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Where There Is No Vision

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

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

Proverbs 29:18

The Hebraic word for "vision" is chazown (Strong #2377). It means seeing a dream, revelation, or oracle through the hearts or minds. Its root word is chazah (Strong #2372). Its meaning is to gaze at or to mentally perceive, contemplate with pleasure, or more specifically, to have a vision of something by beholding, looking, prophesying, providing or seeing. All of these are some of the different means of divine communication that God uses to converse with us.

We will gain spiritual sights and insights through prophetic revelation and knowledge. Through these channels of communication, God instructs and guides us through both His written and spoken Word. He has also sent us the Holy Spirit to be our Teacher. Our Divine Teacher will breathe life into the Holy Scriptures as we open our hearts to learn from Him the ways and principles of God!

Prophetic visions portray scenic or dramatic pictures to the recipient while he or she is awake. The distinction between a vision and a dream is determined by whether the person is awake or asleep. The result is the same. The use of godly dreams and visions is summarized in Number 12:6:

Hear now My words: if there is a prophet among you,
I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision;
I speak to him in a dream.

It is all about God making Himself known to His people. It is all about God speaking to His people. It is not about feeling good or godly. It is not about acting holy or being religious. It is all about having a right and good relationship with the Father. It is all about receiving knowledge, wisdom, understanding and instruction from the Lord. This is not limited to pastors and prophets only. All of us need to hear God ourselves. His sheep will hear His voice and will follow Him (John 10:27). All of us are His sheep in His pastures.

The Hebraic word for "perish" is para' (Strong #6544). Its meaning is to loosen, and by implication, to expose or dismiss. By paraphrasing this, without a vision, the people are on the loose and naked as they cast off restraint.

Anything too loose is usually ineffective. It cannot accomplish that specific purpose for which it was designed to do. If the rubber bands were too loose, they cannot hold anything together. If the strings of a guitar were too loose, they cannot play sweet music. If the screws of the airplane were too loose, the plane would tear apart under intense pressures and forces. If our belts were too loose, our trousers might fall down. As this is in the natural realm, it is also true in the spiritual realm.

In 1 Samuel 3, there was this story about the priests of God on the loose. While Samuel was still a boy, he ministered before the LORD under the high priest, Eli. In those days, the word of the LORD was rare as there were no open visions. There were no revelations from God as there were no communications with Him. In those days, there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). Because Eli had no vision himself, his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were out on the loose. They did evil things by casting off restraints.

Though Eli was a deeply religious man himself, he was a loose father who had no control over his sons. His sons were priests themselves. They did not bring honor to the name of the LORD. And they brought shame to their father, the high priest. They took choice meat from the sacrificial animals before they were first dedicated to God. They also seduced and slept with the young women who assisted at the entrance of the Tabernacle. Therefore God pronounced divine judgment on Eli for his failure in teaching and disciplining his sons. God's judgment was carried out through the Philistines.

Hophni and Phinehas presumptuously carried the Ark of the Covenant to assist the Israelites in their battle. Both were killed, and the Ark was captured. When Eli was 98 years old and nearly blind, he received the bad news. Because he was both old and fat, he fell backwards, broke his neck and died (1 Samuel 4). God's final judgment against Eli and his descendants occurred when Solomon removed Abiathar, Eli's descendant, and put Zadok in his place as the high priest of the nation (1 Kings 2:35).

When there is no vision or prophetic revelation from the Lord, the priests would become blind and fat. They would settle for man-made programs, routines and rituals. Even if God showed up in their meetings, it would make no difference. To change any programs would be too disruptive. To alter the timetables might prove too troublesome, and might cause great displeasure to the people. It would be more difficult to please men than to please God. The prophets and priests would preach and proclaim those messages that would tickle the ears of their congregations. In doing so, they did not need any fresh revelation or word from God.

And because of these reasons, the people would eventually perish. They were made naked. When stripped of their garments, they were exposed to shame. When stripped of their armours, they were exposed to danger. Without open and direct communication with God, the priests fell as easy preys to the enemy of their souls! Without any instructions and teachings from the Lord, there would not be any government to provide law and order. The people would rebel not only against their God, but also against their rulers and authorities. They would despise God and their fellow men.

Like students without the presence of their teacher in class, they would idle away precious time. They would play and fool around. They would do silly things and cause damages. Like sheep scattered without a shepherd, they would roam and wander off till they were totally lost in the wilderness. They would perish and be destroyed for their lack of knowledge and instruction from the Lord.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being priest for Me;
because you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.
The more they increased, the more they sinned against Me;
I will change their glory into shame.
They eat up the sin of My people; they set their heart on their iniquity.
And it shall be: like people, like priest.
So I will punish them for their ways, and reward them for their deeds.
For they shall eat, but not have enough; they shall commit harlotry,
but not increase; because they have ceased obeying the LORD.
Harlotry, wine, and new wine enslave the heart. (Hosea 4:6-11)

Too many blessings may cause blindness, and too much food will lead to obesity! When we are tired of hearing from God, we will become people without vision. We will become morally loose as we do not come under any authority. Our hearts will harden, our ears will become dull of hearing, and our eyes would be closed (Matthew 13:15). His Word will not be living in us, and His Word will not be guiding us to walk in His paths of righteousness. We will end up on the loose.

Like the sons of Eli, we will pollute our bodies and minds, forgetting that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). We will abuse our bodies with alcohol, drugs, gluttony, sex, lustful desires and plain idleness. When we become too loose in our lifestyles and worldviews, we will eventually perish spiritually and deteriorate physically. We will waste ourselves away to sins, addictions and indulgences, pursuing the world and not the Word.

But on the contrary, when we have prophetic revelation from the Lord, we will not be on the loose. There is a line of direct communication between God and us. We will be in His presence, staying within His protective zones.

The people of Israel preferred to wear loose-fitting clothes due to the warm climate and weather. But thank God, there were garment accessories, such as belts and sashes that helped to put loose ends together in place. Belts were normally made of leather, cloth or cords. They were worn around the waist. Both Elijah (2 Kings 1:8) and John the Baptist (Matthew 3:4) worn leather belts. Sometimes the belt was used to hold a sword, dagger, knife, or an inkhorn for writing. The scribe's reed or pen was also carried in the belt (Ezekiel 9:2).

The sash was longer than the belt. It consisted of a piece of folded cloth or wool wound two or three times around the waist. When made into a pouch, it might also serve as a pocket for carrying money, other valuables or even food (Matthew 10:9; Mark 6:8). A shepherd might even carry a lamb in his sash.

When Elijah "girded up his loins and ran" (1 Kings 18:46), he was probably tucking up the loose ends of his cloak, or his outer garment, into his belt. Peter urged the early Christians in 1 Peter 1:13-16:

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober,
and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you
at the revelation
of Jesus Christ; as obedient children,
not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance;
but as He Who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,
because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."

Girdling up our loins is a picture of us tying up loose ends so that we are able to run the race that is set before us. Paul in Ephesians 6:14 exhorted us to gird our waists with truth. We need to stay in the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). We must abide and remain in Jesus, the Word of God. By staying within the boundaries of His Word, we are protected and preserved from all kinds of seducing and deceiving spirits. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Let's us not be carried away by wrong doctrines and strange teachings.

Some people think that they have special revelations and insights, which nobody else has. That's spiritual pride. That will bring them to their own destruction. That's not esteeming others better than themselves. Many of these people are always chasing after incredible dreams and visions, chasing after prophecies and prophets, and chasing after the wind. They will move from one mountain to another, from one teacher to another, and from one prophet to another. They are not seeking the heart of the Father. They are seeking their own favourite agendas and pet subjects. By doing so, they interpret the Bible according to their wants and wishes, twisting the Scriptures to suit their own programs and projects in order to satisfy their egos and to raise funds. They go off tangent, missing the mark for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus!

In Matthew 4, Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. When He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was very hungry and thirsty. At this time when it seemed to be His weakest hour, the tempter came to test Him. In all of the three temptations, Jesus did not use His own wisdom or do His own thing. He simply answered and said, "It is written...it is written...it is written...." This is fresh revelation from the Spirit – bringing reality and life into the Word of God by applying it in the very hour of need!

Jesus had already memorized the Scriptures since young. He knew the Word of God by heart. And He also kept them by obeying every one of them. That's why Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law."

Truly we will be blessed if we know the Word of God and keep it - both hearers and doers of His Word (James 1:22). It is then beneficial because it actually actualizes in our lives. We become alive in His Word, and His Word is alive in us! By our obedience and abiding in Him, we will have direct access to God through Jesus, His Son! God will be speaking to us! We will have dreams and visions. His Holy Spirit will teach us all things, bringing everything that He has taught us to our remembrance (John 14:26).

In conclusion, I want to go back again to 1 Samuel 3. Let's forget about the corrupted priests, and see a simple young boy. Though there was no open vision, God broke through the sound of silence and called out, "Samuel!" And Samuel heard it!

Initially, young Samuel did not know that it was the voice of the LORD. He thought it was Eli calling him. Eli did not hear the voice of the LORD. After the LORD had called Samuel three times and Samuel had awoken Eli three times, it finally dawned upon Eli that it was the LORD calling Samuel. And Samuel eventually said to the LORD, "I'm listening, LORD. What do you want me to do?" (1 Samuel 3:10).

May we also be like Samuel, saying, "I'm listening, LORD. What do you want me to do?" This is positioning our hearts to hear from God. This is availing ourselves again for His Majesty's Service to do His Will.

Our world is in a serious crisis now. We are living in times when we desperately need to hear the voice of God and receive His instructions. And just as God chose to speak to young Samuel, I believe God is now choosing to speak to you and me. When there is no vision, be Thou our Vision. The LORD is still our Everlasting Light!

May this insightful hymn "Be Thou My Vision" be again ringing in our hearts:

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary

Written on:
24 August 2004