The Watchman

Suzanne Bowles, PhD

11 Pentecost  August 8, 2021  by Suzanne G. Bowles, Ph.D.

“My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.”  Psalm 130:5. This short psalm packs so much into it.  It tells us what we have – forgiveness, hope, mercy, and redemption – four specific things.  It also mentions two things we should do – call on Him and wait.  Three verses out of seven tell us to wait.  That seems pretty clear – we are specifically told to wait for the Lord.  The message is really pretty obvious.  If we wait for the Lord, we will have these things – forgiveness, hope, mercy, and redemption.  And it’s certainly not because we deserve these things.  Just look at verse 2.  Let me paraphrase: if God took note of everything we’ve done wrong, who could stand before Him?  The answer is unspoken but obvious – no one!  But we have hope in His word, His teaching.  But we will have to wait.  For what exactly?  The implication in the word “wait” has to do with timing.  God does not always act right away, or on our timetable.

          I think – and I’m sure we’ve all experienced this – waiting is one of the hardest things for people to do.  We want answers.  We want action and we want it now.  But God doesn’t operate that way.  Some people think it’s a test and maybe it is.  I’m not going to say it isn’t.  But it may simply be a function of God knowing all things.  The fancy term for this is omniscience. God knows all things.  More importantly, He is not only omniscient.  He is merciful and kind.  His timing is not arbitrary.  His timing is also a function of His love for us.  His timing is done with an eye to what is best for us.  Sometimes we don’t know what is best for us.  Sometimes we’re convinced we do know, but God has other ideas and saves us, by his delay, from what would have been a disaster. Even the psalmist tells us, it’s hard to wait.  That’s why I want to focus briefly on verse 5 and the phrase “more than watchmen for the morning” which is then repeated for emphasis.  “My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.”

          I’ve learned a little something about what this means from some commentaries discussing watchmen.  The watchmen under discussion are obviously night watchmen and, as we see, they are waiting for morning to come.  I learned that there are two different types of watchmen in Jerusalem.  One was the priests, the Levites, who were on night watch in the Temple and could go off duty at the break of day when the daily sacrifice was offered.  They were tired and were looking forward to their break, but they also had the added benefit of starting the day with a reminder of God’s mercy.  You may recall that John the Baptist’s father Zecharias was one of these Levite priests who served in the Temple.  I’m sure he could relate personally to this psalm.  The other type of watchmen were the military watchmen who watched from the towers around the city.  They were tired, too, and wanted to go home.  For them break of day signified a safe night and a period of relaxation from worrying about a sneak attack at night.  Which watchman is it in this psalm?  Could be either.  Could be both. What is conveyed here in verse 5 is the eagerness along with the tiredness.  We need to be that eager and more so for God, for His presence in our lives.  We need God’s presence in our lives and we should eagerly seek it.  The reward is great --  mercy, forgiveness, and redemption, not because we are so good, but because He is.  My prayer is that we all desire God’s presence and that the Holy Spirit increases in us that desire   Think of that tired watchman, whether he’s priest or soldier, and how he eagerly longs for the morning to come.  Let us desire God’s presence even more than that.  Amen.