Vital Importance of Spiritual Vision
"Where there is no
vision the people cast off restraint" Proverbs 29:18.
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" Hosea
The first quotation above is
from the Book of Wisdom. The wisdom of that statement has been
overwhelmingly proved by much history and experience. There is a
sense in which this explains a vast amount of spiritual tragedy,
both individual and collective. This will be explained as we
proceed. But first we must define the terms.
1. The Text -
Its Interpretation and Meaning
"Vision" - What is Meant by the Word?
This is the word used to define
and summarise the message of the Prophets: e.g. "The vision
of Isaiah the son of Amoz".
Sometimes it was as in a
trance, or dream, but this was by no means general or invariable.
It certainly was not essentially a matter of ocular or objective
presentation, so that the matter took visual or oral form to the
senses. The "vision" came in various ways, and the
method is of little account. It is what it amounted to that is
important. That was
Message from the Lord for the Hour
We should resolve it all into
that. If we have the message of the Lord for the hour we
have what the Bible means by "Vision". If we have what
the Bible calls vision, we have the message of the Lord for the
hour; although the full fulfilment may reach far ahead.
It can therefore be easily seen
that the absence of such a message - especially if the hour is a
critical one - could have grave results. The Bible give various
instances and explanations of the absence of "vision".
Hosea 4:6,7 gives 'rejection'
as the cause, and note the serious reaction of the Lord to this
In 1 Samuel 3:1 spiritual
declension is the cause.
Or it might be because of
diversion and preoccupation with things other than the supreme
purpose of God.
Again, the spiritual organ of
vision may be so injured by selfish interests, or sinful
indulgences, or neglect, as to make seeing almost impossible.
Whatever may be the cause, the
result is serious.
That leads us to
"Perish" (A.V.) "Cast off Restraint" (R.V.)
But neither translation gives
the full content. By using various words or phrases we could get
nearer the meaning. 'The people let go: fall to pieces: go loose:
run wild: or disintegrate.'
A good example is seen in
Israel at the foot of Sinai worshipping the calf. The Lord told
Moses that they had "broken loose".
It may be disconcertedness,
bewilderment, consternation, distractedness, terror. Or it may be
disappointment, grief, perplexity, or impatience.
The causes may be many, but the
effect is disintegration. A disintegrated life or community is
one that is useless and helpless; weak, defeated, and paralysed.
So much for the definition - at
(a) If what is indicated above
is true, then surely the first part of the message is that of the
vital importance of there being a word from God for the hour.
It is essential to God's
purpose that there is in critical times and ominous days a vessel
with the essential message of God.
It is difficult to imagine a
more grievous and tragic situation than that of there being no
voice to interpret nor message to govern in a day when people are
pealed, broken and bewildered.
(b) What is the essential
element in 'vision', or the message from God?
It is certainly authority - the
voice of authority.
We could almost paraphrase our
text thus - "Where there is no voice of authority the people
go to pieces".
But this authority is not in
the tone or strength of voice or utterance. It is not in the
force of personality, or in any human factor in itself.
Nature of Authority?
(a) It is clarity and
certainty as to God's end and objective.
That is a statement made. We do not intend at this point to
indicate or discuss what that end is, but it will readily be seen
and realised that if there is not clarity and certainty as to
what God is set upon, working toward, and supremely concerned
with, there most certainly lacks the essential integrating factor
in life and work. For things to be ends in themselves; merely to
be doing things without an all-dominating, adequate, and
supremely justifying Divine purpose is to result in collapse,
loss of heart, and 'going to pieces' in the day of the fiery
(b) Then it is clarity and
certainty as to God's method.
Again, without at the moment trying to indicate what God's
method is, we but emphasize that God does have a method - His own
appointed and designed method - of reaching His end. That end is
not going to be reached either willy-nilly or by ways of man's
inventing, choosing, or designing. It is just on this point that
a vast amount of miscarriage, frustration, and loss have marked
so much expenditure.
To be able to indicate the
boundless method of God is to have that kind of authority which,
though it may be flouted or rejected meantime, will be vindicated
by eventual proof.
(c) Further, it is clarity
and certainty as to God's means.
Does it need stressing that God has always shown Himself to
be very jealous regarding the means employed for His purpose? To
be clear and sure on this matter is to be where God can commit
Himself, and that is always authority. While this matter of means
may apply to numerous things, it is discernible in Scripture that
God has His means chosen and appointed for reaching and realising
His end, and that He does not normally depart from it; and never
(d) Finally, it is clarity
and certainty as to God's principles.
That the Bible is a book of principles is its supreme value
and meaning. That God therefore builds and fulfils history and
design on spiritual principles - never deviating from them,
infringing, nor weakening as to them - is something of
fundamental importance to be apprehended. The recognition or
identifying of those principles, or the principle involved in any
situation, is to be in a position of great strength - authority.
This was the essential nature
of the authority which was so definitely felt in the case of
Christ Himself. Not mystic, psychic, or merely intellectual, but
a getting behind things as such to the principle involved.
This is what is meant by spiritual discernment, and without it
there is spiritual disintegration, or lack of integration, as at
Corinth (see 1 Corinthians, chapter 2).
All this is enough, at present,
to lead us to see that our text is very true and sound. We see
the tremendous power of "vision" in the matter of
bringing and holding together; what Paul called "standing
Application of the Principle
(a) To the
It is of supreme importance to
the strength and steadfastness of the individual Christian's life
that it is seen that there is a purpose unto which
and into which we are called in Christ. This is not only a life,
it is a life governed by a mighty objective.
(b) To the
For a clear, strong, and
effective testimony in any location it is essential that the
Church as represented there is more than a congregation, a number
of individuals; but a unit, a single corporate organic entity.
For this the essential is
"vision", that is, all seeing together God's purpose,
and being integrated thereby.
(c) To the
The only hope of a bettering of
the situation in the divided and therefore weakened Church as it
is, is the recovery of a seeing of God's single objective, the
recognition of God's essential method and means, and the
discernment of His unalterable and inviolable principles.
We shall try to fill in these
four features or components of authority later, but here we
present what we believe to be the necessity and the nature of
"vision", and must leave all who have any concern for
the interests of God and of His people to seek Him the more
earnestly for "a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the
(full) knowledge of him", 'the eyes of the understanding
being enlightened'. (Ephesians 1:7).
We close this part of our
consideration by pointing to the gravity and seriousness of this
matter in the light of present trends. It is our conviction that
Christianity is in the way of a serious crisis.
Our grounds for this conviction
will be stated later, but both from the Bible and from present
processes we feel that there is ample ground for believing that
Christianity will pass into a worldwide ordeal of testing and
It is spreading rapidly from
the East and, being energised by a supernatural force, with
Satan's last and consummate challenge to God's Christ as its
all-out motif, even its instruments will not be able to stop the
tiger that they have mounted.
But God's Sovereignty is over
all, and the issue is none other than what is truly, genuinely,
and intrinsically Christ and what is - not just opposite, but -
With this ordeal pressing on so
that every agency of men and institutions is proving impotent to
stem it, the greatest need of our time is a ministry and message
that brings God's people into the presence of that all-governing
purpose to which He has immovably committed Himself.
One of the perils of the hour
is to mistake the significance of things. For instance, there are
great evangelistic movements with tens of thousands being brought
together, and large numbers making a profession of
"accepting Christ". The peril in this for the Church is
to be caught up in it as the main and most important thing
in our time.
What really ought to be
recognised is that at best it is a large-scale drawing attention
to the fact of God and of Christ with a view to leaving the world
without excuse. This is according to Scripture.
The writer was impressed with
this when recently following immediately upon one such great
campaign in a city in America he asked a number of Counsellors
what the effect had been. The agreement of these was that of all
who had signed cards - a large proportion being "decisions
for Christ" - the majority were already members of churches.
This is tremendously significant, and would surely imply that God
is not willing to leave people in a false position. Would to God
that the convenors of large Christian conventions could realise
that, while "deepening of the spiritual life" is
essential to preparation for the ordeal, the motive and purpose,
the reason and mainspring is in God's eternal purpose, not in the
Christian life itself.
A tremendous additional factor
of immense effectiveness will come into such conventions if,
right at their centre there is that "prophetic"
ministry which - coming from "vision" - is God's
message for the hour in relation to - not just an
interpretation of "prophecy" (as of some school) - but
the spiritual significance of the course of things!
The Lord raise up and send such
First published in "A Witness and A
Testimony" magazine, Jan-Feb 1957, Vol 35-1