“Let my prayer be set forth before thee as the incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” Psalm 141:2
Now really you have never given this much thought, I am certain. You really are taking it for granted that there should be two services on Sunday in the midst of the congregation. As a little child your parents trained you to go to church twice on Sunday. It was not only a morning but also an evening (Vesper) service. And, now, you are a bit disturbed. Someone has confronted you rather disturbingly and challengingly with the question: where do you read in the bible that we must attend church twice on Sunday?
And you do not have a ready answer. The challenger rather boastfully concludes that your loss for a quick and ready answer proves that your position is based on human tradition than on a directive from God Himself. By the way this challenger does not care too deeply about that Vesper service. He is an avowed advocate of “once is sufficient” for the New Testament saint.
We ought to talk a little bit about this “custom” of ours to attend church twice on Sunday. Is there nothing in the Bible to indicate that God would also have an “evening” service? Surely, our Reformed fathers who came from Europe and England would not base their church attendance upon human tradition, and nothing more, would they? Yes, I remember the time when we had our first English speaking service, the elderly people insisted on having their two services in the Holland language. In fact, First Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan, for many years held four services, two in the Holland language, and two in the English language! Yes, that was before your time, youthful reader.
Now I must make a little confession. I must tell you that it was only recently that I started to give this matter some very serious thought. And upon a little study I came to the rather solid conclusion that those fathers of ours did have their house pretty much in order when they kept a minimum of two services per Sunday. It has been my experience as Missionary of our churches, that, in those churches where only a morning service is kept, there was a laxity in life and morals, a “do-as-we-please” attitude. It was church in the morning and off for the stock-car races in the afternoon, if not in the bowling-team tournament in the morning service. This was not the exception; it was symptomic. The preaching here had lost its power.
A little survey of the teaching of the Bible will show that there is, at least, some rhyme and reason for a morning and an evening service on the Lord’s Day. It ought to be evident to anyone who takes any day seriously, that it has a “morning” and an “evening” by creative design. Days don’t have simply a “start” and a “quitting time”. They have morning (dawn), and they have an in-created gloaming. The morning and the evening each have their own speech in which they praise their Creator (Gen. 1:3-5). Do we not read of the “outgoings” of the morning and the evening in Psalm 65:8? And does god not make these both to sing and rejoice? Shall we not with keen spiritual sensitiveness tune out heart strings to the morning and to the evening each day, to hope for God’s mercies in the morning and to tell of His faithfulness each night? (Psalm 92:2) Whereas the natural if first, and then the spiritual, shall we not set our life aright, having it firmly anchored in the very meaning of the day, with its majestic speech and rejoicings before the Lord?
Now if this is true of any day of the week in which we offer our prayers to the lord, morning and evening, shall this not doubly be the case with us on the Lord’s Day? Is this day not a solemn feast day? For us this is the day in which we remember that the Lord Jesus has conquered sin and death for us. It is the symbol of the “day of salvation” of which the prophet spoke, and which is ours in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the first day of the week. Really, it is the “eighth day,” which proclaims that old things are passed away, and that all things are made new. It is the day of the perfect spiritual circumcision in Christ (Gal. 5:6). This spiritual circumcision is “faith energized by love.” It is the being circumcised with the circumcision of Christ without hands (Col. 2:11). Here we do not “keep days” in order to be justified before God. However, we do keep the Sabbath Rest having been justified by faith, and, therefore, we put off the body of sin and rest and keep our “solemn” feast day.
And here the “morning” and the “evening” of the created day offers us its services and gives eloquent design to the pattern of our worship services, morning and evening! We cease from our “servile” labours. We are not slaves of sin and death, but we are free-born sons. We have been brought forth from death and the grave, and we have been liberated from “in the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat bread,” principally. And, on the Sabbath of the Lord, we jubilate in the fact that we are sons of adoption. And we allow the outgoings of the “morning” and of the “evening” to rejoice. And we sing, “the heavens shall join in glad accord.” Really, we do no quite know how to do this “totally” as a mere aggregate of minutes and activities. But we do this in holy consecration of heart. And ere the joyful reverberations of the morning’s “outgoings” have ceased in our sanctified hearts, we again yearn for the “outgoings” of the evening. We would tell the Lord of His faithfulness. And as the sun goes down and the western sky is aglow, painted by the great Artist, we sing, “day is dying in the west.” Then we lift up our hands unto the Lord “as the evening sacrifice.”
And thus, we keep the “truth and substance” as they remain with us in Christ Jesus concerning the ceremonial law. Thus we retain “the body” in Christ and cling to our Head Christ (Col. 2:1-19). For the Old Testament had these set times. And after Pentecost we find Peter and John wending their way to the temple at the time of the evening worship, at the night hour (Acts 3:1). One receives the impression that the outpouring of the Spirit was at the time of worship in the morning, and the “third hour” (Acts 2:15). David introduced the singers among the Levites in the temple (I Chr. 9:33; 23:30). These were to stand in the house of the Lord “every morning to thank and praise the LORD, and likewise, at even.”
The thought occurs to me that the burden of proof now lies with those who disclaim the privilege and sacred duty to come to the house of the Lord “morning and evening” on the LORD’S DAY. The believer, who avers that once is enough, must at least allow that that once is by god’s command of the Gospel. Certainly, even once, on the Sabbath is not by human decision, but by divine ordinance. It calls for sanctified obedience of the free man in the Lord, who would walk in liberty and not in license – lest the “oncer” becomes a person who falls away from the living God (Hebrews 10:25-29). He then will need to say; I have no delight in the worship of the Lord. The Lord is not mocked!
Yes, we will continue to see the outgoings of the morning and of the evening rejoice, and sing.