Friday, May 12, 2017

Blessed in the Midst of a Perishing People

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

The best translation of Proverbs 29:18 is a debatable matter. Recently, the King James of this verse has been so misunderstood and misapplied that an alternative has been sought.

The KJV reads, “Where there is no vision, the people perish….” This is not a bad translation, but it has been badly misapplied. Many preachers have used this translation to support the idea that we must develop a “vision” of what we want to do. That is not the intent of the verse. The focus of the verse is not human plans but divine instruction, as the (frequently ignored) second half of the verse indicates.

Those who heed the prophetic vision and who keep the “law” (the Torah, the instruction) will be blessed. No promise is implied in this verse for those who dream up a vision of their own. The blessing is for those who follow the divine vision.

It may be significant that the first half of the verse speaks in the plural, “people”, but the second half focuses on the individual, “he”. Even if the people cast off restraint and perish, an individual who chooses to resist the trend and remain faithful will be blessed. Even if the nation as a whole, or the church as a whole, ignores the divinely given vision and fails to keep the God-given instruction, the individual who clings to it will be blessed.

We live in an era in which various human visions are being exalted above the divinely revealed instruction. Restraint is being cast off, and people are perishing. But he who keeps to the Divine vision will be blessed.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Contemplation or Meditation

Contemplate or meditate, call it what you choose, but do it.

A recent article on the BBC’s business page stated that “the thought of quiet contemplation … is, in today’s world, ridiculous.” People have no desire to contemplate the meaning of life. They want to be entertained. The writer went on to state that our desire to be constantly entertained is killing our creativity and our ability to live meaningful lives.

The presence of constant entertainment fuels the need for constant entertainment. Because entertainment is so available, we live meaningless lives; and because we have lived meaningless lives, we fear to think. We fear to face our emptiness. Instead, we seek more entertainment to keep us from thinking about the pointless nature of our existence. It is a downward spiral.

That the average person’s life is lived this way should not surprise us. But how can Christians live this way? The biblical term is “meditation” rather than “contemplation”, but the task is expected of us, whichever term is used. We are to meditate on God’s word (Jos 1:8; Psalm 1:2; 119:15). We are to meditate on God’s actions (Psalm 119:27; 143:5; 145:5) and on his promises (Psalm 119:148).

If we are too busy to think, we are too busy.

If we have so much ready entertainment that we rarely meditate, we have too much entertainment.

If we know so little of God’s word, deeds, and promises that we find little material for meditation, then we need to reorder our priorities, learn more of him, and apply our minds to the task of meditation on his words, deeds, and promises. Failure to do so will deaden our spirits and increase our emptiness. Doing so will boost our creativity and energize our spirits.