By Joseph Ametepe
The theme for this year,s National Day of Prayer is"Prayer for such a time as this," taken from the theme verse, Nahum 1:7, which reads: "The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him." (NASB). This is translated in the NIV as follows: "The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him." Nahum 1:7. All throughout Scripture, in times of trouble or distress, God's believing people sought Him in earnest prayer. When the sons of Israel were held in oppression in Israel, they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God (Exodus 2:23). The children of Israel sighed and groaned during their time of trouble in Egypt. God decided to send Moses to deliver His oppressed people. He told Moses, "Now, behold the cry of the of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them" (Exodus 3:9). Later, at the Red Sea, Israel faced another day of trouble. The powerful Egyptian army came up against them with their chariots and horsemen. Moreover, there was no easy way of escape for them. The Red Sea was before them and the Egyptians were behind them. In such a time of distress, the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord (Exodus 14:10). God performed a miracle. He parted the Red Sea for His people. They passed through to safety. But when the Egyptian pursued them, they were destroyed (Exodus 14:13-29). In the days of Samuel, Israel was oppressed by the Philistines. They defeated Israel in back-to-back battles and even captured the ark of God (1 Samuel 4). Reeling under the oppressive rule of the Philistines, Samuel called God's people to return to Him and direct their hearts to Him and serve Him. They did. But fresh from their back-to-back victories, the Philistines went up against Israel to make it three victories in a row. When the sons of Israel heard that the Philistines were going up against them, they were afraid. They knew they had no chance of defeating their arch enemies. They pleaded with the prophet Samuel, "Do not cease to cry to the LORD our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines" (1 Samuel 7:8). The Bible says, "Samuel cried to the LORD for Israel, and the LORD answered him" (1 Samuel 7:9). The Philistines were routed. They suffered a humiliating defeat. Once again, God came through for His people who sought Him in their time of distress. Again, in the days of Jehoshaphat, the nation of Judah came under attack. Three powerful neighboring nations joined forces to attack little Judah. Once again, this was a time of trouble for God's people. And once again, God's people turned to God and sought Him and His help in such a time of great distress. Jehoshaphat led the people of Judah in a time of seeking God through prayer and fasting (2 Chronicles 20:1-4). God's Spirit responded to their cry for help. God's Spirit revealed His battle plan to His people. His plan was simple-singing and praising God. Who goes to war singing and praising? But that's what God specifically commanded His people to do. When God's people did exactly as He had commanded them, He took over the battle. He caused the enemies of Judah to fight among themselves and destroy each other. The only thing left for Judah to do was to carry the spoil of their enemies (2 Chronicles 20:14-25). King Hezekiah of Judah also faced a time of trouble during his reign. The king of Assyria, having already conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, came up against the southern kingdom-Judah and Benjamin. The servants of the king of Assyria came up to Jerusalem with a threatening and intimidating message. It was meant to discourage the people from trusting in God for deliverance in their time of trouble. The servants of the king of Assyria boasted about the power of their king and his record of destroying many nations. Based on their impeccable record, they concluded that God was no match for the king of Assyria. Judah was greatly distressed. This was a time of trouble for them. But the Bible says, "King Hezekiah and Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, prayed about this and cried out to heaven. And the LORD sent an angel who destroyed every mighty warrior, commander and officer in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned in shame to his own land. And when he had entered the temple of his god, some of his own children killed him there with the sword" (2 Chronicles 32:20-21). God didn't disappoint His people for their confident trust in Him to deliver them in their distress. Other examples of how God's people sought God and His help in times of trouble and were graciously delivered are found in the stories of King Abijah of Judah (2 Chronicles 13), King Asa of Judah (2 Chronicles 14:9-15; 15:1-4), Ezra (8:21-32), and Esther (3-9). In Solomon's great prayer at the dedication of the Jerusalem Temple, it is made clear that God's people should turn to Him in times of trouble. Solomon prayed in the Spirit and said: "If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence, if there is blight or mildew, if there is locust or grasshopper, if their enemies besiege them in the land of their cities, whatever plague or whatever sickness there is, whatever prayer or supplication is made by any man or by all Your people, each knowing his own affliction and his own pain, and spreading his hands toward this house, then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and render to each according to all his ways, whose heart You know for You alone know the hearts of the sons of men" (2 Chronicles 6:28-30). Simply put, God says, when His people are facing times of trouble, they should resort to prayer. But I must admit that, in times of national trouble, it is far easier to resort to a protest movement than to a prayer movement. It is far easier to bash the government and those in authority over us than to bend our knees before God. It seems to me that in such times, it is must easier to insult the authorities than to intercede on their behalf. This is sad and shameful in the sight of God. This should not be the case among God's people. In Psalm 91: 15 God gives His people this promise: "He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him." Also, in Psalm 46:1 God's word says: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." From the above examples and promises, it is clear that God's people can confidently turn to God in times of trouble seeking Him and His help, looking to Him and trusting Him to make a way for them out of their distress to the praise and glory of His name. In other words, in days of distress, God's people can approach Him with confident trust in Him to deliver them and make a name for Himself. Nowhere is this confident trust in approaching God vividly expressed than in the prophetic Old Testament book of Isaiah. The name Isaiah means the Lord has saved. Isaiah received his prophetic calling from God after the death of King Uzziah of Judah in a powerful and stirring vision of God in the Temple in Jerusalem (Isaiah 6). Isaiah received revelation not only for his time, but also beyond the immediate future to the coming of the Messiah several centuries later. He was also given prophecies concerning the glorious age to come for God's people. In that day, the city of Zion, or Jerusalem, will be restored. Peace and justice will reign, and God will make all things new. Isaiah himself experienced the troubling times of his own nation and constantly admonished the people to look to their God for deliverance. Even though he would speak the truth, the people rejected the truth. According to a popular Jewish tradition, Isaiah met his death by being sawn in half during the reign of the wicked king Manasseh of Judah. But before his tragic death, he received a revelation of the glorious age to come for God's people Israel. It was a message of comfort for God's people who had suffered and seen much trouble in their history. God's message through Isaiah was that while the present is bleak, there is a bright future on the horizon for His people. As such, God's people can confidently draw near to Him to seek Him for the fulfillment of the bright future He has purposed for them. God's message through Isaiah to the people of Judah during Isaiah's 40 years of ministry (740-701 B.C.) is sorely needed today as well. As a nation, America is facing troubling times. We are living in uncertain days. Many are fearful of the future. Despair has taken hold of many hearts. There is unrest and tension in the land. Thousands of people are uptight, not upbeat about the future. The downturn in the economy shows very little sign of recovery. Many are still without jobs and millions face foreclosure. Joblessness and homelessness have affected millions in this land of opportunity. Spiritually, a cloud of darkness is hovering over the land. Hunger for God and the things of God is declining rapidly. Hatred for God and the things of God is rising. We continue to tolerate sin. Good is called evil. And evil is called good. The truth of God's word is becoming more and more irrelevant in our public squares. The love of many is growing cold. In short, the present is bleak. But God's people in this nation can find comfort in God's message through Isaiah. There is a brighter and better future for God's people, not so much economically, but spiritually. When God's people sincerely turn to the true and living God, who is revealed fully in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, He will be gracious to them. He has shown from His word that He is in the business of rescuing those who turn from their sins to Him in times of trouble. In humility of heart, Christians, that is, believers in Jesus Christ, born of the Spirit, bought with the precious blood of Jesus, and brought into a personal saving relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, must call upon God and confess the sins of the nation. God's believing people must approach Him in confident trust in His goodness and graciousness to ask Him to deliver this land from its rebellion against God and His ways. Without confession of the sins of the nations and crying out to God to turn back the tide of rebellion against Him, our future will not be bright, but bleak. Without such humble confession and honest cry to God for His mercy upon this nation, we can expect God's judgment, not joy; more despair, not delight. One of the major teachings of the Bible is that God is eager to respond to the believing prayers of His people. In other words, God answers the prayers of His people who pray according to His will. God responded to the believing prayers of Moses (Exodus 15:25), Joshua (Joshua 10:12-14), the sons of Israel (Judges 3:9-30), Gideon (Judges 7:36-40), Samuel (1 Samuel 12:16-18), David (1 Chronicles 17:16-27), Solomon (2 Chronicles 7:12-22), Elijah (17:17-24; 18:36-40), Elisha (6:17-20), Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:10), the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh (1 Chronicles 5: 18-22), Isaiah (2 Kings 19:1-7), Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:14-35), Daniel (Daniel 9), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:4-11), Ezra (Ezra 8:21-23), a leper (Mark 1:40-42), Bartimaeus, a blind beggar (Mark 10:46-52), the Apostles (Acts 4:24-31), Peter (Acts 9:36-42), the church in Jerusalem (Acts 12:3-17). In fact, the Bible summarizes God's response to the believing prayers of His people in these words: "God was moved by prayer for the land" (2 Samuel 21:14; 24:25). I believe with all my heart that the time has come for God's believing people living in this generation to experience a powerful move of God in response to our prayers for our land. Why am I saying that with confidence? The Bible says this of our Lord Jesus Christ through whose merit our prayers are received and responded to: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). Yes, God can still be moved by prayer for the land by His repentant people. Do you believe that in your heart? Are you expecting God to bless our generation with His mighty and miraculous acts in response to our prayers? I believe and I expect to see Him act mightily in response to our believing and effectual prayers. God's own promise to us is this: "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much" James 5:16b (NASB). For this year's National Day of Prayer, I would like us to turn our attention to Isaiah 62:1-9. It is a rich and remarkable passage. It vividly describes God's passionate longing for His believing people to come to Him in confident trust and seek Him on behalf of their land. It is a passage that encourages God's praying people to put full court pressure on Him until He acts in response to their prayers. It is a passage that boosts our confidence in drawing near to God. Not only does this passage boost our confidence in approaching God on behalf of our nation, but it is also a powerful illustration of 2 Chronicles 7:14, which says, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (NIV). If we are going to pray to move the hand of God to bring repentance, renewal, and revival to this nation, that is, a brighter future for the land, then we must approach Him applying the principles preserved in Isaiah 62:1-9. First of all, in this article, God's plan for a brighter future for the nation will be disclosed. Secondly, God's people's role in God's plan will be carefully considered. Thirdly, the perseverance of God's people in prayer will be examined. Fourthly, we will discuss the awesome privilege God has given His people to press Him in their prayers until He acts. Fifthly, the promise of God to His people will be discussed.. Sixthly, the praise of God by God's people will be our concluding deliberation. Let's now begin to look at each of these major points in detail!
I. Plan of God for a brighter future (vv. 1-5). The situation in Isaiah's day was difficult and disturbing. The nation of Judah was facing challenging times. The future of Judah was looking bleak. Already, the northern kingdom had been taken into exile by the Assyrians. Furthermore, the Assyrians made known their intentions. Judah must come under its rule. Constant pressure from the Assyrian was distressing. A cloud of darkness was settling over the land. Moreover, God's people were living in sin. Isaiah cried out repeatedly to warn them of coming judgment. God would send Babylon against them if they continued in their sins. So within, there was corruption. Without, there was constant pressure from the Assyrians and later the Babylonians. Judah's future was bleak. But against this background, God speaks of His plan for a brighter future for His people. This is vividly captured in these words: "For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not keep quiet, until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, and her salvation like a torch that is burning. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; and you will be called by a new name which the mouth of the LORD will designate. You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. It will no longer be said to you, "Forsaken," nor to your land will it any longer be said, "Desolate"; but you will be called, "My delight is in her," and your land, "Married"; for the LORD delights in you, and to Him your land will be married. For as a young man marries a virgin, so your sons will marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you" Isaiah 62:1-5 (NASB). What a wonderful and glorious picture is given here of the future. These words reveal so clearly and convincingly the ambition of God for the redeemed Israel. Nowhere has God expressed His desire for a brighter future for His people than in this passage. Notice very carefully that God speaks here of not resting until He has accomplished what He has planned to do for Zion and Jerusalem. God says, "I will not be still. I will not even rest. Rather, for their sake I will continually be active, alert, and aggressive until My plan for them is fully carried out." God says, "I will neither be silent nor give Myself rest, till I have faithfully executed My work of grace for Zion." God says, "I will not be satisfied until the blessings I Myself promised to Zion are fully realized." God says, "Since I have entered into covenant with Zion, I will see to it Myself that the promises in My covenant are fulfilled. None of all My good words which I have spoken to My people will fail. They will all be fulfilled. For I am not a man that I should lie nor the son of man that I should repent. What I have spoken concerning Zion, I will do." Perhaps you are wondering, what is Zion? Zion was first mentioned in the Bible in 2 Samuel 5:7. It was a Jebusite city which David had captured and renamed "city of David." Later, Zion expanded in meaning to include also the Temple and the Temple area (Psalms 2:6; 48:2, 11-12; 132:13). It progressed in its use as a name for the city of Jerusalem, the land of Judah, and the people of Israel as a whole (Isaiah 40:9; Jeremiah 31:12). Zion is used figuratively of Israel as the people of God (Isaiah 60:4). It is used in the New Testament to mean God's spiritual kingdom, the church of God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrew 12:22; Revelation 14:1). So Zion in this context refers to the redeemed people of Israel. Since redemption involves not only Israel, but the church, Zion's use will extend to the church as well. In fact, at the time of this prophetic word through Isaiah, Zion's future was bleak. Zion, that is, the people of Israel as a whole, was no longer a force to reckon with. Its prestige and influence were a thing of the past. Zion seemed to be hidden or least unnoticed. Zion had faded and was failing. But God confidently and passionately declares that her righteousness will go forth like brightness (Hebrew:nogah, that is, like the morning sunlight, before which the last twilight has vanished). God is here expressing His determination to make Zion a lighthouse for the world. Zion's future will be bright, not bleak. This is God's first beautiful description of the brighter future for the people of God. His plan for Zion's future is indeed a bright one. But God is not done speaking about the bright future of Zion. He has more to say. He makes it very clear that Zion's righteousness will shine forth that the nations will see it. They will attentively note it. They will become very aware of it. They will well know for themselves that Zion indeed has righteousness and glory. The righteousness and glory will be given to Zion by Yahweh Himself. Please notice that "all kings" will take note of Zion's glory. This means that the glory of Zion will surpass all other glory. All other glory will pale in comparison to the future glory of Zion. No glory of any earthly king or kingdom will come near to the glory awaiting Zion. It will be unique. It will be superior to all others. Kings who often do not recognize the glory of other kingdoms but their own, will have to acknowledge the superior glory of Zion. This is God's second beautiful description of Zion's bright future. His plan for Zion's future is indeed a glorious one. God goes on to say more about Zion's bright and glorious future. This time, He speaks of Zion being called a new name. "And you will be called by a new name which the mouth of the LORD will designate" (Isaiah 62:2b). Name in the Bible is very important. It was believed that there was a vital connection between the name and the person it identified. In other words, a name represented the nature of a the person. So when God speaks of Zion being called by a new name, He is saying that in the future Zion will have an entirely new nature. Zion's new name will reflect redeemed Israel's new favored status. Commentators Keil and Delitzsch write: "Because this state of Zion is a new one, which has never existed before, her old name is not sufficient to indicate her nature. She is called by a new name; and who could determine this new name? He who makes the church righteous and glorious, He, and He alone, is able to utter a name answering to her new nature, just as it was He who called Abram Abraham, and Jacob, Israel. The mouth of Jehovah will determine it (Hebrew: naqab- to pierce, to mark, to designate in a signal and distinguishing manner). -Keil and Delitzsch:- Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. 7, p. 586. Dr. Vernon McGee also writes: "A new heart, a new situation, a new earth, a new righteousness demand a new name." The glorified and resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ, Himself, also promised a new name to believers who overcome. "To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it" (Revelation 2:17b). A new nature which has never existed before will be a reality for believers in heaven. I don't know what my new name will be, but frankly, I'll be glad that the old me is gone for good. Believers will be new in the New Jerusalem. This is God's third description of Zion's bright, beautiful, and blessed future. His plan for Zion's future is indeed one that involves a new nature. God continues with great passion to describe the great beauty of Zion when she has finally been redeemed. "You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God" (Isaiah 62:3). The descriptions, "crown of beauty" and "royal diadem" are intended to display the greatest beauty on earth, so that Zion, meaning the redeemed people of God, is shown as the masterpiece of the Lord. Notice carefully that both the "crown of beauty" and the "royal diadem, lit. turban" are placed in the hand of the Lord, not on the head of the Lord. They are placed in the hand of the Lord that all the world may behold the glorious work of God in awe and wonder. God is saying, redeemed Israel will be a special work of His to be seen by all of His creation. Keil and Delitzsch write: "But it is a main feature in the figure, that Jehovah holds the crown in His hand. Zion is not the ancient crown which the Eternal wears upon His head, but the crown wrought out in time, which He holds in His hand, because He is seen in Zion by all creation. The whole history of salvation is the history of the taking of the kingdom, and the perfecting of the kingdom by Jehovah; in other words, the history of the working out of this crown." -Keil and Delitzsch:- Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. 7, p. 587. Redeemed Israel or Zion, will be a crown of indescribable beauty in the hand of Yahweh to put on display for all to see and stand in awe of. Certainly, God's plan for Zion future is one of indescribable beauty. Redeemed Israel, will be vindicated and honored. God seems to delight Himself in speaking about Zion's bright and beautiful. He keeps adding imagery after imagery in His description of Zion's future. He refuses to restrain Himself. After giving several wonderful word pictures in His description of Zion's glorious future He adds these words: "It will no longer be said to you, "Forsaken," nor to your land will it any longer be said, "Desolate"; but you will be called, "My delight is in her," and your land, "Married"; for the LORD delights in you, and to Him your land will be married" (Isaiah 62:4). In this verse, God is speaking of both the redeemed people of Israel, that is, Zion and the land. Notice the pronoun "you" is mentioned three times and the phrase "your land" is also mentioned three times. God is saying here that in the future He has planned for the people and their land, they will be regarded totally in a different light from what is now the case. We have here a change of names for both the people and the land. The name "Forsaken" is "Azubah" in the Hebrew. It was the name of the mother of Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:42). This name is changed to "My delight is in her." The Hebrew for this name is Hephzibah, which is actually the name of the mother of King Hezekiah (2 Kings 21:1). So Zion will no longer be called Azubah (forsaken), but Hephzibah (My delight is in her). Blessed are the people in whom God delights or takes pleasure. It is a great honor to be a people with whom God is pleased, or desired, or to have an affection for. This is exactly what the future of Zion is. Zion will be a people in whom God will not be ashamed to delight. Hallelujah! What a blessed and bright future! For the land, there is also a change of name from "Desolate" (Hebrew: Shemamah) to "Married" (Hebrew: Beulah). This means that the renewed land of Israel will be under the loving and protective care of Yahweh Himself. How wonderful is that! Commentator Edward J. Young writes: "The change in the names, however, is not due to any merely human improvement in Zion's situation, but alone to the fact that God has shown favor. He has delighted in her, and her land will therefore be married, i.e. possessed, so that it be cared for and protected and no longer abandoned. By the multitude of inhabitants the reproach of widowhood will be taken away." -Edward J. Young:- The Book of Isaiah, Vol. 3, p. 469. It is important to stress that the names "My delight is in her" and "Married" reflect a fully restored relationship with the Lord. This has been God's passion since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. In the future, He will bring Zion to a fully restored relationship with Him. Glory to God in the Highest! God's plan for Zion future is one delighting in her and one of a fully restored relationship with Him. A day is coming when the believing nation will be fully restored as Yahweh's bride. This is the future Zion is waiting for. The last thing God says about Zion's wonderful and glorious future is that He Himself will rejoice over her. "For as a young man marries a virgin, so your sons will marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you" (Isaiah 62:5). Commentator Edward J. Young writes: "As a young man marries a virgin, so the sons of Zion, through God's grace, will occupy and possess her. She will then no longer be desolate and forsaken but filled with her spiritual sons. As the bride of the Lord, Zion will also be recognized, and He will rejoice in her as an earthly bridegroom rejoices in his bride. The figure is designed to express utmost rejoicing...When God receives the Church as His bride and rejoices at the multitudes of her sons, then truly the Church is blessed." -Edward J. Young:- The Book of Isaiah, Vol. 3, p. 470. So far, we have seen how God Himself took the time to reveal His plan for Zion's future. It is a bright future. It is a glorious future. It is a future of indescribable beauty. It is a blessed future in which Zion will be blessed with a new state which has never existed before. It is a future in which Yahweh Himself will delight and in rejoice in her. It is a future of living under the loving and protective care of Yahweh Himself. What a wonderful picture is given here of Zion's future! What a plan! Only can make such a plan and reveal it to His people. Now the question is: how do we apply this to theme of this year's National Day of Prayer, that is, "prayer for such a time as this?" The Bible tells us that "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Romans 15:4; cf.1 Corinthians 10:11). What instruction does God want us to receive from Isaiah 62:1-5? It is simply this: God has a plan for the nations. So God's believing can approach His throne of grace to seek Him for that plan. Believers in every nation can pray: "Lord, we thank You for Your plan for our nation. Please show us Your plan for our nation. Reveal it to us. Disclose it to us. Help our nation to pursue Your plan. Direct the heart of our leaders to Your plan. Your word says, "the king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes" (Proverbs 21:1). O Lord, please turn the hearts of those in authority over us to Your plans and purposes. Please, do not rest until You fulfill Your good and gracious plans for our land. We call on You to let Your righteousness shine forth in our land. Like Israel of old, we are "Forsaken" and "Desolate." Please, do Your gracious work in our nation that You might delight in us again and that we might be fully restored to You. O Lord, we want You to rejoice in us. We want You to be pleased with us. Therefore, lead our nation to Your plans and make us willing to accept them, believing that Your plans are the best of all plans. We confess to You, man's plans for our nation will only doom us. Please, Lord, direct our hearts to seeking Your good and glorious plans for our nation. Let us embrace them and execute them with the help of Your Spirit, we pray! In the powerful and precious name of Jesus Christ, Your Only Begotten Son and our only Savior. Amen!" Having disclosed His plan for a brighter future for Zion, God now reveals the privileged role He wants His people to play in this plan.
II. People of God (v. 6a). One would think that after revealing such a glorious and wonderful plan for Zion's future, God will say, "I am going to do it all. It's My plan and I will execute it from start to finish. This is really My work and you My people have nothing to do with it." But God didn't say that. Rather, He says, "I am calling you My people into partnership with Me. I want you to be a part of the working out of this plan of Mine." What an honor! Indeed, I am always humbled and amazed by the fact that God chooses to involve us in His work. He does not need us, but He delights in using us. Notice that God's plan involves His people. Here, God describes His people as watchmen. The Bible captures this in Isaiah 62:6a. "On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen"Isaiah:62:6a (NASB). Not only has God clearly spelt out His future plan for redeemed Zion but He goes on to say that He Himself, in the meantime, will appoint watchmen on her walls so that she might receive maximum protection. Now the question is: Who are these "watchmen?" Are they angelic intercessors? Are they the prophets of Israel at the time of giving this word? Are they pious Israelites who were praying for the restoration of the ruined walls of Jerusalem after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians? Some believe they were prophets such as Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi whom God raised up to exhort and encourage His people who had returned from exile to rebuild the temple and restore the walls of Jerusalem. The Hebrew word for "watchmen" is "shomerim." It comes from the Hebrew root verb "shamar." The basic idea of the root is "to exercise great care over something." It also means to give careful heed to God's ways, to take care of, to guard. The word may involve guarding against intruders, etc., such as the cherubim guarding the tree of life in Genesis 3:24, or gatekeepers (Isaiah 21:11). One thing is clear from the definition of "watchmen"- the need for protection. Since the context clearly shows that the fulfillment of God's plan for redeemed Zion is in the future, we can safely conclude that the term "watchmen" goes beyond the prophets of Israel. For sure, the prophets of Israel, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, issued constant warnings about lurking enemies and prayed for Jerusalem. But God intends for the description "watchmen" to go beyond the prophets of Israel. The term also goes beyond the pious Israelites who prayed for the restoration of the walls of Jerusalem. Certainly, the term "watchmen" does not refer to angelic messengers who keep watch over God's people. There is nothing in the text to indicate that God is speaking here of angelic watchers. This means that the term "watchmen" applies to faithful believers among God's redeemed people. That includes God's committed believing servants today who are stationed upon the walls that they may see far and wide, and be heard afar off. Expanding on who the "watchmen" are, commentator Edward J. Young writes: "Actually, of course, the fulfillment of the prophecy would not occur until Jerusalem is spiritually rebuilt, i.e. until what is predicted in verse 5 becomes a reality. The watchmen, therefore, are not prophets of the Old Testament dispensation, but faithful ministers of the Gospel, set for the defense of the faith. Whereas a minister has the task of preaching the Gospel to Zion and of comforting those that mourn in Zion through his pastoral counsel, he also has a solemn responsibility of protecting the flock, warning it against error and false doctrine. At every state of her existence the Church is in need of watchmen who will guard the flock from all that would destroy it. The ravenous wolves of heresy and false doctrine are ever ready to divide the Church and to destroy it, even when they appear as angels of light, as they often do at the present day." -Edward J. Young:- The Book of Isaiah, Vol. 3, pp. 470-471. How do we apply the teaching of the watchmen on the wall to prayer for such a time as this? It is simply this: As a believer in Jesus Christ God is saying to you that, He has appointed you on the wall of your nation. You are watchman on the wall of your country, city or county. You are placed on that wall to warn of approaching danger. You are placed there for the defense of God's truth. You are set there to be used of God to guard against all that would destroy God's purposes for your nation. Are you a watchman for your nation? Are you stationed on the wall of your land today? Are you maintaining your position on the watchtower? Remember, you are appointed by God Himself to be a watchman on the wall. It is an awesome privilege given to you and me. Let's be true watchmen on the wall for our land. Let's be vigilant watchmen on the wall for our nation. It is a great honor to be chosen by God to be His appointed watchmen on the wall in such a time as time. Having stated that He has appointed His faithful believing servants to be watchmen on the wall, God now proceeds to define the main duty of the watchmen on the wall. They are exhorted and commanded to persevere in their prayers to the God who has appointed them as watchmen on the wall.
III. Perseverance of God's praying people in prayer (v. 6b). In a few words, God spells out the main responsibility of His appointed watchmen on the wall. Not only are they to be vigilant watchmen on the wall, warning of approaching danger, but they are called to a life of persevering prayer to God on behalf of the land. This is what the inspired prophet Isaiah now brings to our attention. "All day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves;" Isaiah 62:6b (NASB). The duty of the watchmen on the wall is clearly defined. They are called to a continual watching in prayer day and night. God has called His believing people to fervent, focused, and faithful praying. He's called them to intense, importunate, and industrious intercession. He's called them to purposeful, persistent, persevering, and passionate prayer in the Holy Spirit for the the accomplishment of His purpose for the land. What a privilege! What a responsibility! God has summoned believers in Jesus Christ to disciplined and diligent prayer on the wall. He's called them to urgent and unceasing prayer. Through the Holy Spirit, God's people can exert their energy in prayer to God on behalf our people and God's purposes. In other words, constant, ceaseless, and continual, focused and fervent prayer is only possible through the power of the Spirit of God dwelling in believers. In fact, praying without ceasing is not only a New Testament concept (1 Thessalonians 5:17), it is also an Old Testament concept. Here in Isaiah, God says, His appointed watchmen on the wall, that is, His believing people, are called to a life of continuous labor in prayer to Him on behalf of their nation.. Please notice that the watchmen on the wall are also called "You who remind" the LORD. The expression "you who remind" is only one word in the Hebrew:-hammazkirim. So if you want a new name for your prayer group, you can choose this one. It's a pretty one. Perhaps, such a name might draw curious seekers to your prayer meeting. Now when the Bible speaks of reminding God, it is not teaching here that God is forgetful and needs us to remind Him. God doesn't have "senior moments" like we have. He doesn't space out and needs our help to recall and gather His thoughts. He doesn't have the short memory problems we often experience. What the Bible is teaching here is that God has given His believing praying people the privilege of recounting to God His purposes, plans, and promises concerning His people. In fact, the Bible tells us that even before there is a word on our tongue, behold, He, the Lord, knows it all (see Psalm 139:4). God wants His believing praying people to recount to Him His word of promise. In fact, bold, believing, and courageous praying is based on God's word to God's people. King David practiced this in his prayer life. When the prophet Nathan brought God's word to David, he went and sat before the Lord and prayed: "For You, O my God, have revealed to Your servant that You will build for him a house; therefore Your servant has found courage to pray before You" (1 Chronicles 17:25). When God's people remind Him of what He's already said He will do, we do so with boldness and passion. Please notice also that the watchmen on the wall or those who remind the Lord are specifically commanded not to give themselves rest. The Hebrew word for this command, (domi from damam) also means to grow dumb, to pause, quiet, to cease speaking or working. Simply put, God is saying to His praying people: "Don't let up. Don't take your foot from the pedal. Keep pressing on in your work of intercession on behalf of your nation. Don't quit too soon. Don't lose heart. Rely on My Spirit to persevere in your prayers to Me. Don't believe Satan's lies that your prayers are not important. Remember, I am always attentive to the prayers of the righteous." In fact, one the most important principles of prayer taught by the Lord Jesus Himself is persistence in prayer. We find His teaching on persistence in prayer in Luke 11:5-8 and Luke 18:1-8. Please read them. In the first teaching, a man received a visitor late at night. He needed bread to set before the visitor. Since he had no food to give his visitor, he went to a friend at midnight to ask for help. The friend was already in bed with his family. It was not the best time to ask for help from a friend. But because the friend persisted, he received what he needed. In the second passage, the Lord Jesus began by saying that God's believing people ought to pray without losing heart. He illustrated His point with a story of a widow who kept going to an unjust judge to give her legal protection from her opponent. The judge was unwilling for quite something. He didn't fear God nor respect man. But the widow's persistence was wearing him out. He finally decided to give the widow legal protection. The Lord Jesus responded to the unjust judge's decision rather passionately: "Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay over them?" (Luke 18:6-7). Notice the expression, "who cry to Him day and night." It is similar to "all day and all night they will never keep silent" (Isaiah 62:6b). Now please understand that your perseverance in prayer will not wear God out. He does not grow weary. When you are weary, you can count on Him to give you strength and increase your power to persevere in prayer to Him. Are you a watchman on the wall who perseveres in prayer for your nation? Are you among those who remind (hammazkirim) God with all boldness to finish gloriously the gracious work which He has begun in your land? Are you engaging in importunate prayer to God in such a time as this? Is your work of watching in prayer continual, day and night? Are you depending on the Holy Spirit in focused, fervent, and faithful prayer for the nation in such a time as this? Are you tempted to quit too soon? Are you losing heart because things are going from bad to worse? God says, as a watchman on the wall, your responsibility is not to give yourself rest in crying out to Him day and night. Your duty is to persevere in prayer. Your call is not to rest in your intercession for your nation. For further application of this verse, Edward J. Young writes: "One of God's best gifts to His Church is faithful ministers who both warn the Church of error and constantly pray on her behalf. The work of defending the faith and the ministry of intercession go hand in hand in beautiful combination. Happy is the Church when she has such ministers!"- Edward J. Young:- The Book of Isaiah, Vol. 3, p. 471. Having made clear to the watchmen on the wall their duty of persevering in prayer to Him, God now tells His appointed watchmen to press Him until His glorious purposes for Zion are accomplished.
IV. Pressing of God by God's praying people until He acts (v. 7). Not only does God wants His praying people not to give themselves rest, but He also specifically commands them to put a full court pressure on Him. His people must press Him in their prayers. This is certainly an interesting picture. The Bible's record of this interesting picture of God's people putting full court pressure on Him is vividly presented in these words: "And give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth" Isaiah 62:7 (NASB). Many Jews pray at the "Wailing Wall" in Jerusalem today. Perhaps, this is one of the Hebrew passages from which they draw inspiration to pray so fervently. They are praying for the peace of Jerusalem and longing for it. They are earnest in their prayers to God until He acts on behalf of Jerusalem. Similarly, believers are also called to pray to God without ceasing until He accomplishes what He's promised for His Church. Not only there is to be no rest on the part of God's appointed watchmen who pray fervently, but they are commanded to give God Himself no rest until He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth. Actually, this is the only place in the Bible where such a command is given to God's believing people. I find that interesting. God invites His people to allow Him no rest until he puts Jerusalem in the right state, and so glorifies her. God says, "Press Me for this very thing. Put full court pressure on Me to bring redeemed Jerusalem to a place where it will be recognized and extolled as glorious over all the earth. Urge Me persistently. Keep a steady pressure on Me regarding this matter." God says, "My appointed watchmen on the wall, you who remind Me, give Me no breathing room. Put pressure on Me. Keep coming to Me. Keep crying out to Me day and night until I fulfill My word. Don't worry about wearing Me out because that will never happen." Notice that the glory of redeemed Jerusalem is not without human instrumentality. God Himself says He will establish and make Jerusalem a praise in the earth. Yet He chooses watchmen on the wall to participate in the final glory of redeemed Jerusalem. He gives them the permission to urge Him persistently until He acts. What a privilege! Actually, the Hebrew word for "praise" in this verse is Tehillah. This word occurs fifty-seven times in the Hebrew Old Testament. The meaning is laudation, a hymn, a song of praise, glory, a celebrity. Today, Jerusalem is not a praise in the earth. It is a place of constant conflict, confusion, and chaos, not a place of celebration. It is a place that is used to loud explosions, not laudation. It is place where guns are brandished, not a place of glory. It is a place of hostility, not a place of hymns. Today, Jerusalem is not a place of delight, but a place of division. But God promises that in the future Jerusalem will be a praise in all the earth. Jerusalem's glory will be universally acknowledged. It will be a song of praise on the lips of many. How do we apply this teaching for prayer for such a time as this for our nation? First of all, this teaching should boost our confidence in approaching God on behalf of our land. God wants us to press Him. He wants us to put full court pressure on Him until He acts on His word to us. He wants us to give Him no rest until He accomplishes His purposes and plans for our nation. He encourages us to keep crying out to Him day and night until He fulfills His word. In fact, we will have ourselves to blame if we fail to take full advantage of putting full court pressure on God until He carries out His plans for Zion. As God's appointed watchman on the wall, are you pressing God in your intercession for your nation? Are you putting full court pressure on God in such a time as this to perform His plans and purposes for this land? Are you giving God no rest until He fulfills His word for this land? Are you keeping a steady pressure on God in your intercession for this nation? Remember, God has called you to be a watchman who takes no rest for yourself, and who gives God no rest until He accomplishes His plan for your nation. Having commanded His appointed watchmen to give Him no rest in their intercessory prayers to Him until He makes Jerusalem a song of praise in all the earth, God gives them a special promise.
V. Promise of God (v. 8). God loves to shower His people with promises. It's His nature to give His believing people precious and wonderful promises. In fact, from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is filled with God's promises to His people. The Bible's record of God's special promise to His people is stated below. "The LORD has sworn by His right hand and by His strong arm, I will never again give your grain as food for your enemies; nor will foreigners drink your new wine, for which you have labored" Isaiah 62:8 (NASB). God's promises are special and sweet. God gives them to His people out His goodness and grace. In the special promise given above, God Himself took an oath before giving the promise. He swore by His right hand and by His strong arm. When an oath is taken in court, the person taking the oath raises his right hand and declares, he will tell the truth, nothing but the truth. This practice actually originated with God Himself. When He swears or lifts up His right hand, He does so with truth. He will stand by His word. He will keep His word. So by lifting up His right hand, God is telling His appointed watchmen that He is declaring the truth, nothing but the truth and that He will without fail do what He is about to promise them. Not only does God lifts up His right hand with truth, but He does so to give His people hope that is sure, secure and steadfast in His promises. We see this in the Hebrew 6:16-18: "For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as a confirmation is an end of every dispute. In the same way God, desiring even more to show the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose interposed with an oath, in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us." Although God's word is enough, He added an oath to it. God did this because He wanted His believing people to be absolutely assured that what He promised would certainly come to pass. In other words, God's word and God's oath guarantee the fulfillment of God's promise to God's people. God's strong arm, a symbol of God's power and strength, will carry out what He promises without the possibility of resistance. With this assurance to His people, God now spells out the special promise He has for them. He says, "I will never again give your grain as food for your enemies; nor will foreigners drink your new wine, for which you have labored" (Isaiah 62:8b). I like it when God says, "I will never again." He alone can say, "I will never again," and be true to that. Sometimes, I say "I will never do such and such." But before I knew it, I've broken my promise to my own shame. Well, I'm glad that that is not the case with God. He doesn't say, "I will never again," do something and then turn around the next moment and do it. In this promise, God is saying that the end of foreign domination over Jerusalem is as certain as the oath He took. In the past, God in His providence permitted foreign nations and enemies of Zion to rob and plunder her of what rightfully belonged to her. This means that even the actions of Israel's enemies lie in the hands of Almighty God. The enemies of Israel do not act apart from God's permissive will. Notice God says "I will never again give your grain as food to your enemies." This means that in the past, God gave Israel's produce to Israel's enemies. In fact, in spelling out penalties for disobedience, God says in Leviticus 26:16b: "You shall sow your seed uselessly, for your enemies shall eat it up" (cf. Deuteronomy 28:31,33). This actually happened to Israel in the days of the Judges. In Judges 6:3-6, it is reported that the Midianites and Amalekites came up and camped against Israel and destroyed the produce they had sown. Israel, we are told, was brought very low. In other words, humiliated. This was a very bitter experience for God's people. It happened to them not because God was overpowered by the Midianites and the Amalekites, but because God's people were living in disobedience to Him. To discipline His people for their disobedience, God allowed foreigners to plunder Israel. This situation also occurred in the days of Isaiah. He spoke of their fields being devoured by strangers in their presence (Isaiah 1:7). Also, in the days of Jeremiah, he prophesied that the Babylonians would invade Judah and devour their harvest and food (cf. Jeremiah 8:16; 50:7, 17). This was literally fulfilled in the Babylonian invasion. Certainly, Israel had experienced the plunder and devouring of its produce by foreigners and enemies. They knew the bitter experience of laboring hard, but losing their produce to strangers. They knew what it meant to watch their enemies come in and destroy the fruit of their labor. So when God now promised them that that would never happen again, it must have been so refreshing to them. Of course, this promise looks to the future. It is part of the bright and blessed future awaiting redeemed Zion. Never again will redeemed Israel's produce be carried off by her enemies. In other words, the days of plunder will be a thing of the past. It will be history. God says it, and that settles it. His promise can be counted on. It's bound to happen. It cannot fail. In the future, redeemed Zion, will enjoy full protection of Yahweh Himself. None of Zion's enemies will be able to rob and plunder her of the produce for which she has labored. How do we apply the teaching of this verse for prayer for such a time as this? It is simply this.
God wants His watchmen, that is, faithful believers in Jesus Christ, to be confident in His promises. He wants us to trust in His promises for the future of our nation. He wants us to enter His throne room believing in Him and in His promises in His Word. He wants us to be absolutely assured that what He has promised us concerning our future will certainly come to pass. As such, we can approach Him with bold confidence in prayer. We can pray with passion for our land. We can pray with power in the Holy Spirit. We can hold God to His Word. Please listen! Prayer for such a time as this requires that God's appointed watchmen approach Him with bold confidence in Him and in His promises.
Prayer for such a time as this demands that the watchmen on the wall of their nation take God at His Word. Prayer for such a time as this calls for watchmen who know the promises of God concerning the future and bombard His throne with them. Prayer for such a time as this requires that intercessors enter the throne room of God with the assurance in their hearts that God's word and God's oath guarantee the fulfillment of God's promises to God's people. Are you such an intercessor? Are you such a watchman on the wall for your nation? May the Holy Spirit help us to be such watchmen whose prayers make a difference for our land! Having given His people a special promise encouraging them to draw near to Him with bold assurance, God now reveals the result of the working of His special promise to His people. It will lead to the praise of Him.
VI. Praise of God (v. 9). God disclosed His bright and blessed future plans for redeemed Zion. He called His people into partnership with Him, that is, to play a privileged role in His future plans. They are His appointed watchmen on the wall. He also specifically commanded them to live a life of persevering in prayer. He also gave them permission to press Him until He acts on their behalf. Then He gave them a special promise. Now what should be the result of all this? The Bible answers that question for us in the last verse of our passage of study. "But those who garner it will eat, and praise the LORD; and those who gather it will drink in the courts of the sanctuary" Isaiah 62:9 (NASB). Notice very carefully that the praise goes to Yahweh. He deserves all praise. He alone is praiseworthy. When redeemed Israel's days of plunder and foreign domination are a thing of the past, the praise of Yahweh will be their delight. In other words, God is saying here that the enjoyment of harvest blessing will continue undisturbed, uninterrupted, unrestricted and be accompanied with the grateful worship of the Generous and Gracious Giver- Yahweh Himself. Those who raise and reap the crops will enjoy them with praise to Yahweh.
The Hebrew word for praise in this verse is "halal." It is not the same as the one used in verse 7 (tehillah). "Halal" means to be bright, to make bright, to shine, to be splendid, to boast, to celebrate, to glorify. At the heart of this Hebrew root is the idea of radiance. From this came the connotation of the ebullience of rejoicing and praising God. It is from this verb that we get the well-known Hebrew imperative, "hallelujah" which calls for giving the glory to God. God is saying that He is going to act in response to the persevering prayers of His people that it will result in a celebration of Him. He will act so that redeemed Zion's praise of Him will make Him shine brighter. God's gracious work on behalf of redeemed Israel will result in a continuous celebration of Him. Their will be an enthusiastic and exuberant rejoicing and praising of God. He will be continually honored and glorified. It is fitting that our passage of study ends on a note of the praise of God. This is because when history on earth comes to an end, God alone will remain at the center stage receiving unending praise from His redeemed people.
Throwing further light on this verse, Edward J. Young writes: "The purpose of this verse is to show that those who have the right to the corn will eat it and those who have a right to the new wine will drink it. The language is figurative, carrying out the picture of life in ancient Israel...The eating results in praise to the covenant God of Israel, and the drinking is to take place in the courts of my holiness,i.e. in my holy courts. According to the Law the food was to be consumed before the Lord (i.e. in the sanctuary; cf. Deut. 14:22-27). This thought is evidently at the basis of the prophecy. What is meant by these types and symbols is that in the redeemed Zion men will enjoy abundantly the presence of the Lord and will serve and worship Him in accordance with His precepts."- Edward J. Young:- The Book of Isaiah, Vol. 3 p. 472.
How do we apply this teaching on the praise of God to our theme of prayer for such a time as this? Prayer for such a time as this demands that God's appointed watchmen, know that God alone deserves praise. All praise for all His gracious acts in our nation must be directed to Him. Too often, our praise is man-centered. True praise is God-centered. So watchmen who approach God's throne on behalf of their land, come with a deep conviction in their hearts to give God the praise He alone deserves. They draw near to God saying, "Lord, the praise for all that You will do in response to our prayers is Yours. The honor is Yours. The glory is Yours." They echo the words of the psalmist: "Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth" (Psalm 115:1). Prayer for such a time as this requires that our intercession for our nation is filled with the praise of God. Prayer for such a time as this calls for a return to enthusiastic and exuberant praise of God. Our God is praiseworthy. Our God is powerful. Our God is the possessor of heaven and earth. Our God is a personal God. Our God is the predictor of the future of the nations. Our God is a patient God. Our God is a promise keeper. Therefore prayer for such a time focuses on praising Him. As a watchman on the wall of your nation, is your praise of God exuberant? Or do you praise God as if He is dead? It's sad to say that a God-centered praise, that is vibrant and victorious, is lacking in our prayers today. That will not do for prayer in such a time as this!
We are living in troubling times. These are uncertain days. Despair has taken hold of many hearts. The economic downturn still has a stranglehold on the lives of millions. Many are fearful. Spiritually, a dark cloud is hovering over the nation. Our future is looking bleak. But God who controls the future can brighten our view of the future. He has a plan for the nations. God's believing people are appointed as watchmen on the walls of their nations. These appointed watchmen are called to persevere in their intercession for the land. They are permitted to press God until He performs His gracious works on behalf of the land. God's promise to them will not fail. In other words, God's oath and God's word guarantee that God's promise to God's people will be accomplished. Therefore the praise of God must burst forth from their hearts continually to Him who is worthy of their praise, both now and to the day of eternity. God's word has shown that in times of trouble, such as this nation is facing, His believing people must resort to humble and believing prayer. Then and only then, will they experience His gracious work of rescue and release from their days of distress. God's people must humbly turn to Him. For God Almighty, the King of the ages, the only Sovereign, the only wise God, is the only One who can lift the cloud of darkness hovering over this nation. Since God acts in response to believing prayer, if we fail to pray and put full court pressure on Him, we will have ourselves to blame. Would it be said that on our watch "God was moved by prayer for the land" (2 Samuel 21:14b; 24:25) and acted on behalf of this nation?" History will reveal the answer to this question. "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." 1 Timothy 1:17 (NASB).