In the evening one beds down weeping, and in the morning, glad song. Psalm 30:6b [Hebrew text] Robert Alter
In the morning – The Gnostic thinks that this world is a place of bondage, of ignorant slumber, a prison house of matter deceiving the soul. Of course, his view emanates from philosophical assumptions derived from Plato, not Moses. The biblical view doesn’t have a transcendental God removed from the plight of men. But the Gnostic’s observations do strike home. It does seem that we’re thrown into a world of toil and trouble, as Job lamented. And, of course, you didn’t choose that. You had no say whatsoever in where you were born, when you were born, or who your parents were, you know, the ones who bequeathed all those past traumas to you. It’s enough to make any one of us despair.
But despair is forbidden. God is, therefore, despair is impossible.
David seems to have come to that conclusion despite his own version of the Gnostic dilemma. Notice that he doesn’t deny or avoid that affliction of this life. “In the evening I go to bed weeping.” Yes, me too. By the evening I’ve suffer another day of trials. I’ve experienced failure, heartache, remorse. Sure, there are small victories along the way. There’s friendship, care, and love, but by the evening my exhaustion at just living starts to catch up to me. It’s not unusual to feel a pang of sorrow at the end of the day. Maybe a tear. Life is like that.
However, in the morning. . . Now why would David say something so uplifting in the morning? What has happened that turned his thoughts completely around? I know that David didn’t recite the prayer Modeh ani in the morning, but he might as well have because the words of that prayer explain why “Take two aspirin and you’ll feel better in the morning” is such a common saying.
Modeh ah-nee lifanecha, Ru-ach chai v’kayam, she-hechezarta bee nishma-tee b’chemlah
I give thanks before You, eternal and living King, who returns my nishma within me with mercy.
In other words, I give thanks to God because I woke up today, because I am alive. When I fell asleep, it was as if I stopped existing. Now, in the morning, God brings me back to life. And I am grateful for this new day.
But notice the NASB’s additions and corrections:
Weeping may last for the night,
But a shout of joy comes in the morning.
According to this translation the shout of joy is merely the counterpoint to weeping at night. In addition, weeping is hypothetical. It may or may not happen. This is the “Take two aspirin” version, as if joy is expected just like the morning sunrise. That’s not the perspective of the Modeh ani and it’s not David’s perspective. Waking is an amazing resurrection, an unexpected renewal! The day leads to weeping. It’s hard to be alive. Sleep is like death, but the morning recreates life and the world. David’s version isn’t hypothetical. It’s the existential reality of living in a fractured world. Morning brings a glad song because God decided I’m not finished yet. Every sunrise is a new beginning.
Maybe I’m not a Gnostic after all.
Topical Index: Gnostic, weeping, morning, joy, Psalm 30:6b