Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Watchmen

By Brenda Cathcart

As I was driving home from church today, an old praise song, “Come Bless the Lord,” popped into my head. It is from Psalm 134

Psalms 134:1-3 NKJV 1 Behold, bless the LORD, All you servants of the LORD, Who by night stand in the house of the LORD! 2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the LORD. 3 The LORD who made heaven and earth Bless you from Zion!

As I was singing it, the third line grabbed my attention, “Who by night stand in the house of the LORD.” Who is standing in the temple at night? The Psalm itself begins with the word “Behold.” The word behold is used to indicate that what follows is a deep mystery; it is especially important. The word is used ten times in Genesis chapter 37 about Joseph’s dreams and the actions leading to his being sold to slavery. The words of Psalm 134 contain a deeper meaning. That meaning will be revealed as we see two instances of people in the house of the LORD at night.

On a typical night, there are just two groups of people at the temple at night, the gate guards from the tribe of Levi and the priests who were on the night watch. These are the watchmen! Their duties are primarily honorary. Like an honor guard for a king, their presence is to bring honor to God and the house of God. There were 24 watch stations, three manned by young priests and the other 21 by Levites. The captain of the watch would make his rounds each night. The watchmen were to rise up before him. If they did not, the captain would call out, “Peace be unto you!” If the watchman did not rise, the captain knew the watchman was asleep. He would then rap the sleeping watchman with his rod or even light his covering on fire. The captain of the watch had a nickname; he was called the thief in the night!

Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians read in the context of the night watch in the temple present a deeper meaning.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6 NKJV 1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.

The captain of the guard comes as a thief in the night to those who have fallen asleep. The Lord’s coming will come as a thief in the night to those who have fallen asleep. But to those who are standing their watch, that day will not come as the thief in the night. Jesus’ words to the dead church in Sardis is that He will come as a thief in the night if they don’t wake up and stand their watch.

Revelation 3:3 NKJV 3 "Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.

One of the things the captain of the guard did to those who were sleeping was to set their garments on fire. The guard whose garments were set on fire, stripped off the garments and ran naked to the guard station. It was shameful to appear before God naked. The altar was not even to have steps because going up the steps may show what the priests wore under their robes.

Exodus 20:26 NKJV 26 'Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.'

The guard’s goal was to remove himself from the presence of God. With this in mind, we see Jesus’ words to the lukewarm barely alive church of Laodicea.

Revelation 3:18 NKJV 18 "I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.

There is additional depth of meaning here because Laodicea was a center for manufacturing textiles, as well as perfumes and ointments. The watchman is to buy spiritual garments from Jesus not the garments of the world made by the works of man. That man who buys from the world will be caught spiritually sleeping. His garments will be burned by the fire.

Jesus tells us that we are to be watchmen so that His arrival does not come upon us as the thief in the night.

Revelation 16:15 NKJV 15 "Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame."

There is a special time of year when people are in the temple around the clock. This is during the seven day Feast of Tabernacles. This feast is to be celebrated with great joy! Ceremonies and celebration continue around the clock. One special group of Psalms called the Songs of Ascent is an integral part of this celebration. Psalm 134 is the last of these fifteen Psalms which begin with Psalm 129. The Levitical choir sings them each night as dawn is breaking during the Feast of Tabernacles.

The setting is the Nicanor Gate at the edge of the Court of Israel. Outside the gate, fifteen steps lead down to the Court of Women. The Eastern gate of the Temple is located at the east end of the Court of women. As dawn is breaking, the call is given to “Arise and stand to your duties.” Two priests blow silver trumpets and the Levitical choir begins singing the Psalms of Ascent one Psalm at each step as they descend to the Court of Women. All those present for the festivities proceed across the court and out the Eastern Gate. As the first rays of the sun begin to shine on the temple, they turn together and face back toward the west facing the temple of God. They recite these words:

Our fathers stood in this place with their backs towards the Sancturay of God, and their faces towards the east. They prostrated themselves to the sun in the east. But we—we are to God and to God our eyes turn. We bow to God and our eyes look to Him in hope.”

This is in response to the actions of the generation alive at the time of the destruction of Solomon’s temple as recorded by Ezekiel. It was at this time that God’s glory left the temple.

Ezekiel 8:16 MKJV 16 And He brought me into the inner court of the LORD's house, and behold, at the opening of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of the LORD and their faces toward the east; and they bowed themselves eastward to the sun.

At the Feast of Tabernacles, these actions are repudiated and the people look toward God’s Holy Temple and worship God. Ezekiel describes the return of the glory of God to the new Temple built after the defeat of Gog and Magog. Imagine this event occurring at a Feast of Tabernacles as all the people turn toward the Temple in worship.

Ezekiel 43:1-5 MKJV 1 And he led me to the gate, the gate that faces eastward. 2 And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. And His voice was like the sound of many waters. And the earth shone with His glory. 3 And it looked the same as the vision which I saw, even according to the vision which I saw when I came to destroy the city. And the visions were like the vision that I saw by the river Chebar. And I fell on my face. 4 And the glory of the LORD came into the house by the way of the gate whose view is eastward. 5 And the Spirit took me up and brought me into the inner chamber. And behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house.

What will the people who see this event do? The words of Psalm 134, the last Psalm sung as they left the temple, again come to mind.

Behold, bless the LORD, All you servants of the LORD, Who by night stand in the house of the LORD! 2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the LORD. 3 The LORD who made heaven and earth Bless you from Zion!

שלום ברוך
Shalom and Be Blessed
Brenda Cathcart

Dan and I are going “home” to Israel next June 19th to 29th and so can you. Join us in the land promised to Abraham for a special tour where you will see the promised Messiah of Israel like you have never seen Him before! We will visit places off the beaten path and follow in the foot steps of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Join us as we also explore the people, culture, politics and conflict that is today’s Israel and a special Sabbath day in Jerusalem. For details on the tour visit .

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