The Vision: A Fresh Look by Matthew P. Martin
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18
Defining the Vision
We are definitely living in the last days. It is very important to strengthen the stakes, the fundamental doctrine of truth. What I have to share with you today will not be new, but I hope to stir up your remembrance in some areas.
We all quote this verse in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” Most of us stop right there, but I want to read the rest of that verse, “but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” We often emphasize the word vision, and we usually have a singular understanding of it. In our 21st century mentality, our minds immediately tend to think about outreach, reaching the world, white fields, etc. We generally think of our own idea of the word vision. I have a vision to reach my city, the lost and the world with the gospel. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that perception of vision. We process this verse as: where there is no vision, no insight, no foresight, then we will not have growth and revival, and people will perish.
I’m not sure that was exactly what Solomon was saying when he penned that verse, as we note the last part of it: “….he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” What exactly was Solomon saying when he penned this proverb? He was a very wise man who studied people and God’s relationship to them. Solomon made a lot of mistakes, and we must attest to that. Often, he failed to follow his own counsel. But what exactly was he saying in this proverb? Allow me to quote that verse in a couple of different translations. I hope a picture will emerge as to what Solomon really was trying to say. The American Standard version translates it this way: “Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint, but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” The New American Standard says, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law.” The Living Bible says, “Where there is ignorance of God, crime runs wild, but what a wonderful thing it is for a nation to know and keep his law.” The New Living translation is what really seemed to put it into perspective for me: “When people do not accept Divine guidance, they run wild, but whoever obeys the law is happy.” Solomon was simply saying that when people do not listen and obey the Word of God, they run wild and are unrestrained. One translation says “they are naked and ashamed.”
What I see from this verse is that the vision is not my vision, but it is God’s vision. It’s not particularly what I desire to see, but it is what God desires for people to hear and see. It is His vision that He sends to His people through His messengers. The vision is the Word of God that comes to people. When we realize the vision is the Word of God, then we can understand the latter part of the verse. When people hear and obey the Word of God, they are happy. Someone said it this way: “Divine guidance is critical. Without it, people run wild, but he who hears and obeys the law of God will be happy and will be blessed.”
Sharing the Divine Vision
The application is very simple for you and I here today. Solomon was saying that we must embrace, obtain and propagate the truth of the Word of God. If we refuse to give Divine guidance, people will run wild, fall away and not be saved.
We are the agents God has chosen to show His vision to the world. As ministers, we are the oracles of God to this world. It is our responsibility to preach His vision. We must preach the infallibility of the Word of God, because He has placed His vision inside of us. It is our responsibility to preach the vision about who He is, because without that vision, people perish. Solomon was saying if God can have a messenger to share the Word, then people’s lives can be changed. We need to preach the oneness of God. We need to preach the new birth and separation from sin. It’s God’s vision for His people to be set apart from the world. He deposits that vision into the hearts of people and ministers like you and me, and we are to share that vision with the world. If we don’t do it, people perish.
God’s Vision Must Become Our Vision
We must preach about morality, integrity and honesty. Those things aren’t popular with the world around us, but that is God’s vision. He is trying to get the world to embrace those things, so He deposits that vision inside our hearts. Just as the Old Testament prophets, we must become and remain the oracle of God to this generation. Isaiah 1:1 says, “The vision of Isaiah, the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” It was God’s vision, but then it became Isaiah’s vision. We must tap into God’s vision and allow it to become our vision. Nahum 1:1: “The burden of Nineveh, the book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.” What was that vision all about? It was the message God wanted Nahum to tell His people. It’s our responsibility to share the vision.
Make the Vision Plain
The commandment given to Habakkuk is very applicable to us. Habakkuk 2:2, “And the Lord answered me and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” God intends for us to make His vision plain, to preach the truth without fear or favor. If we don’t, the world will assume that we don’t really believe it is or it’s not important. I don’t want people walking out of my church not knowing what I believe. I want to make it plain. However, making it plain draws lines and divides. The word decision means “to cut.” When we make a decision to make it plain, we are cutting off other options. It must be done with love and wisdom, but we must make it plain.
When David committed sin with Bathsheba, Nathan the Prophet confronted him with these words, “Thou art the man.” One would have thought David would have hated Nathan for this, but he did not. David later named a son after the prophet Nathan. He was saying, “There was a man who made it plain and told me the truth. There was a man who got the vision from God, and he shared it with me!”
Our towns and cities deserve that kind of preacher. There are many scriptural admonitions that emphasize our responsibility to share the vision. I Corinthians 1:21 says, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Romans 10:14 reminds us, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” Verses following declare, “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” We must preach His vision and share that vision with the world. Remember the words of Solomon, “But he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” That word law in Proverbs comes from the same word from which we get the word Torah. We are God’s representatives to preach that law.
A Time of No Vision
There is a picture of the world without the vision, found in I Samuel 2:12: “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial, and they knew not the Lord.” Hophni and Phinehas were simply living out the pleasures of their flesh and not doing what God had commanded them to do. Verse 17 says, “Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord; for men abhorred the offering of the Lord.” I Samuel 3:1 tells us, “And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.” Adam Clark describes it this way: “There was no public accredited prophet with whom the secret of the Lord was known to dwell and to whom all might have recourse in case of doubt or public emergency.” Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary explains it this way: “There was no publicly recognized prophet whom the people could consult and from whom they might learn the will of God.” There was no open vision.
Not Sharing the Vision Brings Disaster
Failing to share the vision brings disastrous results. Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” After Joshua’s generation, Judges 2:10 says, “…there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.” Notice the result: “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim. And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them and provoked the Lord to anger.” I Timothy 4:16 instructs us to, “Take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee.” I don’t want my town or my world to be without the vision.
Matthew Martin has been a licensed minister with the UPCI for 31 years. He has served the United Pentecostal Church in Dewar, Oklahoma as pastor since January 1990. He is currently the Oklahoma District Superintendent, and serves as the Secretary of the UGST/UC Board of Trustees and the Secretary of the TCM Board of Directors.
Transcribed by Linda Schreckenberg