Watchers on the Wall

In our psalm this morning, the psalmist says: “I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; in his word is my hope. My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchers wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. (Psalm 130:4-6)

This psalm is so appropriate for us right now at this time, and the paranoia that is rampant in our communities and in our nation. It’s a time to be careful. A time to be circumspect and for the church, and it is a time to be faithful, a time to be attentive to what the Spirit is saying to the church.In the midst of these trying times we are reminded that the Holy Spirit is with us and there are watchers on the Wall.

Watchers on the wall! It’s my responsibility as a pastor, and it’s your responsibility as leaders, and it’s your responsibility as Christians to be attentive, intuitive, to listen to what people are saying and to listen for what is not being said, and for what needs to be said, and to listen for the cries of the hurting, the cries of the fearful, the fears of the lonely and the anguish of the sick.

Psalm 130 is part of a group of fifteen psalms known as the Psalms of Ascent, or the Gradual Psalms, beginning with Psalm 120 through Psalm 134. All 15 psalms begin with the words, “A song of ascents”. Many interpretations have been given for these psalms: The psalms are to celebrate the return from captivity from Babylon in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, with the assistance of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, fulfilling the prophecy of Jeremiah that the Jews would again be resettled in the land of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem was overtaken and captured by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. He demolished the temple and took captive all the people of influence and position, along with the priests and Levites, and all the holy vessels of the temple, and transported them to Babylon. They left the poor of the land, and then assigned new leaders to rule the area. Forty years later Cyrus sent out a decree to rebuild the temple of Jerusalem. Under Ezra the scribe, anyone that wanted to return to Jerusalem could go with the kings blessing. They also were instructed to take all the holy vessels of the temple that were taken when the Babylonians destroyed the temple 40 years prior.

Building the walls of the temple was not an easy task. The people that surrounded the area of Jerusalem fought them every step of the way. Through the time of various kings from Cyrus to Darius, they finally built the walls. But, guarding the temple and the city was no easy task. Watchers and guards were assigned to watch the walls by day and by night.

Psalm 130 is also considered a Penitential psalm. The Psalm opens with a cry from the depths of the heart, a plea to God to hear his or her voice. It is a desperate cry in the darkness of the night,  “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord, Lord hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!” (v1,2)

Watchers on the wall were assigned to guard the community, to provide security for villagers, and to keep an eye on the fields and livestock, to observe unusual activity. And, if predatory animals or humans approached to sound an alarm, to blow the trumpet or the rams horn, to alert everyone to the danger approaching. The warning from the watchman was a critical alarm that called the villagers to action, as we read in the prophet Joel: “Blow you the trumpet in Zion, let the sound of the trumpet be heard. Sound an alarm, sound an alarm. Let the sound of the trumpet be heard”. (Joel 2:8)

The watcher on the wall, carried a lighted torch. It was probably the only light in the village except for the candles in the homes of those watching over the sick or the dying. For these it was a long night, and they too watched with hope for the morning. For the watchers and for those that could not sleep because of illness, depression or for other reasons that keep people up at night, those things that “go bump in the night”. The darkness of the night can also be called the “dark night of the soul”. That’s what our nation and most parts of our world are going through right now

We have temporarily discontinued all services, meetings of all groups and activities that meet on the grounds and buildings of our property. It was not an easy thing to do, and some of these ministries are just getting started. For some like the AA and NA groups it’s like a lifeline was severed. I know there are meetings on line, and we are doing our best to do church on line, but what about the people that do not have access to computers. Our vestry has committed to make phone calls throughout the week, sending out snail mail and doing face time and call in meetings on the phone as well as online. It’s not an easy task, but as watchers on the wall, a necessary task.

Our church is experiencing the dark night of the soul. There is hope for the morning sun, the dawn that reassures us that “weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). It is a hope not only for the fullness of the day, but a hope for healing, a hope for the removal of pain, a hope and prayer for deliverance and reconciliation.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I hope; My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning!