A Vision for Life

It’s hard to believe that Vision is in its 10th year of publication! About five years ago we produced our first anthology issue, in which we brought together a number of timely and timeless articles from those first years. We now offer a second such sampling to underscore, especially for newer subscribers, Vision’s unique approach. Our aim is to help readers develop two aspects of good vision: grasping the underlying meaning of present conditions, and focusing beyond immediate circumstances. But from where does this kind of vision come? To answer that, allow me to reiterate some thoughts from our very first issue back in 1999.

Combining wisdom and overview in distant times, Solomon preserved the following proverb for posterity: “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18, King James Version). The son of Israel’s King David, Solomon was a collector of the wise sayings of the ancients. His lengthy anthology is a treasure house of lessons learned. Yet even in this apparently straightforward quote about vision, all is not as it seems on the surface. The translators of the King James Version of 1611 somewhat obscured the intent. Young’s Literal Translation reads, “Without a Vision is a people made naked.”

Where there is no vision, the people perish. . . .” 

Proverbs 29:18, King James Version

Word-for-word renderings do not, however, give the sense in everyday language. Over time our ways of expressing a given concept change. An alternative, nonliteral translation of the original Hebrew text, the Tanakh, reads, “For lack of vision a people lose restraint.” Here the concept of perishing has been interpreted as the loss of personal restraint, which leads to oblivion. Personal restraint or self-control is the sine qua non of civilized community, the essential condition without which structured and orderly society is impossible.

Yet another version incorporates the concept of control and adds a further dimension: “Where there is no word from God, people are uncontrolled” (New Century Version). This translation makes the point that the vision comes from God in the form of inspired teaching. The acted-upon word leads to self-control, which in turn produces the opposite of oblivion; it brings life.

What is that “word from God”? The New International Version reads, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.” This revelation is the word of God. It comes from that one Source. It is beyond the investigative reach of humans. It is God given. Making the point in the vernacular, the contemporary New Living Translation tells us that “when people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild.”

What becomes even more evident beneath the surface of Solomon’s simple statement is that the revealed word encompasses laws of life. The proverb ends with the assertion, “but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (KJV); that is, the antidote for oblivion is practicing the precepts of God’s own law. According to this divinely inspired wisdom, human happiness revolves around obedience to revealed knowledge in the form of instruction or law.

Without vision the people perish. Only five words, but a world of meaning and direction for life.

Vision attempts an analysis of the human sphere from this increasingly rare perspective. It goes beneath the surface of our multilayered and complexified world to untie a knotted mass of motivations, wants and desires. It explains human history, challenges our too-easy acceptance of the present, and expresses solutions and forward momentum based on insights from the often forgotten, perhaps rarely known Word of God.