Thursday, April 17, 2014
By Dr. Mike Murphy
Dawn brought fear to the eyes of the captain. As he looked over the walls of the city, he could see that their enemy had mobilized, encircling them. The cover of night had brought this surprise to his eyes, and he knew his fate by what he saw. The walls were his responsibility, and the watchmen that filled it were under his command. His men were the eyes and ears of the city, and his sole purpose was to make sure the city stayed safe from all who would bring it harm. As he looked at the mass of troops that would soon be approaching, he knew that the king would hold him responsible for this day. The captain knew his fate would be far better to die in battle that day, than what the king would soon have in store. As he stood alone on the wall that early morning, but one question came to his mind. "Where had all my watchmen gone?"
Before the days of home alarms, our house and family was still well protected. We had a Shetland sheep dog that guarded us, and our home, with her life. At the slightest of noise, or the first glimpse of anything out of the ordinary, she sprung into action. She would bark until one of us had gone to the window or door to see or hear what had alerted her. There was never a doubt that she loved her family, and she would have protected any of us at all cost. She was on constant lookout for any danger, and not once did she fail to sound the alarm to warn those she cared for the most. She was the gatekeeper of our house, always on watch.
In Biblical times, watchmen or gatekeepers played a very important role. Most of the cities had thick walls that completely surrounded and protected them. The watchmen were guards who would patrol these walls, looking upon the land to make sure all within were safe. Only the elite, the best of the troops were assigned to this position. They were trained to far higher levels than the average soldier, because of the importance of their responsibilities. They were the most dedicated, the most respected, and the most honored of all troops. They took this role so seriously, that if they witnessed a fellow watchman fail to uphold his responsibility, it was considered a crime to not report it. The future and safety of all would often rest upon the shoulders of these men.
The Hebrew word for watchman is 'tsaphah', and it means to 'to look out upon or about'. This word has multiple implications in its' meaning. It means to behold, to observe, to spy out, to wait for with expedience, and to keep watch for. So these men would stand on the wall or in the towers, looking out in the distance at everything that may come their way. They would oversee the city, making sure all were safe. They would watch for messengers, or as the king or top officials of the city returned. And they would look for any sign of an approaching army that may bring harm their way.
Hebrew tradition tells us that these watchmen were often positioned throughout the kingdom. The were positioned at the Temple, to make sure the Lord's House remained safe, and did not fall into the hands of those that may corrupt it. We are told they were positioned at the gates of many cities and on routes that were often travelled. They would not only protect these key locations, but would make sure all were on the right path, pointing them in the right direction if they became lost. We are also told they were positioned at the house of important people. They would stand watch while the master of the house was away, and would keep watch for the master's return.
Today, the role of the watchman carries just as much weight, and is just as important in the Lord's eyes. The modern watchmen, the pastors and Christian leaders of today, are called to their place on the wall. Standing at the very gate of God's Word, protecting it from enemies that would attempt to destroy it without thought. As watchmen, we are to protect the Church from worldly ideas, and the corruption that follow those ideas. We are to stand true for the Word of God, unwavering and unfaltering, whatever may come our way. We are called to protect the people, making sure they are not deceived by false teachings and wrong doctrines. We are to protect the Church, the Lord's House, making sure its' walls remain the example for all the world to see. We are to guard the crossroads of society, making sure all find themselves on the right path. And we are to keep the Church and God's Word safe, always ready to defend it, keeping this house ready for the Master's return.
But as we look at the Church today, we hear the Lord reverberating the call of the captain that frightful morning, "Where have all My watchmen gone?" As we look at the vacant walls of the Church today, the words of Isaiah echo through my mind. " For the leaders of my people, the Lord's watchmen, his shepherds are blind and ignorant. They are like silent watchdogs that give no warning when danger comes. They love to lie around, sleeping and dreaming. Like greedy dogs, they are never satisfied. They are ignorant shepherds, all following their own path and intent on personal gain. "Come," they say, "let's get some wine and have a party. Let's all get drunk. Then tomorrow we'll do it again and have an even bigger party!" Isaiah 56:10-12.
As I sit here today, I cannot help but wonder, what has become of the Church's watchmen? Why does it's walls and gates stand empty? Have they become disheartened, giving up on the very cause that brought them to the wall in the first place? Have they left the gates, falsely thinking there is no threat on the horizon? Have they left their post out of greed, falling victim to the world's values? Or have they dropped their weapons out of pressure, putting greater value on what those outside the city may say instead of the words of their King? As we look at the Church today, we see those who no longer are looking for a gatekeeper, they want a doorman who will simply open the gate for everything and anything to enter. They seek leaders who tell them what they wish to hear, without showing them the consequences of their actions in God's Word and Law. They only seek gatekeepers who will not bar the gates, no matter what they may do inside or outside of the city's walls. And unfortunately, the leaders we often find inside of our walls fare no better. We find leaders who fail to confront the sinfulness inside their own churches, shepherds who have blindly lead their flocks into perdition. Without wisdom and understanding in God's Word, they find greater offense in pointing out sin than committing sin.
Within the last few days, we have seen three examples that make this very point. We have looked on as true watchmen have been mocked for pointing out the enemy as they have seen it approach.
We have recently watched as Hollywood released a movie that mocked the story of one of the Bible's patriarchs. When asked about the movie, the co-writer and director replied that this would be the least Biblical movie ever made. The director, a self-professing atheist, did not use the Bible to tell the story, but chose instead to use obscure Gnostic writings and the mythical beliefs of Kabbalah to tell the story. Several pastors and Christian leaders were quick to point out just how unbiblical this movie was, warning all from seeing it. But while these watchmen pointed out the dangers of this movie, many, if not most church leaders did not. They either ignored the issue, or simply did not have the necessary knowledge of God's Word to be able to recognize the danger in the movie.
Then there was another group, a group of 'so-called' pastors and Christian leaders who mocked and demeaned those who pointed out the truth of the movie. One of these 'so-called' leaders had this to say about those within the Church that spoke out against the film, "It's embarrassing to belong to a faith that attracts a group of people who always have to be right, and when something pushes them just a bit, they want to shut it down or keep people away." To this man, silence in the face of evil was of greater quality, than watching as thousands were lead to a false sense of God. I would love to ask these 'so-called' leaders if they have every taken the time to read what God had to say about the issue, "If I warn the wicked, saying, 'You are under the penalty of death,' but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths." Ezekiel 3:18.
Another example came when I read an interview with Franklin Graham the other day. In the interview, He said that some people working in this current administration were "hostile to Christians". He went on to say, "And when I say White House, I'm not saying the president, because I'm not sure how much of this he's aware of. But it's people that work for him that have power, that are sitting in offices, and they are hostile to Christ." "They are anti-Christ in what they say and in what they do," said Graham. "And they are pushing this agenda into the military. It's scary."
Franklin Graham, a watchman for Christ, securing the gates and pointing out the evil he sees on the horizon. Since this interview, I have watched as leader after leader within the Church has belittled, mocked, and disparaged the warning of this watchman. They see it as a greater offense to warn of this evil than to ignore God's Truth. I go back to the above verses in Isaiah 56:10-12. Have these leaders become so drunk on the world's wine that they no longer care to see evil as it approaches?
My last, but far from my least example, took place at the recent conference of the Religious Communicators Council in Nashville. For those who may not know, the RCC is an organization of marketing, communications, and public relations officers of several faiths. It is an interfaith group, that says it comes together to handle the challenges that the world and all religions face. While I have many problems with the very concept of this organization, within it are many who claim to be leaders of the Christian faith. As this recent conference, Dr. Bill Warner and a group of Christian leaders asked to address the conference about the issue of Christian persecution that is on the rise throughout the world today. They were not only not allowed to speak, but the RCC even refused to address the issue. The RCC went as far as to tell this group of watchmen that they were barred from even being in the premises of the conference. They called these watchmen trespassers, rebel rousers, and even traitors, claiming this was a non-issue. We are told that in 2012 over 100,000 Christian were martyred because of their faith, and in 2013 that numbered over doubled. A non-issue?
The 'so-called' Christian leaders that are a part of this organization can call themselves this in name only. They have willing tried to make God into a god. In replacing the capital 'G', they have lost the very call that Christ places on our lives. They have replaced God's wisdom, with man's logic, and they have willingly chosen inclusion over God's Truth.
I see these stories, and again the captain's call comes to my mind. "Where have all my watchmen gone?" We look at the wall, and those who stand on it are sparse. We see the gates open and the walls left all but unprotected. We watch as the unexpecting citizens of this city mock and make fun of those that dutifully remain on the wall. They look up, and cannot believe these few watchmen still stand there. The citizens ask themselves why they are still there, thinking no enemy would ever approach this city. They ignore the warnings of the few watchmen that remain, seeing them as demented fools that still stand on an unnecessary wall.
My words today are not a call, and are far more than a warning, they are a plea. Would the watchmen please come home, return to their place on the wall. Before our enemies see us vulnerable and unprotected, Before our Master returns home to find what is left of His city.
I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint. Habakkuk 2:1