God referenced the role of Old Testament prophets as watchmen in both Habakkuk and Ezekiel. This reference fails to carry the meaning for us as it would a 6th Century BC prophet. But events of the past week should possibly heighten our understanding of this meaning. Last week militant Islamic groups urged home-grown terrorists in America to focus attacks on iconic sites like the Mall of the Americas. As I heard the report I thought of the function of watchman and realized that all of us (especially God's people) should know what a watchman does.
For Americans is behooves each of us to be observant of our surroundings and our neighbors. Rather than living in our own little worlds (something I am guilty of) we should be aware of the needs and lives of those around us. If something doesn't look right at least give it a second look and be willing to let appropriate people know if there is a problem. If our neighbor is hurting we should be the first to see and respond to the need. If there is a threat, report it.
For the Old Testament prophet, a watchman was something very normal and familiar. The watchman was to be thorough (see all that was coming and going), awake (make sure nothing is missed due to inattentiveness) and discerning (have a good idea of what was normal and what was not). The watchman would be posted at a gate to the city and would yell down to the gatekeepers to either open or close the gates. Pretty simple. But not simple for God's prophets.
For God's watchmen, they were to see the agents of God's destruction coming (in Habakkuk's case the Babylonians) and see it as a movement of God. They were to look past the present and see to the future where God's plan would be accomplished. For Habakkuk's contemporary, Jeremiah, this meant writing a letter to his brothers and sisters in captivity and telling them that though their situation was dire they could count on God to plan a future of hope and prosperity (Jeremiah 29).
I am praying for God's protection during these uncertain times. I am also looking forward to God's promise of a great future for those that are his people. And I will conclude, like Habakkuk, that whatever God sends our way will have an ultimate goal of redemption and bringing us to His place. Randy