Have you ever found yourself waking up at around 3A.M.? Someone once told me that whenever you wake up at around that time, that it’s the Lord trying to speak to your spirit and that you should simply pray and listen. About a month ago, I started experiencing this pattern and found myself waking up at around 3:30A.M. I felt like the Spirit was trying to tell me something but I didn’t know what. It frustrated me because though my spirit would be awake, my mind kept telling me that in a few more hours I’d have to get ready for work and should probably get back to sleep. There would be this constant battle going on between my spirit, mind and flesh–and my natural strength would be at its weakest point because it’s too early in the morning.
This reminded me of the verse in Matthew 26:41 where Jesus states, “keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”
Just what is it about 3A.M. that has my God trying to get my attention? I was determined to know what this meant which led me to do research on something the Bible calls the fourth watch of the night.
The Romans occupied the Holy Land in 63 BC. The Roman night watch division consisted of four “watches” which was recognized among the Jews (Mark 13:35). Even before the Romans came; when the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was up, the Levites had watchmen that they needed to make sure they kept the fire burning on the Altar (Lev 6:5-6). Also when the watchmen would watch over Jerusalem against enemies or thieves, they had their own customary watches. The four watches which the Jews adopted from the Romans are:
|6PM to 9PM||First watch|
|9PM to 12AM||Second watch|
|12AM to 3AM||Third watch|
|3AM to 6AM||Fourth watch|
The Hebrew translation for “watchmen” is:
8104 shamar; to keep, watch, preserve, attend, bodyguard, gatekeeper, performing, sentries, diligently kept, observe, waiting, defending, pay attention, protects, maintain, mark.
I have collected several passages that reference this word.
My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Song of Solomon 3:3
The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me, [And I said,] ‘ Have you seen him whom my soul loves? ‘
Song of Solomon 5:7
The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me..
In the day that the watchmen of the house tremble, and mighty men stoop, the grinding ones stand idle because they are few, and those who look through windows grow dim;
On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; All day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves;
According to Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary, “watch” is defined as the following:
- To be awake; to be or continue without sleep.
- To be attentive; to look with attention or steadiness.
- To look with expectation.
- To keep guard; to act as sentinel; to look for danger.
- To be attentive, to be vigilant in preparation for an event or trial, the time of whose arrival is uncertain. (Matt 24 states Watch therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come)
The Greek translation for “watch” is:
5438 phulake; from 5442; a guarding, guard, watch, time of the watch. Used (a) with the meaning “a watch,” actively, “a guarding,” Luke 2:8, lit., “(keeping, phulasso) watches;” (b) of “the time during which guard was kept by night, a watch of the night,” Matt. 14:25; 24:43; Mark 6:48; Luke 12:38.
Drawing from my studies on all of this, I found that there are significant Biblical events that took place during the early morning hours. In Genesis 32:22-31, Jacob wrestled with God face to face up until sunrise so as to receive his blessing. Moses led the Israelites across the Red Sea during the fourth watch in Exodus 14:25-26. Gideon defeated the Midianites in Judges 7:19-24. It was during this time that Jesus walked on water and saved His disciples from the storm, Matthew 14:25-26. Jesus would also pray during the early morning hours (Mark 1:35) and when Mary Magdalene had come to the tomb, she was the first one to meet the Risen Lord during the fourth watch of the night (John 20:17-18 ).
As I was praying about what the Lord wanted me to understand from all of this, He brought up a Bible verse to my mind–Proverbs 8:17.
I love those who love me; and those who seek me diligently will find me
The Hebrew word for diligent is shachar (7836, from 7837), meaning to look early for. It is the same as the Hebrew word shacharl (7837) which means dawn, daybreak, or morning.
The Lord wants us to seek Him in the early hours! It is during the fourth watch that I begin to feel more vulnerable in my circumstances, just as the disciples felt weak during the storm on the sea of Galilee. But Jesus said that if we seek Him diligently, we will find Him. He is our peace in the midst of the storm! The Lord says in Psalm 50:15 that if we call upon Him in the day of trouble; He shall rescue us, and we will give Him glory. King David knew God’s strategy very well when he stated in Psalm 63:6-7, “as I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy”. God blesses us when He see us watching and waiting diligently on Him (Proverbs 8:34).
We must not let our fire for Him burn out! If you want to find yourself in a deeper relationship with the Lord, seek Him early! This is what the fourth watch of the night is all about.
Fire shall be kept burning upon the altar continually; it shall not go out.
אֵשׁ, תָּמִיד תּוּקַד עַל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ–לֹא תִכְבֶּה.