Thursday, March 25, 2010

Where there is no vision, the people perish? Thoughts on reading Proverbs

So, Hebrew poetry is big on parallelism.
Say something once, then say it again another way.
So, Proverbs 31:10
An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.

And given that "more precious than jewels" is the Proverbs way of talking about Wisdom (3:15, 8:11) this is a way of saying that the excellent wife is found when wisdom is found. And therefore, as previously blogged here - not ultimately about finding a spouse for yourself. The rest of the acrostic poem / riddle in Proverbs 31 point us in the same direction - much to learn about marriage but ultimately looking to the most excellent bride and her glorious husband...

Or take the famously half-read Proverbs 29:18

"Where there is no vision, the people perish:
but he that keepeth the law, happy is he" KJV

Which isn't about general vision but, prophetic vision.
Where God's word is found - via prophets and supremely in Scriptures...

"Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,
but blessed is he who keeps the law" ESV

The parallelism helps us know where to find vision. When people don't have the word of God they're ruined (like God's people casting off restraint to make and worship a golden calf in Exodus 32, perhaps?), but when they stick with God's word they'll know God's blessing. The law here being what God had said... law, prophetic vision,... words for the same thing: the word of God, today in Scripture and in weighed & tested prophecy.

And so what of Proverbs 29:18. It's not a leadership manual inspiring half-a-proverb, but a call for God's people to live by the word of God... and therefore to be a theocentric people (loving Christ our Wisdom) since the alternative is that we rule ourselves and are ruined (as lovers of folly). Mmm, tasty gospel words in Hebrew poetry.

With thanks to Peter Mead for reminding me how poetry works.


  1. Worth comparing 1 Sam 3:1 - "the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision". I take it that 'those days' is the period of the later judges, all of whom seem pretty rotten, and under whose leadership Israel was indeed perishing...

  2. Its something I've noticed the majority of Newfrontiers churches do well - have a prophetic vision. They are all the more better off for it!

    PS. How would I be able to get my blog onto the newfrontiers bloggers list?



  3. Yeah, the prophetic vision is Proverbs 29 is the application and declaration of the Torah (which is not a bad definition of prophecy anyway...) - without which the people will perish. Man cannot live on bread alone after all.

    The casting off restraint thing is interesting, as is your suggested echo of Ex 34 and the golden calf thing.

  4. Phil - you just have to let me or Phil Whittall know, so - done.

    Pete - I do like that prophetic definition.

  5. Yes - 'vision' and 'prophetic vision' - probably one leads to another!

  6. Hi Steve.
    Praying for plenty of that for Frontiers.

  7. Glad to hear a sound interpretation of Prov. 29:18. When business/marketing gurus start quoting this verse (the first half only), you know it's been mishandled by the church for far too long.

  8. It really is motivational speaker stuff out of context.

    In context, it's gospelicious. The context gives vision it's content - it turns us to the word of God for vision and thus turns us to the LORD, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for vision.