Trusting our Vision

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Proverbs 29:18 (ESV)

18    Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,

but blessed is he who keeps the law.

I want to start this week’s devotional by showing you two translations of the same verse. Above we see Proverbs 29:18 in the ESV.

Here is Proverbs 29:18 in KJV

18      Where there is no vision, the people perish:

But he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

Clearly it is not God’s plan for people to perish. We read in: –

John 3:16–17 KJV

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

What this exercise between translations does is demonstrate the range of ideas contained in the Hebrew original. Today I wish to share a little about vision and leadership, both at a personal level and a congregational level. To begin with, it is clear, that in the Old Testament, the people relied on the prophets, to see or hear from God, and to speak out direction from God, at both personal, and national levels.

Today we understand that as a result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that all believers should be filled with the Holy Spirit and should be able to ‘see’ prophetically for themselves with no need for an Old Testament prophet figure to speak for God. In addition we have the complete, revealed word of God in our Bibles to make the task easier. It is certainly a comfort to know we are following God’s plan for our lives. The reality is, however, that many of us who are either new to the faith or haven’t been taught these principles need help from trusted friends or leaders in the church to help them along the way.

The idea behind the text is that there needs to be a progressive unfolding of vision. This is so that when we see the first part of our vision fulfilled we don’t stop there and camp for a while with no direction or way forwards. To illustrate this let me tell you a story. I have no idea if it’s true or not but for the purpose of this exercise it will work nicely.

The story goes that about three hundred and fifty years ago a group of people who were facing religious persecution in their own country had the vision to sail three thousand miles across the Atlantic Ocean and start their own community on the North East coast of America, where they would be free to worship God in the way that they wanted with no one to tell them it was wrong.

In the first year they established a town site. The next year they elected a town government. The third year the town government planned to build a road in a westerly direction about five miles into the wilderness. In the fourth year the community tried to impeach their government for the waste of public funds, building a road five miles west into the wilderness. Who needed to go there anyway?

Here we have a story of a group of people who could see three thousand miles across an ocean. Cross it, with their families, in a small sailing ship, facing all sorts of difficulties and dangers, and, just a few years later, unable to see even five miles west, where their future clearly lay.

So it is with us. In Christ, with that pioneering spirit, nothing should be impossible for us to achieve. Sadly when we lose that vision, then we find it impossible to think outside our own four walls.

Let us then have a look at vision. What does the Bible say about vision? Well our verse says that where there is no prophetic vision then the people cast off restraint. They are no longer committed to the ongoing progress of the congregation. In fact like those in our story they may actively work against the elected leadership and in so doing create division and disunity.

The book of Judges has this problem as a continuous refrain.

In the first two chapters of Judges we see in great detail how this problem developed and then accelerated following the death of Joshua.

Judges 17:6 (NKJV)

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

The very last verse in Judges repeats the refrain

Judges 21:25 (NKJV)

25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

… everyone did what was right in their own eyes.

I’m sure none of us want to go down that path any time soon. The answer, the scriptures say, is to stay committed to the word of God. Participate in the services and bible studies, prayer meetings, and devotionals. Share your joys and your sorrows, your victories, and your setbacks, and your church family will celebrate with you or surround you with support.

Let us then go back to our scripture for today, in the KJV: –

Proverbs 29:18 KJV

18      Where there is no vision, the people perish:

But he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

In this context the law is the whole of scripture, bearing in mind that at the time that this was written the only scripture was the law, the Pentateuch. So we see, that without vison or prophetic insight people are going to perish. That does not sound like God’s plan for us does it?

In the bible, we see all sorts of things associated with vision. For some it is the appearance of angels for others it is a specific message from God. In the Old Testament God spoke through the prophets giving direction and recommendations for the nations. Unfortunately, their messages were rarely heeded, and both the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom were eventually conquered and carried off into exile.

How does this relate to us today? I suggest that we are in a particularly interesting time in the history of the church. Across Australia, churches have been closed down and don’t look like opening for normal services any time soon. Every pastor in the world has found him or herself with their visions and plans for their congregations cut off, terminated on a global scale. Does that mean that the churches don’t have effective leadership? Far from it. We have seen how this predicament has forced us into a period of rapid technological development. We have adapted to the crisis very quickly and from what I can see around our congregation, if anything, we are now stronger than ever, and have the means to stay connected with one another, no matter what our enemy might do to us. Far from destroying the church this crisis has fired her up and multiplied her effective outreach. Through our online services and devotionals, we are reaching people up and down the Eastern states, and indeed across the globe, with website visits from America, Canada, Ireland, Germany, UK, India, and France.

Friends we all need to hear from God at this time. If I were to say that I have no idea what the church will look like in six months, that is not necessarily a bad thing. What I do know is that whatever plans God has for us, we are better placed to respond to them than ever.  

The final word from Bob Gass

When Alexander the Great had a vision, he conquered the world; when he lost it, he couldn’t conquer a liquor bottle. When David had a vision, he conquered Goliath; when he lost it, he couldn’t conquer his own lust. When Samson had a vision, he could defeat a thousand men; when he lost it, he couldn’t handle one woman. When Noah had a vision, he built an ark and preserved the human race; when he lost it, he got drunk. It’s your dream that keeps you on track; it’s your vision that keeps you in focus.[1]

Without it, what’s your purpose for living?[2]

St George Defeating the Dragon, Bethlehem
St George defeated his dragon and so will we. Taken at the Catholic church in Bethlehem.

[1] Bob Gass, A Fresh Word For Today : 365 Insights For Daily Living (Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998), 173.

[2] Ibid.

2 replies on “Trusting our Vision”

No they were actually non conformist. Protestants who refused to be Anglican. Mainly Congregationalists. Please don’t overlook the fact that is is a story. I have no idea if it is true or not.

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