“Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,” (Proverbs 29:18a).
What does that expression, “prophetic vision” mean. Different versions of the Bible give different renderings. Perhaps the most familiar to us is the King James version which simply says, “vision.” Look at a sample of some other versions.
(CEV) Without guidance from God, law and order disappear,
(ERV) If a nation is not guided by God, the people will lose self-control,
(GNB) A nation without God’s guidance is a nation without order.
(GW) Without prophetic vision people run wild,
(CEB) When there’s no vision, the people get out of control,
(MSG) If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves;
(NCV) Where there is no word from God, people are uncontrolled,
(NLV) Where there is no understanding of the Word of the Lord, the people do whatever they want to,
The point of this verse is obvious. Where there is no understanding – no vision, no insight – into God’s will for man, people have no direction, no sense of purpose. To go through life without any idea of why we are here and where we are going is to be lost in a dark and hostile world. Lacking prophetic vision – insight into the word of God, people grope about as in darkness. The psalmist spoke of the value of the word of God to himself…
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105).
Vision is essential to having a sense of purpose both for individuals and for nations. Jesus gave some insight as to God’s purpose for Christians in John 17:20-23 where Jesus prays for the unity of believers. Why did God want people to be one? Here’s the purpose… “…so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Now, are we living out that purpose in the world? How can we be? There is so much division in all aspects of humanity and it is especially true of the religious world. Sects and denominations dominate and the world loves to have it so. People united can be a tremendous force for faith and freedom. It is hard to argue against something so obviously of God as a people united, but the divided condition of believers is a disgrace and the world pays us no attention. Our testimony to the grace of God falls on deaf ears because our unwillingness or inability to extend grace to others discredits us. We do not offer a “prophetic vision” – a keen insight into God’s will for the lives of all men.
I don’t claim to be a prophet, but I will offer an opinion as to why our civilization is in the condition it is in at the present. At least one reason for the degeneracy of Western civilization is the failure of the Christian religion to project a clear, coherent message to the world of God’s will for the human race.
One thing is the limited view so many churches have of salvation. To most people the mission of the church is to get people “saved” so their soul can go to heaven when they die. There is no relevancy in reference to the present needs of humanity. For others salvation is a social salvation from poverty or disease or ignorance. Many churches are interested mainly in maintaining their status quo. They have a history, a tradition to maintain and their effort is mainly to that end.
But the church is at war and that is not a very popular thing these days. Christians are soldiers in a battle for the minds and hearts of people. The picture Paul paints is not one of irenic serenity, but of bloody combat. Oh, not physical, but every bit as deadly and with far greater, far longer lasting consequences.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
In this text, Paul is speaking of his ministry, defending himself against people who accused him of not being an apostle. He was set, prepared and had a willingness to engage all enemies of the truth. He uses the language of warfare in this vivid description of what he and all Christians are up against. Paul had purposed to fight for truth against the arrogant promoters of the philosophies of his day.
The idea of destroying strongholds is that of assaulting the protective fortifications of an enemy emplacement and battering down the walls of their forts. In a war, one does not destroy the enemy with the niceties of fun, food and frolic as churches of today offer as enticements to the “unchurched,” but with weapons competent to render the enemy incapable of either defense or offense. Arguments, ideas, opinions of men overcome by false doctrines are to be destroyed – obliterated – rendered useless to the enemy. And instead of all that is against God, faith in God and fear of God are to replace the false.
But this can’t be done when people have neither the purpose nor the preparation to engage the enemies of truth. How can people combat ideas if they have no knowledge of what is to be used against falsehood? The prophet Hosea complained about the people of his day; “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;” (Hosea 4:6). They did not know the law of God because they did not know God.
That, unfortunately, is the condition of many who claim to be Christians today. They have bought into the false ideas advanced by the world, justifying their sinful lives by the same arguments used by the worldly. They do not even perceive that the philosophies they live by are false, much less being able to destroy them, much less even wanting to destroy them.
What people who profess to believe in God today need is to be fitted with a new suit of armor! The armor Paul described in Ephesians 6:10-19. In our fight against “rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over this present darkness…and…spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” We are to put on.. “the belt of truth…the breastplate of righteousness…as shoes for your feet the readiness given by the gospel of peace…the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; …the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”
Last of all the apostle names prayer as an essential for success in this cosmic battle. Prayer to God is a recognition that we lack the power to accomplish the task at hand. We say to Him that we cannot do the job alone and must rely on Him for His aid. Thus calling Him to our side, there is no enemy that can overcome us and no battle we can’t win!