Friday, 16 December 2011

The Watchman

All disciples should be prayer warriors and watchmen. Prayer warriors are like a dog with a bone – have a good gnaw, bury it, then later dig it up and gnaw again. So with the prayer warrior – he has the tenacity to pray something through to completion, but not necessarily on a regular daily basis. The watchman is one who guards, protects, maintains something, by warning others and by his own prayer as seen in Jeremiah 31.6 ‘for there shall be a day that the watchmen on Mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise and let us go up to Zion to Jehovah our God!’

The watchman peers into the distance to observe and keep watch, waiting for friends to arrive, or warning of the approach of the enemy. The trained watchmen of old could recognise who was approaching the city by the dust churned up by their mode of transport 2 Kings 9:20 ‘And the watchman reported, saying, He came up to them, but does not come again. And the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi, for he drives furiously.’

Babylon (Daniel Chapter 5) had walls 87 feet thick and reputedly 350 feet high. Stationed at the 250 towers on the wall would have been watchmen. However, let the warning of complacency be taken, for although Babylon was besieged by the Medes and Persians, the inhabitants felt secure, for the drawbridges were up leaving a moat filled by the river Euphrates around the city and the walls impenetrable. They had provisions for several years within the city of 225 square miles. Yet in their festivities to foreign gods of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood and stone the people did not reckon on the judgments of the God of Israel as they defiled the Lord’s sacred vessels. The watchmen not only failed to observe the draining of the river Euphrates and consequent way made for foot soldiers to enter the city and Palace, but failed to recognise the enemy within their own Palace (the worship of foreign gods and contempt for the True God and His ways). Let the watchmen of today remember to look within their own professed ranks to see the enemy at work. May the true people of God hear and heed the warnings wherever they may be.

‘Watchmen’ also means one who preserves or hedges something about as with thorns ‘I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem, who will not always be silent all the day nor all the night; you who remember Jehovah, do not be silent’ (Isaiah 62.6). This specifically refers to the protection offered by prayers in response to needs. As we observe the signs of the times so we have a responsibility to pray with understanding which may not be granted to so many people. It is a privilege to be used of the Lord in this way, but it comes with a price, just as in the natural there is a price in our bodies as a soldier lays in wait for an enemy. To be a watchman is at times to be sleepless (how often may we be awoken to pray during the night) and constantly on the alert. Jeremiah 31:28 ‘And it shall be, as I have watched over them to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so I will watch over them to build, and to plant, says Jehovah.’ The Hebrew word here for ‘watch’ is ‘shaqud’ meaning to be alert, sleepless – to be on the lookout. How comforting to know that we are following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ as we make our personal sacrifices to be watchmen for the body of Christ.

The watchman has to be in a vantage point or high place in order to ‘look out’. A watch tower can be at home, school, church, town, area or country etc. Today, we must also think globally.
2 Kings 9:17-21 ‘And a watchman stood on the tower in Jezreel. And he saw the company of Jehu as he came, and said, I see a company. And Jehoram said, Take a horseman and send to meet them, and let him say, is it peace?’ As we see suspicious events occurring or in preparation, we have a responsibility to ask ‘is it peace or is it in accordance with God’s will? We may have to research what we see, and ask others, especially the Holy Spirit. We must lay everything alongside the word of God our plumb line and pray blessings on that which has come from God, and pray protection and sound the warning for all else. We must remember our responsibility to warn, for if the watchman does not, the blood is upon his hands and it will be accounted to him in the judgment of our works.

The prophet Ezekiel was also called by God to be a watchman. Eze 3:17 ‘Son of man, I have made you a watchman to the house of Israel. Therefore hear the Word of My mouth, and give them warning from Me.’ This was not in contradiction to his role as a prophet, but a refinement of it. Likewise with us disciples and people of prayer. We are all called to do our little bit in the areas over which we have responsibility and influence. It is a responsibility on our shoulders, for God gives us warnings that we must heed in prayer.

Watchmen are called to be prayerfully alert, and to report what we see. Isa 21:6 ‘For so Jehovah has said to me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he sees…And let him listen, very attentively.’

Watchmen may cause the body to perceive a new battle ahead; being prepared in advance may hasten victory. 1 Cor 14:8 ‘For also if a trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for the battle?’ The watchman must have built up a trusted relationship with those in spiritual authority, so their voice will be heard. Leadership then has a responsibility to test and act on the word. Submission to leadership is a key to victory for the body in question, obviously with sensitivity to the exact nature of the situation. For example, a household warning is the responsibility of the head of the household rather than the pastor. Similarly, an issue effecting, for example, a school where parents or pupils pray is firstly the responsibility for the leaders of that group. Each praying individual and praying group has a responsibility to watch with spiritual awareness, and to listen to what the Lord is saying in the situation so that we have spiritual understanding. Hab 2:1-3 ‘I will stand on my watch and set myself on the tower, and will watch to see what He will say to me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. And Jehovah answered me and said, Write the vision, and make it plain on the tablets, that he who reads it may run. For the vision is still for an appointed time, but it speaks to the end, and it does not lie. Though it lingers, wait for it; because it will surely come. It will not tarry.’

It is certainly good practice to record our experiences, although we do not all find this easy at the time. Looking back on answered prayer increases our faith and encourages those who come after us. It also serves as a reminder for the future – how quickly we can forget the battle, especially when results are not immediately evident, or we get distracted. Moreover so often there will be ongoing prayer battles, and those requiring us to wait for God’s perfect timing. As we pass on our spiritually discerned thoughts, prayers, prophetic actions, so we maintain the necessary momentum for ourselves and others. It seems to be an observed fact that success in prayer, often by the few, will encourage many more to join. Success breeds success. As Nehamiah said (Neh 4:19-22 And I said to the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, The work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, far from one another. In whatever place you hear the sound of the trumpet, gather there to us. Our God will fight for us. And we laboured in the work. And half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning until the stars appeared. Also at the same time I said to the people, Let everyone with his servant stay inside Jerusalem, so that in the night they may be a guard to us, and labour in the day.’) the work of re-building was to be shared, so no one would be over burdened. This calls for localized strategy and organization as we act in prayer, be it a city-wide initiative or an informal gathering of friends.

We must depend totally on our Lord who is our perfect watchman. Psalm 127:1 ‘Unless Jehovah builds the house, they labour in vain who build it; unless Jehovah keeps the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.’ Not all of the ‘good ideas’ we have will be ‘God ideas’. We must learn to lean and depend on God the whole time, or we will be our own time wasters. We may also make problems for others to sort out. Let us never think we can do the Lord’s work for Him! God’s direction and timing are paramount in all activity undertaken in His Name.

Watchmen, by nature, are not always popular people! By nature and calling they are looking out for danger, so may appear to be negative people. Obviously, a calling, be it on ones’ life, or for a particular episode, brings a need to speak out loudly. Perhaps in the business or festivities of normal church life, the warning will not be popular. Isaiah 62:6 ‘I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem, who will not always be silent all the day nor all the night; you who remember Jehovah, do not be silent.’ . As we have already said, blood is on our hands if we remain silent!

In the New Testament watchman are found watching over the church in prayer, as did Paul for example (Eph 1:15-23; 2 Tim 1:3).

Watchmen warn of false doctrine 1 Tim 1:3-4 ‘Even as I begged you to remain at Ephesus, when I was going to Macedonia, that you might charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor to give heed to fables and endless genealogies (which provide doubts rather than the nurture of God in faith).’

Christian leaders watch over the souls of the flock, and will have to give an account for this responsibility. Heb 13:17 ‘Yield to those leading you, and be submissive, for they watch for your souls, as those who must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you’.

Watchmen must be on guard for themselves and the body of Christ Acts 20:28 ‘Therefore take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of God which He has purchased with His own blood’.

If we do not speak out against the world and its system who will? We are the Lord’s mouth-piece here on the earth in this natural realm. We can not afford not to be aware of Satan’s wiles.

John the Baptist came before Jesus to warn of His coming. Watchman and prayer warriors need to be prophetic people, praying ahead of things and being watchful for those who are not so alert.

Jesus makes intercession for us Heb 7:25 ‘Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost those who come unto God by Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them’ and so should we for others.