In the Night Watches

“My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.”
—Psalm 63:5, 6

PSALM 92:1 DECLARES that “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord,” also to “sing praises” unto the “most High.” The more we learn about our God through an increasing understanding of his Word, the greater will be our desire to sing his praises. As our knowledge of him deepens into a personal acquaintance with him, through the outworking of his providence in our lives and the fulfillment of his promises of grace to help in every time of need, it should make our lives flow in endless songs of praise to the God of our salvation.

The Lord referred to David as a man after his own heart, and in many of his psalms the sweet singer of Israel declares his love for the Lord and his delight in the law of his God. In one of them he writes:

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.”—Ps. 19:7-10


David speaks of meditating upon the Lord in the ‘night watches.’ It was these meditations that enabled him to write:

“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Ps. 8:3,4) And again, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.”—Ps. 19:1,2

The hours from sundown to sunrise in David’s time presented a somewhat different situation than they do today. Now the electric light, and other means of artificial illumination, very nearly turn night into day, with the result that the vast majority of the people keep active, either in work or in pleasure, for such long hours that there is scarcely time left for the proper amount of sleep, and seldom is there any opportunity for quiet meditation.

This was not the case in David’s time. With the flicker of a dim flame from the burning of olive oil almost the only means of securing light after the sun went down, probably most people spent much more time in bed than is the custom now. Since the body requires only a certain amount of sleep, there were doubtless many sleepless hours during the night.

In the case of David, while he was a shepherd boy, and later as leader of Israel’s army, he no doubt spent many of his nights under the canopy of heaven. It was under these conditions that he rejoiced as he meditated upon the goodness of the Lord, and marveled at the wonders of Creation. It would not be unreasonable to suppose that the subject matter of many of David’s beautiful psalms took shape in his mind as he thus meditated during the night watches. How wonderfully such surroundings would prepare him for the influence of the Holy Spirit which guided him in his inspired writings!


David was truly a man of God, and the spirit of devotion and praise found in his writings is a sincere expression of his own heart, a heart that had been given to the Lord. When he wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want,” (Ps. 23:1) he was expressing his own feelings in the matter, giving utterance to his own confidence in the keeping power of his God.

Beyond the expression of his own delight in the Lord, David was inspired by the Holy Spirit to pen messages peculiarly fitting to the needs of the people of God during the present age. Indeed, in the Divine providence, this is the chief purpose of his writings, even as it is of the writings of all the Old Testament prophets; for, as the apostle declares, “not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister.” They wrote “for our admonition” upon whom the ends of the ages have come.—Rom. 15:4; I Cor. 10:6,11; I Pet. 1:12

This being true, we might think of David’s experience of meditating upon the goodness of the Lord upon his bed during the night watches as having a counterpart even more blessed in our own experiences. We are not suggesting the making of a type of his experiences, but merely that they remind us of something greater in the Divine arrangement than literally lying upon a bed meditating upon the goodness of the Lord during the dark hours of a night.

In God’s creative design there are seven ‘days.’ Each of these days began with an ‘evening’ and closed with a ‘morning.’ In each case the evening of the creative days marked an obscure beginning, with darkness settling down into a night, until the morning marked the close of each period. So it was when sin and death came upon the scene at the beginning of the seventh creative day. From then until now, the world has been passing through the long hours of a night of darkness. “Weeping” has continued throughout this night, David tells us, “but joy cometh in the morning.”—Ps. 30:5


During this long night of weeping the world has been greatly distraught and unsettled. But those who have had faith in the promises of God have enjoyed rest of mind and heart. This has been particularly true of Jesus’ followers during the Gospel Age. Paul wrote concerning these, saying, “We which have believed do enter into rest.” (Heb. 4:3) We are keenly aware of the evil with which we are surrounded, and of the motions of sin in our flesh, but we place our faith in the finished work of Christ on our behalf and know that through him and his kingdom all evil will eventually come to an end, and that even death itself will be destroyed.

Thus we are at rest. It is a rest ‘by’ faith, and a rest ‘in’ faith; that is, in the “most holy faith,” (Jude 20) the foundation of which is the meritorious sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Based upon the merit of the shed blood are all the various features of the Divine plan of salvation—the heavenly calling of the church, the hope of restitution for the world, its explanation of the Divine permission of evil, and the assurance that evil will not rise up the second time.

All this, and more, is contained in our ‘most holy faith,’ that wonderful outline of the Divine plan in which we find peace of mind and rest of heart. No matter how dark the night, or how far distant the morning hours at times may seem, we can continue to rest in this bed of Divine promises, and while we rest, continue to sing the praises of our God.

This wonderful knowledge we have is not because we are wiser than others, nor more worthy, but simply because of God’s grace in permitting us to know “the mystery of the kingdom of God.” (Mark 4:11) Surely this is great cause for rejoicing, and for praising our God. Now, while it is still dark, we are privileged to rest upon this soul-satisfying bed which the Lord has provided for us!


Our rest of faith in Christ, and in the great plan of God of which he is the center, is not designed to induce sleep. While we are resting upon this ‘bed’ of present Truth during the world’s dark night of sin, sorrow, and death, we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Concerning this Paul wrote, “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.”—I Thess. 5:5,6

‘Let us watch and be sober.’ In our text David speaks of the night watches. In order to participate in a night watch one has to be awake and alert. Night watching is a very old institution, made necessary because of the sin and selfishness of fallen man. Darkness serves as a sort of natural protection for prowlers, thieves, opposing armies, or whoever would rob another or inflict damage upon him or his property. As an offset to this, watchmen are stationed to detect the approach or presence of enemies, and to sound an alarm.

Obviously, a watchman would fail of his duty if he fell asleep. It is not his privilege, during the night, to ‘sleep, as do others.’ Rather, he is to watch and be sober. And, as Christians, this is our position during the nighttime of sin and death. We are ‘watchmen’ in Zion, and we should keep alert and be on guard against the approach of enemies of whatever nature they might be which would rob us, or others of the Lord’s people, of their heritage in Christ Jesus.

Paul continues, “They that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.” (I Thess. 5:7,8) This is symbolic language. To ‘sleep’ suggests spiritual lethargy, and to be ‘drunken’ indicates an intoxication by false theories, doctrines, and hobbies.

We can avoid these conditions, Paul reveals, by ‘putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.’ In his letter to the Church at Ephesus, he admonishes us to “put on the whole armour of God,” that we may be able “to stand against the wiles of the devil.”—Eph. 6:11

The Truth, in its many aspects, and in its various applications in our lives, is the Christian’s armor. The very truths in which we find peace and joy and rest are also our protection against the insidious attacks of the Adversary during these dark hours of the night. It is for this purpose that the Lord gave us the Truth.


Among the very important truths which guard the Christian’s heart and life today is a proper knowledge of the times in which we are living. It is this that Paul speaks of particularly when reminding us of our privileges as watchmen. We quote:

“Of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.”—I Thess. 5:1-4

The reason the ‘day of the Lord’ does not overtake the ‘brethren’ as a ‘thief in the night’ is because they are awake and faithfully watching. In this lesson Paul is closely following the thoughts presented by Jesus concerning the time of his Second Presence and the end of the age. Jesus said, referring to a possible advanced knowledge of his coming, “Of that day and that hour knoweth no man.” (Mark 13:32) For this reason he admonished his disciples to watch.

Paul says, ‘Of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.’ Jesus said that no one would know in advance, and Paul was not assuming that he did know, but he added, ‘Yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.’ The Thessalonian brethren knew this perfectly because they had confidence in what Jesus had said on the point.

The thieflike coming of the day of the Lord was to be true only so far as the outside world and drowsy professed Christians were concerned. ‘Ye, brethren, are not in darkness,’ Paul insisted, ‘that that day should overtake you as a thief.’ When Jesus gave his great lesson pertaining to the time of his Second Presence, admonishing his disciples to watch because they did not know the day nor the hour, he did not say in so many words that their faithful watching would be rewarded by a discernment of his presence and the beginning of the day of the Lord. But this is how Paul understood what the Master had said. That is why he wrote, Ye, brethren, are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief.

This can be true only of those who are awake. ‘Let us not sleep, as do others,’ Paul wrote. Concerning the saints who would be living in this time, and to whom, because of their faithfulness, the Lord would reveal his presence, Daniel wrote, “Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.”—Dan. 12:12

‘Blessed’ indeed is the David class in this most wonderful time during which we are now living! From the human outlook it is the darkest period of all time. In this darkness there is fear and apprehension. So frustrated is human wisdom that peace is feared almost as much as war. It is the time referred to in Psalm 46:2,3, when the symbolic “earth” is being “removed,” and when the “mountains” are being “carried into the midst of the sea.”

But we will not “fear” wrote David. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in [this time of] trouble.” (vs.1) He is helping in every needed way, and especially by having favored us with a knowledge of the Truth. When on every hand there is unrest, nervous apprehension, chaos, and distress, we have a bed upon which we can recline and rest.

If we keep properly awake during these dark hours, watching the on-moving events in the great plan of God, the very things which increase the world’s fears, make our rest more complete. For among the things we see as watchers in Zion is the near approach of morning. Indeed, the Morning Star has already appeared, and through the din and confusion incident to the death of Satan’s world, we discern the first gray streaks of dawn!


Surely, as David wrote, our souls are ‘satisfied as with marrow and fatness.’ The rich feast of Truth, the “meat in due season” (Matt. 24:45) served to the household of faith by our returned Lord, satisfies our longings as nothing else could do. It is as manna from heaven, sweet, nourishing, and soul-satisfying.

When we think of the many blessings which the Lord has so abundantly bestowed upon us, we cannot help, while resting upon our beds during the night watches, to sing aloud the praises of our God. We are resting but not sleeping, and we sing the “song of Moses” and “the Lamb.”—Rev. 15:3

In Psalm 92:1, where David says, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord,” he also speaks of showing forth his “lovingkindness.” (vs.2) We give thanks to God in our personal and collective prayers to him, but we show forth his praises when we speak of his loving-kindness to others. To sing the high praises of God calls for activity in making known the glorious Gospel of the kingdom.

This is the great privilege of all who have been called out of darkness into the marvelous light of the Divine plan. We rejoice in the fatness, the richness of the ‘meat in due season’ upon which it is our privilege to feed. Resting upon our bed in the night watches we delight to meditate upon the goodness of the Lord, and to give thanks to him for his boundless grace.

But this should not be all. The result of our meditations should be a bursting forth in song, even the new song which the Lord has given us to sing. And when we take into consideration all that the Lord is doing for us, how can we keep from singing? Surely we will want to praise the Lord with joyful lips!

In Psalm 92:3 David speaks of praising the Lord “upon an instrument of ten strings.” We might think of these ‘ten strings’ as representing the various fundamental doctrines of the Divine plan. It is the beautiful harmony of these doctrines, when these strings are played upon by those who have learned the new song, that really brings praise to our God.

These doctrines reveal the wisdom, justice, love, and power of our God, which, blended in perfect harmony and unison, make up his glory. It is our privilege now to show forth this glory, while, resting upon our beds, we joyfully contemplate the time now nearing when a knowledge of his glory will fill the whole earth as the waters cover the sea. (Hab. 2:14) Praise ye the Lord!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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