[Focused On The Horizon, 2010]
Isaiah 21:6 (NKJV)
6 For thus has the Lord said to me: Go, set a watchman, Let him declare what he sees.”
I suppose I will never know how those early frontiersmen felt. "The West" at one time was the Blue Ridge mountains. It was so densely forested that a man had to follow deer trails, leading his horse and pack mule, hacking the underbrush, not at all certain that a hostile Indian might not be drawing a bead on him, and having no maps, each clearing presented a storehouse of new information.
At some point, one of them stood on a rock like this, on the crest of the "mountain" and saw, for the first time, the richness of the valley ahead. I can imagine him there, staring intently, letting the scene fill his soul even as he sought out details for his further travel. Perhaps he saw a meadow, filled with bison or deer. There was at least one river out there which promised quicker and easier travel once a canoe was constructed. There ... ahead... was a vision and a hope.
In my mind's eye I think that man, ripe as he was from his exertions, lean as a willow reed because of his spare diet and high octane life style, was yet willing to linger there for a time. I think his soul required quiet and refreshment and so he may have pondered the view throughout the remaining sunlight hours and even under the stars. A hope filled future can do that for a man.
But a high rock can have another purpose, it can provide a vantage point for a watchman.
We have arrived at a kind of promontory in our national travels. Like a traveler cresting a mountain, I think we have come to a kind of divide between the past and the future that sharply differentiates the one from the other.
There is a new energy stirring and the movement of events foretell that old landmarks, past guidelines, even what passed as common knowledge and common sense, will be viewed differently and perhaps despised altogether. "Politics as usual" is now understood as a cause for revolution and the old paths of religion, morality, patriotism, vocation, relationships, family and social manners, are widely disparaged or viewed as relics of a near Neanderthal ignorance.
Have you ever stopped to consider why "Downton Abbey" is so popular... and with whom it is popular? If there is any appeal to the story it lies mostly in the solidity of the social order, a solidity that allowed for change but only slowly, and most importantly a sense of mutual respect growing out of a near universally endorsed code of manners. It presents a picture of personal pride, where servants bow to their "lord" but without ever sacrificing their own self-worth or self-respect. Civility of tone and manner was the coinage of freedom because an abuse of freedom was "simply not acceptable." It is, of course, a myth in some respects. Camelot never existed nor was there a real "Downton Abbey" in the sense it is presented, but that doesn't make it any less appealing.
Paradoxically it is this perceived "past" that is being rejected in the lynch mob mentality that is currently ascendant. There is little evidence that a calm assessment of what lies ahead, given that the nation and the world take this path or another, is happening. Visions of utopia are pursued through the sole or primary mechanism of the cry: "let us tear down what is not working." In the space of my life time certainly and within my limited grasp of history, there has not been this severe a challenge to our social order since the War Between the States. Now is the time that watchmen need to be called and set in place for the future is beginning to be show itself a bit.
The Iowa caucuses are over... the results are mixed... but they highlight the need for watching. An openly avowed Socialist with a hysterical economic agenda has virtually tied with a demonstrably untrustworthy opponent with equally hysterical political objectives, for the Democratic nomination. A man who has promised to "bomb them until they glow in the dark" has just eeked out a majority over a pompous egomaniac who claims that he will deal us into a very hazy, "beautiful" future based on his personality alone. There is little cause for rejoicing in any of these results. We have reason to be anxious.
"Set the watchman", the Lord told Isaiah. Look to see what is about to happen! "Discern the times" was our Lord's challenge to the Pharisees. So it is with us. The alarm needs to be rung. The calming platitude "it will all work out" must be rejected. It is wrong to cry out "peace" when there is no peace. Those who can climb the hill and gaze out at what appears to be ahead must begin to speak and to point us toward the obstacles that they see and the paths by which they may be bypassed or overcome. It is a time for requiring solutions... plainly spoken and clearly defined... rather that slogans. And even more, it is a time for people to reject those whose only ability is to voice those slogans.