“Where there is no vision, the people perish …”
This was a go-to verse in the last church I attended. It was often used to introduce new ideas to the congregation so that there would be a united response in the affirmative. After all, did anyone actually want to perish without a church vision?
I don’t believe my experience was an isolated one. I have heard this verse used in a similar vein by christian leaders from across the world. Is there anything wrong with this approach, though? I mean, the verse clearly says that the people will perish without a vision! When we look a little closer, I think we’ll see that this wonderful verse has truly been misused all too often.
The first thing that should be quite obvious for us here, is that the vision spoken of needs to be one directly from YHWH. How could these words possibly mean that a man-made scheme is the vision in mind?! Unless the vision is from YHWH, then it has no certainty attached to it. All the prophets of Scripture had a vision to write down for us, and without exception, the words were from YHWH alone.
The second thing to consider is what the actual word “perish” is telling us. We would often think of perish with death in mind, but this is not what the word means. The meaning is more in line with terms such as “to loose, uncover, let go, be unrestrained” and “to dismiss or refuse”. These descriptions give us a very different understanding to the way many people have been using this verse.
What we are really seeing here is that when we don’t accept YHWH’s vision in our lives, then we are actually refusing it and becoming unrestrained in some way. This is not where we want to find ourselves.
Perhaps this verse still seems a little vague, so let’s look at the second half of the proverb (which is almost always left out), and I think things will become crystal clear.
“… but He that keeps the Torah, happy is he.”
You see, the second part of the verse clarifies the first. The vision in mind are the instructions given directly to us in the Torah. They are from YHWH Himself and bring us happiness and blessing when we live by them. If we refuse to follow His ways, then we are refusing the God who gave them to us and live an unrestrained (lawless) life outside of His will.
Don’t let this verse be used to manipulate you into any of man’s schemes – but equally, take this entire verse at face value and realise that there’s a choice to make. Let’s choose the blessing of following our Father’s ways as exemplified through Yeshua. Let us take hold of the vision and live by it all the days of our lives.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish,
but He that keeps the Torah, happy is he.”