Sunday, August 22, 2010

Where There Is No Vision...

"Where there is no vision, the people perish:"
-Proverbs 29:18a, KJV

When was the last time you heard this verse? Sadly, in most evangelical American churches, this first part of the verse is used as a Scriptural justification for ministries, programs, or whatever new thing the pastor wants to get the church rallied behind. I am so sick and tired of the misuse of this Scripture it makes me want to spit.

Over the years I have dealt with a few different instances where the wording of the KJV is such that today's meaning is a whole lot different than the 1611 meaning. I am rapidly losing any reservations I have tried to maintain as far as not calling out the KJV as a version that should not be used any longer by English-speaking Christians.

This current verse is part of that. Of course, the main blame goes to modern church and ministry builders who don't think twice about pretexting their ambitions with Scripture.

I carry an NRSV study bible to church. It reads thusly:

"Where there is no prophecy, the people cast off restraint,"

Well right there you have an entirely different message that doesn't support "vision-casting," "ministry building," or any other such drivel. Nonetheless, it was important for me to verify this translation with others and also find the meaning.

I pull out my smartphone and call up the NKJV, which reads:

"Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint;"

Well now I think we have a winner. I then grab my wife's Thomas Nelson KJV Reference Bible and check the notes, to find "vision" footnoted as "prophetic vision" and "perish" footnoted as "cast off restraint."

Well how about that boys and girls????? If the brownie girl in the pulpit had dared study they would know better. But shall we stop there? Oh, no. Let's get to bottom of this bucket-o-noodles. I think it's time that every man and his dog be allowed to see the whole verse, eh? Courtesy of the KJV:

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

Well, dog biscuits! It's rather hard to shoehorn the idea of a church having a vision for some program or ministry or building expansion in the context, isn't it? Shall we stop there? Oh, no. More context coming right up. Verses 15-19 courtesy of the NKJV:

15 The rod and rebuke give wisdom,
But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
16 When the wicked are multiplied, transgression increases;
But the righteous will see their fall.
17 Correct your son, and he will give you rest;
Yes, he will give delight to your soul.
18 Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint;
But happy is he who keeps the law.
19 A servant will not be corrected by mere words;
For though he understands, he will not respond.

Follow the bouncing ball. Verses 15, 16, and 18 all follow a negative "but" positive format. Pretty much the whole chapter has to do with--DRUM ROLL RATA-TAT-TAT: the blessings of submitting to the Lord's commandments versus the chaos and shame of going one's own way.

Are you looking for an edifying understanding of this verse? Consider what Baptist pastor John Gill had to say:

"prophesying is often put for preaching; and here vision, or prophecy, signifies the public ministering of the word and ordinances, and want of persons to administer them; no expounder, as the Septuagint version; or interpreter, as the Arabic.
"where there is right vision and prophecy, or true preaching of the word, and that is despised and neglected, men perish notwithstanding;"

Consider this also from the notes from the NET Bible:

"It must be stated that the prophetic ministry was usually in response to the calamitous periods, calling the people back to God. Without them the downward rush to anarchy and destruction would have been faster than with these prophetic calls from God."

Proverbs 29:18 is then paraphrased thusly:

"Where there is no teaching(/preaching) of God's revelation, the people cast off restraint, but happy are those who keep the law."

Thanks for reading and good night.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Put Up with It?

"Put up with hard times. God uses them to train you. Hebrews 12:7"

This is the verse of the day text I received today. Now, this verse took me aback. I am currently praying for some things in my life, and I have the sense that the Lord will answer me favorably. Then this verse pops up on my cell phone. Now, I am not superstitious, but God can use many different methods to reach us, right? What am I supposed to make of this?
Now the SMS service in question here is quoting from the NIrV, and it only quoted the beginning of the verse. So I decided to look up the verse in my reading translation, the NRSV, which says:

"Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?"

So this is a little clearer maybe. How about the NASB?

"It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?"

What we endure, we endure because God is disciplining us. That is slightly different then God using hard times to train you. The NLT fleshes it out a little more:

"As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father?"

The first two phrases are blended together to better draw in the concept of God treating us as sons. Finally, a look at the NKJV:

"If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?"

The NKJV flows much like the NLT here, with less wordiness. All in all, the best modern translation so far here. However, being raised on the KJV, I happen to be familiar with words like "chastening." So it may not be the best for you.

But the chase does not end here. There is a textual variant that comes into play. Specifically, the word "If" at the front of the verse in the NKJV/KJV is not present in either the Critical Text or the Majority Text. It doesn't seem to affect the meaning of the verse, just how the idea is put across.
Note the NASB's "It is for discipline that you endure," a literal translation of the Critical or Majority texts. The lack of that word "If" forces most modern Critical Text-based versions to break apart the reason for endurance and the second phrase speaking of the Christian's spiritual sonship. Except for the NLT, which paraphrases in order to smooth things out.
The NKJV/KJV do a better job smoothing out the verse in general, thanks to the Textus Receptus text. It may seem, however, that in connecting the endurance of discipline to God's loving care, the NKJV/KJV fail to state as clearly that what we do endure, we endure because He is disciplining us.
In my view, this isn't an issue, because it is simply a different way of emphasizing the same concept. Per the NASB, we endure because of discipline, and God is dealing with us as sons. Per the NKJV, if we endure discipline, God is dealing with us as sons. The connection between the discipline we endure and the God who disciplines is clear either way.

However, in the final analysis, the NKJV is much less convoluted, and much more readable. One would prefer the word "discipline" to "chastening/chasten," though. Despite besting all the other Critical Text-based translations here, the NLT is too wordy, a frequent weakness.

So what of my prayer life? Maybe He has been chastening me, maybe He has not. I know for sure, however, that He is not trying to tell me to "put up with it." As a matter of fact, the NIrV rendering is dangerous... God uses discipline to turn us to Him. The proper response to God's discipline is not stoicism, but repentance and seeking Him. And that's what I am trying to do--seek Him.