There is a sobering sentence in the Hebrew Scriptures, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” (King James Version of Proverbs 29.18) Specsavers may want to use it as an advertising slogan, warning drivers not to start on a journey without their glasses adjusted and in place!
This saying is often used to justify a church talking about the future and “our vision” of what God wants of us. Now, no one is going to argue against the value of sharing with each other our hopes and dreams, our insights and uncertainties. But is this saying from the Book of Proverbs suggesting that the People of Israel should gather together for a “vision day”?
A modern version of the Bible, NIV for example, translates this verse from Proverbs:
Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint;
but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.
or in the Good News Translation:
A nation without God's guidance is a nation without order.
Happy are those who keep God's law!
The saying is an encouragement to the nation to listen to all the sources of Godly wisdom and to take heed of them. Alongside the encouragement goes the warning that where people ignore what God is saying there will be chaos as each person or community acts according to their own desires and wishes!
Proverbs tells us that before we speak of “our vision” we need to ask, “What is God’s vision?” What does God want for our world, our society, our church and our own individual lives? If there was one, simple source of Godly wisdom, written for 2018, just for those living in Darley Dale, life would be easier. But there isn’t! Nevertheless, there are sources of Godly wisdom through which we can hear God speaking.
First, Jewish and Christian Scripture. Taking shape over 2-3,000 years ago, these writings tell us about the joys and sorrows, successes and failures of communities with a deep awareness of God. Even in 2018, as we read these writings from the past, we can often sense that God is speaking to us about the way we should live - and not live - in the world today.
Secondly, Jesus and the Christian Story. It is in the light of Jesus that we interpret both the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. His cross casts its shadow over Jewish history and right up to 2018. In quiet and prayer, we reflect on God’s wisdom revealed in his life, death and resurrection. We ponder how our church should express that love, forgiveness, hope and new life in her worship and daily witness.
Finally, Godly Wisdom in the World. Christians listen for God’s word in the world around us. We don’t accept every word that claims to be true. Neither do we simply dismiss all her words as fake news. For instance, through God’s Spirit, Christians listen carefully to the warning that unless we care for this frail planet, it will begin to die! If God is speaking through this word, how does it affect our vision and how do we respond?
It’s right we seek God’s vision for us at Darley Dale. We just heed the encouragement of Proverb’s writer: “Make sure you Look and Listen before you Speak and Act!”
Christ’s peace be with you,
The Rev. Colin Smith is a retired Methodist minister who lives in the nearby village of Tansley and our thanks go to him for this month’s minister’s message.
The picture below is not one of Colin, but our own minister, the Rev. Doctor Robert Foster.