December 7, 2012

The Problem with "Where There is No Vision"

 

As a pastor (and I hate to admit this), I sometimes cringe when I look back at sermons I have preached. I am particularly burdened if I ripped a text of Scripture out of its context and used it to preach my thoughts, rather than God’s thoughts. Here is a text which I misused many times.

"Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18a, KJV).

I would often use this text in the context of leadership meetings. Vision! As leaders, we need to have a plan. We have to know where we are going. We can’t lead people toward nothing. If there is no vision, if our church doesn’t have a mission statement, if your corporation doesn’t have a vision statement, all the people on your team, in your company, at your church, and in your small group – they are in trouble! My eloquent challenge would then catapult us into the vision-casting portion of our meeting. My guess is you have walked through a similar process.

So what’s the problem? I interpreted the Word of God with 21st century business principles, rather than allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture. I had a message I wanted to give and I used the Bible to suit my purposes.

The text hinges on the word “vision.” The Proverbs are given to us in the larger context of the Old Testament. Put this particular verse aside for a moment. If someone were to ask you, “I have been reading the Old Testament, and I keep finding this word 'vision.' It says that this person had a vision. That person had a vision. What does that mean?”

I expect you would say, “Well, in these situations God was revealing truth to people, through a vision or a dream. He spoke to many of the Old Testament prophets in this way.” Let’s apply this basic understanding of “vision” to the text in Proverbs 29.

"Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18a, KJV).

This verse has nothing to do with leading a team, company, or church! This verse is all about God’s Word. It is all about the truth He has revealed. Ironically, I was misusing a Bible verse about the Bible. In addition, if I had bothered to read the entire verse, the other half of the Proverb, I might have avoided abusing God’s Word.

"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he" (Proverbs 19:18, KJV).

The NIV translates the Hebrew to that end:

"Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law" (Proverbs 29:18, NIV).

The ESV does the same:

"Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law" (Proverbs 29:18, ESV).

What is God saying in this famously quoted Scripture? He declares that without the truth He has revealed to the prophets (what we now have as the Bible), the people cast off restraint. They perish! Without the Bible we are in trouble! Without the Bible, we do what we want rather than what God wants. But blessed is he who keeps the law. Blessed is the person who seeks to do all of God’s revealed will in all of God’s revealed ways.

Obeying every word of the Bible is at the heart of Christian discipleship. Jesus reiterated this to His disciples when He spoke the words of the Great Commission.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).

What is the end result of discipleship?

A person who, by the grace of God, is fully committed to obeying everything God has said in His Word.

Read more in Reclaiming the Sufficiency of Scripture.

CC Image (Adapted) • sntgmdm on Flickr

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