Perishing Without Vision

Yesterday, I mentioned that we covered two often misused verses in our family devotions.  The first, which I wrote on yesterday, was Psalm 149:3.  The second follows:

Proverbs 29:18

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

This verse also gets “used and abused.”

“Vision” =/= “Plan”

One misuse is to treat “vision” as roughly equal to “plan.”  The idea is that if leaders lack a “vision,” a plan, an organisation will suffer.  I’ve seen this applied to business — with no “vision” for the direction of your business, it will fail.  More often, it is used of ministry efforts — the leadership of a church has to be clear-sighted in its efforts as it moves forward.  Without that, the ministry falters.

This concept is often true.  Planning is important, and “failure to plan is planning to fail.”  But we do serve a God who delights in scrapping our plans when He has something better.  A friend used to say, “If you want to give God a good laugh, tell Him your plans.”  In Acts 16, Paul’s “vision” (plan) for his ministry wasn’t God’s plan.

The biggest problem, though, is that this is not at all what this verse in Proverbs is saying.  “Vision” is not equal to “Plan.”

“Vision” =/= “New Visions”

Another misuse is the idea that people need to be having new visions from God.  Some say we need dreams and visions, for God to lead the church.  Without new visions for on-going guidance, the church will fail, and the people will perish.

This gives dreamers and “visioners” an authority God never intended.  God commanded us to test the spirits (I John 4:1), but for a church to obey a dream, we must take the dreamer’s word, both that he is telling the truth about his vision, and that it is from God.  How does he know, and how can we know?  Does God intend us to follow a man who dreams, or follow Him?  Also, it directly violates the sufficiency of Scripture.  If the Scriptures completely equip us (II Timothy 3:17), why exactly do we need new visions?

But again, this is not what this verse is teaching.  It does not tell us we need new visions.  “Vision” is not equal to “New Visions.”

What it DOES Teach

Proverbs 29:18

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

Note the contrast.  The first part of the verse talks about perishing, the second about being happy.  The first part talks of “no vision” — the second of keeping God’s Law.

Those who think “vision” equals “new vision” are closer than those who think it equals “plan.”  If the counterpoint / solution, to “no vision” is God’s Law, then “vision” is talking of things which God directly revealed, not a “plan” kind of “vision.”

But the Law of God was written centuries before this verse.  It isn’t a new vision, but an old yet living “vision,” the Scriptures, the written Word of God, given through prophets in the Old Testament and apostles in the New.  Without that Word, we perish.  By it, we live.

I Peter 1:23-25

23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
This entry was posted in A Proverb for Today, Rightly Dividing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Perishing Without Vision

  1. JonthueM says:

    Thank You!!! You almost confirmed the very thought I had in my head while reading this contextually! I realize that it would not be in harmony with the rest of the chapter if out of the blue he mentioned about a general vision. Plus it never ended with —-perish.—- but —-perish:—-. According to a random quote I saw to reclairfy the use of a colon “One of my favorite grammar books, titled* Punctuate It Right, has a wonderful name for the colon: the author calls it the mark of expectation or addition (1). That’s because the colon signals that what comes next is directly related to the previous sentence.” So in other words, this not a sperate subject but adding to the statement made prior to the colon. Which to me could very well be a Hebrew parallelism

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Hello, Jonthue. The translators clearly used the colon to reflect the Hebrew parallelism. The connecting word “but” (in the Hebrew, a single letter, but its meaning is clear) also shows the parallelism.

  2. JonthueM says:

    As I reread your post I am like WOW!!!!! this vision in correlation with Law which you can point back to Christ being the word the law made flesh really makes this a sweet… vision. Like the hymn “Be thou My vision”!

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Yes, this is a very good thought. Without God revealing Himself, the people perish – and Christ is the ultimate revelation of God (John 1:18 as well as John 1:1-14 to which you referred). I’d never thought that through before, but this Proverb definitely finds its ultimate fulfillment in the Lord Jesus. Thank you for pointing that out!

      • JonthueM says:

        Praise God! and to top it off because I love it how the Spirit enlightens my mind.

        Just like we can find not the law of itself but Jesus in the law, that is the same way with Peter walking towards the very law giver himself. And to be in harmony with the proverb just like it says with a vision the people perish so it was with Peter because he for once took his eyes off of Jesus which we know in the first 4 is commandments basically to love and depend upon him and none else. But God is so merciful that as Peter cried grace lifted him up. Not to cause Peter to look down longer but to look at the law which is the law of love in flesh before him.

        When Peter walked on the water to Jesus it was surely by faith. Because it was during the third watch of the night in a storm but He didn’t let the storm hinder him from walking by faith towards the vision. What can cause such a man to leave His boat for someone on water! enough to risk his life just for this law, this love & the Man who I called the Christ!

      • Jon Gleason says:

        Of course, we don’t want to spend so much time deriving “spiritual lessons” that we lose the sheer impact of the physical events — that the LORD ruled the sea and the wind and the waves. That is the main lesson, the one we must not miss — and yet, as you’ve noted, there is also often much more to be seen in the events of our Master’s physical life on this earth, when we contemplate them.

        Thank you again for the comments.

  3. Jon, I appreciate this post. About ten years ago I delivered a message on this verse right along these lines. If it would be helpful to any of your readers, I’m including a link:

    Thanks. I appreciate your comments on Kent Brandenburg’s blog.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Thanks, Jeff.

      To my readers, I haven’t yet had time to listen to the sermon, but I’d expect, from what little I know of the preacher, that it is profitable.

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