“Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. – Psalm 127:1b (ESV)”
On several occasions lately, I’ve caught myself harbouring a sense of disdain towards watchmen. This sense of disdain largely stems from catching a watchman asleep when he should be awake to open a gate or something of the sort. It also doesn’t help that you never hear of a lad who harbours ambitions of becoming a watchman when he grows up. However, I recently had the opportunity to study the following biblical traits of a watchman that led to a better appreciation for the role of a watchman, both in the natural and in the spiritual.
A good watchman must be able to both see and listen, and then report. In 2 Kings 9:17-20 we have the account of a watchman who was standing on a tower in Jezreel when he saw a company approaching. Notice both the posture (standing) and the platform (tower) that led to the seeing. Likewise in the spiritual, we must ask the Lord to lift us up and make us stand, to plant our feet on higher ground. We are to stand upon the platform of the name of the Lord, which is a strong tower (Proverbs 18:10), and trust Him to open our spiritual eyes to see. More important than merely seeing, is the fact that this watchman reported faithfully what he had seen. [This reminds me of Caleb, who in the face of the bad report brought by majority of his colleagues (Numbers 13:32), had a different spirit and followed the Lord fully (Numbers 14:24), which led to him being able to give a good report.] In Isaiah 21:6-7, the Lord says “Go, set a watchman; let him announce what he sees … let him listen diligently, very diligently.” Ezekiel 33:7 says, “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.” The previous verse tells of the consequences that follow when a watchman does not report what he sees: “But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.” – Ezekiel 33:6 (ESV) Talk of dire consequence!
A good watchman also “stands in the gap” and pays the full price by putting his life on the line. The word “watch” in watchman can also be translated “keep.” For example, we are familiar with the terms goalkeeper and gatekeeper. A goalkeeper stands in the gap created by the frame of the goalposts, and he takes on full responsibility for ensuring that no ball or puck gets past him. He must keep fit and limber through diet and exercise, in order to cover the goalbox area effectively. A gatekeeper guards the entrance to a place. Perhaps an even better image is that of a bouncer; when a bouncer stands in the door frame at the entrance to a room/building, he is essentially declaring that to get from the outside to the inside, you must go through him. Is it any wonder that a bouncer then needs to have some height and mass in order to be effective? Likewise, spiritually we need to grow in stature and build spiritual muscle by feeding on the word of God and then exercising by obeying that which we have learned.
So the question is: am I being a good watchman? Am I cultivating spiritual eyes and ears? Am I reporting that which I have seen and heard or am I keeping silent when the Spirit reveals something to me? Do I realize the consequence of this? Spiritually, am I growing in stature and building spiritual muscle by feeding on the word and exercising by obedience? Having done all this, we are reminded that at the end of the day, Psalm 127:1 holds true. Ultimately it is the Lord who keeps watch, and while watchmen do need to be alert – to see, listen, report and stay fit – it is all in vain if the Lord is not behind it.