from a sermon by Nolan Roby on June 29, 2004
Spiritual vision will be the keynote for this study. The text is found in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”
Good vision is an asset. When I was in the eighth grade, I sat in the back of the classroom. As the teacher was trying to describe verbs and adverbs, I was a little embarrassed to tell her that I could not see the black board to read what was on it. My folks took me to the eye doctor, where I was diagnosed as having progressive myopia—nearsightedness that would get worse as I got older. A number of years later I went to a different optometrist who said, “I have good news, Mr. Roby. Your eyesight is getting better. As you get older you may not have to wear glasses,” and he changed my prescription. That was encouraging! However, as important as physical eyesight is, it is of far greater importance to have good spiritual vision.
If you take this verse of Scripture and paraphrase it, you might say, “When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild.” Or, “Where there is no prophetic vision, the people cast off restraint.” But the verse does not stop there. It continues, “He that keepeth the law, happy is he.”
Other Scriptures make reference to visions. For example, we read in Joel 2:28 that in the last days “your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” The prophet Habakkuk said, “Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it” (Habakkuk 2:2). However, I am not speaking of vision in the sense of dreams or significant impressions attributed to a divine agency. Rather, I believe our text is referring to an understanding of simply hearing the Word of God and heeding it.
We use Scripture to interpret Scripture. Compare our text, “Where there is no vision, the people perish,” with 1 Samuel 3:1, “And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.” This indicates that the vision we are talking about has everything to do with God’s Word. If people cast off the restraints of God’s Word, they will perish. If they refuse divine guidance, they will run wild. We do not have to use our imaginations to see how that description aligns with our world today. We do not want to be among those who have no vision.
We often use the expression about “seeing the value” in something. That does not mean we ascribe worth in dollars and cents, but rather that we recognize the inherent value. The value of the vision spoken of in our text is the unifying principle in our hearts that allows us to appreciate and enjoy the Gospel together.
We want to remember the practical side of the Gospel. When one gets into the mysterious and the unknown and impressions not really connected to Scripture, leave me out of it. I just want to value the Word of God as it is, and apply it to my life. The Apostle Paul prayed that the eyes of the believers’ understanding would be opened so that they would be able to see the riches of His inheritance in the saints (see Ephesians 1:18). We want that same kind of spiritual vision: eyes that are open to the value of the Word of God and its precepts.
One practical manifestation of a vision for the Gospel is a love for others. My wife does not like to take me to the grocery store because I stop and talk to people. I enjoy people! I am interested in the young people of this church. I am interested in letting them know that we are interested in them. They need to see that we love them. That is part of the vision, the practical side of it.
We will want to protect our spiritual eyesight form hindrances. We read in Matthew 7:3-5, “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” We certainly cannot see to help our brother if all we focus on is the “mote”—those minor areas where he needs to improve—and not the “beam” in our own eye.
God is not so hard up that He has to make duplicates. He only makes originals; we all are His originals and we are unique. At times we may view things a little differently or express ourselves in individual ways. However, the Word of God is the same and God wants to give us the vision to be able to see exactly the way He wants us to see.
There are eye tests where the optometrist says, “Which line is darker, the one on the left or the one on the right?” Or he may ask, “Can you read the letters on the bottom line of the chart?” Sometimes my eyes do not seem to focus correctly, and I have to say, “I just cannot get it.” In the Gospel there may be things we do not understand, but the Lord will give the vision we need to understand what we need to know.
Christians need to be aware of why things are the way they are in the world. Our text says that “where there is no vision, the people perish.” In Romans 1:21-31, we find what happens when people cast off restraint—they become spiritually perverted. Do we appreciate the disciplines of God’s Word? We must appreciate them! In verses 26-27, we see that when people cast off restraints they can become perverted sexually. It is no accident that we see what we see in our society today—where there is no vision people run wild. In verses 29-31, we read that man becomes perverted socially. His relationships are all out of kilter.
Notice God’s response to this spiritual and sexual perversion, as recorded in this passage. In verses 24 and 26 we read, “God gave them up.” In verse 28 it says, “God gave them over.” That is God’s role in what is happening when people refuse the simple truths of God’s Word. Today, a range of seminars and other avenues are available to help damaged relationships. However, the most important relationship is with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. If that is rejected, there is no foundation for the right kind of living. We cannot promise society anything other than failure when they disregard the simple truths of God’s Word and refuse to walk in the light of God’s Word.
Statistics tell us that currently one out of two marriages in the United States end up in divorce, that one out of five marriages where the couple received premarital counseling and are in the church end up in divorce, but that only one out of 1,250 marriages where couples pray together end up in divorce. That is a pretty good argument in favor of individuals who decide to put the Lord first in their life—those who do not want to be among the ones who run wild or cast off restraint. They want to abide by God’s law and be happy. That is the vision—the practical side of it.
You might wonder how we get better vision. Is there a way our vision can be improved? Yes, but sometimes the circumstances that bring about improved vision are not easy. In Job 42:5 we read, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.” A lot happened in Job’s life between his hearing and his seeing. You can read the details in the book of Job, and it is a good idea to do so. If you read about Job, you will find that he suffered severe trial, but he came through it. And then Job proclaimed, “now mine eyes seeth thee.” Job’s vision improved through suffering.
In Hebrews 5:13-14, we read of those who are babes in a spiritual sense—who are “unskilful in the word of righteousness,” contrasted to those who are of full age, “who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” As you grow older in the Gospel, it is not how old you are, but how you are old! We should all be learning. Newborn babes in Christ might not be able to understand why they feel the way they feel. They may reach a dry place spiritually and get it mixed up with just being tired physically. Who knows? We learn as we go, and our spiritual maturity and vision should continually increase.
God says that, “No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11). You might face something in your life that hurts. I have had a few experiences myself like that. Do you know what I do? I take my burden to the Lord! I just “batten down the hatches” so to speak, and ride out the storm. If we humble ourselves before God and say, “I do not understand but I will trust You anyway,” we will grow.
When Job came out of his trial, the Bible tells us that he had twice as much as he had before. I thought about that. When I came out of a “light affliction” this past year, I can say I had twice as much appreciation for the saints of God. I had twice as much appreciation for the church services I could go to. God doubled what I had before! The blessings Job received after his trial were visible. The blessings that we receive may be invisible; they are more eternally oriented. But we thank God that when we have a vision to heed the Word of God, we are going to be blessed.
Sometimes there are spiritual muddles that can cloud our spiritual vision. You cannot just think those situations away. The only thing to do is to keep on obeying. In Psalm 27:13, the psalmist said, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” We would all faint if we did not believe to see the goodness of God. Often we hear the Scripture quoted, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Sometimes individuals have a lot of concern as to why some things happen. I believe that Paul the Apostle showed us through this verse the way we should feel; he asserted there was nothing that could happen to him outside of God’s permissive and sovereign will. There was nothing that did not have a purpose. I think that is the way that we as Christians should look at it; nothing can come into our lives but what God allows to happen. He is sovereign. He allows things to happen to increase our spiritual vision—to help us to understand.
If you are unsaved today, you do not have spiritual vision but are blinded by sin. In Scripture we read, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). So many people say after they become Christians, “No one ever told me it was this way. It is so wonderful!” My own brother-in-law said, “If I would have known it was so easy I would have done it years ago.” It is the devil’s business to blind the minds and hearts of people. In 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 we read, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” You and I need to be aware of the fact that the gods of this world can blind our minds. I do not want my mind blinded. I do not want my witness, my testimony, my marriage, my relationship with my wife, or my brothers and sisters in the Gospel to be tainted because my spiritual eyesight has been affected by the gods of this world.
The tug-of-war for man’s soul is nowhere more strikingly visible than in the family. That is where the enemy is striking—in the home. Young couples, your witness as a married couple is very strong in this day and age. It is a powerful force to find a man and woman who serve God together, who have covenanted to obey God’s Word. The Bible says to husbands, “Love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church” (Ephesians 5:25). That is so practical—the practical side of the Gospel.
When the eye doctor gave me a new prescription for my glasses, he did not say, “Now you will be able to see the space station orbiting out there in space,” or “You will be able to see through walls,” or “You are going to be able to see the microorganisms in the water you drink.” When it comes to our spiritual vision, we will be able to see what we need to see, and what we see will be practical and down-to-earth in nature.
I have been married many years, and I have tried to find the vision that God wants me to see as a husband. In Ephesians 5:25, husbands are instructed to love their wives as Christ loved the church. That’s practical! How did Christ love the church? He loved the church constantly, completely, sacrificially; that is the same way a husband should love his wife. If your love for your wife is not sacrificial, it really has no redeeming value. That is what marriage is about—serving each other. That is the practical side of life and the practical side of the Gospel.
Jesus said He loved the church, “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That He might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle” (Ephesians 5:26-27). The vision in this Scripture validates that I should love my wife with a purpose—a purpose that she will blossom, grow, and be a glorious woman. I should live with that purpose continually in my heart. There is a lot in that statement, “Husbands, love your wives” (Ephesians 5:25). The challenge is there, but that is a vision the world has not caught today.
Another part of this vision is found in 1 Peter 3:7 where it reads, “Giving honour unto the wife.” Talking with several women in a hospital awhile back, they said, “You know, the problem that we have is that after we were married our husbands quit courting us. We felt like we were just like a trophy that he had gained, and we were placed on a shelf and forgotten about.” Just because you gain a wife does not mean you should quit courting her. That is part of the vision! The entire verse reads, “Dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7). Why? “That your prayers be not hindered.” I do not want my relationship with my wife in any way to hinder my prayers. I have sons, daughters-in-law, grandsons and granddaughters. They need to know that Grandpa’s prayers are reaching Heaven, and it may be a direct result of my relationship with my wife.
Today, we want our vision renewed. Consider the account of Jacob. He came to a crisis point in his life, and he went down by the brook and prayed. The Lord said to Jacob, “for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (Genesis 32:28). We always say that Jacob was given new strength and a new name here—Israel. But he also received a new vision, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30). If our lives are going to be preserved, we are going to have to see God “face to face” as we seek His will for our lives.
How is your spiritual vision today? If you are blinded by sin, God has a remedy. If your spiritual vision needs improvement or renewal, seek God for that. He wants your spiritual vision to be healthy, clear, and unimpaired—and if you will yield to Him and purpose to follow Him in obedience, that is possible!