2004-07-10_1502_fromjoewatson

In last week’s post, I maintained that vision-casting is a non-biblical, deceptive teaching. I wrote that in this erroneous teaching, the word “goal” had been transformed into the word “vision.” Setting a goal for one’s self, business, or organization is a good idea. But a goal is not a vision. One has an earthly origin, the other a heavenly one. (Please tuck this goal vs. vision truth in the creases of your brain somewhere, because it will come up later.)

The next issue we must deal with is the primary genesis of this false belief. It is just one verse. In truth, it’s half of one verse.

This half-verse is the pinnacle, the go-to scripture, for this teaching. Quoting half of a verse is not always a bad thing, but it should cause us to sit up, take notice, and check it out. And when one checks this one out, the flaws in the vision-casting doctrine become obvious.

What is the half-verse? If you’re a Christian, you probably already know it: “Where there is no vision, the people perish:” (Proverbs 29:18a).1

Please note three issues. First, the first part of the verse ends with a colon. That means something is to follow.

Second, only the King James Version translates this verse using the word “perish.” All the rest use “cast off restraint,” or some variation thereof. The ESV reads: “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.”2

The third issue is the other half of Proverbs 29:18b: “But he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”

Regardless of which translation is used, however, a gigantic problem arises when one reads the entire verse. Visions, revelations, or words from the Lord, like prophecies, are truths from God, from the heavenlies. No one—no one—in Scripture started out thinking he or she had a commission from God because of a vision or a revelation he had come up with on his own, due to his passion, right thinking, statistical analysis of felt needs, or urban growth patterns.

Proverbs 29:18 speaks the truth. If God hasn’t given a prophet among His people a revelation of the truth of their condition and given a remedy or wisdom concerning that condition, then His followers may begin to ascertain that He has abandoned them and is no longer leading or blessing them and thus “cast off restraint.” However, the last half of the verse provides the remedy for that unfortunate condition: “…but blessed is he who keeps the law.” The law is meant to keep God’s people from casting off restraint, from doing whatever they please apart from God’s will, and blessed are those that keep it. Think about what happened in the Book of Judges, which ends with this verse: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). At that time in Israel’s history, no king existed whom God had chosen, and no one was offering prophetic guidance. Therefore, unfortunately, many of God’s people did not keep the law as God commanded. Chaos ensued.

Before Samuel arrived, the people of Israel rarely heard from God: “Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD in the presence of Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision” (1 Samuel 3:1). Eventually, the Lord called Samuel to the office of prophet when the priest Eli and his priestly sons were rejected because of their evil behavior. Not only was the general population doing “what was right in his own eyes,” the holy priesthood of God was, as well. And what was right in the eyes of the sons of Eli was having sex with women in a way that dishonored God. “Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting” (1 Samuel 2:22).

Like Israel, God’s people today need both—heavenly communication, whether it’s a prophetic word or a vision—and God’s law, which He has provided for us in Scripture. This provides another set of issues, but two guidelines are that we are to test prophecies, and they must agree with God’s Word (1 Thessalonians 5:20; 1 Corinthians 14:28; 1 John 4:1).

Very few pastors and leaders who claim they have a “vision” for their churches today have had a vision from the Lord, as the Bible defines it. Instead, they had a “vision” about a direction, an emphasis, or a strategy for their churches. None of the people who had visions in Scripture heard about a goal in ministry that they themselves, with careful planning and God’s help, should strive to reach. That’s the wrong emphasis about what a vision or word from the Lord is. The visions and revelations that people had were what God—not them—was going to do, although it often required the hearer to obey God’s commands in faith. However, often faith was not even required. The greatest example was the promise of a coming Redeemer. What did God’s people do in faith and obedience to bring that one to pass? They were continually unfaithful.

In addition, many of the biblical visions and words from God were a mixed bag of good and bad news. For example, Abram’s children would have an abundance of children and possess the land, but the Lord also revealed in His communication with Abram that they would be enslaved for four hundred years. Jesus promised He would return but that very difficult days would precede that event. Have you ever heard a pastor tell you of the suffering that will come when they claim they have had a vision for your church?

Please don’t naively swallow the words of a pastor or leader when they announce that they have had a vision from God about your church. Perhaps they have. So, ask them and ask for details. Was this man’s vision about what God would do, or what the church should do, with planning and strategy? One is a heavenly encounter. One is a goal.

1The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

2The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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