“Without a vision, the people perish…”.
I’ve mentioned before in previous posts of the dangers of quoting verses out of context.
In this case it’s easier to smell a rat, and more obvious that it is being twisted to mean something that it shouldn’t. How do I know that?
Because it’s only half a verse.
Let’s look at it in wider context of the passage and see if what is really referring to is church vision, or something else.
Firstly, the version most usually quoted is the King James, because it mentions the word ‘vision’. But even a quick look in the KJV Study Bible itself will tell you what the proverb is all about.
It actually splits the chapter into 3 parts:
V 1-14 Observations on public government;
V 15-21 and on control on private affairs.
V 22-27 Of anger, pride, thievery, cowardice, and corruption.
Hmmm, so the two words that come to my mind at this moment aren’t ‘vision casting’.
OK, let’s read the middle section, v 15-21, to get more focus. I’m obviously so blind to see it, that I could do with a bit of this so-called ‘vision’:
16 When the wicked are multiplied, transgression increaseth: but the righteous shall see their fall.
17 Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea he shall give delight unto thy soul.
18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
19 A servant will not be corrected by words: for though he understand he will not answer.
20 Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him.
21 He that delicately bringeth up his servant from a child shall have him become his son at the length.
Wow, this is good stuff!
But nope, no vision casting jumps out at me. Aargh! I must be stupid or something.
v15: The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.
Correction hurts! Just ask any 3 year old.
If we don’t do this, and leave him to his own devices, eventually all hell will break loose.
Well, firstly, as well all know, he is not old enough to distinguish good from bad, wisdom from foolishness, right from wrong.
Secondly, he has inherited Adam’s sinful nature, which means he will eventually give in to his fleshly selfish desires, regardless of any consequences.
That is why it is necessary to teach him the right way to think, act and behave. More of what that involves later.
And why does it bring his mother to shame? The maternal role is the most caring and indulgent. It comforts a mother to know that all the needs of her children are met. But, that isn’t to say that mothers are a soft touch – no no, no!
Mothers are also the ones who spend the most time with the children, the ones most seen in public with them – going about their daily routines; to and from school, sports events, supermarkets etc So if a child misbehaves, normally it is the mother who wears the brunt of the embarrassment.
But, actually, it’s more of a blight on the father when the child lacks discipline.
Being the head of the household, he is the one responsible for teaching him right from wrong, so any shame the mother feels will eventually fall doubly onto him.
So in essence, this verse really pours scorn on the father, for letting his wife be shamed because of the lack of discipline he should have taught his child.
v16: When the wicked are multiplied, transgression increaseth: but the righteous shall see their fall.
It makes sense that the more people in society whose behaviour has not been reigned in, the more sin will increase in this world.
Without Christ ultimately in control of us, it is inevitable that Satan will have his way.
That is the devil’s task, to create as much diversion away from God as possible. The more we are distracted by fulfilling our own sick, fleshly, selfish desires, the less likely we are to look upon and worship the One who created us.
Righteous ones (true believers) will understand what is going on, and see it for what it is worth.
v17: Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea he shall give delight unto thy soul.
It gives us parents a skip of the heart when we hear someone say to us “what a good boy he is!”.
This is because all the hard work of discipline we put in from the beginning, has paid off.
We no longer need to be continually anxious that he will do wrong, no longer dangling on the precipice, always thinking “what has he done now?!”.
And if he does stray, only a small correction is necessary to guide him back on the right path. This is because he is becoming accustomed to having the guiding hand of discipline, lovingly nurturing and steering him in the right direction.
And the child is not aggrieved from this discipline, for he knows that ultimately his parents have his best interests at heart. They know the way to point him.
And what is the right way? The way of righteousness, of course!
As parents, this should be our ultimate goal, not just producing robots who do everything we tell them, perfectly, the first time they are told. Again, more on that later.
This gives us peace, knowing we are fulfilling our God-given duties as parents.
v18: Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
So, here we arrive at the famous verse. The verse that proves once and for all that the Pastor needs to cast some vision to the congregation, otherwise they will all run around like headless chickens, and perish!…Ahem.
In some verses the second part amplifies the first, and in some it contrasts it.
So, in applying this rule, I can surmise that:
If I keep the law, I will not perish.
If I keep the law, I will have vision.
If I do not keep the law, I am unhappy.
I can only have vision, be happy, and will not perish – if I keep the law.
I am blind, unhappy, and will perish – if I do not keep the law.
So, here is what I believe the author is intending to say (in context with the other verses):
The law gives me vision. If I follow it, it will illuminate the way and not cause me to wander around aimlessly, and stumble into death.
And when you think about law, that is its’ intention. In and of itself it doesn’t give you a happy life, but in following it, it keeps you on the straight and narrow.
But the law that the author is referring to here, is God’s law.
But because of his sinful nature, man would inevitably return to his wicked and wayward ways, and therefore need to repeat the covering process, over, and over again.
God’s law is impossible to keep, 100%, just like ours, but only more exponentially so. It was designed that way.
So no matter what I do, how hard I try, I fail to keep even one of them. I try to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength – but as soon as the very first time the selfish desires of my flesh take precedence, it’s all over, Red Rover. There is no going back. There is no making up for the shortfall.
And even though it might appear to me to be a small indiscretion, James 2:10 says that if I break the law in only one place, I am as guilty as if I had broken them all.
There is nothing insignificant or minute when it comes to breaking God’s law. Nothing is hidden. Nothing can escape the eye of the law-maker. Not even one tiny infringement goes unnoticed.
So I therefore receive the ‘guilty’ stamp, labeling me as if I had offended God by breaking every commandment (which I would have, anyway). I am incarcerated, waiting to incur the sentence of God’s wrath on the Day of Judgement.
We mean to present our mountainous portfolios of evidence that would cast reasonable doubt on the charges laid against us.
We are deluded, in that thinking the all-knowing, all sovereign God that personally designed every atom, bone, muscle, organ, fibre and tissue that makes us what we are – could have a wrong understanding of us. How blasphemous of us to think He could be fooled that way.
There are two major flaws with this line of thinking:
1) That partly guilty = mostly innocent, therefore my punishment is unfair.
We are talking about where you will spend eternity. No one can reside in heaven and hell at the same time (apart from Christ Himself, see Rev 14:10). And punishment is eternal, so your sentence remains forever, not with a chance to ‘do time’ in hell, then be set free.
Also, the thought that you can be thrown in hell for no reason at all, is preposterous. Rom 3:23 says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. This lumps us all in the same bucket. We have all transgressed.
This is regardless of whether we have chipped a tiny fragment off the vase, or dropped it and smashed it into a million pieces.
2) That Judgement Day is sentencing day not trial day, therefore I have no chance of fair trial.
Read Rom 3:23 again. “All” means everybody. “Sinned” means missed God’s mark of moral perfection. Sin will find you eventually. If you’re of the age you can read and understand this, then your rap sheet is probably already a mile long.
There will be no opportunity to get off on a technicality. No chance for a clever lawyer to tip-toe around a legal loophole.
Heb 9:27 says “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgement”.
We should be emphasising the word ‘judgement’, and not make the mistake of referring it as ‘court date’.
The time for God’s mercy is now. Grace is at hand now while you still have breath:
‘For He says:
“In an acceptable time I have heard you,
And in the day of salvation, I have helped you”.
Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation’ (2 Cor 6:2).
But all this doesn’t explain how I get off the hook. If everybody is a sinner, how do I make recompense for my crimes against God?
Well, that’s the good part – I don’t.
I don’t have to, because God did it for me. I know that doesn’t sound like I’m making sense, but it really does happen that way!
Jesus Christ, who was God in human flesh, never sinned. Therefore, he never broke any of God’s laws.
He said “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matt 5:27). His perfect law-keeping meant that He was the perfect person to take the punishment on my behalf.
He voluntarily went to the cross to satisfy God’s wrath against me. I did the crime, and Jesus did the time. While on that cross, all the anger that God has towards me, was emptied out on His only Son.
After three days in the tomb, God raised Him back to life.
So now, because Jesus fulfilled the law and took the punishment of death for me, I can walk scott-free.
But there’s one thing I need to do first. I need to repent of all my law-breaking. I need to stop shaking my rebellious fist at God. And I need to place my faith in Christ’s perfect law-keeping on my behalf.
There’s no need for me to strive to be good anymore. Christ was good – is good. My faith in Christ counts me as righteous before God.
And when that day comes and I stand before God on Judgement Day, I will not need to bribe Him with my fake goodness. I will not need to call Him a liar by trying to prove my innocence.
Because the day of Salvation has already come for me, my case has already been dismissed.
So instead of being sentenced, He will say “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord” (Matt 25:21).
Now, back to the references I made earlier in verses 15 & 17 regarding the true way to teach a child ‘righteously’.
Ted Tripp, in his book ‘Shepherding A Child’s Heart’ speaks regarding this.
Correcting a child by behavioural change is ineffective. This is because it is all based on ‘outward appearances’. The child will behave the way he is meant to because that is what his parents expect of him.
All this does him no favours. Why? Because he doesn’t change on the inside. All we are doing is setting him up to eventually fail. How is that?
Well, when you think about it, it’s exactly what we have been talking about with the law-keeping. He can try his best to keep Dad & Mum’s rules to the best of his ability. But break them he will, you can guarantee it – all because of his rebellious sin nature.
We should not just be concerned with raising well-behaved children. We should be raising disciples, as per the Great Commission.
This is where the glorious news of the Gospel comes in perfectly. The Gospel changes a person from the inside-out. This is what makes it so beautiful.
Do you want to stop wars? Preach the Gospel to the rebels and rioters. But not just because we want less wars.
Do you want to stop abortion? Preach the Gospel to pregnant mothers. But not just because we want less babies aborted.
Do you not want laws that oppress the country? Preach the Gospel to the lawmakers. But not just because we want less oppression.
What would be the point of having a nice, peaceful, law-abiding society, if it meant everyone would end up in hell?
Didn’t Jesus say “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
In a later post, I will address the problems that ‘Vision Casting’ Church leaders create.
Recommended resource: Shepherding A Child’s Heart, by Ted Tripp.