To "keep watch" implies there will be continual action in observing - more or less as a sentinel or protector over someone or something. If you have ever been told to "keep watch" you know just how difficult this is - for "continual" action of any sort on our part is pretty doggone difficult. Why? We are dis-tractable creatures. We find more excuses for diverting our attention away from the task at hand. In the sense we are thinking of in our illustration, the word implies this watchfulness which is without break in attentiveness. In the way we think about "keeping watch", we think means a frequent "revisit" to the subject at hand, but not this brooding oversight which never, never takes an eye off the subject. Both definitions of "continual" would be entirely accurate - one suggestive of human ability, the other of divine!
Keep watch over me and keep me out of trouble; don’t let me down when I run to you. Use all your skill to put me together; I wait to see your finished product. (Psalm 25:20-21 MSG)
God's watchfulness over us is of the continual - uninterrupted - kind. He needs to direct this kind of attention toward us because we have ways of getting ourselves into messes quicker than cells divide! Another word for one who keeps watch is a "sentry" - the one who is both the eyes and ears of your present position. He can see anyone or anything coming, and he can capably challenge anyone or anything entering your location. Now, if this doesn't aptly describe how God maintains a "watchfulness" over us, I don't know what does. I think there could be a lesson or two we could learn by exploring how God totally fulfills the role of "sentry" over our lives:
1) A sentry takes charge of his post - in the most literal sense, the sentry is the main one to give the orders, make the decisions, etc. I think this is the starting point for God's care over our lives - as the one in charge, he guides us into the decisions we should be making, the directions we should be taking, etc. To be in charge implies no matter what "rank" or "authority" you may claim, no one and nothing "outranks" the sentry in charge. As such, he has the final authority over every decision made.
2) A sentry remains alert at all times - never altering his focus or attention to the details around him. There is no hiding out, no taking a little time off. The sentry is watchful - vigilantly looking around for anything or anyone posing a threat, invading the location he defends. Probably one of the most misunderstood duties involved in this role of being constantly watchful is the duty to investigate what doesn't look or sound right. God's watchfulness over our lives often challenges us to not accept something at face-value, but to investigate it with detail and tenacity - because we only ferret out the enemy when we put him to the test!
3) A sentry is ever-vigilant to any threats - knowing a threat averted is not a threat eliminated. A sentry may challenge an interloper - one who doesn't belong. The interloper may feel the advancing of his position is not possible because of this challenge, but it doesn't mean he won't try again - just from a different vantage point. This means the sentry has to be vigilant (alert to) any and all threats - even those which are averted. God's watchfulness over us doesn't settle for "averted" threats, but remains ever vigilant to observe the next attack of the interloper - knowing full well there will come another threat! The interloper just doesn't realize the one who is at the watch is going to be the one making it impossible for him to advance his position!
4) A sentry reports on the status of his post - knowing the status of the watch is important for all to understand. In the old days, before walkie-talkies and cell phones, the sentry would relay his status by calling out, "Three bells, and all is well", or some similar report. Why? It gave those who depended on his watchfulness the ability to rest knowing he stood his ground and remained ever-vigilant at his post.
5) A sentry never left his post until he was properly relieved - because an unmanned post was an opportunity for intrusions which could afford an crippling attack. The threats to our security come when a guard is not maintained - not when the sentry remains at the post. God's "post" over our lives is not one he ever abandons. Nor is there anyone able to relieve him of his post. This is good news for those of us who count on his watchfulness to keep us safe against all manner of threat.
6) A sentry doesn't spend time in idle chatter - his communications are purposeful and aimed at communicating specific details. I think this describes God's communication with us perfectly, for he doesn't engage in idle chatter with us. When he speaks, we are to listen - because his message is important and it contains information for our protection.
7) A sentry sounds an alarm whenever a threat is identified - not to alarm those he guards, but to arouse them to defend their position. Some of us think God's "alarm" sounded in our lives is to cause us panic - but when he sounds an alarm it is to protect us, not send us into a frenzy. We need to be aware of the "alarms" of his watchful eye - for they often signal us to dangers unrecognized by us. They are to alert us, making us pay a little more attention, and then to act upon his instructions.
These are just a few duties of the sentry - aptly descriptive of the duties as God displays them in his watchfulness over us. I don't know about you, but just knowing we have such a "sentry" over our lives helps me rest a little easier. Just sayin!