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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:The LORD will Watch over Jerusalem to the End
Text:Isaiah 62:6-7 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Church Building
 
Preached:2020
Added:2020-12-06
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 84:1                                                                                       

Ps 84:4,5

Read – Isaiah 62; Ezekiel 33:1-9

Psalm 127:1,2

Sermon – Isaiah 62:6-7

Hy 15:1,2,3

Hy 55:1,2,3

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, in our text the Lord God announces, “O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen on your walls.” Being a watchman sounds like an easy job, doesn’t it? It suggests a passive activity—watching, like you watch a movie on the comfort of your couch. But it’s much more. Being on watch is a serious responsibility. A watchman’s work is very difficult, for he needs to watch actively. He’s constantly searching, scanning, keeping eyes open for threats. He always needs to be ready to identify what he sees, and then to act on it.

We get a picture of this in Psalm 130: “My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning” (v 6). If you’re a night watchman, you’re always anxious to see the break of day, because light means safety. And still in these modern times, we have watchmen. Think of soldiers in war zones, or guards in prisons. Though it’s with binoculars and night-vision goggles and spotlights, there is still the need for people devoted to watching.

The watchmen in our text are appointed to stand on the walls of Jerusalem. We learn that God appointed watchmen for his Old Testament people, and that He does the same today for his church. We don’t have high stone walls surrounding us. We don’t give night-vision goggles to the elders. But in his love, God appoints office bearers to oversee and lead us. Because many dangers threaten on the outside, even as sorrows and troubles are felt within. But carefully watching men can point the way to the hope and promise we have in Christ. I preach God’s Word from Isaiah 62:6-7, under this theme:

The LORD will watch over Jerusalem to the end: 

     1)  He provides watchmen

     2)  He hears their prayers

     3)  He promises completion 

 

1) God provides watchmen: Let’s visit the time of Isaiah the prophet. During the years he was ministering, the people of Judah had witnessed their northern neighbors, the ten tribes of Israel, taken away to Assyria. These were their cousins and uncles and extended family—removed from the land, never to return. It was a shocking thing.

But though Judah was safe for now, she couldn’t rest easy behind her thick stone walls. For much of the first half of his book, Isaiah has spoken about the same terrifying judgment that would come on them if they kept breaking God’s commands.

And actually, the outlook for God’s people was bleak, for they refused to change their sinning ways. So Isaiah foretells a time when the holy city would get besieged by invading armies. The entire population would starve. The walls would be broken down, the temple destroyed, the land’s riches plundered. Men and women and children would be dragged off to Babylon—far from home, and (seemingly), far from God.

It’s pretty dark for most of chapters 1-39. Yet after speaking of all the terror of coming judgment, in chapter 40 the prophet begins what is described as the “Book of Comfort.” This book begins with the heart-warming words, “Comfort, comfort my people.” After a long season of loss and grief, God will deliver his people, and a remnant will return.

And as the reason and basis for the new beginning, there will come someone to atone for the sins of the people. From God’s gracious hand will come someone whom Isaiah describes as the Suffering Servant, the Messiah, a “man of sorrows” to bear their iniquities, restore their peace, and heal their land.

Chapter 62 takes its place near the end of this “Book of Comfort.” The whole chapter is a wonderful vision of the future, when Jerusalem is no longer a heap of rubble, but fully rebuilt: walls, homes, temple—everything. And what Isaiah really prophesies is a spiritual rebuilding. God’s people will at last be redeemed and renewed. The land ruined for seventy years will no longer be called Forsaken or Desolate, but will again be a place of God’s delight.

Well, if you’re going to rebuild the walls of Zion, then you better have people to stand on them. You need men at the forefront of God’s restored people, alert and active: watchmen! These are the LORD’s reassuring words, “I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem” (v 6).

As we said, this isn’t some new concept. There had always been watchmen patrolling on top of the walls of ancient cities. In the days before drones and radar, there would be watchmen on duty: morning, noon and night. Standing behind the barricades, scanning the horizon, they would warn against advancing enemies, or they would be ready to receive approaching allies. They were the front line of response.

But God is interested in more than a military defense. God’s watchmen are of a different kind, for they don’t pace around with swords and shields. Standing among the LORD’s people, these men keep a spiritual watch over them, seeing to their good. Like the office bearers in the church today, they’re the overseers of souls! ‘Seeing over,’ watching, keeping.

We read about this kind of watchmen elsewhere in Isaiah. And they’re not portrayed in a very positive light at all! In chapter 56, God speaks of how He is fed up with those who were supposed to be watchmen. Listen to what He says: “Israel’s watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep” (v 10). That’s scathing job evaluation!

For these are obviously not good traits for a watchman. A blind man just doesn’t have the aptitude for the work of watching. Neither does a man who’s ignorant, and can’t discern between friend and foe. A lazy person won’t be reliable on those walls, neither will someone who’s always sleepy.

These were the kind of watchmen Israel used to have. In their task of overseeing God’s people in their faith and service, the priests and kings and prophets had badly failed. Judah turned to other gods, but the watchmen were blind to it. The people needed many prayers, but the watchmen kept their mouths closed. Judah required a lot of work, but the watchmen just kept sleeping. So when the time came for enemy invasion, the watchmen could only… well, watch, and look on helplessly.

That was then—but this is now. For in his grace God will provide good and effective watchmen! “I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem.” Listen to what they’ll do: “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…Jerusalem” (vv 6-7).

We learn that a good watchman for Christ’s church is someone with a bold voice. He will bring the necessary warnings to sinners, and he will share the good news with the repentant and sorrowful. A proper watchman is hard-working. He looks resolutely to God. And a watchman, most importantly, prays—he prays constantly for God’s deliverance and for the upbuilding of the church.

Let’s look at each of these qualities more closely. First, he needs to be loud. Now, we expect a watchman to keep quiet; you have to pace around in silence so you can detect the slightest sound. But these watchmen are not restrained: “They shall never hold their peace” (v 6). Which means they have no mute button. They refuse to close their mouths!

Why is that? It’s because these men have something beautiful and powerful and hopeful to say. The watchmen of God’s people need to speak, because God speaks! God himself speaks words of peace and promise to his church. He announces grace.

Earlier, God had closed his mouth—He had closed it in anger. Listen to what God says in 42:14, “For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back.” While Judah was being judged, God stepped back and held his tongue. But He is quiet no more, for judgment is over, sin is paid for, and salvation is here. So God declares at the start of our chapter, “For Zion’s sake I will not hold my peace” (62:1). Now God rejoices over his bride, and sings of her redemption. In his rich mercy in Christ, God announces deliverance from sin!

And as He upholds his church, Christ employs weak and lowly men. To his precious people, Christ announces: “I will care for you and I will guard you by setting watchmen on your walls.” Here we can think of the elders who serve as watchmen. They’re busy overseeing souls as they visit the homes of the believers, and as they encourage and teach. We can think also of the deacons, serving as watchmen in the ministry of mercy. They’re looking for those who struggle, watching out for the weak and weary.

And Christ gives his watchmen beautiful words to say, and He gives them a voice. Among God’s people, they can proclaim his steadfast mercy. To the guilty, they can announce his free forgiveness. They can point the confused to the riches of LORD’s wisdom. These watchmen can bring a message of comfort for the distressed, relief for the sorrowful, and hope for the afflicted.

The elders and deacons shouldn’t ever stop talking about the faithfulness of the Father, and the power of the Spirit, and the love of Christ. Whatever visit they go on, whatever situation they come into, they shouldn’t be silent. Not that they have all the answers—and they do need to listen!—but if they go with an open Word, they may speak to us openly and hopefully.

These watchmen also need to be on guard. In Isaiah’s time, enemies lurked outside—enemies even lurked inside: there was the temptation to worship the gods of the nations, the confusion brought on by false prophets, plus the corruption that lives in every heart. So the watchmen have to be alert for the devil’s attacks on every front, to notice and to speak boldly.

In this connection, think of how Ezekiel was also called a watchman. God says that he is someone who needs to blow the trumpet and warn the people about sin, “I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel,” God says, “Therefore, you shall hear a word from my mouth and warn them” (33:7). A watchman watches, and warns.

We still need that, for we still stray. There are plenty of enemies nearby. There are the obvious enemies we face, the insidious temptations right in front of us on the screen, in the earbuds and in the public square, but there also those more subtle. There are false prophets too, who invite us to give them a hearing, and other gods who want our devotion and worship. These are the flaming darts of the evil one, for he would like nothing better than to kill our faith in Christ, get us to forget him, or even just to give him second or third place in our life. Because if Christ isn’t first for us, then He’s nothing to us.

So part of being a “watching elder and deacon” is having eyes and ears open, ready to discern truth from falsehood. Our congregation needs to be warned about the dangers of worldliness and pride and complacency. We each need to be warned about the dangerous habits that can weaken our faith, and the things that undermine our home life, and loosen our grip on the truth. The watchmen ought to give us those warnings!

The task these brothers receive comes with a heavy responsibility. Lives depend on it! As God said to Ezekiel, “If you see the sword coming, but you don’t blow your trumpet, and people die in their sin, their blood will be required of you.” You’ll have to answer for your failing, and you’ll have to explain why you were silent.

This is why the Holy Spirit says in Hebrews that the church’s leaders “keep watch over you as men who must give account” (Heb 13:17). Watchmen typically have to make a report when their shift is finished; they stand before their commanding officer and give an account. So also these men will need to give account before our King. What will we say? We will speak of our actions, our good intentions, even our mistakes. It’ll be the account of weak men, an account of many challenges and some victories and not a few losses.

But by God’s grace and Spirit, these men can be faithful. With the binoculars of faith, the watchmen look constantly to God, and point others to him too. The watchmen announce that because of Christ, all is well. And in his name, they pray for his people.

 

2) God hears their prayers: When they were finally released from exile, Judah would start returning to the land. But this didn’t mean there was an immediate restoration. No, they’d return to the pile of rubble that used to be Jerusalem. For decades and more, they’d be rebuilding the temple, the walls, the gates and their homes.

But remember: more than just walls and homes need rebuilding! The hearts of these people must be reestablished through the work of the God’s Spirit. For this reason, the watchmen in our text are busy with something else: they’re busy in prayer. It says they give themselves no rest—and give God no rest—until He fulfills his promise. Until throats are raw and voices are hoarse, they call on God to keep his word: “You who make mention of the LORD, do not keep silent, and give him no rest till he establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (vv 6-7).

These watchmen should constantly be calling out: “Lord, forgive your people! Lord, renew your people even more! Lord, make your people stronger! Build up the city of Zion and the house of God! Establish your church like you want it to be.”

Beloved, this reveals one of the most important activities of an office bearer. The task is not just about visiting in the homes, or going to meetings, or even writing sermons. It’s not just counting up money, or helping the needy. Being a watchman is not just being defensive against all possible threats to the church and fighting off the enemy. But a watchman prays! Notice how these men call on God “day and night” (v 6). They call on the LORD for encouragement, wisdom, compassion, for the right words and right understanding.

And constantly, the watchmen must bring before God the needs of the church. They pray for the sick brother, and the ailing sister. They pray for the wandering member and the one who is struggling in faith. The watchmen should pray often for our congregation’s growth and her health and her increase in holiness.

In all the varied situations the Lord puts us, the watchmen should answer with prayer. Praying for the thriving of families, for the good bond between husbands and wives, and for the children to grow and mature. They must pray for the young people, that they would know God’s will and have the courage do it. They should pray for those who are grieving, and pray for those who are rejoicing. “You who make mention of the LORD, do not keep silent” (v 6). That’s the task God gives the watchmen, the task that is basic to everything else: Keep praying. Keep crying out to God, to build his church.

If you think about it, this is a really encouraging perspective on the work of an elder or deacon. Because for us, the labour is never done. There are always more visits to be made, more advice to be given, more people to be encouraged. That is true for every Christian’s life: there’s more we can do! And that can feel overwhelming.

But then we remember who joins the church in her work, the One who set those watchmen in place: God himself, who promises to establish Jerusalem forever! By his grace alone, through the labours of the weak men He chooses, the church will be guarded and built up. So we need to ask him often to show his grace and power, to grant his favour on all we do.

We know the text well, “Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain” (Ps 127:1). All our work is utterly futile, if it’s not God’s work. All our work as elders and deacons and minister—and our daily work as parents and students and husbands and wives and children—is useless if we don’t envelop and undergird our efforts with many prayers for God’s blessing. If we will watch, He must be watching too. If we will stand on guard, He must stand guard too. So we ask him often.

This focus on the watchmen doesn’t leave the rest of us out. He calls everyone to be vigilant and watchful. For we’re all earthly citizens of the heavenly city. We’re all called to be on guard against threatening enemies. We’re called to be on watch for the brothers and sisters who need help and prayer.

So we pray to the Lord for the peace of Jerusalem. Pray often for Christ’s church in this place, and for the church all around this world. Pray for those brothers and sisters who struggle and suffer. Pray for the increase of the church. Pray for the watchmen. May our Lord help us persevere, as we hold onto God’s promise of completion.

 

3) God promises completion: Our God is never concerned only with what is here and now. God’s vision extends far beyond ours, and He sees where it’s all going. Through Isaiah, God has already been pointing his people to something greater. Back in 42:9 the LORD dropped a hint of the future, “The former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they happen I announce them to you.”

And so our text says God will establish Jerusalem—He will establish the church and the people of Christ—so that she becomes “the praise” of all the earth (v 7). That is so far from where Judah was back then, or where we are today, when the church is the ridicule and scorn of many. But Isaiah sees a day when God’s people will be glorified, when all people will notice in us the undeniable work of the LORD.

Isaiah is seeing far beyond the physical rebuilding of Jerusalem. He is seeing far beyond today’s works of pastoral care, and ministries of mercy, and activities of education and mission and witnessing. He is allowed to see the day of perfection. Toward this day the watchmen strain their eyes. Because when Christ returns, it means peace! It means an end to this life’s suffering. No more people dying before they repent. No more divorces and broken families. No more ruined relationships. There will be an end to the draining and frustrating battle against sin. An end to disease and persecution and lawlessness. For Christ will return and establish his church forever, making her perfect at last.

What a powerful message for elders and deacons to bring. They are watchmen, for this reason too: they are watching for Christ’s return, living in expectation. And so they can say to the suffering members: “There is hope. One day, there will come a total renewal—for you too. For Christ is coming again.”

In the same way, an elder may speak to someone who isn’t faithfully walking with Christ, and he can plead, “Repent, before it’s too late. Christ is coming, and He wants you to be ready.”

In the same way, we can remind those who are grieving, “Remember, we’ll rise again and live forever. Because Christ is coming again.”

To all the church and to every member, a watchman can announce with joy, “Look, the Saviour is on his way! I’ve got my eyes on him, and so should you.” So be ready for that final day. Even now, be alert, be watchful, be prepared to receive your King. For Christ is coming again soon—and every eye shall see him.  Amen.   




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2020, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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