Isaiah 62:1, "For Zion's sake
will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the
righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a
lamp that burneth."
This morning, unpleasantness is not desired. Generally speaking, man will do whatever it takes to acquire or maintain pleasant scenes in his life. As the storm clouds gather and the billows roll in, there is a built-in "mechanism" in man that yearns for the sunny skies and quiet tides. However, there are some unpleasant things in life that are not to be shunned. It should be our joy to endure persecution as a Christian (I Peter 4:15), for if Christ has suffered in the flesh, so ought we to arm ourselves with the same like mind. (I Peter 4:1) Other unpleasant scenes can occur whenever we, as a local church, have to endure church discipline - perhaps to the exclusion of a member. While an unpleasant situation, we should not shirk from this duty, but rather go forward in the path that the Lord through His word has directed.
Perhaps one of the most unpleasant things for a soldier to the cause of Christ, especially a gospel minister, to do is cry aloud in warning about danger and falsehood at the doors. Just as sin is pleasant to the natural eyes, so also dangers do not often appear unpleasant but can be rather appealing. It is not hard to understand why some people can become enamored with a line of thinking, for often the thinking is promoted by some pleasant and appealing person. Also, the line of thought may pique our senses in some naturally pleasing way. Hearing a man speak of natural man as "not really being so bad after all" is a dangerous line of thought, but it is appealing to the old flesh. Therefore, let us examine an unpleasant subject for a little while, but hopefully see that it is very beneficial for us to take heed to and give due diligence to attend unto.
The Bible is replete with examples of God's ministers acting as watchmen. (Ezekiel 33 among others) In our verse, the command is simple, "Cry aloud and spare not." Whenever a watchman warns a city against impending danger and destruction, he is to sound the alarm at the proper time and in the proper way. Unlike the boy who cries wolf too much, the minister must warn appropriately so that the city heeds his cry rather than dismiss it as vain jangling and foolish babbling. It is for this reason most of all that alarms must be sounded ONLY at times when real dangers are posed against a city.
Furthermore, the minister needs to know how to cry. Unlike the foolish watchmen earlier in this book (Isaiah 56:10-12), the good watchman must be always up and at the ready to cry. Slumber on the watch is not permitted, for that is the sign of a lazy watchman. Also, the foolish watchmen were referenced as "dumb" or unable to speak. This is indicative of a watchman that does not even know the danger when he sees it. If the watchman is not up on the Book, how could he readily prepare the sheep against the danger at the doors? He does not even know it is a danger!
But, let us examine another line of thought about the watchman that is sometimes not examined. While the watchman, in a natural sense, has all of field before him to study, the watchman in Zion has many different avenues to observe. For example, if the watchman of natural Zion saw Egypt's army descending upon the city, should he refuse to cry because they are not Babylon? Or if Syria's army approached, should he remain dumb since it was not Edom? The simple point is that no matter which enemy approaches, an alarm should be raised for the good of the people. Still further, he should not just watch one direction, for any of these various enemies could approach from more than one direction. Therefore, the natural watchman must be watching every direction for any danger or evil.
Transitioning to a spiritual plane, the gospel minister can become so enwrapped with watching for one of the various "isms" in the theological world that he is too dumb to speak when a different "ism" approaches. Looking at the pages of history, many times the church's battles showed friends during one conflict that later were viewed as enemies for the gospel's sake during a different conflict. Some of these men were allowed to promote erroneous teachings for quite some time as they were not yet seen as dangers. As an example, the church stood firm in 1832 in declaring against different auxiliaries to the church and the mission movement for the Arminian purpose of saving souls to heaven. However, some of the "friends" during this struggle posed ideas that were later "enemies" during the absoluter conflict. Some of the men continued in good standing for quite some time before the alarm was raised.
Any watchman can become a "one issue" watchman as that seems to be the most important issue of the day. Yet, just as Egypt's army might be approaching one wall of the city, Assyria's army could be coming at the same time towards another wall of the city. Crying aloud and sparing not should be done regardless of the direction from the advance or the particular group advancing it.
Yet it behooves us also to consider the last portion of the text as well to see that while this is an unpleasant circumstance to engage in at times there is a very beneficial outcome. Why is it that the watchman should cry? Is it because he enjoys strife, conflict, or war? Heavens no, but his cry is for the salvation of the inhabitants inside the city. His desire should be their good, so that the light of the city continues to burn brightly and not be trodden down and put out by the darkness and evil. As this is his goal, hardheartedness and harsh dealings among God's heritage should have no tolerance. A foolish shepherd mercilessly beats the sheep. A wise shepherd leads the sheep away from the evil (sometimes with prodding yes) but always in a firm yet non-abusive way.
May our eyes look upon Zion with the tenderest of emotion. While the conflicts of war are certainly not to be desired, the surrender of defeat is far worse. We know from God's word that His church (as a whole) will never be extinguished from this earth. (Matthew 16:18) However, individual cities can fall with their candlestick (light) being taken away and the lamp thereof not burning anymore. Even though peace is desired, it should never be desired at all costs, for that would lead to the city being overrun and the upheld truth at that location being torn down. May we keep our eyes attuned in every direction and be at the ready no matter which army approaches. In so doing, we are found faithful in our watching, and may we be able to daily give a good account for those dear ones whose souls we watch for. (Hebrews 13:17)