What is vision? Could it be more than the ability to see? Might it be a mental picture, an image of how something ought to be? Or possibly the ability to perceive something not visible – yet? Our own personal vision is at times dependent upon what we are looking at or for; what we want to see and understand. The scripture quoted above possibly being rendered – ‘Where there is no standard (of living) or purpose (for living), the people perish.’ Or even, ‘Where there is no revelation, the people lack restraint – from evil, and motivation for good – and will perish.’ Is it important to have vision? Of course, life’s difficulties being magnified when sight is lost. How about a vision? How lost are we without a mental picture of who we are, who God is, where we are going and how to get there?
I would think at least one of the advantages of a shared vision would be unity in purpose; at times expressed in recovery from local or national disasters, or in the dream of building a society of freedom, justice and opportunity for all. This then tends to draw from us a willingness to sacrifice for a common cause. On an individual basis, vision helps us focus on life’s goals; first defining what those goals are and their potential for success, which will help us develop a sense of purpose and direction. This in turn generates excitement and the energy to accomplish what we’ve envisioned. Who are you? What are you about? Where are you going? How are you going to get there? Why do you want to go? The answer to these questions helping us define who we are now as well as who we hope to become.
I enjoy studying the history of man because I think understanding the past helps put the present in perspective, possibly allowing us to foresee a glimpse of the future. Man being the creature he is – regardless of the time-frame – always seems to be dealing with the same opportunities and possibilities, suffering through the same temptations and failures and experiencing similar success. Santayana assuring us that, “Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.” For we can be noble but are often selfish; we can be honorable but are often dishonest; we can be good but are often bad. Much depends on who we want to be, who we know God to be and the understanding we have of His vision for us.
A notable example of people seeking a vision of who to be and what to do are Indians, as virtually every Native American culture had what they characterized as a vision quest. Depending somewhat on the tribes’ customs, each initiate endured a time of fasting, chanting of prayers, and at times the use of herbal drugs in their search for a spirit guide. The Sun Lodge ceremony in particular graphically demonstrates this determination to find help in understanding life and the desire to be guided through it successfully. In the course of this ceremony, long, sharpened slivers of bone were inserted under the pectoral muscles of the chest from which rawhide ropes were attached. These were then looped over the rafters of the ceremonial lodge and the seeker hoisted up into the air and left dangling until they could bear it no longer, they died, or the bone tore through the muscle and they fell to the ground. The purpose being to achieve a trance-like state in which they would be “introduced” to a spirit-guide, often appearing in the form of an animal.
Now I’m not suggesting we do this and would hasten to say that their vision probably came to them as a result of hunger, dehydration and exhaustion brought on by the pain and exertion of their ordeal. But what we can learn from them is persistence, insistence, and expectation! They would not quit; it being shameful to stop once started, even if the ceremony resulted in death. They hung for hours; looking, waiting, insisting on an answer, eagerly expecting to get it! How about you? Do you have difficulty finding time to study your Bible and pray, aren’t motivated to work on memorization, find going to church difficult because of some of the other people there? What are you willing to “endure” to gain a vision, sacrifice to get an answer to your prayers; to purposefully find God and place yourself in his will?
Our Bibles record a somewhat similar experience between Elijah and the priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel, as they cut themselves and chanted incessantly in an unsuccessful attempt to get his attention. But ancient history isn’t the only example of the dedicated, if confused, seeking of God. Across Europe, South America, Iran and Iraq today, self-flagellation – or the beating of oneself with a whip – is practiced as a sign of guilt, repentance and sorrow for sin. And self - crucifixion is actually practiced today in South America during the Easter season in an attempt to identify with God and find relief from guilt. Extreme? Absolutely! But the desire – the willingness to sacrifice – the ability to forego pleasure for pain in the search for God – for vision – is incredible; revealing an intense, if misguided desire to know God and be known by Him!
Some examples from scripture of those who sought and discovered a vision of God might be helpful – check back next week for examples of some men who not only sought a glimpse of God but a vision of who they could be as a result of their association with Him.
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