Be Thou My Vision

Yesterday, somehow I managed to have two documents sent or given to me that asked for comments and that related to the theme of prophetic vision.  When that sort of confluence happens I feel somewhat obligated to discuss the matter, as I do not tend to be a believer in coincidence, no matter how random and odd my life may be.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, there were a great deal of differences between the two documents, and different approaches based on different perspectives, but the shared similarity of larger theme was all the more striking, especially given that prophetic vision is not the sort of subject I deal with often among my friends [1].  I wish to compare and contrast the approaches of these documents and give a picture that captures at least some of the facets of what makes this subject of interest to so many for so many different reasons.

But first, a digression.  Yesterday in my reading of a long book as part of my Theonomy reading, I was ploughing my way through a 100-page chapter on the seventh commandment only to read a comment by the postmillennialist author that those who happen to be premillennialist lack any sort of belief in the applicability of laws concerning the Kingdom of God.  Being a premillennialist myself, I wondered what planet this person came from and what sort of a clue he thought had, because he was entirely mistaken.  To believe that it will require the return of Jesus Christ and the active destruction of the present-day fallen regimes of this world is merely to take Daniel 2, Matthew 24, and other scriptures seriously.  It struck me as a particularly dim view of prophetic vision to believe that prophecy could only be fulfilled according to a misguided view of prophecy that would require the world to have a massive change of heart and a repentant attitude and a longing to serve and obey God, something that has never once occurred through the entire melancholy course of human history.

The essay by my coworker that I was given somewhat suddenly after lunch had as its main point the semantic domain of dream and vision in both the Bible and contemporary discourse.  The relationship is a complicated.  Our contemporary culture has turned both dream and vision into concerns of our physical life.  Our corporations have vision statements, we have dreams of success and love and happiness in our lives that we long to fulfill, and so on.  Yet when the Bible says:  “Without vision the people perish,” or alternatively “cast of restraint,” depending on one’s Bible version, it is talking about prophetic vision.  Solomon is not showing hostility to those of us whose eyes aren’t very good, but rather those who have no vision or understanding as to what God is doing.  Given the way that biblical prophets were concerned with the moral well-being of Israel and how divine discontent was connected to human disobedience, this connection (not explored in the paper) is one we would do well to better understand ourselves.

The other document I received looking for comments was from an acquaintance of mine who has written quite thoughtfully about the origin of nations from their biblical forebears.  This particular document was not a study paper–he has written them before, even at least one book that I have read before my book reviewing days–but he says it could easily be worked up into something of the like.  The graphic dealt with the prophecies of Genesis 49, which are a pretty familiar one.  I am surprised that given the widespread interest in that chapter that there is considerably less interest in the corresponding passage at the end of Deuteronomy where Moses pronounces a similar blessing on the tribes before they cross over the Jordan River into the promised land.  Perhaps that lack of knowledge or interest in Deuteronomy springs from the fact that so few people read Deuteronomy in depth, except for a few useful proof texts.  When I was something approaching a seminary student, for example, our class on the Law did not even cover the book.

It is one thing to know that we need vision, but what sort of vision do we need?  We can know, in general terms, that national righteousness leads to blessing and national unrighteousness leads to eventual judgment.  We can know what plans on the large scale that God is working to build a family.  We can know the general tone and tenor of our own times, and recognize that fresh starts and prophetic vision are useful and vital.  We are personal beings, concerned with small patches of land and the people nearest and dearest to our hearts.  Even with all the prophetic knowledge we could possibly want and more, such vision does not always answer the questions most on our mind.  Will everything go alright for us?  Will we find what we are looking for in this imperfect world filled with imperfect people like ourselves?  Or is life merely a joyless chore to be done as bravely as possible until it is our time to bid adieu?  Where is the vision to see the happiness we will enjoy for ourselves?

[1] But see, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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