"WHERE THERE IS NO VISION ..."
“Where there is no vision, the people perish:
but he that keepeth the Law, happy is he” (Prov. 29:18)
The above citation contains what we might call an implied parallelism. That is, there are two parallel expressions bringing out differing aspects of the same thing. The first is “where there is no vision the people perish”, the second carries the implication that those who keep the Law shall see, shall not perish, but be happy: “but he that keepeth the Law, happy is he”. In this article, we wish to examine the theme of vision and spiritual sight, by way of exhortation for those who seek after heavenly things.
We have already stated the first conclusion above: that those who keep the Law are men and women of vision. These are they who look beyond the letter of the Mosaic ordinance to the spirit that it contained. Israel as a nation could not perceive the glory of the Law, how it foreshadowed how Jesus of Nazareth was their Messiah and Redeemer, and are therefore described in Scripture as having no vision.
When Moses descended from the mount (having been in the Divine Presence) his face shone with glory. Indeed, it shone to such an extent that the people were afraid, and could not look upon it. To remedy the situation, Moses wore a veil across his face, until the glory faded, and he would appear as normal.
The point made in 2 Corinthians chapter 3, is that this is like the way in which the people could not look upon the glory of the Law. The Law had a glory, but like Moses’ face, it was a fading glory, to be replaced by another, greater glory still. And just as Israel could not look upon Moses’ face, even so they could not perceive it’s glory in relation it’s teaching regarding Christ. So the Apostle writes:
“ … we use great plainness of speech: and not as Moses which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished. But their minds were blinded: for until this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart”
Israel therefore, suffered from blindness of heart: being without vision they perished in their sins.
But Gentiles also suffer from blindness and antipathy to Divine things. So the next chapter continues:
“if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not. Lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ should shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:3-4)
So it is then, that both Jew and Gentile come together in their ignorance and disbelief concerning the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.
However, the same chapter speaks of those who do have spiritual sight; who are able to look beyond the temporal affairs of the present to the day of coming glory when Messiah shall reward men according to their deeds:
“our light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18).
The Apostle Paul was truly a man of vision—though he experienced many trials and difficulties, yet he remained focussed on the things to do with the coming kingdom: eternal things, things of great weight than the difficulties of this life that shall become but a fading memory in the Age to Come.
“Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law”
This passage (from Psa. 119:18) is often misquoted as ‘evidence’ for divine guidance coming upon us, leading us into a correct understanding of divine things. So it is reasoned that we should ask for the help of God’s spirit to guide our thoughts into an understanding of his ways. We have refuted this argument in a previous issue, but would like to notice a number of features in this context.
Firstly, the word “open” as in “open thou mine eyes” carries the sense of “uncover” or unveil—and is so rendered 34 times in the AV. David is therefore desiring to see those thing hidden from Jewry generally—he wishes to know those thing veiled from them. The second point to note is that David was a prophet, and by definition therefore was also a “seer,” shown things by revelation, which things are laid upon for us to read in the Holy Scripture.
Speaking of David along these lines, Peter spoke at the day of Pentecost:
“… being a prophet, and knowing that God ha sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption …” (Acts 2:30-31)
Here then is the fulfilment of David’s request to be unveiled, and see things pertaining to Messiah: as a prophet, “seeing this before”, he spake thus and thus.
In this same place, it is highly interesting to note that Peter cites Psalm 16 in application to Christ:
“David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved … thouhast make known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy face” (Acts 2:25-28).
Our Master then, had a vision of Joy: he was made “full of joy” – but by what? “with thy countenance [i.e. face]”. So the Psalm in question states: “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psa. 16:11). Christ then looked to the Joy at his Father’s Right Hand.
The principles of this Psalm are also cited in Hebrews chapter 12, where we are specifically invited to look to Jesus as one who overcame the world through the vision of Joy that he had ever before him:
“… let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God …” (Heb. 12:2).
It wasn’t simple determination that enabled our Master to overcome: it was a joyous vision that lay beyond the sufferings of this life. Like Paul, Messiah despised the shame of suffering in mortal weakness, but also like Paul, he was focussed on that weight of glory that is laid up for those who overcome.
A VISION OF HOPE AND JOY
Speaking of the patriarchs of old Hebrews chapter 11 records: “these all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb. 11:13).
Notice this: they did not simply believe the promises, being persuaded, they “embraced” them in love—an not only so, for their sight led them to confess that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. They belonged to a day yet future, a day that belongs to those who yearn for it during the darkness of a Gentile night. So Jesus specifically recorded of Abraham, that he “rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (Jno. 8:56). Like Messiah himself, Abraham rejoiced at the vision set before him, and manifested the faith that saves.
Another Old Testament Character who demonstrated a vision of heavenly things, is Job. Despite the weight of affliction that he endured, he maintained his confidence and hope throughout: “Though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job. 19:26). Job manifest the nature of Christ’s own faith: a vision of joy and pleasures at the right hand of enthroned Omnipotence. This is what we look towards: to “see God” (Mat. 5:8):
“beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1Jno. 3:2).
THE SHAME OF NAKEDNESS
Our opening citation reads in the AV: “where there is no vision, the people perish”, however, the marginal rendering gives a different sense for the word “perish”. The word literally means to unloose, and hence the marginal rendering is “made naked.” There are many passages that exhort us to be found wearing proper spiritual clothing at the coming of Messiah, but I’d just like to consider one of these:
“Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed his he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame” (Rev. 16:15).
Notice the context here: again it is to do with having sight, but here it is “watching” those things going on around us. We need to watch, and take care that we remain spiritually clothed with fine linen which is the righteousness of saints (Rev. 19:8).
Again, we see the importance of having spiritual sight: without it, we will be unable to behold affairs as they stand in the sight of God, and will not clothe ourselves accordingly. We find then, that there are 2 senses in which we must have “vision”, firstly an ability to perceive Divine things, and secondly, to be aware of our surroundings, and events of the world around us. With these two combined, we behold a vision of glory yet to come, and be watchful in a day of darkness and danger, to enable us to prepare for that day.