“Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained…” (Proverbs 29:18)
This one proverb from among many in this portion of what is commonly referred to as the Bible’s wisdom literature has been ruminating in my mind for the last several days. I suspect it’s because I perceive, more and more, a decline in moral restraint that extends to the edges of my sight’s horizons. Fundamental rights and wrongs, as framed by a Judeo-Christian understanding, do not have the same influence they once had over personal behavior, regard for others, and in group behavior. Notions of what is good and what is cause for shame seem to have shifted significantly, and the shift continues.
Please, don’t misunderstand this as a plea to go back to the “good old days.” As a close friend once said, “The good old days weren’t so good for some people.” I’m referencing a biblically-based morality that views all people as equally valuable before GOD because each one carries within them His image.
Of course, there have always been pockets of exceptions to these notions of what is inherently good and what is not, but the dominant ethos (at least in the west) generally served to corral and constrain those occasions so that they remained exceptions. Postmodern thinking has helped to redefine that ethos so that what is moral and what is ethical is now much more flexible, as defined by each individual. This is not a blanket condemnation of postmodernism; I think it has some very strong points. My problem is how the postmodern mindset handles truth; its emphasis on the ideal of individualism is not and cannot be biblical.
The writer of this particular proverb was speaking of prophetic vision as revealed by GOD. It is that inner vision of reality defined by GOD and accepted, by faith, as being completely and exclusively valid. This inner vision often conflicts with our physical senses, i.e. underlying the need for such axioms as “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
We see this conflict in the intense struggles of the post-exodus, pre-monarchy nation of Israel to remain faithful to GOD (ref. the Book of Judges). What they saw in the nations around them was so appealing that they repeatedly broke covenant with GOD, the One who had rescued them and claimed them as a nation of priests dedicated to His service (in order to benefit the rest of the world). The ancient Israelites lost restraint because they lost sight of who GOD is and replaced Him with the religion and values of the surrounding cultures. The results: they went their own way again, and again…and again, conforming to the world around them. And each time, it led to disaster and their need for rescue.
This need for an inner vision of GOD as the basis for having and sustaining a covenantal relationship with Him has not changed. It was why the later prophets preached to audiences whose ears were too often closed. It is why we need Jesus who was the physical manifestation of that vision. It is why everything said subsequently by the apostles and elders was an affirmation and explanation of Him. Jesus even said, “…Apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5), meaning nothing of any value to GOD.
In my estimation, there is a lot of nothing going on these days. Unfortunately, what I am calling nothing is revealing itself in ways that causes damage to the self and causes damage to each other, and it flows from a lack of restraint.
Having an inner vision of GOD is not the sole privilege of any select group. It is meant for everyone and is available to anyone who is willing to do the work of cultivating it. When seeds are planted, carefully watered and watched, plants grow. Students who pay attention in class, do their homework, and read the assigned texts usually learn many things they didn’t know before. Those who commit themselves to performing their job duties well often find that they are given more responsibility and privilege. It’s called “putting in the time.” GOD does not reveal Himself cheaply; we’ve got to put in the time: “If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me,” He declared (Jeremiah 29:13). Who’s putting in the time? Who’s seeking after GOD?
I’m concerned by what I think is a noticeable increase in unrestrained living. Maybe that’s just the direction humanity is taking. In that case, what responsibility do those, who claim to have the proverbial “personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” have to live with a strong inner vision of GOD that manifests itself as “salt” that is actually salty and “light” that is not hidden (Matt. 5:13-14) rather than being contributors in any way to things that are neither of GOD nor condoned by GOD? I believe His way is clear to any who choose to know it.
You might be tempted to attribute this to my increasing age. You know how it is said that people tend to get more conservative as they get older. I don’t think that’s the case here. Time will tell.
“The only thing worse than being blind is having no vision.” (Helen Keller)
© Byron L. Hannon, 2020. All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.