In ancient times cities usually had walls around them. Bandits and roving marauders were frequent, and to protect the people of the town watchmen were placed on towers around the city to keep watch for enemies approaching. The cry of a watchman took precedence over any current conversation at the moment. To ignore the watchmen was to invite death or the loss of all you held dear. Please bear with me while I illustrate the brief story of Asa, a concerned citizen.
Asa came out of his house, and he was upset. Once again Pomfrey, his prize sheep had disappeared. Asa lived in a small corner of town with just enough grass within the walls to support this single animal. Pomfrey supplied him with wool once a year, a little fertilizer to sell, and companionship. It was a nice arrangement for both of them. This was yet another morning that someone had left his front gate ajar and allowed Pomfrey to rove his quarter of the city. Someone needed to put an end to this.
Each time Pomfrey got out it took hours for Asa to track him down and bring him home. Sometimes Pomfrey ate someone’s plants and then he had to pay them for the damage. It just wasn’t fair. Why couldn’t those who were up so high address this issue? The watchmen surely had time to look after something as meaningful as someone vandalizing Asa’s house. How long does it take to cast a gaze inside the city walls anyway? From that vantage point surely all they had to do was take a quick peek then they could focus on more immediate needs, like who was letting Asa’s animal out each morning.
The more Asa thought about how unfair it was that he had to keep paying for damages when the watchmen could so easily identify the culprit, the madder he got. Finally, he decided that, in all fairness to the watchmen, they just didn’t realize what was going on. If Asa made them aware of his plight, surely they would be able to fix it. It had to be happening to others as well. After all, weren’t the watchmen up there to watch?
Asa sat down and very carefully wrote out his case for the watchmen. He wanted them to understand how serious this was, so he was very thorough in his descriptions. Finally, he took his letter to the Alderman of the quarter and gave him the letter to give to the watchmen. All would be well. Once they understood how important this was, surely they would address this important need.
Weeks went by and no letter returned from the watchmen. His anxiety building, and his stress rising, Asa finally went and confronted the Alderman and demanded to know why the watchmen had not answered his concerns. As it turns out, the letter was never sent to the watchmen. It was still sitting on the desk of the Alderman. He said that the watchmen were too busy with more important matters, and that this was something Asa needed to figure out for himself.
Not wanting to take no for an answer, Asa went to the stairs and climbed to just below the tower and called up to a watchman. He complained about the problems he had with Pomfrey, and demanded that the watchman address his problem. In response the watchman told him to go back to his house. The enemy was approaching and it wasn’t safe for Asa to be up there. Asa insisted that this was very important and that it was well within the ability of the watchman to deal with it. Again, the watchman told Asa to return to his house for his own safety, to bar his door and make sure his family was safe.
Never had Asa been so insulted. He was being ignored and shuffled off to the side like his voice didn’t count, like he was a nobody. By golly, he wasn’t going down off that tower quietly. He would be heard, and the watchman would listen and acknowledge his concern. Again, he was told that for his own safety he was to return home, gather his family, and bar his door, with or without Pomfrey in the yard. The enemy was getting closer and Asa needed to listen to his warning.
Asa was fed up with these evasive answers. He went down into the streets and started to complain to his neighbors and strangers about how the watchmen weren’t doing their proper job. They had ignored this important matter of Pomfrey and the vandalism, and that if enough people petitioned them, surely then the watchmen would have to pay attention. He collected his signatures. He got people to ignore the warning voice of the watchmen about the enemy at their gates, and finally told the watchmen that if they were not going to do their job as they ought then they would just go elsewhere and find a city worth living in.
The watchmen tried to reason with Asa and his group of dissenters, but they insisted, so they reluctantly opened the gates and let them leave the city, which is what they were demanding was their right to do. As the gates closed, Asa and his followers turned around to leave, and there in front of them was the army they had been warned was coming.
In part 2 we’ll look at a modern application of this story. Let me leave you with a few questions to think about until you read the next part.
1. Do you know anyone who is like Asa, with a “Pomfrey” issue?
2. Did the watchmen on the wall do anything wrong? Were they doing what they were supposed to do?
3. When we have an issue that bothers us, whose responsibility is it to solve the issue?
4. Does every issue in our lives need to be solved today by someone else?
5. Is that always appropriate and in our best interests?