In many parts of the ancient Near East, in the cultures surrounding ancient Israel such as Babylon and Egypt, the sun was believed to rise from the underworld each day through gates which opened in the morning on the eastern horizon and to sink back into the depths of the earth at night through the gates of the evening in the west.
For the cultures that held this kind of belief, the gates of the evening and morning were places of great significance controlled by the gods, but they were essentially part of the underworld and as such they were places of darkness, foreboding, and closeness to death.
The biblical writers rejected this view and characterized the morning and evening as times of joy – times in which the One true God demonstrated his power and his care for his creation (Psalm 30:5, 42:8, 49:14, 141:2, etc.). Psalm 65:8 captures this view in a single verse, showing that each morning was a sign of the hope of life and each evening a rejoicing in the life God had given. Its wording is slightly different in other translations, but the idea is the same: "The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy" (NIV).
Today we may smile at the concepts of ancient pagan peoples, but we should be equally impressed with the enlightened nature of the biblical view. Psalm 65:8 and similar verses shun the darkened views of ignorance that surrounded ancient Israel and remind us that each morning and evening are a cause for joy. It's a message we should remember as we go from day to day and one we can apply in two small ways.
First, the psalmist tells us "It is good to praise the Lord ... proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night" (Psalm 92:1-2), yet it is easy to forget to do this joyfully at the sleepy and tired ends of the day when joy is so often replaced by the hurry of preparing for the day or the wind-down at its end. Psalm 65:8 is a colorful reminder to include real joy in our morning and evening prayers.
Second, despite the problems or the simple ongoing strain that our lives may involve, Psalm 65:8 calls us to consider ourselves as gatekeepers: to consider each morning and evening an opportunity of reflecting joy. They can sometimes be the hardest times to let our light shine, but remembering this simple verse can make a difference in our lives, and the lives of those around us, when we treat the morning and the evening as the times of joy they were intended to be!