It has become popular over the past several years to equate the modern western word “vision” with the Biblical term “vision.” Our modern word implies a picture of the future that you pursue with passion and we are told it is quite necessary in our Christian walk and leadership roles. In Honor Academy speak, “vision” becomes synonymous with your life purpose.
In his character development class, Ron Luce preaches heavily on vision. In order to motivate interns to pray and brainstorm about their life’s purpose, he quotes Proverbs 29:18a, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” Ron expounds further by looking at the Hebrew word for “vision” which is “chazown.” Between minutes 5:00-7:00, he says this:
This word is actually a Hebrew word, which our cheap translation in English is ‘vision,’ but it really means a lot more than vision…The word chazown means that thing that you were born to do, the vision that God Had in mind when he brought you to the planet.
Does the Biblical meaning of chazown support Luce’s interpretation?
Chazown is mentioned 35 times in the Old Testament. Click here to see the other 34 verses. Notice that 1 of these instances refers to a nightmare “night vision” and the other 33 all correspond to prophetic visions or revelations from the Lord.
Tim Challies addresses this topic masterfully by saying:
The Hebrew word that is causing all the trouble is chazon which refers specifically to a prophetic vision. This is not vision in the sense of “a picture of the future that produces passion” and only a small amount of research into the text shows this to be true. Strong suggests the following meanings:
a) vision (in ecstatic state)
b) vision (in night)
c) vision, oracle, prophecy (divine communication)
d) vision (as title of book of prophecy)
None of these can be used to support the type of vision these authors are suggesting. Furthermore, “perish” does not mean “die” but rather “cast off restraint.” The meaning of the verse is clear – Where there is no prophetic vision or revelation from God the people cast off restraint, no longer faithfully interpreting God’s Word and His Laws.
We should also note that none of these authors we listed above have completed the verse. The King James renders the rest of the verse as follows: “but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” The ESV says “but blessed is he who keeps the law.” The word “but” contrasts something from the first clause and the second. Obviously, what is being contrasted is those who cast off restraint when there is no revelation from God with those who keep the Law regardless. This verse warns against turning from the revelations of God and promises blessing to those who honor Him.
Matthew Henry’s commentary echoes this sentiment. Henry interprets the verse this way:
Where there is no vision, no prophet to expound the law, no priest or Levite to teach the good knowledge of the Lord, no means of grace, the word of the Lord is scarce, there is no open vision, where it is so the people perish.
So, after a careful reading of the Scriptures, noting what the Hebrew word means and how it is used elsewhere in the Old Testament, I cannot see anything which supports Luce’s view of this word. This verse is not highlighting the importance of finding our life purpose – “the vision God has in mind for you when He brought you to the planet.” Instead, this verse is saying that where God does not speak or reveal Himself, the people go their own way and perish.
The question is why does the head of a major ministry handle the Scripture so ignorantly or carelessly? This is not a controversial or difficult verse to interpret. Luce’s supposed definition of Chazown cannot be found in any Hebrew texts or supported by any scholars.
So, is he just making this stuff up?