Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. — Proverbs 29:18
We may never fully understand the tremendous influence of a holy, Spirit-filled person who is committed to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. David Brainerd was such a person; he was a man who was intensely aware that “where there is no vision [spiritual revelation or divine guidance], the people perish.”
Brainerd was born in a Connecticut village on April 20, 1718. Orphaned at the age of fourteen, he earned his living by working on farms, and eventually went to live with the pastor of a local church. Under that godly man’s teaching, he became a serious student of the Bible and began setting aside whole days to fast and pray as he sought God. Finally, on July 12, 1739, he had a glorious salvation experience. A longing for the whole world to see “this lovely, blessed, and excellent way” sprang up in his heart.
Brainerd was plagued by poor health. Tuberculosis (known as “consumption” in those days) was widespread in colonial New England, and he contracted the disease in his youth. In spite of this ailment, however, at the age of twenty-four he began a missionary career among the Native American tribes of the East Coast.
Shortly after the start of his missionary work, feeling that his first months had been woefully unproductive, Brainerd set aside a day “for secret fasting and praying from morning till night.” He was overwhelmed by a sense of his own unworthiness, the depravity of the tribes he was attempting to reach for Christ, and the weakened condition of his body. He read extensive passages from the Bible, dwelling especially on the accounts of men such as Elijah and Paul. Brainerd longed to be like them. From these times of intercession, the pattern of his life was formed, as he solemnly consecrated himself to walk in the footsteps of the heroes of the Bible. “O that I may be, as were they, aflame for God,” he wrote in his diary.
Brainerd’s first journey to the Delaware people resulted in a miracle that preserved his life and established him among the tribes in the region as a “prophet of God.” Encamped on the outskirts of a Native American settlement, Brainerd planned to enter the community the next morning to preach. He was unaware that he was being watched by warriors who had been sent to kill him. However, when the men drew close to Brainerd’s tent, they saw the missionary on his knees. As he prayed, a rattlesnake slithered next to him and prepared to strike, flicking its forked tongue almost in the missionary’s face. Amazingly, the snake suddenly turned and glided away into the brush. “The Great Spirit is with the paleface!” the Indians said, and when he approached their village, they welcomed him.
For five years, Brainerd traveled from village to village, preaching with such tenderness and conviction that the inhabitants were frequently melted to tears. His efforts took a terrible toll on him physically, but he felt compelled to put his whole strength into evangelism.
Brainerd was only twenty-nine years of age when he passed away. His gravestone says simply, “A faithful and laborious missionary to the Stockbridge, Delaware, and Susquehanna Indians.” However, his life challenged many to dedicate themselves for Christian service. World-famous missionaries such as Henry Martyn, William Carey, and Adoniram Judson pointed to David Brainerd’s devotion as a source of personal inspiration.
As our focus verse states, Brainerd knew that where there is ignorance of God, the people perish in sin. Because of that compelling truth, he devoted his short life to doing everything in his power to spread God’s message.
Do we understand the importance of the vision that motivated David Brainerd? What are we doing to proclaim the Gospel?
This chapter, which offers counsel to both rulers and citizens, concludes the section of Solomon’s proverbs copied by Hezekiah’s scribes, which began at Proverbs 25.
Several negative categories of people are mentioned in this text: the defiant, the flatterer, the scornful, the bloodthirsty, the angry, and the thief. As is common throughout the Book of Proverbs, several contrasts are made between the wise and the foolish. Specific instruction is also given to parents, primarily related to proper discipline.
In this chapter, attitudes are addressed. Verse 1 states that those who stubbornly refuse to act upon reproof will be swiftly and suddenly destroyed. Verse 7 contrasts the person with a compassionate, caring heart to one who is unconcerned about the poor. Verses 22-23 stress that anger stirs up conflict, and a prideful attitude ultimately results in humiliation.
Several of the verses relate to the responsibility of rulers. Verse 2 emphasizes that a righteous ruler brings gladness to the people, but a wicked ruler causes mourning. Verse 4 presents a parallel thought, bringing out that a king who practices justice establishes the land. Verse 12 points out that the servants of a king will likely adapt themselves to the practices of the sovereign; if he accepts falsehoods, those who serve him will become skillful in lying. In verse 14, the point is made that faithfulness to the poor will bring stability to the kingdom. Verse 26 acknowledges that while many will seek the favor of an earthly king, only God controls the destiny of men.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. The sayings of the way of wisdom
C. The words of Solomon arranged by the men of Hezekiah
2. The 119 proverbs
If we fail to spread the message of salvation, those whose lives we might have influenced may perish in their sins. May God help each one of us to do our part to proclaim His truth!