In ancient times, watchmen stood guard on a city's walls to see to the welfare of its citizens and to warn of coming trouble. Who is to do that job today in a dangerous world moving closer to the crisis of the close of the age?
Through Isaiah the prophet, God promises the watchful eye of servants who will hold day and night vigils for the peace of Jerusalem and its inhabitants:
"I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth" (Isaiah:62:6-7).
God charges this group to watch for the safety of the city and its citizens.
These special servants understand the dangers of the present world. They see the dark clouds gathering on the world's horizon and are moved to proclaim a warning message to all who will hear.
The message would also include teaching the way to personal peace for those who listen. It will show the true teaching of God and the way to salvation. It will show how one could choose to escape the judgment God will bring on the world.
Do you see yourself in this group of watchmen? Is there a role for you among those who watch today's world and yearn to make it better? Putting a number of scriptural commands and principles together, it becomes clear that today's true Christians are meant to shoulder this grave responsibility now in the last days. We are to share in the role of standing vigil like a watchman of old, and showing the way forward through the suffering and evil in much of our world.
Sigh and cry
We saw in part 1 of this article that Ezekiel was set as a watchman to the house of Israel (Ezekiel 3). God took Ezekiel in vision back to Jerusalem to observe the lifestyle of those Jews who were left behind when Nebuchadnezzar captured the city and took many captive to Babylon.
It seems that the majority of the populace had not learned from the many warnings to change their wicked ways. In Jerusalem the people continued to worship false gods and strange customs completely different from what God had given their forefathers. Violence was an everyday occurrence.
While in the temple—the heart of the city and the place representative of the presence of God—Ezekiel saw six men (angels actually) approach, each carrying a battle-ax. Another angel had a writer's inkhorn; they all came and stood beside the altar (Ezekiel:9:1-2).
Next, God "called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer's inkhorn at his side; and the Lord said to him, 'Go through the midst . . . of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it'" (verses 3-4).
God was going to send the six angels through the city to kill the disobedient. But those who were not caught up in sin and rebellion against God would be spared. Those who prayed from a heart sick with grief over the state of society were granted a mark that protected them from God's judgment.
What was their distinguishing feature? Their active concern for the moral and ethical condition of the society. God honored that attitude.
Does this describe you or me? Do we sigh and cry for the moral condition of our nation? Do we see the world through God's eyes and understand how far people have strayed from His righteous commandments?
If so, then we have a duty to help others understand what is coming when God sets His hand in judgment on the nations.
A national affliction
Today America and Great Britain stand at a crossroads. For more than 200 years they have dominated the world in virtually every arena. As Great Britain retreated from its empire after World War II, America was there to take its place and continue the legacy set by the English through their peak years.
But America's dominant power is under siege from many sectors. Its will to stay the course in Iraq is being tested, its military machine strained under the pressure of the extended fighting. Though it is the primary engine for the world's economy, a weakened dollar and a trade balance deficit are both troubling indicators of a major crisis ahead.
God warns us through the message of the prophets that sins will demand a day of reckoning. People cannot continue worshipping the false gods of materialism and self, blindly stumbling along in their own righteousness, and expect their affluent standard of living to continue.
God's Word confirms there will be an accounting; the lesson of history is that any people who corrupt their moral core will eventually fade from power. God calls on America and Great Britain to wake up, acknowledge their sins and repent before national calamity descends on them.
"Do this and live"
Amos the prophet walked into the city of Samaria, capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, and boldly told the king and city leaders to repent or face captivity at the hands of the Assyrians. He pointed to neighboring states that had fallen and said, "You are no better than they were."
He rebuked those who did not want to hear a "message of doom." To those who stocked their homes with the finest luxury goods and gourmet foods, trusting that affluence was a sign of God's blessing, he said, "Don't trust in materialism." The citizenry, at all levels, looked only to their comfort and ease and did not grieve "for the affliction of Joseph" (Amos:6:6).
Those who "grieve" and "sigh and cry" over societal sins are called to a unique role. They are part of God's elect, called to the duty of proclaiming the announcement of the Kingdom of God. That message includes the good news of Jesus Christ's return to restore all things (see Acts:3:19-21). The message also contains a warning to repent and receive God's blessing or ignore the warning and face the judgment of God. It is a double-edged message—plain-spoken, yet full of hope.
Fulfilling this role requires courage, perseverance and a love for the people addressed. One of the best examples of this was the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah spent more than 40 years in the role of a watchman to the nation of Judah, urging people to heed his warnings and return to the ways of God.
Notice this passage: "Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it'" (Jeremiah:6:16).
God's main message throughout the Bible is to return to His paths, His teachings, as the solution for the suffering and pain of human life. "Do this and live," He says.
Jeremiah and others like him have stood in the role of a watchman. "Also, I set watchmen over you, saying, 'Listen to the sound of the trumpet!' But they said, 'We will not listen.' Therefore hear, you nations . . . Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people —the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not heeded My words nor My law, but rejected it" (Jeremiah:6:17-19).
Examining the concept of watching in the New Testament helps to complete the picture of this role. The Greek word gregoreo, translated as "watch," means to keep awake, to watch and to take heed. Through neglect or laziness we could let down and be overcome with sin, or a sudden calamity could overwhelm us spiritually.
Notice in Mark:13:32-37, in Jesus' prophecy of the end time, that He urges His disciples three times to "watch" during the times leading to His second coming. The emphasis is on a personal watch through prayer to know the times.
By prayer and righteous living, we stay tuned to Jesus Christ. Through this way of life one can discern the moral climate of the times and avoid being tossed around with every shifting ideology of modern culture. Walking in God's laws and instruction insulates us from the course of the world and its deceptions.
Revelation 16 describes a massive end-time deception perpetrated by Satan and demons that work through the human instruments called "the Beast" and "the False Prophet" (verse 13). Their influence gathers the leaders of the earth "to the battle of that great day of God Almighty . . . to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon" (verses 14, 16).
In our fascination over these otherworldly figures, we can easily skip over Christ's charge: "Behold, I am coming as a thief"—suddenly and unexpectedly. "Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame" (verse 15, emphasis added throughout).
Jesus pronounces a blessing for those who, during mankind's darkest moment, watch. That is, they are living prudently and properly. The natural by-product of this close relationship with God is being alert to religious deception. Those who frame their life around the coming Kingdom of God will watch and keep themselves from the wiles of the devil.
This is the end result of fulfilling the role of a watchman within the Body of Christ—to be found standing in the faith, blessed of God at the dawn of His Kingdom on this earth.
Our world is moving toward this time of global cataclysm. Revelation 16 describes a future moment when people will be caught up in events engineered through the Beast and False Prophet. The former is a political leader of compelling personality and ability; and the other, a religious leader unlike any in modern times.Together they will convince armies to move toward Jerusalem to fight Jesus Christ at His coming.
Warning and hope
This is a time for the watchmen to mount the walls and sound a clear, unmistakable warning message of the dangers facing not just the English-speaking peoples but also the whole world. It is a time to make known the hope of the coming Kingdom of God.
Isaiah's message stands bright and clear today: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns!' Your watchmen shall lift up their voices, with their voices they shall sing together; for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord brings back Zion" (Isaiah:52:7).
Come, take your place on the walls, work for the Kingdom and pray for its speedy arrival! GN