Viewed from our front porch, nearly every evening we are treated to a dazzling sunset. We look across the southern Sulphur Springs Valley and watch the sun set behind what are called ‘sky islands’ or ‘sky mountains’. Looking west we clearly see two ranges, the Dragoon Mountains and the Baboquivari Mountains. On a side note, the Baboquivari mountains are home to the only known wild Jaguars in the continental U.S. The primary peak, pronounced BA BO QUAY VI RA, the place for the mother lode of flint, is a great place for rock hounds to find plenty of flint.
Back to sunsets.
In life we may say that a person who has died has come to the sunset of their life. Sunset for you and I probably equates to being the end of a day. Surrounding the sunset is an evening meal, maybe a glass of wine, hopefully catching-up with family and friends, and then a time of sleep allowing our bodies to rest from the day of work. The day ends and a new one begins at midnight. But is this the only way to look at a day?
Before the modern clock, a specific hour of the night could not be precisely known, whereas an hour of the day was easily determined by sighting the location of the sun. Therefore, the day began by precise, simple and universally recognized standards. This meant the day had to be reckoned either from the beginning of night or the beginning of day.
Anthropologists have found that nearly all cultures began their day at sunrise. Egyptians and Aztecs, along with countless cultures, worshiped the sun and its rising. And then there are the Jews.
The Jewish day does not begin and end at midnight—midnight is not a distinguishable astronomic event. The Jewish day does not begin at sunrise. Why are the Jews so . . . unique?
In Jewish time, the day begins with the sunset (and the appearance of the first three stars). Why? Because that is how Torah describes it. “. . . And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” We can find these words recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible, the first book called Genesis.
“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness he called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” Genesis 1:3-5
Did you catch the order there? “And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” Therefore sunset is the beginning of the day, not the end. Also in the Jewish culture the major holidays all begin and end after sundown and the appearance of the stars.
It was once explained to me that beginning the day with the night is a metaphor of life itself. Life begins in the darkness of the womb. Then life is born into, or erupts, into the brightness of the light. Finally life settles into the darkness of the grave, and is followed by a new dawn in the world-to-come.
So as I sit on our porch swing watching the splendor of another sunset, I’ve grown to appreciate the Jews perspective of sunset. The swirling reds and oranges along with the deepening blues and grays declare to me that a new day is approaching. I no longer consider the sunset as the end of my day, a time to rest from my work; I consider the sunset the beginning of my day—a time to rest, preparing me for the next day’s work.
Funny, we often consider the Jews as being so backward. Yet, in truth, the Jews are probably more inline with God’s kingdom than they even know. I wonder, when Jesus taught his disciples to pray (Luke 11:1-4), was it at or about sundown?
Next time you pray asking the Father to give you your daily bread, consider praying it at sundown.
Finally, from the time we “erupt” from the darkness of the womb until we enter the darkness of the grave we are given a day, a life, to live. What we make of that time is what counts. Have you submitted that time to the lordship of Jesus? If not, then what’s your life other than a countless repetition of meaningless days. On the other hand, living under the lordship of Jesus is life filled with adventure and some amazing sunsets. Sorta like the song from Fiddler On The Roof says:
Swiftly flow the days.
. . .
Swiftly fly the years,
One season following another,
Laden with happiness,