By Chaplain (Col) Stephen W. Leonard, USA, Ret.
“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His Word I hope; my soul waits for the LORD more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.” Psalm 130:5-6
In Vietnam, I often led night ambushes as an Infantry Platoon Leader. They were difficult and dangerous, mainly because you could not see nearly as well as the day. On this particular ambush, during the dry season, the foliage was a problem, because it crackled. Each twig or bush stepped on sounded like a rifle shot.
We set up facing a well-used enemy trail. Our backs were up against the dense jungle, filled with dry season, crackling foliage, of course. Any slight move on your part could be heard, we thought, for miles. After setting out our claymore mines, and positioning the machine guns, we settled down for an entire night of waiting; and waiting without movement on our part.
But suddenly, around 11 p.m., we heard the loud noises of a number of enemy combatants and the crackling of a radio with Vietnamese voices talking rapidly back and forth. However, all the noise of enemy soldiers came from immediately behind us, not from the trail the ambush was facing toward. My heart raced with fear. We were facing the wrong direction.
These Viet Cong had obviously come out of a tunnel, which we were completely unaware of, which was the way they often fought, appearing from underground when you thought they were not anywhere near you. They came for the fresh air, and to smoke a cigarette, and came out late at night when they thought we would not see or hear them. Of course, we figured they had their automatic weapons with them.
We were spread out to about 6 feet between us, and we thought with them so close by, our whispering to one another would be surely heard. What’s more, any movement on our part to turn around and bring our weapons to face them would be easily heard. And moving our claymore mines was completely out of the question.
I made the decision quickly that we simply could not move, and hoped to the Lord that they did not hear us. They were so close by, but we were positioned in completely the wrong direction. Any attempt to move on our part would be immediately heard and bring the firepower of the enemy to bear directly on us from our vulnerable rear, resulting in fatalities among my men I had positioned to my left and right. I feared greatly for their lives, so much so that I felt like I was sweating drops of blood. And my heart was pounding so fiercely that I thought my chest would radiate the sounds I was hearing.
So we waited, and waited, not moving at all. Not a foot, or an arm, or any extremity, for fear of touching a crackling twig or bush. The noises of the enemy stopped about three in the morning as the Viet Cong retreated into their tunnel. And we continued to wait anxiously for the sunrise of dawn. The light of the morning would bring safety. We yearned for that sun, for the light of day!
The Lord brought Psalm 130 to my mind; like a watchman on the walls, I waited with bated breath and with great anxiety for the first rays of sunshine to creep into the new day.
Do you wait for the Lord in this same fashion? As you pray for His presence, is the accompanying passion one that reflects the anxious waiting of the watchmen on the walls separating them from their enemies? The sun signals a safety that day so often brings, when enemies cannot be hidden by darkness.
This is a vivid, passionate lesson that the psalmist draws for your heart. If you can feel with the emotional yearning of the night watchman, twice written to emphasize his extreme passion, for the first rays of sunshine, you can picture with real emotion how you should wait for your LORD. He is both your protection and your warrior, One who fights for you in a battle you cannot win without Him.
“Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing. You ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; LORD Sabaoth His name, from age to age the same, and He must win the battle.”
(2nd verse of Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” 1529)