Watchers by Night
Psalm 134:1-3
Behold, bless you the LORD, all you servants of the LORD, which by night stand in the house of the LORD.

Who are these night watchers, and to whom does the psalmist refer? Probably there were guards or sentinels set to pace the sacred courts and to trim the lamps which burned dim within that holy place, which was the presence-chamber of the great King. The gloom must have been oppressive, and sometimes they must have trembled as they paced the long corridors and looked up at the vast vault overhead, through which a dim lamp or two shot a feeble ray like a star seen through the rack of clouds on a stormy night. To cheer these watchers, and to impress on them that solitude is not awful if God's presence be there, this psalm was probably written. It was written for us, too, who have to pass through the same solitude, and to stand by night in the house of the Lord. There is, then, a night-time of sorrow and suffering here on earth, during which we may be said to be like watchers in the outer courts of God's temple. But there is a completer sense of the passage than this, and it is to this second sense that I wish to turn your attention. It is well to take the calm expression of the psalmist, and apply it in this way, "Ye that by night stand in the house of the Lord." In this temple there is an inner shrine, where all is dark, and yet amid the solemn gloom God's presence is felt to be inexpressibly near. No conception of the middle or waiting state between death and the general resurrection is so near the mark as this. Suspended activity, but not suspended consciousness — this sets us thinking what can be the occupation of those who are set to stand as watchers by night in the house of the Lord. May it not be that this is the very counteraction necessary for the undue activities of our too busy, bustling existence on earth? Now, are we willing to be watchers by night in the house of the Lord? I use the term "night" in two senses. There is a night-time of sorrow here, and of separation hereafter from those we love on earth. We have to pass through these two seasons of watching — an evening and a midnight watch, as I may describe them by way of contrast. It is the faithful watcher on earth who will stand by night and watch in the house of the Lord during the interval between death and the Resurrection morning. Season of solitude here, in which we get spiritual strength through loneliness and isolation from our fellow-men, will prepare us for that midnight watch when we are called within the veil and there stand and wait for the full morning of Resurrection blessedness. What hours of weariness under pain and privation of the usual outlets for activity in the affairs of life many of us are to pass through God only knows. Some have had to pass through long years of such watching. Our soul, then, waits for the Lord — in the pathetic language of the psalmist, "more, I say, than they that wait for the morning." But such discipline has its uses. Silent suffering is a school, and hours of loneliness are also a school quite as much or even more than racking pain or positive privation. It disciplines us in faith and patience. It strengthens the character by forcing us to see that all our fresh springs must be in God and in Him alone. In all this Christ was our example, and, more than this, our forerunner.

(J. B. Heard, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: {A Song of degrees.} Behold, bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD, which by night stand in the house of the LORD.

WEB: Look! Praise Yahweh, all you servants of Yahweh, who stand by night in Yahweh's house!

The Songs of Degrees' Doxology
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