Do People Really Perish for a Lack of Vision?

Reading: Proverbs 29:18; Hosea 4:6

A Culture of Cliches

America has a culture of cliches. We love snappy sayings and enduring epigrams. My observations tell me that Christians are often no different. We even use bible verses to create them. I say, “create them,” despite the fact that we are quoting from something written long ago, because we use them with an entirely different meaning than what was intended long ago.

Two such cliches are similar and often used together. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Almost always quoted from the King James Version of Proverbs 29:18, as here.) And, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6) These two platitudes are used to support, and even lend Christian legitimacy, to two leading aspects of our world’s philosophy today.

The first is used to bolster the notion that if you can only envision it, or if you can communicate such a vision so that others see it clearly also, then you can achieve anything. If you cannot, you will perish (usually taken to mean that you will flounder around in the mundane existence of an average person rather than achieving your full potential).

The second props up the notion that knowledge is power. If a lack of knowledge brings destruction, then the more knowledge, the more power one has to succeed. This can be used to promote everything from reading and education to selling the latest self-help, self-achievement programs.

I Don’t Think It Means What You Think It Means

It doesn’t take much more than a casual reading of either of these verses to realize that, in the words of the fictional character from The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya, “You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.” Since the warnings of these verses are about death and destruction, it is of the utmost importance that we know what they are really saying.

No one would think it harmless to teach children that when they hear a fire alarm it means they are in danger of not being able to eat for 2 days so whatever food they can find they should eat it as fast as they can. No! They need to get out of the building! Not eating is a danger, but that isn’t the danger the fire alarms warns about. These two often quoted statements warn of serious danger so we must take them seriously.

Maybe the reason Proverbss 29:18 is easily misunderstood is that most are familiar with the King James Version of it which is, frankly, unhelpful to us today. A quick look at any other English translation makes the meaning much more clear.

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law. (Proverbs 29:18 ESV)

Vision” was speaking of “prophetic vision” – the revealed Word of God being proclaimed to them. The meaning becomes clearer if we look at the second half of the verse. “Blessed is the one who keeps the law.” (ESV) The prophets always pointed God’s people to the Law and called them to repentance. When God’s word is not being faithfully taught so that people understand its claim on their lives, they cast off restraint—they give themselves over to sin unrestrained. This verse has nothing to do with having a vision for your life, or business, or a plan, or being able to communicate it well to others.

I think the reason Hosea 4:6 is often misunderstood is because the minor prophets are neglected in general, and evidently many don’t take time to read it in context.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. (Hosea 4:6 ESV)

This verse is similar to the proverb above. The lack of knowledge spoken about is not actually that they are missing information. It is that they have rejected the very knowledge they had received. The second half of the verse is parallel to the first half so it helps explain it. This rejection of knowledge is the same as forgetting the law. Once again, the warning of destruction is related to a people’s relationship to God’s Word.

Hosea 4:6 has nothing to do with knowledge being power. This is about obedience to God’s Word. Yes, we have to know it first, but it is not about knowledge outside of God’s Word.

Whatever our culture does, as Christians we need to rise above living by cliches; especially cliches which twist God’s Word. We should make sure that verse means what we think it means. If not, let’s adjust our thinking.

Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,


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    Thats why GI Joe says ” knowing is half the battle”

    • Rae says:

      I think those 2 scriptures CAN apply to business career and goals(personal lives) for the future. I don’t think they are misleading or misinterpreted. How can you start a business without a plan/vision? How do you plan to execute sales etc in your business? What is the vision you expect to see in your business or career? Who do you have tied to this vision? Who comes to mind with this vision? Is it for yourself only or others that you decided to create vision? If you choose not to have a vision then what will you be doing with your life? Are you going to let life pass you by and just make a quick check when there’s greater opportunities out there. God gave us these resources in the earth to help others. What is our vision to help the people? Yes how can we help without first setting the vision? So yeah I do think these scriptures CAN APPLY all aspects of our lives.

      • Jerry Cisar says:

        The words, in English, may well apply to business or personal goals. My point is that the original text as spoken in Hebrew would not have carried that meaning. So while it may be true that a business, for example, will not flourish without a vision, that has nothing to do with what these verses say.

        • Nikisha says:

          I do understand where you are coming from but I think there is more to God’s word. And when we study his word we can reveal what it is truly he’s trying to say to us. And that is we cannot flourish without God’s vision and we can not flourish without his word. Understanding his principal understanding his purpose allows us to flourish. It allows us to reach what God has promised us in heaven as well as here on earth. The problem is is that this is a spiritual principle that is teaching us how to take the spiritual and bring it into the natural to accomplish everything but he says that we should ask whether being business or they’re being relationship or whether it be in his word.

      • Shannon Beaman says:

        That may be the case, but to use scripture to bolster a pragmatic idea where the scripture does not purport to do so is wrong. By all means, make your pragmatic observation and support it with evidence, but don’t claim God’s word as part of that evidence when itsays nothing of the sort.
        V/R, Shannon

  • Stephen Kennedy says:

    Wise words Jerry.
    Just some thoughts:
    Humans act based on what they “know” to be true. But all to often what they “know” is not true at all. The word “know” can be substituted with “believe”. We behave based on what we “believe” to be true, whether it is true or not. An atheist and a Christian act based on their beliefs, but both beliefs can not be true. One of them is wrong.
    The term “knowledge is power” is not correct. The evidence that someone “knows” God is demonstrated in action. Titus 1:15-16. Knowledge only becomes power when it acted upon.
    When someone has “prophetic vision” they now can see sin for what it is, When we did not have “prophetic vision” we saw the law as something to defeat. With “prophetic vision” we see the law as the loving had of God and desire to keep.
    Have an awesome day Jerry

    • Jerry Cisar says:

      Thank you.

    • Jjeffrey Hosman says:

      Hi Brother Jerry…. Thank u very much for this thread !
      Stephen…VERY well said, & also VERY, VERY true ( “whether a person “knows” (perceives) it to be true or not”…it is still Very, Very true ) ! Having a proper understanding of how “Perception” pertains to how we human beings ( Both saved & unsaved ) process reality via our perception, is to me, 1 of the major keys to understanding these important topics. The old adage “seeing the world through rosie colored glasses” comes to mind jjust now & demonstrates, to me at least, that each of us perceives our current reality based on inputs from a huge variety of sources ( “Vision” being only 1 of them ). We get multiple inputs from all our other senses as well…Hearing, Touch, Smell & Taste and all 5 God given senses are all streaming important information to us at infinitesimal & unmeasurable speeds. These are intended, by The 1 & only Creator, to produce an accurate, real time image of what HIS REALITY for us each looks like. This is then, intended, by the Help of God The Holy Spirit, and with our minds firmly anchored & rooted into God’s written Word, to cause us to form a Clear & Proper “Perception” of & then draw an accurate CONCLUSION of what God’s true Reality in fact is ! I am saddened, after walking with The Master these 44 years, that this abuse / misuse / mis-interpretation related to Prov ch 29 vs 18 ( & many many other scriptural truths ) is primarily, in my humble opinion, a result of many, many modern church leaders who are primarily focused on self centered living & then teaching out of a self centered partial conclusion, improperly & erroneously championing this “Purpose Driven” life model to millions of believers. These, of course, are loving to hear this message that teaches them that they can all have, and they should all chase after ( be driven by ) their own personal dreams & being told that this is the vision of God’s will for them to all have what they are dreaming! These skewed, twisted out of balanced teachings ( because they tend to be based on single verses & are rarely kept in context with the surrounding biblical texts ) thus develop millions of out of context, off balanced, self centered, “Know it all” believers who are not being developed into true disciples of The Lord Jesus ( becoming more Christ-Like ) but disciples of one “Leader” or another. “Always running after The next new thing” as Paul so wisely talks about in Acts ch 17 v 21. This same sad condition is also seen in Paul’s writings in 1 Cor ch 1 vs 12-13 ( “i am of Paul, i am of Cephas, i am of Christ” ) & again, Paul continues this discussion in 1 Cor ch 3 . The whole chapter deals with this, but esp vss 3 & 4 ….. “For you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says “i am of Paul,” and another ” i am of Apollos” are you not carnal “. > These types of teachings do not produce ( & neither can they ever produce ) whole-hearted, True, Surrendered, Holy, Balanced disciples of Christ in any major way…They obviously DO build huge congregations, mega churches & ministries, but they are not designed to build true biblical Disciples from Jesus’ “Perception” ( & in mind THAT “Perception” is the ONLY Perception that matters ) ! My prayer Lord, is that You will raise up a new generation of Balanced, Holy, Fiery biblical teachers who will bring a Balanced, Full Gospel to this Laodicean modern day church, who will produce True & Holy, Fiery, Christ like Disciples of Jesus & get the church truly ready for The Masters imminent & soon return ! At the moment, i ( and the world ) sees a mostly Carnal, Self Centered church and we wonder why we are not being effective as we should…possibly we should consider that “the salt has indeed lost its’ savor” ! i could be wrong but thank u Jerry again for this blog…. It is much appreciated !

  • Mmaduka says:

    Thanks for advice

  • Luckyson says:

    Very true

  • This is a very interesting way of looking at Vision.Do you have more materials I can use.?

    • Jerry Cisar says:

      Thank you for asking. We do not have any materials specific to this issue, but more generally you may find our online sermon audio archive helpful. And bookmark this blog as we will post relevant pieces on here from time to time.

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