Night Watchman

Night Watchman

22 December 2014

"Watchman, what of the night?  Watchman, what of the night?" (Isa 21.11)


On two occasions in recent days I have woken up in pre-dawn's thick darkness to hear a ruru (morepork) and a tui calling at the same time.  Usually our indigenous, night owl "tolls" the hours of darkness as they pass; whilst the tui sings the sun up.  It strikes me as being very noteworthy that the night watchman and the alarm clock were sounding off together.


"In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." (2 Co 13.1)


I wonder if we actually do take seriously the Lord's warnings in His parable concerning "The Ten Virgins"?  In this He teaches us all that the time of the sign of His coming, and "of the end of the world" (Mt 24.3) shall be like "ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom". (25.1)


Our Lord plainly expounds and warns us in this passage that the cry ("Behold, the bridegroom!") is made "at midnight", and that "they all slumbered and slept".


"The watchman said, The morning comes, and also the night: if you will inquire, inquire: return, come." (Isa 21.12)


Like a stuck record I can but go on and on, repeating myself that the Last Days will be "days of fury and glory, darkness and light, horror and blessedness"!  Things in this world are going to become progressively worse and worse; better and better"!


That is why Isaiah's night watchman cries out that dawn is indeed coming, but with it, night.  And that is why he goes on to say, "Come back again and enquire, if enquire you must."  In other words, if you are really and truly interested in the unfolding of God's final Hour's purposes, you  must keep on asking.  This suggests two things: you'll need to stay awake, and there'll be no cutesy-pie, "fast food" prophetic package (guarantee enclosed?) to lazily and conveniently follow.


God is speaking today, concerning these days and The Day.  But only Believers who are humble enough to be led "blind-fold" and step-by-step, moment-by-moment will hear and learn.  The rest will lurch and zig-zag from eschatological fad to the next latest-greatest.  Both the ruru and the tui call out in the dark.  They "intuitively" know what time it is.  They see the light when there is only deep darkness.  They are awake, when everything else is fast asleep.


Such thoughts oblige us to ask certain questions.  Does constantly looking around to check we are 'in-step" with the admirable and impressive, indicate that we are "awake"?  Or does such commonplace behaviour signal to the Bridegroom that we are in fact fast asleep, dormant, dozing, inattentive, napping, unaware, unconscious?  Who or what is our present-day benchmark for "vivacity" and "success"?  It is likely that the Virgins Parable warns us that our various and variable "apostolic" alliances and allegiances, Sunday meeting "head counts", and offering tallies, are vain and inane.  The great issue is not the pursuit of some model or programme for "success" or "popularity" or "productivity".  It is, are we "awake" to the approach of the Bridegroom?  If we are, then (while probably out of step with the religious "mafia" of our own day!) we will however be in step with God our Saviour.


"Now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.  The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light." (Ro 13.11-12)


"Awake you that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light." (Eph 5.14)


The Last Church is called to be a corporate prophet to God, itself and the nations.  Can we learn anything concerning the Lord's expectations of us, from our indigenous watchman?


(1)   Ruru has two distinctly different calls.  One is like a clock, peacefully chiming; the other (heard less frequently) is more shrill and alarming.  There are those here in Aotearoa-NZ who believe that the chiming speaks of "good news", while the other indicates "bad news"?


This reminds us that we must be faithful to hear and communicate the whole counsel of God, and everything He wants to say to and through us.  We are not appointed to be pickers and choosers; sifting out those portions of His word which suit our organisations, agendas or personalities.


"Man may remain callous," writes the modern-day, Jewish prophet, Abraham Joshua Heschel, "but God cannot keep silent.  Terrible is His voice, because He has a heart...There is a living God who cares."


"Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you...You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen." (Eze 3.10, 2.7)


(2)   Ruru's hearing is so acute that he can hunt in pitch darkness, where there is absolutely no light whatsoever.  Also, with a head-pivot of 270 degrees that hearing is spectacularly enhanced.


I think that prophetical "hearing" is a grace and a gift.  But we have to take personal responsibility for listening to what we have heard.


"You will be ever hearing but never understanding." (Mt 13.14)


The prophet (individual and corporate) must cultivate a distinct taste and appetite for Biblical orthodoxy, while at the same time developing a willingness to be extended beyond reasonable measure.  Spiritual and intellectual rigidity and timidity, quench, warp and kill authentic prophetic perception and responsibility.  The finite cannot possibly have to do with the Infinite without some measure of bewilderment, discomfort and holy fear.  If you don't like heat, get out of the kitchen!


(3)   Ruru's flight is silent, because his wings (whilst covered with feathers) are tipped with a felt-like material.


A bona fide prophet is neither attention-seeker nor "song-and-dance" exponent.  He loathes display and the Church's own celebrity culture; he abhors religious stardom!  Words such as "desert", "solitude", "poverty of spirit" and "obscurity" are sweet and tasty in his mouth and on his lips.  Above all things for him, it is the Message which counts, must be heard, must triumph.  The messenger is but a passing shadow, a phantom.


"He must increase, but I must decrease.  He must grow greater, but I must grow less." (Jn 3.30)


Humility and lowliness of heart are great virtues of God; they are the secret of His power and strength.  What absolute arrogance and stupidity it is to think we can have any kind of service to render Him, if these are absent from our hearts and our daily lives.


"We who are responsible are so ill-qualified to uphold (God's) cause," writes the Swiss, scholar-prophet, Karl Barth.  "How overwhelming is our responsibility in this undertaking; and how absolutely necessary it is for God himself to intervene lest we should be found among those foolish virgins who had no oil."


"For from him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be the glory forever.  Amen." (Ro 11.36)