Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (Proverbs 29:18)
There is a wealth of both truth and revelation contained in the book of Proverbs, and today’s verse is a good example. It is a ‘two-part’ statement and wonderfully illustrates the balanced dynamic of Spirit and Truth. They are, as Jesus told us, two parts of a whole – we are to worship in Spirit and Truth, not one or the other – and function as a whole. There is a place for Spirit and a place for Truth, but they can never be separated, nor can one be excluded. A good illustration of this dynamic could be a fruit tree – of course, there are many ways that this releationship could be explored or explained, and this is only a single perspective highlighting the general dyamic. It is, in fact, a wonderful ongoing study beyond the scope of this limited devotional.
A fruit tree is a wonderful thing. In comparison to others, it may be considered relatively ordinary. At first glance, it appears to be purely functional. It’s purpose is to produce fruit, and it’s very look and sizes seems geared to be practical rather than impressive or exceptional. That’s until the blossoms burst free. A fruit tree flowers in an exuberant and breathtaking celebration of life and purpose. It is transformed from ordinary to extraordinary, seemingly overnight. The masses of blossoms capture the eye and the imagination with the promise of the abundant harvest to come. Theirs is not a simple flowering and passing away. It’s a vision and a revelation of their true purpose.
In considering today’s verse, it’s important to include Hosea 4:6 which reminds us that ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.’ This is the clarification of what might be considered a contradiction inherent in today’s verse – we perish without a vision, but are happy if we keep the law. The two, on the surface, may seem exclusive, but Hosea brings it together in a wonderful way.
The simple truth is that we need both the knowledge of the Truth and the vision of the Spirit to avoid perishing. Word and Spirit are equally critical. Looking back at our fruit tree, the Truth is the root system and the basic tree. It is the Truth that shapes, grows and defines the purpose of the tree. As we grow in knowledge, so Truth produces more branches, a sturdier trunk, and effective stability. All these things are essential, the hallmarks of healthy growth.
But in order for our tree to fulfill its purpose, we need the blossoms. We need the vision which comes by the Spirit working through the Truth. If vision is not attached to truth, it will blow away in the first wind – in much the same way as the blossoms would vanish were they not connected to the tree. Vision has to be firmly rooted in truth in order to fulfill it’s purpose. At the same time, without the vision, the tree would never fulfill its purpose. The two cannot be separated.
In the same way, vision must bloom in us through the Spirit working with the Truth in us. It is the identical process that brought creation into being. The Word was spoken by God, and through the Spirit was fulfilled – it brought forth fruit which, like our fruit tree, is our purpose. God intends that we bring forth fruit for His glory. But in order for us to do that, we need to accept the both the purpose and the natural order of things.
It is a common human failing that we so often seek the vision without the practical reality that supports it and makes it possible. It’s so much nicer to be swept away with a wonderful vision, to be focused on producing the beautiful blossoms and fulfilling the purpose. The truth, and our knowledge of it, usually involves the proverbial ‘elbow grease,’ the rolling up of the sleeves and knuckling under to concerted study and even to the uncomfortable and often difficult process of growing into the right kind of tree.
The absolute reality of the vision – one given only by the Spirit according to God’s purpose – is that it really has nothing to do with us at all. We do not get to decide what kind of tree we’ll be. Nor do we determine the growth or pruning we need to get there. A vision from God for our lives is exactly that – from God, not from us. Our vision will be determined and produced by Him alone. Our part is to submit to the tending of the Master Gardener and desire to be what He has determined we will be.
The other extreme, of course, is that sometimes we choose to shun the vision. We feel safer living only in the Word. We have no desire to step out or to produce anything that might draw attention to us, or to surrender to the working of the Spirit in and through our lives. We’re saved but that’s it. While we may rejoice in our salvation, we reject the outworking of it.
Of course, both of these approaches are both short-sighted and dangerous. If we exclude the Spirit, we run the risk of descending into legalism and religious bondage. If we ignore the importance of the Truth, we open ourselves up to the very real possibility of disappoint when our visions don’t materialise or, even worse, to seduction and deception because we have no secure foundation.
Each of us has a wonderful vision in Christ, one that is entirely rooted, manifested and sustained in Him. We may be apples, cherries, peaches or plums, but our particular purpose, our fruit, was ordained by God at the very foundation of the world. He has rooted us, fed us, watered us, fertilised us and pruned us with grace and loving care in order to grow us into that vision. It’s a perfectly logical thing that we seldom wait for the vision. In reality, the vision waits for us to ‘catch up.’ There is a season for the blossoms, but immature trees will not produce beyond their abilities. If we remain immature, the vision will remain immature. The season for the vision is when we are matured enough, through care and pruning, to produce the full measure intended.
God Himself has given us the perfectly balanced dynamic of Spirit and Truth to ensure that His purposes are fulfilled in us, but it’s up to us to manifest this balance in our lives. The ‘key’ is acceptance and submission, and a willingness to allow Him to direct the course of all we do. As we walk with Him, day by day, He will bring us to the place where the vision blooms in breathtaking beauty – the glory of our God manifest in His purposes, a testimony to His grace and faithfulness, and a celebration of His love.
Thank You, Lord, for Your abundant gifts. Thank You that You have already determined the vision and work in us to bring it to pass. Help us to recognise Your purpose rather than ours, to surrender to Your guidance and Your truth, and to grow according to Your will. Where we focus too much on one or the other, reminds us gently that it is Spirit and Truth, and bring us back to the place of perfect balance in You.