Give him no rest
Wanted: watchmen; day and night shifts available. Also, support staff. Good communicators preferred, commitment essential.
Our God has promised that he will not rest until every chosen, ransomed sinner has been saved by grace and brought into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If the King will not rest, neither should his servants.
Last month we began the New Year with an article looking forward to times of blessing for the church, when many souls will be saved and revival will once again be witnessed in our land. We acknowledge that only our sovereign God can bring about revival and cause such times of awakening to occur. Yet we must recognise that we also have a part to play.
Here is a principle of Scripture we would do well to note – when God intends to do a work among his people he first makes them ask for it. ‘Ask’, he says, ‘and it shall be given’.
If he lays on us a strong desire to see some work accomplished, it is because he is about to act. God prepares the way by first creating a wish and then an expectation for what he is about to do.
I will build my church
When God promised in Isaiah 62:1 that he would not rest – and that for Zion’s sake righteousness and salvation would be revealed – he was committing himself to the gathering in and building up of his church. The salvation of his people is the great work of the triune God and him alone. Yet, in his wisdom and mercy, God is pleased to employ means to accomplish that end.
The church is gathered when the gospel is preached – this is God’s declared means of saving his people (Romans 1:16). Consequently, souls are converted when God’s people engage with their King in the work of the ministry. It was as Paul preached Jesus Christ and him crucified that the Lord opened Lydia’s heart (Acts 16:14).
Isaiah 62 identifies two distinct groups used by the Lord in accomplishing his saving purpose. Salvation is of the Lord, but these two groups will be employed and involved in the task. Both are mentioned in verse 6.
The first group comprises the watchmen who guard the walls of Jerusalem. These are gospel preachers who build up the church in doctrine and truth. They are constantly declaring to sinners that salvation must be found in Christ. They are alert and attentive labourers upon the walls of Zion. Day and night, they never hold their peace.
The second group consists of those who pray for souls. They, too, ‘keep not silence’. They are as active and engaged in anticipating the work of salvation as are the watchmen-preachers. They make constant mention in their prayers of the Lord’s name because they know that he alone provides the blood that cleanses and the power that saves.
Note how these groups are active before the time of glory and rejoicing. They are at work while the land is ‘forsaken and desolate’. They are busy while the mockers and scoffers ridicule their efforts and try to dampen their evangelistic passion. They are remembrancers who recall better days, and remind each other of the Lord’s promises.
Ask, seek, knock
Together these inhabitants of Zion are commanded to ‘give him no rest’ until Christ’s church and kingdom is complete, until all the elect have been saved. This is an astounding command.
The gospel preacher must not shut up, regardless of what the world says to him or about him! The gospel message must be proclaimed by every possible means in cities, towns and villages around the world. Preachers are to be like the troublesome widow (Luke 18:5-7) who prevailed upon the judge by her persistence and determination.
Likewise, those who pray must be like the householder in Luke 11:1-13 who by his importunity secured what he desired, even when his friend would have turned him away. It is a lesson worth learning – importunity prevails with God! He is neither wearied nor displeased with the persistence of his people. On the contrary, he encourages us to ask, seek and knock! And then he opens the door.
Do you remember how Jacob wrestled with Christ and would not let him go until he obtained the blessing he sought? (Genesis 32:26). Or how Moses so prevailed with the Lord that God said to him, ‘Let me alone’ (Exodus 32:10)?
These faithful men took God at his word and ‘gave him no rest’ until he bestowed his blessing and saved his people. God invites and encourages us to do the same.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus
And why is this so important? Because it is by this means that God prepares his people for the work he is preparing to do. He tells us, ‘As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children’ (Isaiah 66:8). As soon as the church of God set to work, the fruit of their labour was on its way!
Preachers, you are watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem. Be attentive! Yours is the task of safeguarding the well-being of the people of God. Let Jesus Christ be the theme of your message, that the church may be preserved from false doctrine and vapid moralising. By such means, in times of famine, God prepares his church for days of plenty, when spiritual bread and wine shall be their portion.
You who pray and travail until the children of God are brought forth, be faithful! Persevere in labour during the hard and lean times – in the certain knowledge that such faithfulness is a sure sign that Christ is coming quickly.