The God of the 4th Watch (S. Michael Wilcox)

The scriptures are our Father in Heaven’s letters; only He knows more than I did as a father what you and I would need.  There are times in our lives when we need to open the letter and communicate with our Father in Heaven, and understand what He is like and His concern for us.  I would like to share this morning, with you, four letters from my Father in Heaven that have been very important to me—that I hope will be indicative of the power that the scriptures can be for us as we face different trials and challenges of our lives. 
The first letter is called "The Fourth Watch." That letter comes from the sixth chapter of Mark.  The Savior has fed the five thousand that day, and in the late afternoon, early evening, He is sending his apostles down into the ship. He will dismiss the multitude. He wishes to pray that evening, and then He will meet the apostles a little later on the shore and they are to pick Him up.  In late afternoon, early evening, the apostles get on the ship; they push out in the Sea of Galilee. The Savior dismisses the multitude, and prays.  The Savior could pray a long time; so, He prays late into the night. We read in Mark what takes place with the apostles:
And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray. And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land. And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea. (6:46-48)  In John’s account of this particular story we read that the apostles had rowed the equivalent of about seventy-five football fields against the wind.  There are times in our lives when we toil, rowing against the wind. We are trying to make progress and sometimes it seems that there are forces that are against us. There may be some great blessing that we deeply desire. There may be some trial that we want deeply to be over. And it doesn’t seem like we are making any headway against the wind. We wonder if the Lord is listening. 
Now we need to understand something about our Father in Heaven, and that is that He is a fourth watch God. 
The Hebrew night was divided into four watches. The first watch—six o’clock at night to nine [p.m.], second watch—nine to midnight, third watch—midnight to three in the morning, fourth watch—three in the morning to sunrise.  Sometimes that creates a bit of a problem for us, certainly for me. I worship a fourth watch God. One who tends to feel that it is good to let His children toil in rowing against the wind to face a little opposition. My problem is that I am a first watch person. Now there is something inside of me that understands that it is good for me to toil in rowing against the wind. But certainly by the second watch He would come. And when the second watch has passed and He still has not come. Sometimes I forget that as Mark says, He is watching. He watched them toiling and rowing. 
I began to make some assumptions that are often dangerous to make—maybe you make the same. We begin to assume that, number one, He is not there. That is why He’s not responding. And then we calm down and understand that He is there; He is always there. Then the second assumption is if He is there, He must not be listening. And then again, in calmer times—He always listens. Well then the third assumption is He must not care. No—He’s there, He listens, He cares. Maybe the most dangerous assumption, the fourth assumption is I must not be worthy. Now that fourth assumption we are probably correct on. But when has that ever stopped Him from responding; we are as worthy as we can be. We must assume that we have not yet reached the fourth watch; and He is a fourth watch God. 
The scriptures are full of fourth watch stories: Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove—“At the very moment I was ready to sink into despair” (JSH 1:16). Do you ever feel that way? “Just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light” (JSH 1:16). It was when the widow of Zarephath was gathering two sticks to make a final meal for her and her son that Elijah came walking through the gate to save them from the famine (1 Kings 17). It was when the water was spent in the bottle and Hagar had placed Ishmael under a tree because she did not want to see his death, that the angel came to say, Hagar, what aileth thee? and showed her a source of water (Genesis 21:17). 
We worship a fourth watch God. So when the trials aren’t over and the blessings don’t come, don’t assume that He is not there, or He is not listening, or He doesn’t care, or you’re not worthy. Always assume you have not yet reached the fourth watch.
Now occasionally people have said to me, “I’m sure I’m past the fourth watch.” I was once talking with Sheri Dew and she said later, “Mike, I think I’m in the ninth watch—now what?” Well, when you feel that you have passed the fourth watch, then we need another letter.  We need another letter called Tight like a Dish. Now that is an expression I think you all will understand—‘Tight like a dish.’ It’s the description of the Jaredite barges.
Now I have a tendency, because I’m an English major, to edit almost everything I read. It’s just a habit I can’t get out of with whatever I read—textbooks, newspapers, novels, biographies—I’m always editing. I edit the scriptures as I’m reading them. There are actually times where I say, “Lord, I could fix this verse for you if you would like me to.” And one of the verses that I used to think I would edit is Ether chapter two, the seventeenth verse; the description of the Jaredite barges. Can you realize what word I might write if I were editing this? This is how it reads: 
“They were built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish”—that’s once. “And the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish”—twice. “And the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish”—three times. “And the ends thereof were peaked; and the top thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the length thereof was the length of a tree; and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish”—five times. 
I would have written redundant. We get the impression they are waterproof. It’s like taking a jar and sealing it and throwing it. These are not submarines; they float light like a fowl, we are told, on the water. But the problem is that great waves are going to be washing over them, and so they need to be waterproof. 
Now being ‘Tight like a dish’ causes two problems for the Jaredites’ crossing of the sea. Number one, minor problems, it was probably Mrs. Moriancumer who pointed them out to her husband: “We can’t breathe in here, and we can’t see, so unless we are going to get the Promised Land in sixty seconds, we’ve got big problems. Did you get the instructions right?” 
And so Moriancumer, the brother of Jared, goes back to the Lord, and he presents his two problems. Now you learn something about your Father in Heaven in the solution or the handling of these two problems. Of the two problems—no air and no light—the Lord solves one of them just because He is asked. He tells them to put the holes in so they can have air. And sometimes when we go to the Lord, we simply ask and we will receive. He tells us the solution. The second problem we have to seek and find; for the second problem the Lord says, “You come up with a solution.” Now He put some parameters on that. He tells them, “You can’t go by windows”—probably not invented yet, and the second, “You can’t go by fire”—oxygen is a problem anyway. All that tossing around in the sea with coals flying everywhere probably wouldn’t be good, so you come up with a solution. 
Now you are the brother of Jared. I want you to listen with his mind at what the Lord says because the twenty-fourth verse is a really interesting verse of Ether chapter two:  
"Behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth."
Now the reason they need ‘Tight like a dish’ ships is because there are going to be mountain waves. Now what causes mountain waves in the ocean?—wind and storm. And what did the Lord just say the source of the winds were? “The winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and the rains and floods have I sent forth”—do you have a solution to the problem? 
If I were the brother of Jared, I would have said, “Lord, we don’t need these ‘Tight like a dish’ ships at all. Since waves are the problem, and waves are caused by wind, and wind comes out of your mouth—blow softly. Blow softly. Breeze us to the Promised Land. We’ll sit on deck, we’ll fish, we’ll get tanned, we’ll play shuffleboard.” How many here want the first watch cruise version of life?—that’s me; I’m a first watch person. I don’t like mountain waves. 
And then the great lesson: We know God can still the storms of our lives—we know that; there are precedents. But he prefers to do something else:
"Behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. What will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?" (Ether 2:25)
What we need to understand about our Father in Heaven is that He prefers to prepare us to face the storms of life, the contrary winds, rather than to still them. So if you are past your fourth watch and He has not come, don’t assume that He is not there, that He doesn’t care, He doesn’t listen, or that you are not worthy. Assume your ship is tight like a dish. You will not sink.  Somewhere in the past of your life, experiences have been placed by a wise and foresighted Father in Heaven to prepare you to face the very things that you are facing. As the lion and the bear came to David, before Goliath, to prepare him to face Goliath, so will lion-and-bear moments come in your lives before the Goliath moments come. Because if your ship was not tight like a dish and you have reached the fourth watch, He will come to you and still the storm. So if the storm is not still, we must assume our ship is tight like a dish. 

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