I have walked to the nearby athletic fields of the university in my town in order to see the sunrise. Checking with Siri, I am in place with time to spare, disappointed that I didn’t consider how much ambient light there is leading up to the sun’s emergence. I had hoped for a darker prelude.
But here I am, standing in a frost-flecked field, not prepared for how cold it would be for a late April morning. I am anxious to get some photos of rose-tinged clouds. And go home.
I am here because of a wonderfully enigmatic passage in Isaiah 21:
The oracle concerning Dumah.
One is calling to me from Seir,
“Watchman, what time of the night?
Watchman, what time of the night?”
The watchman says:
"Morning comes, and also the night.
If you will inquire, inquire;
come back again.” (Isaiah 21:11–12)
Why enigmatic? First of all, Dumah doesn’t seem to be a place. It literally means silence. (Scholars think it’s also a play on the name Edom.). Secondly, it’s hard to get traction on what these verses predict.
But what we can understand is intriguing. Isaiah sees himself as a watchman, waiting for dawn to arrive. A voice breaks the gloomy silence, asking him what time of night it is. His reply is that morning is coming. But with it, more darkness.
That could mean light for some and darkness for others. Or it could be sequential: morning will come, but darkness after it.
That second option feels incredibly pertinent to us in our moment in history. Nearby, the empty stadium is a reminder our societal shutdown. As we wait for the restoration of “normal” life, the act of re-opening society too early threatens to give us a return of darkness after the dawn.
What do we do with such a mixed reply? Inquire. And come back again. David, in Psalm 130, compares his waiting upon God to a watchman waiting for the morning. He was wise to see his real need wasn’t just the absence of his present trouble. It was the presence of the LORD.
This is the lesson of silence and darkness. If they drive us to ask. And ask again.
On my walk back to the house, dawn finally brushes the clouds with color. Finally, the sun is up. I think of the words of Jesus:
“Ask (and keep on asking), and it will be given to you; seek (and keep on seeking), and you will find…” (Matthew 7:7)
Human parents tire of children asking, “Are we there yet?” But Jesus encourages us to keep coming with requests. For in doing so, we are training our hearts to long for the only true answer to every need.
Jesus, you are the dawn we wait for. Yes, we struggle now with needing so many things, and we want the return of income, freedom, friends. But in this time of waiting, train us to seek you. To inquire. And come back again.
Reader: How have you seen this time of sheltering affect your prayer life?