An Israeli security guard has got to have one of the most difficult jobs in the world. As he sits by the grocery store entrance, mans the university gate, or paces back and forth in front of the bus stop, hour after hour, it must be so easy to succumb to the siren call of boredom. He can hardly wish for his most striking alternative to boredom: stopping a bomb with his own body, but for every day spent without having to give warning of a suspicious person, he must begin to feel that he is watching in vain.
The Israeli security guard had his counterpart in ancient history: the watchmen stationed for endless hours on the city walls, tracking the arrival of friendly chariots and standing watch for enemy movements. In Isaiah 62, God uses this familiar figure to lay out a spiritual assignment: “I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem; they shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that are Jehovah's remembrancers, take ye no rest, and give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” Whether he is clad in a robe with shofar at hand, or dressed in a tan blazer with a walkie-talkie at his hip, a watchman quickly becomes part of the scenery and is conspicuous only by his absence. In the case of spiritual watchmen, God Himself chooses ordinary folks to do the job, and makes sure that the torch is passed from generation to generation.
Study, pray, and go: it seems to be a Biblical pattern for lovers of the Holy Land. Daniel’s Bible study led to prayer, and though he died too soon to see the results, it was his faith that made the way for the return of Judah from Babylonian captivity Thanks in part to him, Nehemiah studied, prayed – and went to restore ruined Jerusalem. Our fellowship had no such plans. In fact, the Holy Land was simply one stop of many in Frank Sandford’s round-the-world tour in 1891. However, seven years later, while engrossed in the care of church and Bible School, he felt an inexplicable call to Jerusalem. He went out not knowing what God had in mind, spent two weeks there in prayer and returned home with the conviction that Jerusalem is to be the center of God’s plan for evangelizing the world.
Three years later, a young Bible school student named Mary Guptill became deeply interested in Jerusalem. As the Bible school prayed, a trip meant only to settle Mary as a watchman on the walls grew until a group of twelve took ship for Palestine. Arriving in 1902, they leased a house in the New City just beginning to be built outside the ancient walls, and began to pray. Those prayers stretched into seven years, sparked three voyages by the yacht Coronet, and called upon dozens of people to risk their lives in the primitive conditions of Turkish-ruled Jerusalem.
Called home in 1909 by signs of impending conflict, Kingdom prayer warriors were soon largely taken up with the two world wars, but God’s quiet words, “Forget not” underlined their ongoing assignment to remember Jerusalem. (Psalm 137:5) A forty-year gap followed, punctuated only by two brief visits from Kingdom folks. Meanwhile, God quietly answered their prayers, and in 1950, Victor Abram and Joseph Harriman were able to visit the infant state of Israel, reborn after 2,000 years.
What followed were decades of regular tours, bringing about 400 people to the Land God loves. In 1973, some of these folks had the privilege of receiving red carpet treatment as the first tourist group to arrive in Israel after the Yom Kippur War! Since 1950, someone from The Kingdom has arrived in Jerusalem about once every 18 months.
In 2003, a century after this story began, God once again refreshed the Kingdom fellowship’s call to be involved with Israel. In a large spiritual family that includes folks who are excited about Israel and others who are not, people who are free to go to Israel, and those who are not, it’s difficult to see our involvement with God’s land as a corporate call. And yet that’s precisely what we feel He has in mind. As you can see, it’s a historic call which God has seen fit to pass down from generation to generation. It’s also a call with many aspects, only one of which is the task of the watchmen described in Isaiah 62.
Now, in 2007, we believe God is calling for a renewed presence in Israel. To do his job properly, a watchman has to be on the walls. So a small Kingdom group will be renting a house in Jerusalem. Not everyone can be there. A watchman lays aside other things to be on the walls on behalf of others: those who are working, sleeping, and fighting elsewhere. Those on the walls must report what they see, but though they carry out a vital task for everyone, it is absolutely imperative for the watchmen and those they represent to be working together. The watchmen sound the alarm, but they cannot fight the enemy singlehandedly. That’s where you come in.
Why are watchmen stationed in Jerusalem? Because “Jehovah dwells in Zion,” this is where the enemy attacks. We’ll pass on information about enemies and potential enemies springing up in this spiritually strategic location because whatever opposes God's word and plan often begins by attacking His people and land before moving on to threaten the rest of the world. For example, while homosexuals enjoy a yearly parade in Tel Aviv and many other cities in the world, Jerusalem is on their agenda, not because it is enjoyable to them (they have been greeted with bomb threats, knife attacks, and curses from the religious Jewish community) but because in their minds it sends the message that what has been “accepted” in God’s city must be accepted worldwide.
Watchmen also announce good news, and we’ll be watching for signs of Jesus’ return. Already we can report that His Restoration work is acting like leaven. Worldwide, people are coming back to reliance on the Holy Spirit, they’re valuing the entire Bible, they’re falling in love with the Sabbath... and much more. Do you want to learn about Korean Christians’ sacrificial dedication to intercession? The remnant hidden in Scandinavia’s ice-cold spiritual landscape? Those miraculously coming to faith in the Muslim world? Many of them are journeying to Jerusalem to tell about it, to pray about it, and to learn even more about it. It’s clear that God’s attention is focused here; our attention should be here as well.