The Dead-End Road of Christless Conservatism
Finding life in the dust
“You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago.” (Isaiah 22:11)
This verse belongs to a section in the prophecy of Isaiah entitled “the oracle concerning the valley of vision” (v. 1). We should note at the outset that there is a certain irony contained in this title: the valley refers to the region of Judea, and at present it is anything but clear-sighted. In fact, as the prophet is at pains to show, Jerusalem has become shockingly blind to reality through its dogged pursuit of idolatry. The once just and faithful city has reduced itself to whoredom (1:21). There is thus a sad and painful reversal at the heart of this section. The city that ought to be the most enlightened is actually the most enveloped in darkness; the people who should be enjoying the greatest light are languishing in the murky night of spiritual harlotry. And the worst part is, they don’t even know it.
Seeing this, Isaiah looks to a day when the hammer will finally fall, when judgement will come upon Judah at last. In that day, he sees an army surrounding Jerusalem, a valley full of chariots with horsemen at the gates (v. 7). True to form, however, the “valley of vision” remains characteristically blind. Instead of reflecting on what this judgement might reveal about their spiritual condition — which is what they ought to have done — the residents of Jerusalem scuttle around like crabs in a bucket, looking for the quickest way to defend themselves. They gather weapons from the House of the Forest (v. 8); they collect waters from the lower pool (v. 9); they take stock of the houses of Jerusalem and break them down to fortify the wall (v. 10). Indeed, the people busy themselves with every possible means of defence except that which is most needful. Hence Isaiah’s indictment of them in verse 11: “You made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago.”
The prophet’s point here is that repentance and not human scheming is the best, and indeed only, recourse against disaster. To be in the hand of Yahweh, to dwell under the blessing of the Lord of Hosts, is the safest buffer against calamity that a curse-bound creature can hope to experience. Under these conditions, it matters not whether pagan hordes surround the city — the God of heaven’s armies can command a host of angels to bring deliverance if He chooses (2 Kgs. 6:17). If tyrant kings seek your life, the Lord of glory can whisk you away to the safety of the wilderness and cause the birds of the air to become your servants (1 Kgs. 17:4). Further yet, if you descend into those dark waters where death sunders soul from body, even there God can bring you safely through to resurrection life and glory. The psalmist put it well: if you make the LORD your dwelling place, if the Most High becomes your refuge, “no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent” (Ps. 90:9–10). God watches over the way of His saints, and not one hair of their heads will perish (Lk. 21:18).
Repentance, then, is the need of the hour. And here we come to some closing application.
Conservative resurgence is a good thing; a groundswell of popular opposition to unbelieving, “woke” mania is certainly to be desired. I’m not arguing against either of these. I think we should work and pray to see more of them in our day. That said, unless the engine driving these developments is a humble, repentant faith in the risen Christ, such actions will be akin to shoring up the walls of a doomed city and frantically checking the water supply.
In other words, if we throw ourselves behind reform movements that are merely human in scope, we consign ourselves to the same blindness that plagued Jerusalem in Isaiah’s day. As then, so now the fundamental issues are not physical but spiritual; not economic or political but religious and moral. Our nation is not teetering on the brink of oblivion primarily because of who is in office. It staggers because of our sin and rebellion against God. And the sooner we remember this, the sooner we can set to work asking for the Lord’s forgiveness and seeking the blessing He has promised in the crucified Saviour.
In the end, there is only one way forward. And it begins by humbling ourselves in the dirt. The good news is, this is where Christ has promised to meet us. And wherever Christ is, there is life, joy, peace, and blessing.
Join the fringe.