Keeping the Night Watch
by Inglis Fleming
“And it was night” (John 13:30).
This is the Divine comment when Judas had gone out to betray our Lord.
And it is a night to be remembered by us. The Lord of glory has not forgotten it. From the glory He told afresh to Paul the significance of the Remembrance Supper He had instituted. The record is prefaced by the word, “The Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed.” He would have us recall again and again that we are in a world where He has been and is rejected (1 Cor. 11:23).
We may delight in the fact that our Lord has died for us to secure our present and our eternal happiness. But while we do so we may forget His rejection by the world through which we journey. The Lord in His Supper reminds us of this.
We are in the night of His betrayal still. “The night is far spent and the day is at hand,” but the darkness of His being refused here is not to be forgotten “We are not of the night but of the day.” We are “not of the world, even as Christ is not of the world.” We are Christ’s. His place is our place. A place of acceptance and the nearness before His Father and our Father, His God and our God. But His place before the world is our place also. Shall we accept the one and refuse the other. Shame will be ours if thus we act.
Now what is our privilege and responsibility in the Night Watch? It is to worship and to witness. As Christians we are part of a holy priesthood and part of a royal priesthood. As a holy priesthood we form a spiritual house to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. As a royal priesthood we are called to show forth the excellencies of Him who has called us. With life and lip we are to witness for Him. Blessing God in worship within the veil, we are to be of blessing to others in the world of His betrayal, expressing something of His grace and goodness among men.
Psalm 134 may be considered as to this double aspect of our priesthood. It is the last of the Songs of Degrees. The stages of the pilgrimage are past. From strength to strength the journey has been pursued. Zion and the sanctuary are reached. Praise and worship are called for to Him who has brought them out of the depths and through all the perils of their way. Thus they exclaim,
“Behold, bless ye the Lord all ye servants of the Lord which by night stand in the house of the Lord.”
Praises day and night will go up to the Lord Jehovah from a restored Israel in a time yet future, but rapidly nearing. “The Signs of the times” declare plainly that the day is approaching (Matt. 16:3; Heb. 10:25).
For us as Christians we may rejoice that even in the night of Israel’s silence as to praise we can lift up our voice in the praises of our God and Father.
On the ground of the one offering of Christ, offered once for all, at the cross, Israel will be brought into blessing, and be a vessel of praise. But we fill the gap. It is ours to bless now. “Accepted in the Beloved,” rejoicing in our relationship as children of the Father, and blessed “with all spiritual blessings” now, our hearts well up in songs of adoration.
But in a special sense it is to be remembered that
“By night” we “stand in the house of the Lord,” as worshippers.
Honour indeed is this! Loosed from our sins in His own blood. Freed from every entanglement. Cleared from everything which hindered our praise. Thus it is we are made a kingdom, even priests unto God and His Father. He who loves us—the Son of God—has brought us into this large place of dignity and delight.
Of old the fire upon the altar of burnt offering was burning “all night unto the morning.” It was never to be put out. “It shall never go out” was the solemn direction. That altar spoke of, and speaks of, Christ and His glorious atoning sacrifice. Its value shall never be lost sight of. In virtue of it we stand while the night runs its course. And with hearts attuned in the sense of His grace we “bless the Lord.” Lifting up holy hands, sanctified to Himself our hearts and voices express His worthiness. This is our highest service and should take precedence of all other.
“The Lord that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion” closes the Psalm. We bless Him. He blesses us. And in the sense of this rich blessing, His blessing, “out of Zion” that is, in royal grace and bounty, we can bless others. So it is that as “called” to “inherit a blessing” we can dispense blessing to others around us (1 Pet. 3:9).
Let us ponder it well.
It is night. We are not of the night. But in the night we are allowed of God to be worshippers within and witnesses without while we wait for the day, “the day of Christ” soon to dawn.