I will stand my watch
And set myself on the rampart,
And watch to see what He will say to me,
And what I will answer when I am corrected.
Prayer is such a difficult thing. I don’t mean that it’s hard to pray. Quite the contrary: because of the work our Lord Jesus did to rend the veil of the Holy of Holies, we now have direct access to our Father through prayer. (Matthew 27:51) No, the problem is not so much access to our Lord God but our attitude when we pray. There are times – and we must all admit to this – that our prayer becomes a grocery list of our wants and needs, and we treat the Almighty as some genie who is at our beck and call. It takes a great deal of humility – and perhaps even a little desperation – to make our prayers less about us and more about Him. For in our darkest hour, we finally see only our weakness and insignificance, our despair and our great hope for deliverance. In such a time, we will fall on our knees and lift up holy hands to God and cry out, “How long?”
“How long” indeed. For we are an impatient species. We want what we want now, not later. Even in our pain and oppression, we want deliverance immediately, we want healing today. We want, we want, we want. But at some point (and I know this from personal experience), we will drop all pretense of impatience and make a desperate appeal to God in full knowledge that we must wait patiently for His answer. We will become fed up with all our half-baked supplications and instead come before God with more questions than requests, with more praise than thanksgiving, with more awe than comfort. We will throw ourselves at the foot of the Cross and realize that just because we are able to address the Father through the Son, that does not mean we will get the immediate and tangible results we want, only that we will get what God knows we need. We will, at some harsh moment, bow down before the Lord of lords and know that we are His servants, that we cannot expect any more from this life than to do His service, to work for His kingdom, whatever that entails.
Habakkuk was such a man, and his short book of prophecy is full of questions and hope. He begins his writing with questions for God about when the Lord will rise up against the wicked. It’s the same question David often had, the same question we all often have: “How long?” But as we can see in today’s verse from Habakkuk 2:1, the prophet took a different stance than we often do in our questioning prayer.
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me…”
Habakkuk says, “I will stand my watch.” The prophet understands that as a man of God, his duty is to watch as sentry against the enemies of the Lord. The prophet is ready to take up his duty even though he has gotten no answer about how long he will stand guard. In his poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Alfred Lord Tennyson has the ill-fated soldiers saying, “Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die.” I do not think Habakkuk had quite the same fatalistic attitude, but he did agree that his place was not to “reason why” he stood watch nor even how long, but simply to do his duty. Of course, Habakkuk did have questions and he was making assumptions about how God ought to respond, but until he got answers he was going to continue his watch, waiting for whatever answers might come.
His place is on the “rampart” – i.e. on the wall or mound that surrounds the encampment of God’s people. What is that rampart between the children of God and the enemies of God? Upon what do we stand as we watch and wait? What wall, what tower, what stronghold is beneath our feet as we fulfill our role as sentries?
1 A Psalm of David.
Blessed be the LORD my Rock,
Who trains my hands for war,
And my fingers for battle –
2 My lovingkindness and my fortress,
My high tower and my deliverer,
My shield and the One in whom I take refuge,
Who subdues my people under me.
What stands between us and the enemy? Christ alone. We ourselves stand naked before the onslaught of evil, but through our faith in Christ, God clothes us in truth and righteousness, He arms us with His Word, and with faith and with salvation. (Ephesians 6:13-20) And we stand our watch upon the Solid Rock of Christ Jesus, our Savior and Lord.
But as sentries, we watch not only for the enemy, we also wait to hear what is our next command. We listen with fear and trembling, knowing that our life is in the hands of our wise Commander. As Habakkuk said, we watch to see what God will say to us. And that really is the tough part: the watching and the waiting. Having served as a sentry in the military, I know that waiting is perhaps the most difficult part. We have the anticipation of battle before us, the expectation of further commands behind us, and we are the watchmen waiting in between, sandwiched between fear and hope.
A Psalm of David.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?
With Christ our confidence and our strong tower, armed with the armor of God, we wait and watch, fulfilling out duty as sentinels. Habakkuk had great hope that God would redeem Israel, and the Lord assured him that He would, but it was the waiting that would make it so difficult.
2 Then the LORD answered me and said:
“Write the vision And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
3 “For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry.”
2 Peter 3:8-9
8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
So what are we to do? Watch, wait, and BE READY. Though the thing we pray for may be long in coming, we must be ready for it. Though the deliverance we seek is not appointed for tomorrow or the next day, we must watch and wait patiently and dutifully. Though we may be corrected and have our needs met in ways we could not imagine, still we must stand our ground and know that our Lord is wise and good and just, that His commands are right, His judgments true.
Dear friends, as we pray today, let us be demanding and bold even as we patiently watch and wait for God’s answer. Let us stand with Habakkuk on the rampart, doing our part to share the gospel of peace as we were commissioned to do. Let us stand between the enemies of God and the chosen people of God, knowing that to God alone is the battle, to Christ is the glory of victory. Watch, wait, and see what the Lord will say. And finally, let us have faith with Habakkuk, and rejoice.
17 Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls –
18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
Father God, we trust in You for our salvation, for our deliverance from Your enemies. Strengthen me, Lord God, to be Your sentinel, to stand watch against the darkness that threatens to consume this world. Arm me with Your truth and with faith, increasing my courage through trusting ever more in Your righteousness and justice. Be my strong tower, O God my Redeemer. Amen.