"Watchman, What of the Night?" (August 2008)
Recently, my pastor asked me to speak at our church. I feel very impressed to share the message I shared that night- a revised version- with you. As I prayed and sought the Lord about what He would have me to say, I felt that He was going to do something different with me that night. I felt that He was going to use me in more of a “prophetic office” to deliver the message. May I just stop here and say that I am NOT a prophet. There seems to be no shortage of “prophets” in the land. Some of them are true prophets called by and sent from God, but there are also false prophets, prophets that are man-called or self-called. I am none of the above, and even though God has not called me to be a prophet, God can use me, or you, to speak a “prophetic” word- a word that brings edification, clarity, instruction or warning. “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” (1 Corinthians 14:1,3) I believe that the word I delivered at the church was a “prophetic word” for the whole body of Christ- not just our church- that is why I feel compelled to share it with you.
The scriptures He gave me came from Isaiah 21 and 1 Thessalonians. 5. The focus of what the Lord wanted to say came from verse 11 of Isaiah 21-- “watchman what of the night?”. In the Bible days most of the cities were fortified by a wall around them. On the top of the wall was a watchtower. The watchtower was the place where a man (called a watchman) would go and watch from in order to see what was happening around the city- it was his “post”. It was a high place where he was able to see at a distance so he would know what was happening even far away. When an enemy was approaching to try to attack the city, the watchman would see him before he was able to get near and thus he would sound an alarm to warn the people that danger was coming. “And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently with much heed.” (verse 7) Periodically, someone would come and inquire of him what he saw. “For thus hath the LORD said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth. The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come.” (verses 6,11,12) If he had fallen asleep or if he was not watching he could not give a report. But if he had been awake, alert and diligent at his post, he could give a report of everything he saw. The Hebrew word for watchman in this verse means: to be on guard, to watch, to observe. Because the watchman took his position serious, because he did not leave his post, because he kept watch day and night, he was aware of everything that was happening around the city. He saw each camel, each donkey, each person that approached- nothing took him by surprise or unaware. He was watching and he was watching from a vantage point where he would see in all directions. “And he cried, A lion: My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime, and I am set in my ward whole nights.” (verse 8) The watchman was on guard, therefore, he observed everything.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-8- There are two groups of people here: those who are living in darkness and those who are living in the light. “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.” (verse 5) The first group are those who have not received Christ as Savior so they are living in “darkness”. The second group are those who are “children of the day”. This is the born again child of God- the ones who have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” (1 Peter 2:9) These are the ones who have come to Christ- the Light of the world- and repented of their sins, making Him Savior and Lord. They are the ones who have been translated from darkness into the Kingdom of God’s Dear Son, Jesus. “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” (Colossians 1:13) As children of the day we are no longer living in darkness. One of the differences between those who are in darkness and those who are of the day is their “watching”. “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” (verse 6) What does that mean? The word “watch” here is different than in Isaiah, it means give strict attention to, be cautious, active to take heed lest through remission and indolence some destructive calamity suddenly overtake one, but the intention is the same as in Isaiah. The watchmen in Isaiah kept a look out and were on guard for physical dangers that were coming. God intends for us to be “spiritual watchmen” who keep a look out for dangers that are coming also- dangers that can harm or destroy us spiritually-- even if they come through “natural” means.
This brings me to the word that the Lord has for us His people- this is the prophetic part of the message. God is calling His people to get back to the watchtower. We have left our post! Many of our “watchtowers” are empty. But because God is watching He sees what is coming, therefore, He is blowing a trumpet and sounding an alarm for His people to get back to the watchtowers. Whether you believe it or not, we are living in very “critical” times. I personally, believe that we are living in the days that Jesus said would come prior to His return. I also believe that the events He prophesied that would occur are happening all around us. Turn on the television and watch the news, read the newspaper, open the Internet, read your emails... signs of the times are everywhere-- the signs that Jesus said would be the evidence that His return was soon. Destruction is coming upon the land, the enemy is pressing his way toward us, deception is on the increase, evil men are gaining in power in prominent positions, the horsemen who are bringing calamities are riding our direction but we (as a whole) are not watching. We are not giving strict attention to the things that are happening in our world.
If God is calling us back to the watchtower it’s because we have left our post. What made us leave our post in the watchtowers? In Isaiah 21 there are also two groups: those who are in the house eating, drinking and making merry, and the watchman. “Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield”. (verse 5) There’s the answer- if we are not in the watchtower then where are we? In the “house” eating and drinking and making merry- we are partying! Everything’s about food, fun and fellowship. We are consumed with creature comforts and entertainment. We are self absorbed- it’s all about me and what makes me happy. It’s about making another dollar, buying bigger and better, focusing on material things. In 1 Thessalonians it tells us that the reason we have left our post is because we are asleep. We are sleeping in bed with the world. We are in a place of placebo. We don’t want to be disturbed. We would rather hide our heads under the cover than deal with reality. We are preoccupied with flesh and focused on our problems. We are consumed with the cares of this life and overindulgence. We didn’t want to leave the “house”, after all, there’s a party going on- music, merriment, socialization. That’s where all the “fun” is. The watchtower is a lonely place. It’s not so exciting. It’s tiresome and boring- watching, and waiting, and waiting and watching.
There are consequences if we aren’t watching, if we are asleep, if we are preoccupied with “partying in the house”. If the watchman was not watching he and those that he was suppose to be watching out for were in danger. If we are not watching some destructive calamity can suddenly overtake us and we won’t be aware of what is coming upon us until it is too late. “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.” (Luke 21:34) If we are not watching we will not know the times or the seasons and that day will overtake us like a thief. “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.” (1 Thess. 5:1,2) If we are not watching, we can fall when we are tempted. “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.” (Mark 14:38a) If we are not watching, we can suffer loss. “But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.” (Matthew 24:43) If we are not watching, we will be caught without oil in our lamps. “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.” (Matthew 25:1,5,8) The disciples fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsamene instead of “watching”, therefore, they weren’t prepared for what was happening when they woke up. “And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:40,41) They tried to handle the situation in the flesh. “And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear.” (Matthew 26:51) Had they been watching they would have seen what was coming and would have known how to handle it correctly. Did you wonder why Jesus addressed Peter personally when He found the disciples sleeping? Jesus had already told/warned Peter that he was going to deny Him three times. Had Peter been watching and praying instead of sleeping, the story of his denial may have been different. If we aren’t watching we might have a rude awakening and get a reality check. “My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me.” (Isaiah 21:4) One minute we can be in the house eating and drinking and the next minute be overwhelmed by fearful events. Jesus also compared this to the days of Noah. “For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark.” (Matthew 24:38) “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:3)
“Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?” (Isaiah 21:11) If we are watchman we will be asked this question. When you are asked it, what will your reply be? Will you know how to answer those who ask? Will you see the enemy coming from afar off? Or will destruction come and you aren’t aware of it? Are you going to be able to warn anyone? Are you at your post? Have you left your post? Are you asleep? What are you going to say to those that you have not warned? What are you going to say to them when calamity hits their world? Are they going to know that they can come to you for answers?
We are suppose to be at our post watching. The things that Jesus warned us about are not suppose to take us by surprise and they won’t if we are watching. “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1,4) Paul said he didn’t even need to write to the church about that because it was understood that if you were a Christian you were a watchman and you were at your post.
“The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come.” (Isaiah 21:12) The watchman said that morning was coming and so was night. Where I live there is a period of time between morning and night- it’s called day. The watchman only saw morning and it was immediately followed by night. This is symbolic of a short period of time. I don’t believe we have a very big window of opportunity left to us. Even if we have a few more years, the years pass as quickly as days. Even life is referred to as a “vapor”- here today and gone tomorrow, it appears for a little time then vanishes away. (James 4:14) We must redeem the time. (Ephesians 5:16) What we do we must do quickly, the day is far spent and the night is coming on when no man can work. (John 9:4) We must get back in our watchtowers quickly.
Because we are children of light, we are to be aware of what is going on around us. We should know what the events that we see taking place mean. We should know what is coming our direction. We are to be like the children of Issachar. “And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.” (1 Chronicles 12:32) When we are at our post we will know. “He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” (Matthew 13:11)
“Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?” This question is asked twice because if we could not answer it the first time because we have not been at our post watching, God is giving us a second chance to get back in the watchtower so that we can answer it when we are asked again.
How do we get back in the watchtower? The watchtower was a high place where the watchman could see for great distances. To get back in the watchtower, you have to go up higher. You can’t be caught up in the “low life” of this world. You can’t keep holding on to the “weak and beggarly elements” of this world. (Galatians 4:9) You have to be transformed and not conformed to this world- it’s way of thinking, it’s entrapments, it’s priorities. The watchtower was a place of “seclusion”. It was separated from the rest of the city. You have to be separate and come out from among them- the things that entice you away from your post, the unholy and profane things, those things that encumber and weigh you down, those sins that so easily beset you, unnecessary baggage, the cares of this life. It was a “lonely” place- void of distractions. You have to shut yourself in alone with God on a regular basis and seek Him first, His Kingdom and His righteousness. The watchman watched day in and day out and even throughout entire nights. You have to make a whole hearted commitment to serve the Lord- to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes. You can’t serve self and Him, God and mammon, worldliness and righteousness. You can’t be lukewarm, you can’t compromise. You have to repent for leaving your post, for sleeping on the job, for not watching.
“Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield.” (Isaiah 21:4) The call to the watchtower is for all of us who are children of the light. We cannot “pass the buck”. We cannot depend upon someone else to do all the “watching” for us. We are where we are because we have done just that. We have stopped taking any personal responsibility to “try the spirits”, to judge righteous judgment, to study to show ourselves approved, to seek the Lord for ourselves, to get filled with the Spirit, to fulfill the commission, to search the scriptures and to watch and pray.
We have already talked about the consequences if we are not watching. Let’s talk about the results we’ll have if we are watching. If we are watching we will not be taken by surprise. We will see what’s coming from a distance and will be able to blow the trumpet to warn others. Because of the warning we won’t see as many casualties as we would if there was no warning.
“And he cried, A lion: My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime, and I am set in my ward whole nights.” (Isaiah 21:8) The literal meaning of this is that “he cried like a lion”. “His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.” (Isaiah 56:10) We see that the Lord compares watchmen to either lions that roar loudly to warn the people or dumb dogs that cannot even bark. Which one are you- a roaring lion or a dumb dog? The answer is determined by whether you are in the watchtower or not. Get in the watchtower!