The Night Watcher
“I will watch to see what He will say unto me.” Habakkuk 2:1
A new year’s motto-card bears the above text, with the representation of an armed man standing on the wall of a fortress, in a posture of intense expectation and watchfulness. With his hand, he uplifts his visor, that he may the more steadfastly look through the enveloping darkness; and whether he be waiting for the day to dawn, or looking for the approach of an enemy, or anticipating the arrival of friends, his whole attitude is suggestive of patient and expectant watching, of danger disregarded, and of duty nobly done.
It is not, however, so much to this pictured warrior that I wish to draw your attention, as to the text he is supposed to illustrate. Do you notice, dear reader, the singular form of expression here used? “I will watch to see what He will say unto me.” Watch to see what God says! There lies the strangeness of the prophet’s exclamation, for if he had said he would “wait to hear,” we would have found nothing extraordinary in the sentence.
But God often spoke by signs to His people in those days, and Habakkuk was, doubtless, quite accustomed to watch for indications of His mind and will in all the surroundings of Nature and Providence. “As the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters,” so did the prophet’s eyes wait upon the Lord his God; and as he stood upon his watch-tower, God revealed the “goings forth” of the Lord to him, and instructed His servant by signs and wonders in Heaven, and earth, and sea. Who can read, in the third chapter of this prophecy, those glorious descriptions of Heavenly panoramic visions, without being awed and thrilled by their majesty?
Those olden days of open vision and prophecy are gone by; but does not our loving Father, even now, though in gentler fashion, sometimes speak to His children by what they see, as certainly and truly as if a voice had reached their outward ears? I think so; and to explain my thought, I will relate an incident which happened to me, and which forcibly interpreted to my heart the words of the inspired prophet.
Awaking from a quiet sleep, a little after midnight, I experienced a curious constraint to leave my warm bed, and draw aside the curtains of my window. I obeyed the impulse, and was rewarded by a sight, common enough it may be, but so fraught with spiritual meaning to my soul, that it will be photographed on my mind while life lasts.
The sky was dark and heavy, not a star was to be seen. The black mantle of night hung low upon the earth, and seemed ponderous in its dense obscurity. The lights of distant villages and towns twinkled feebly, and a deep silence made the darkness more oppressive. But across one portion of the heavens, the clouds had parted in a long, narrow line, like a rift or chasm in the mountains of blackness; and along this passage-way the moon was sailing, a ship of silver passing through a river of light, while the cloudbanks on either side were luminous with celestial radiance.
So great was the contrast between the general blackness of the sky and the brilliance of the rifted clouds, that it was as if Heaven’s pearly gates were opened, and through them came streaming the light of that City which “had no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.”
Often have I seen grand and glorious sights in cloudland, when pictures of inexpressible beauty have formed themselves under my astonished gaze. Alpine peaks, and snows, and glaciers, as apparently real as the sublime realities, have for a time displayed their magnificent proportions; and then, gradually melted into lovely green lakes, and purple hills, and golden sands, and shining rivers; and, sometimes—though far more rarely—while I have watched the heavens with spellbound eyes, whole cohorts of angels have passed by on swift wings, or gathered their shining legions together for fierce battle with the opposing forces of “the prince of the power of the air.”
But this midnight scene was less imaginative, more real, more spiritual than anything I had before witnessed. It seemed to have God in it, and the place whereon I stood was holy ground.
The appearance of such pure, unsullied light breaking through a dark and threatening sky—the strange position of the long, illuminated pathway across the heavens, and the unusual effulgence of the clouds lining that pathway—all these presented a vision so sublime and celestial that my heart was awed and humbled as in the very presence of God, and my soul said, “Surely this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven.”
For some time I stood gazing at the Heavenly vision, adoring and admiring, “watching to see what He would say unto me,” trying to spell out the words which Heaven was signaling to earth, and worshiping with loving reverence the tender Father whose love, and care, and faithfulness were written in letters of light across that black and threatening sky.
Then, with a solemn feeling of awe upon me, as if I had almost seen the open gates of the Celestial City, and heard the songs of the redeemed ones, I crept back to my bed, trembling, but trusting, glad in the Lord, and rejoicing in my God. The thick curtains of my window shut out both the light and the darkness, but the glorious vision had done its sweet work in my heart—I had seen the words by which the Lord comforted and cheered my soul, and I fell immediately into a peaceful and refreshing sleep.
Are any of my readers in such deep trouble that all around them looks black, and thick, and threatening, as did that notable midnight sky? Let me beg you to watch to see what He will say unto you. If you watch with real desire to hear and to obey, you will certainly see the light of His love parting the densest gloom, and the tokens of His mighty power appearing to reassure your fainting spirit.
There are no clouds so thick, that they can obscure His glorious light if He bids it shine; there are no troubles so black and appalling, that they can fright the soul from beholding the brightness of His grace and truth when He reveals them; and the feeblest of His children may always trust Him to fulfill that blessed promise in His Word, “I will make darkness light before them.”
And, oh! how small and light our greatest griefs, and losses, and afflictions seem, when illumined by the bright beams of the Glory-land! Away up there, where we are so soon going, there are no clouds, no darkness, no nights of pain, no days of sorrow; and it is, after all, but a thin, dark veil which separates us from the “beautiful home on high.” Part of the special message which my soul received, on that night, was that Heaven was very near, and the gate wide open! The clouds have but to break, and the call to be given, and straightway my ransomed spirit will—
“Run up with joy the shining way
To embrace my dearest Lord.”
So, cheer up your heart, poor, timid child of God—if such a one be reading my little book! You may not be able to see your way on earth; but turn your eyes to Heaven, and gaze long and lovingly there. You do not need to see the path down below, because He has said He will guide you, and you know the darkness and the light are both alike to Him. Put your hand in His, and trust Him, for “by His light you shall walk through darkness.”
Remember, too, that He is watching for you to watch. That lovely vision in the sky was there when I drew aside the curtains; I know not how long its glory had been shining, for the dear Lord may have had hundreds of “watchers by night” to whom He would speak by its glory; but I do know that, if I had “folded my hands” again to sleep, and failed to go up to my watch-tower, I would have missed the blessing it brought me. When I think of this, there comes to my heart the sweetness of the text, “Therefore will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious unto you,” and I would gladly learn and teach the lesson that we may often lose the manifestations of our Father’s love and care—by simply not looking for them.
Watch, then, and wait, dear reader of mine, “watch to see what He will say” unto you, and wait with eager anticipation “until the day breaks, and the shadows flee away,” “for the Lord shall be your everlasting light.”