Without A Vision?- Proverbs 29:18

The King James translation of this verse reads as follows: “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he”. This verse is subject to many misconceptions and misunderstandings, primarily due to our tendency to understand words as they are used in our day and age, and not delve into how they were used at the time the passage was written. When we see the word “vision”, we interpret it in the context of the United States in the 21st century. In this context, a “vision” is an image of what we would like something to be or how we see it in the future. This understanding of vision comes primarily from the corporate world, where corporations have visions of what they would like to see their corporation look like in the future. From this vision, they develop plans and strategies to make their vision come to pass by a certain point in time, by a five year plan, or other such devices. Due to the modern trend of operating a church like it is a corporation, this idea of vision has been accepted by the church as well, with the passage we are examining often used to justify this procedure. Pastors and church leaders are encouraged or required to have a “vision” for their church, and to produce mission statements and five year plans designed to bring this vision to pass. This all sounds very good, and certainly fits within the church model of operating the church as a corporation according to business practices, of which this type of “vision” is one. There is, however, one major problem with all of this, the church is not a corporation, and is not meant to be run on business principles, but on biblical principles. And what does this biblical verse used to justify this practice actually say? The Hebrew word translated vision in the King James is chazon, and the basic idea behind it is that of a direct and specific communication from God to His people through the prophetic office. The vision actually referred to here is a revelation from God to the people through His prophets, and this revelation has been preserved for us in the Scriptures, they are the source of the vision, which comes from God to the people. The mistaken understanding of vision goes astray primarily in the fact, then, that it comes from the church leadership, not from God. This can be seen in the idea that a vision is what they would like to see for their church. The only problem is, it is not their church. The church belongs to God, and we receive direction for it from Him, He is the originator of the vision, which sets the direction which He would desire His church to go. This can be seen in the next phrase, which tells us that without his revelation from God , “the people perish”. The Hebrew word perish here is para, from a root word which basically means to be “unbridled”, or running wild. The church which does not seek its “vision” from the Lord will invariably establish its own, heading in whatever direction it desires and serving to satisfy the wants and needs of its leaders. This understanding is further confirmed by the second statement in the verse. The Proverbs are written in the form of poetry, and Hebrew poetry is characterized primarily by what is known as parallelism. What this means is that it is written in parallel lines, in sets of two or three lines, with the second and third clarifying the meaning of the first. This second lines tells us that “He that keepeth the law, happy is he”. The word law here is a Hebrew word referring to teaching or instruction. The revelation is from God, providing instruction to His people as to what they are to do, instructions they are to follow, for without these instructions they are “unbridled”, running wild in whichever direction they desire. The word happy is the Hebrew word blessed, and we find here that the Lord blesses those who follow the instructions He gives them, that those who set their own vision wander off in the wrong direction. The tendency to operate the church as a business has infiltrated a large segment of the modern Christian church, who busy themselves with vison statements, mission statements and five year plans. May church leaders who happen upon this message resist this temptation to operate this way, and receive their vision from the Lord, who leads His people, just as He did Abraham, one day at a time, one step at a time, continually seeking His face for our direction for the present moment, leaving the future in His hands, and walking into it one day at a time, blessed by the Lord for doing so.

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