The Nature Of Watchfulness

Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

There are many who are in some perplexity as to the nature of watchfulness and the place that it should occupy in the life of a  believer.  There is a watchfulness that throws the believer back upon themselves rather than upon Messiah and, as a result, the watching proves in vain.  From want of instruction, we may be relying on our own vigilance as the secret of safety.  We may be watching in the wrong direction.

It is with a view of being preserved from sinning, and being guided rightly in our daily life, that watchfulness is needed.  But let us first clearly apprehend the fact that our security does not lie in our ability to keep ourselves.  True, our safety and our progress are closely bound up with our watching.  We must watch, and watch continually, but let us never lose sight of the blessed fact that it is the Lord who is our keeper: 'Unless the Lord guards the city the watchman stays awake in vain'.

To understand what watchfulness is in its full scriptural sense, and to see where it comes in the life of faith, we must begin by recognizing the true object of our watching. What have we to watch?  Is it the enemy?  No; for he has such marvellous powers of deception that he can transform himself into an angel of light.  If he had simply our vigilance to contend with, our prayer of discernment to cope with, he would have no difficulty in deluding us.  There can be but one object of watching.  This can be none other than our Lord Himself.  'Looking unto Jesus (Yeshua)' is the true attitude of watching.

And what do we watch for?  We have to watch for His warnings.  It is He, not the believer, who sees and knows all Satan's schemes; everything that is going on among the powers of darkness.  So He can never be taken by surprise.  His omniscient eye penetrates into all the innermost recesses of spiritual wickedness; and His loving glance will never fail to forewarn the abiding believer of the enemy's approach, or of any circumstance of special danger that may arise. He, who never slumbers or sleeps, is every ready to acquaint His believing followers of all that is necessary for them to know in order to preserve them from the enemy's power.  And as He can never be taken by surprise He never gives a false alarm.  No child of God ever fell into grievous sin who had not previously received divine warnings of the approaching danger. The warning neglected was the step to fall.

This brings us to see the purpose of our watching. It is with a view to prayer. 'Therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers' (1. Pet. 4:7).  This is an exhortation that occurs frequently.  It shows us the end for which we are to exercise vigilance. We shall not watch long before we receive from the Lord indications of the enemy's nearness, and of the necessity of special grace and protection.  And these times of warnings should be times of prayer.  A spirit of vigilance thus becomes the means of deepening and strengthening the habit of prayer.  And in answer to prayer there comes the deliverance sought, or the security desired, or the light needed.  This is followed by gratitude and praise.  Hence we see the close connection between watching, praying, and thanksgiving, as they so often occur in the Word of God: 'Devote your-selves to prayer, being watchful and thankful' (Col. 4 v2).

It is thus that the believer is saved from falling into many a snare secretly laid by the enemy.  How often do we actually enter into temptation simply because we have failed to watch and failing to watch, the divine warning has been unheeded by us: 'Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation' (Matt 26 v41).  Watching attains its end as it leads us into prayer ands ascends to praise.

We must watch Yeshua, Jesus, for His leading (Ps. 32 v8): 'I will instruct you and teach you with my eye'. Guide you, not with my voice or with my hand, as one who is not looking to Him might be guided, but 'with my eye'.  To be guided implies that our eyes are fixed attentively upon Him.  This is to watch

There are many little turnings in the course of the day concerning which we need to know His will, as well as in great thoroughfares of our journey through life.  And it is for the quiet but unmistakable indications of His eye that we need to watch if we would abide in His will.  How great and momentous are the consequences that sometimes turn upon one trivial event, or that hang upon a single step.  Watching is needed, not only to be kept from falling into the enemy's snare, but to abide in the knowledge of His will.

Then the believer must watch, look to Yeshua, for His teaching: 'I will stand at my watch, and station myself on the tower, I will look to see what He will say to me and what answer I am to give to this complaint' (Hab. 2 v1). He has many things to teach us which at the early stages of our discipleship we are not able to learn.  But He is a wise, gentle, and patient Teacher.  We must sit, as Mary did, at His feet looking up into His face.  We have to learn of Him, not simply by receiving His truth, but by partaking of His grace, drinking into His spirit.  He is 'full of grace and truth'. 

We see that this watching supposes a confidence in Messiah's ability; a firm persuasion of His omniscient care and unfailing love.  You are no longer questioning His power or willingness to keep you; you can rest in His care for you.  You are no longer fearful of the enemy's strength; you can rely on your Keeper as geater than he.  You are no longer doubtful as to the issue; you know you are on the side of Him whois always victorious.

But it supposes another thing and that is a close walk with God.  Nearness not only in worship at certain stated intervals, but in the daily life, throughout each hour of the day. It implies a sensitive conscience; a conscience becoming more and more sensitive to sin's a deeper and truer hatred of its loathsomeness; not a scrupulous but a healthy conscience, a conscience void of offence.  From this it follows that is I am continually being suddenly overcome by some evil habit, then I am not really living near the Lord, I am not walking in fellowship with God.

To walk with God is to have the eye of my soul fixed upon my Lord and Master.  He never fails to give me warning, I cannot take refuge in the excuse that sin took me by surprise if the warning did not drive me to prayer.  I must always be 'looking to Jesus, Yeshua'.

Zion Messianic Fellowship,