’s hymnody, we’re trying to make an effort to sing hymns from the Trust and the Hope and Comfort sections in Lutheran Service Book. Last month we learned Paul Gerhardt’s hymn Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me. It’s surprising how many of these hymns are unfamiliar to our congregations, especially when you consider what wonderful hymns these really are. This Sunday, we get to sing Evening and Morning, also by the great Lutheran hymn-writer Paul Gerhardt. It’s a short, simple hymn of faith and trust and uses imagery that can be traced back to the Psalms.
Evening and morning,
Sunset and dawning,
Wealth, peace, and gladness,
Comfort in sadness:
These are Thy works; all the glory be Thine!
Times without number,
Awake or in slumber,
Thine eye observes us,
From danger preserves us,
Causing Thy mercy upon us to shine.
The footnotes of Lutheran Service Book suggest Psalm 145 as a counterpart for this hymn, and we will start there:
8The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9The LORD is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.
[The LORD is faithful in all his words
and kind in all his works.]
14The LORD upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
15The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
16You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
18The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
20The LORD preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
21My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.
The Lord, our Father, provides us with all that we need to support this body and life (as we confess in the Small Catechism). As we see in verse 8 of the Psalm, this is out of God’s mercy and love for us. He not only provides for us, He constantly watches over us to see that no harm befalls us, as Jesus says in Luke 12:
6Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Father, O hear me,
Pardon and spare me;
Calm all my terrors,
Blot out my errors
That by Thine eyes they may no more be scanned.
Order my goings,
Direct all my doings;
As it may please Thee
Retain or release me;
All I commit to Thy fatherly hand.
We are fragile, sinful, weak, and easily frightened. Gerhardt here directs us to take our fears and worries to our Father. God does calm our terrors, as we hear in 1 Peter 5:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
He also removes our sins that so that He can no longer see them, as is says in Psalm 103:
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
14For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.
God guides, directs, sustains, and forgives us out of love. There is simply nothing left to worry about concerning this life or the next. The confidence and trust this gives us is expressed in stanza 3.
Ills that still grieve me
Soon are to leave me;
Though billows tower,
And winds gain power,
After the storms the fair sun shows its face.
Joys e’er increasing
And peace never ceasing;
These shall I treasure
And share in full measure
When in His mansions God grants me a place.
To God in heaven
All praise be given!
Come, let us offer
And gladly proffer
To the Creator the gifts He doth prize.
He well receiveth
A heart that believeth;
Hymns that adore Him
Are precious before Him
And to His throne like sweet incense arise.
Our response to God’s gracious goodness to us is to praise Him, to say thank you, to shout the loud “Amen!” He is ready to receive a believing heart, and makes all believers His own children, as it says in John 1:
2But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Our praise does rise as a sweet incense to our God, as we pray in Psalm 141:
2Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!
What wonderful comfort from another great Gerhardt hymn! Thanks be to God!