God never sleeps. Just as He created the day, He created the night, and each has its purpose and function. He works the day and night shifts in His creation, never tiring of caring for all He has made, including (and especially!) us.
Evening and nightfall signal many changes in the sky, as beautiful sunsets unfold, followed by twinkling stars and a brilliant moon on the ebony canvas of a night sky. When we drift off to sleep, the Lord keeps a watchful eye on us, whether we are nestled in a comfy bed at home or a military or missionary post under a desert sky in a foreign land.
Psalm 121:4-8 (NLT) describes the beautiful canopy of care and love that covers us during the night:
Indeed, He who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.
The Lord himself watches over you!
The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.
The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.
This is a promise for all those who put their trust in the Lord. In the face of danger or terror, the heart of a believer rests safely in the hands of God, and nothing--no amount of evil or cruelty--can steal it from His hands or watchful eyes. How quickly and ruthlessly evil can destroy the frailty of human life, but no one can alter the destiny of a heart surrendered to Jesus Christ. It is heaven-bound for an eternity of glory and endless time with Almighty God. Nothing is more important than being heart-ready to meet the Lord at any time!
Our Heavenly Father accomplishes other tasks during His night watch. He visits us at night when we are unaware of it. David expressed this in Psalm 17:3 (Amplified Bible): You have proved my heart; You have visited me in the night; You have tried me and find nothing [no evil purpose in me]; I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress. The New Living Translation states it this way: You have tested my thoughts and examined my heart in the night. You have scrutinized me and found nothing amiss, for I am determined not to sin in what I say.
When the Lord proves our hearts, it means He tests or proves our genuineness. In the Barnes’ Notes Bible commentary, the author explains it this way: The word here rendered "proved" means "to try, to prove, to examine," especially metals, to test their genuineness. The psalmist here says that God had tried or searched "his heart." He knew all his motives. He had examined all his desires and his thoughts. The psalmist felt assured that, after the most thorough trial, even God would not find anything in his heart that would justify the conduct of his enemies toward him.
That the Lord God visits us in the night watch means He comes near and inspects our hearts while we sleep! What is He studying? During His inspection, He examines our character. Why the night? In the solitude of the night, as we sleep, we are vulnerable, and our guard is down. We do not put on appearances to deceive others. God is attracted to our vulnerability and humility. During the daytime, when our minds and mouths are active, who we really are becomes more clouded.
Think about it. Men and women wear their most comfortable attire for sleep—baggy pajama pants, t-shirts, anything non-restrictive. Often our nightwear is even downright frumpy. Ladies take their make-up off, and the night face is often completely different than the day face. Of course, those are outward features, but as we sleep, we generally abandon ourselves to rules of conduct, social restraints, etc. It is then that our loving Heavenly Father conducts His night watch.
One summer a sizeable pesky raccoon visited the flower boxes on the deck by my bedroom. I never heard him, but many mornings I had to re-pot the flowers in the planting boxes, sweep the dirt and debris, and do general damage control. I didn't hear him, but he certainly left evidence of his visit! I hope our hearts are in better shape when the Lord visits us every night! I hope that as we follow harder after Him and become more like Him, He has less and less damage control to do.
The Apostle Paul has given us some great advice in Ephesians 4:26-27, perhaps because he understood the significance of the Lord’s nightly visits. And don't sin by letting anger control you. Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. That’s just one nightly checkpoint.
A prayer for these nightly watches is well-expressed in The MESSAGE translation of Psalm 17:3-5: [Lord}, go ahead, examine me from inside out, surprise me in the middle of the night — You'll find I'm just what I say I am. My words don't run loose. I'm not trying to get my way in the world's way. I'm trying to get your way, your Word's way. I'm staying on your trail; I'm putting one foot in front of the other. I'm not giving up! AMEN!!
© 2023, Chris Custer Werre