We didn’t do much in the way of vacations—we couldn’t afford them. Usually they were visits to distant family. My parents left early so we had more driving time and avoided a motel bill, but those trips were still exciting. We could not afford weekends away or trips to resorts or amusement parks, so any sort of trip was special. And that breakfast out was special too because it was rare. But we weren’t unusual—everyone lived that way. Rising early for something that special was common to us all.
We still have things we rise early for—work, school, a hunting trip, tailgating before a ball game, Black Friday, and yes, even leaving early for a vacation. But do we ever rise up early for God? Did you know that one of the hardest things for people to give up is their Sunday mornings? At least it would seem that way when they skip the Bible study hour or at best swarm in at the last minute so they can get every extra minute possible of sleep.
We are not living up to our heritage. God’s people have always risen early to pray, to meditate, to worship. Abraham (Gen 19:27), Jacob (Gen 28:18), Moses (Ex 24:4), and Job (1:5) all rose early to make sacrifices and meet with God. Elkanah and his family rose early to travel to the tabernacle for the feast days (1 Sam 1:19). Jesus rose early to go to the Temple (John 8:2) and so did the crowds who went to hear him. It may not have been early when Jesus went to pray, but it was by the time he finished, having “prayed all night” (Luke 6:12).
David woke early to pray. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise. (Ps 119:148). The Jews recognized three night watches, beginning at sunset the night before and ending at dawn the next morning. It may have been a bit hyperbolic but if not, David evidently awoke before each one began just to pray. How many times have you or I ever interrupted our sleep to pray as often as that? How many times have we done it even once?
Obviously, their prayers and their worship meant a lot to those faithful people. Neither was viewed as a duty, but as a privilege and a pleasure, just as much a pleasure as that long awaited vacation trip that has us up and at it and ready to go before dawn.
More than that, we should be gratefully rising early to serve a God who rose early to save us. And now, because you have done all these works, says Jehovah, and I spoke unto you, rising up early and speaking, but you heard not; and I called you, but you answered not: (Jer 7:13) Those words to a faithless people can apply to us too.
Maybe the problem isn’t attitude, but a simple lack of preparation. Maybe Saturdays should not be for wearing ourselves out and staying up late. Maybe they should be, at least a little bit, about preparation for our worship together on Sunday mornings. God went to a lot of trouble to prepare things for us. It seems a small thing to ask to prepare ourselves physically and mentally for Him at least one day a week.
And…evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, (Mark 15:42).