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Watchman, What of the Night?

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The year is 689 BC and the world is in turmoil. The Babylonian Empire is under attack by the Assyrian Empire. All of the nations in that area hoped against hope that Babylon would be able to defeat the Assyrian aggressors to their north. However, it was not to be! Babylon fell to the Assyrians and everyone knew they would not be stopped until the entire region was under their domination.

Against this backdrop of war and the certainty of attack upon the nation of Israel, God commands the prophet Isaiah to assume the role of a watchman. Isaiah is to look to the prophetic future and tell the people what he sees approaching. This is just what Isaiah does in out text.

This message might have been given nearly 2,700 years ago, but it is as timely as today’s headlines. War rages in our world today. People are losing their lives by the thousands to terrorist attacks, freak natural disasters and the horrors of war. On another level, a tsunami of sin in our world is rising. Old convictions and standards are being swept away right before our very eyes. Behavior that was once considered immoral is now openly flaunted and widely accepted. The winds of change are blowing all around us and fearful things are just over the horizon.

Today, just as there was in Isaiah’s day, there is a need for the people of God to assume the role of watchman. There is a need for us to take our stand, look at that which is approaching and open our mouths and sound the warning.

I would like to take this passage and preach on the theme: Go, set a watchman; let him announce what he sees. As I read this passage, I understand that we are living in dangerous days. We are living in days when the enemies of the Lord and the Enemy of our soul—Satan himself—would love nothing more than to overrun or lives and our churches. The enemy’s desire is to see our ministries, our families and our churches dashed upon the rocks of failure. If we are to avoid that end, then we need to consider the work of the ancient watchman and understand the truth that his ministry is needed as much today as it ever was. Let me share three facts that this passage gives us concerning the watchman.


    • “This is what the Lord says to me: “Go, post a lookout and have him report what he sees.” (Isaiah 21:6, NIV)
            1. in ancient times, those who lived in walled cities were considered blessed individuals
            2. by being inside a city with walls, they had 2 forms of protection
                1. 1st, was the wall itself
                    1. it stood as a barrier between the citizens and their enemies
                    2. it stood as a barrier between that which was acceptable and that which was not
                    3. the wall was a formidable barrier to trouble
                      • ILLUS. In 2 Chronicles we have the story of King Asa of Judah. Asa was a good king and turned the hearts of Israel back to the worship of the Lord. As a result God prospered his reign with peace and prosperity. During that time he set about securing his county by embarking upon a building-boom.
                      • “He [Asa] built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest. He had no war in those years, for the LORD gave him peace. And he said to Judah, “Let us build these cities and surround them with walls and towers, gates and bars. The land is still ours, because we have sought the LORD our God. We have sought him, and he has given us peace on every side.” So they built and prospered.” (2 Chronicles 14:6–7, ESV)
                    4. walled cities were the ‘gated communities’ of their day—they provided a safe place to live
                2. 2nd, was the watchman who patrolled the walls
                    1. he is mentioned in our text and he was essential to the proper function of the wall
                    2. he stood upon that wall and kept watch over the surrounding countryside
                    3. when invading armies or other dangers came into his view, he sounded the warning and those inside the wall knew to prepare
            3. both the watchman and the wall were essential to the survival of the city itself
              • ILLUS. For much of the world’s history, sentinels would walk the ramparts of their city. On most days, their cry was, “All is well.” But in perilous days they cry might be “To arms!”
                1. without the watchman, those inside the wall were blind and without the wall, the watchman would have been unnecessary
                2. verse 6 points out the two-fold duty of the ancient watchman


            1. the most important duty of the watchman was for him to be a lookout!
                1. he was to stand in the towers or upon the wall and his eyes were to scan the countryside for any signs of trouble
                2. from his high and lofty perch, he could see the glistening of armor, sword and spear; he could see the banners of war as they waved; and he could see the clouds of dust raised by the drumming of thousands of feet upon the earth
            2. he was to be in his place, with his eyes open
                1. he was to watch!


            1. whether he saw anything approaching or not, he was to give his report to the people within the walls when they asked him of conditions outside
            2. when trouble arose in the distance, he was to lift up his voice and sound the warning so that the people within the walls could prepare themselves and so that those who lived outside the city could run in and find refuge
                1. this same thought is seen in Isa. 58:1, where the prophet Isaiah is told to “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.”


            1. if there was ever a time when watchmen were needed around the church, the home, the family, the schoolhouse and the community, it’s today
                1. we need people of discernment who know the Word of God
                2. we desperately need people who know the enemy and who are keeping an eye on him and what he is doing
                  • “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, ESV)
                    1. we need people who will watch and warn others of what they see coming
                3. whether we see it or not, every area of life I mentioned a moment ago is under attack!
            2. the enemy is doing everything he can to invade the church and lead us down the wrong path
                1. he wants to countermine our theology and challenge our convictions
                2. he wants to dilute our worship, and denigrate our Bible
                3. he wants to sully our reputations and stifle our witness
                    1. we need watchman who will see that and sound the message!
            3. the enemy is doing everything he can to destroy the home and marriage and family
                1. children have forgotten the meaning of submission and obedience
                2. husbands and wives have no concept of faithfulness, and fidelity and regularly renege on “unto death do us part”
                3. parents have forgotten how to apply the board of education to the seat of learning, and we are raising a generation of rebels who know nothing about submission to authority
                    1. we need watchman who will see that and sound the message!
            4. the enemy is doing everything he can to subvert the schoolhouse!
                1. His Book is off limits and children are forbidden to have organized prayer
                  • ILLUS. Many schools today are teaching “Values Curriculum”. For the first 150 years of our nation’s history we had values curriculum—it was called the bible!
                2. in many class rooms—especially the college class room—they are taught that God is a myth from our repressed past
                    1. they are told that man evolved from a single amoeba that formed countless ages ago in a puddle of primordial soup
                3. if God can be marginalized and children taught that He does not exist; if they really believe that they are the result of evolution; then there are no rules, and no speed limits
                    1. the result is that many of our children will careen down the highway to Hell without thought to the consequences
                    2. we need watchman who will see that and sound the message!
            5. the enemy is doing everything he can to destroy our community!
                1. people outside the walls do not want to be bothered with thoughts of God, His will and His Word
                  • ILLUS. The first time President George W. Bush won the presidency, there was a concerted effort by atheists and civil libertarians to prevent the newly-elected president from placing his hand on a Bible during his swearing in. Some wante inaugural prayers banned at that event as well.
                2. the cry from the lost world is rising ever louder as they demand freedom from God’s laws and even from God Himself
                    1. they say, “Away with the Ten Commandments! Away with right and wrong! Away with morality! Away with Jesus, the Bible, God, Christianity and the cross!”
                    2. sadly, many judges are giving them exactly what they want
                    3. we need watchman who will see that and sound the message!


    • “When he sees riders, horsemen in pairs, riders on donkeys, riders on camels, let him listen diligently, very diligently.” Then he who saw cried out: “Upon a watchtower I stand, O Lord, continually by day, and at my post I am stationed whole nights. And behold, here come riders, horsemen in pairs!” And he answered, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the carved images of her gods he has shattered to the ground.” O my threshed and winnowed one, what I have heard from the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, I announce to you.” (Isaiah 21:7–10, ESV)


            1. verse 7 tells us that “he saw”
                1. it also says that “he harkened diligently with much heed” to what he saw
                2. he took great care in watching and great care in noting everything he saw
            2. in verses 8, he announces that he is vigilant and faithful and watching carefully through the night
              • ILLUS. I read an article not long ago about lions. Lions, evidently, have very short eyelids. Even when they are asleep, they have the appearance that their eyes are open and watching.
                1. the vigilant watchman is like a lion watches both day and night
                    1. he did not leave his post, but remained there to make sure that nothing occurred on his watch that he did not see
            3. this watchman sets a great example for those who would be watchmen in our day
                1. in 1 Pet. 5:8, we are told to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:”
                    1. the word “sober” means “to be calm and collected in spirit”
                    2. the word “vigilant” means “to be watchful”
                2. the idea here is that the Lord’s watchmen are not to get caught up in the excitement of the times
                    1. we are not to be disturbed by the events around us, but we are to be ever watching
            4. the world is changing all around us tonight
                1. and, it is changing fast, and frequently not for the better
                2. we are not to be disturbed by the things we see happening around us, but we are watch always and warn when necessary


            1. when this watchman saw trouble approaching, he did not keep the message to himself
                1. instead, he opened his mouth and shouted out the warning for all to hear
                2. he told everyone within earshot that trouble was coming


            1. again, there is a lesson for the watchmen in our day as well
                1. as we watch the enemy approaching ever nearer the walls of our churches, our homes, our families and our communities, we have a responsibility to sound the warning
            2. some would say, “What’s the use? No one is listening to us!”
                1. I would answer that by reminding you that one of these days we are going to face our Savior at The Judgment Seat of Christ
                2. on that day, we will give an account of how well we raised the alarm in our day
                3. I think this truth is illustrated well by our Lord’s words to the prophet Ezekiel
                  • “The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. 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 I will require at the watchman’s hand. “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. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.” (Ezekiel 33:1–9, ESV)
            3. let us take heed to the certain signs of the enemy’s approach and let us warn them to flee the judgment to come!


    • “The oracle concerning Dumah. One is calling to me from Seir, “Watchman, what time of the night? Watchman, what time of the night?” The watchman says: “Morning comes, and also the night. If you will inquire, inquire; come back again.”” (Isaiah 21:11–12, ESV)
            1. Isaiah declares a prophecy against the people of Edom in verses 11-12
                1. they are pictured as someone who approaches the wall, yells up to the watchman during the night and cries, “Watchman, what of the night?”
                2. this question has been interpreted in many ways.
                    1. Some say it is the question of a careless heart—they believe that it is asked in a voice of sarcasm; the questioner not really caring if he receives and answer or not, because he does not plan to change or prepare for what is coming.
                    2. Some say it may a question born out of contempt—the questioner may be saying to the watchman, “I know what you think you see and I hear what you say, but I do not believe a word of it and I will not heed your warning.”
                    3. Some say it may be a question from a concerned heart—the questioner might be asking, “Watchman, tell me, is everything alright? When will the morning come? Is there hope?”
            2. regardless of the condition of the heart that gave birth to the question, the watchman has a threefold answer
                1. it is the sam three-fold answer the watchmen of our day need to have ready for those we are to warn


            1. the watchman say “the morning cometh!”
                1. he sounds out the glad note that the night is nearly spent and that dawn is about to break
                2. you see, the night was the most frightening time of all
                    1. the watchman could not see as well and the enemy had a better chance of sneaking in for the attack
                    2. in the day time, the enemy would be far more easily exposed
                3. the news that dawn was coming brought comfort to the hearts of the people in the city
            2. I’m not sure how great of a watchman I am this evening, but I am glad that I can tell you “the morning cometh!”
                1. it won’t be long brothers and sisters until the Lord comes to take us home to Heaven
                2. He promised He could come
                  • “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1–3, ESV)
                  • “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17, ESV)
                3. hang on church!
                    1. it may look dark right now, but morning is about to break and we are leaving here!
                    2. thank God, with the morning comes joy
                      • “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5, ESV)


            1. he tells the people that after the morning passes, night is coming back again!
            2. for the people of God, there is a bright, happy morning on the horizon; but for the lost sinner, there is nothing but the dark night of eternal separation and eternal punishment in Hell
            3. things are looking up for the people of God; but the lost man has nothing to look forward to but the undiluted wrath of Almighty God
              • “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36, ESV)
            • “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31, ESV)


            1. the watchman tells those who hear him to inquire, return and come
                1. he is calling the wayward ones back to God
                2. he is saying them, “There is great danger on the horizon, but there is still time to make a change. Come to God! Return to Him!”
            2. that was the message they needed to hear in that day and that is the message that still needs to be trumpeted by the watchmen of our day!
                1. danger, great danger, looms on the near horizon, for the person outside of a relationship with God
                    1. but it is not too late
                2. God is still saving souls
                3. He is still changing lives
                4. He is still receiving all who will come to Him by faith
            3. that is the message we need to share with this lost world tonight
                1. they need to hear the news that there is still hope
                2. all is not lost—they can be saved is they will come; if they will return to God

Where are the watchmen who are gazing out over the horizon? Where are the watchmen who see the danger of approaching judgment? Where are the watchmen who see the enemy creeping ever closer to the walls of our churches, our families, our homes and our communities? Where are the watchmen who will set the trumpet to their lips and sound the warning?

Will you be a faithful watchman?

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