WHERE THERE IS NO VISION
Perishing In His Presence
By Benny Sutherland
Benny Sutherland pastors in the Dayton, Ohio area.
He is a well known and much loved camp meeting preacher.
He is a man of prayer and holiness.
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. Proverbs 29:18
In the marginal reference of my Bible it says, “where there is no vision the people are made naked.”
There are many words that can be used for the word “perish.” In some cases it’s written “they are made defenseless.” Another says, “they are made to go to pieces.” Where there is no vision, there is always a bad ending.
THE STRENGTH OF THE CHURCH IS IT’S VISION OF GOD
MEN ARE NEVER STRONG WHEN THEY CEASE TO
HAVE A VISION OF GOD.
Our day is probably one of the days when there are very few open visions where people really see God, though He is around us continually. He is always in our midst because He has promised that. (Matthew 28:20)
God will keep His Word and keep His promises to His people. But we are like they were in the book of Exodus when Moses went up into the mount. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to draw a mental picture of that instance but when God called Moses, the mountain literally smoked and was on fire. There was the sound of trumpets and there were voices. It was enough to make anyone know the presence of God was in their midst. You couldn’t ask for a more dramatic scene to get people’s attention. God was there and the people knew it!
Losing The Vision Of God In God’s Presence!
But do you know that after Moses had been gone several days the people lost sight of God! They lost sight of Moses! they lost sight of why they were there and pleaded with Aaron to make them a god.
Aaron stripped them of their earrings and all of their gold and he fashioned for them a calf and then said to all Israel “this be thy god,” and they danced around the golden calf, and became drunken, with God still visibly present in the top of the mountain!
Some folks say, “Well Brother Southerland if I could just see God…”. I tell you, if you lose sight of God, He can stand right beside you and you won’t know it.
These people became so hard in their hearts they lost their ability to keep a hold of God. They actually ignored God with God’s presence right there!
They actually went from God, not towards Him but from Him with Him right there.
Our Vision Of God Determines Our Happiness
Listen to what Moses said in Exodus 32:25 “And when Moses saw that the people were naked, for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies.” That’s what the Bible says will happen! “Where there is no vision the people perish”…or are “made naked.”
Literally they were without any presence of God. They were without any form of God. God had turned from being a compassionate leader that had led them out of Egypt till now Moses asked the question, “Why is your anger waxed hot against these people?”
Well, you say, it was the sins that they were committing. Yes, but something more than that. Something caused them to sin…they could not maintain their vision of God.
And all the way through the wilderness, when you track them, you will find them constantly losing sight of God even though He was with them in the pillar of fire and column of smoke.
They murmured, did they not?
They complained, did they not?
They revolted, did they not?
With God in their presence!
Lust filled their heart. And you know what happened to that generation? The Bible said they perished. They perished in the wilderness. Worse yet, they perished in His presence!
Can you imagine God’s people perishing with God in their midst? But that happened? It is a historical fact; It happened to a whole generation that came out of Egypt. They never made the promised land. They perished and the reason they perished is that they could not maintain the vision of God.
Where there is no vision the people perish.
Listen, now for a long season, Israel hath been without the true God and without a teaching priest and without law. That’s what happens when people lose sight of God. You see when you lose your vision of God you soon lose all of the benefits of God with it.
THE CHURCH CAN APOSTATIZE WITH GOD STANDING
IN THE MIDST, HIS GLORY FILLING THEIR EYES AND
HIS WORD SOUNDING IN THEIR EARS
Revelation 1:12-13; 3:17
Where There Is No Vision Of God There Is No Unity
I’m amazed today that we are so spirit-filled and so powerless at the same time
Where there is no vision the people go to pieces. We’ve never been so fragmented as a church in all our life. Our churches are divided over doctrine, we’re divided over what songs to sing, we’re divided over what kind of preacher to have preach, sometimes we’re divided over the color of the carpet. I never seen so many divisions among God’s people as today.
But the Bible says if we lose our vision the people go to pieces. They become naked, they become defenseless, they become fragmented and immoral.
Spiritual Signs And Gifts In A Vision Of God
Let’s stop denying it and listen to what the Bible says in the book of Psalms. “We see not our signs: we see no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long. (Psalm 74:9)
When God is lost from our sight, all of the signs of His presence disappear too. There was a time when we would come to church and detect God quickly. We came expecting great things from God. There was people in our congregation that knew when the Spirit was there with conviction; they knew when He was there in rejoicing; they knew what God was doing.
We knew our signs. We knew when God had brought revival. We could read the move of the Spirit and the presence of God that it was God’s time for revival; when it was time to humble ourselves and to seek God. All of these things we could read and follow in the spirit. God never leaves us without information. God never leaves us without the ability to follow Him. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God they are the sons of God.” It is that presence that gives us the signs of His leading, and the signs of His leading.
There was a time when we sought and read God’s signs and rejoiced in them.
We knew God’s signs!
We felt them!
We were empowered by them!
Our faith grew by them!
We acted upon them!
And God gave us victory through them!
But when the church loses its vision of God it loses all the things that come with His presence.
Who has confidence when they can’t find God? Who prays when they really can’t find God?
Our services get shorter and shorter as we lose our vision of God.
A Vision Of God In This Generation
I don’t like to look over my shoulder. God is just as real today as He was in grandma’s day. They must have had more time or something because they seemed to stay in church longer. They worshiped God longer. They prayed longer.
In those days they saw God out in the fields plowing. They saw God in the kitchen cooking. They saw God in the morning. They saw God in the evening. It just seemed like everywhere they turned they found God. They had a vision of God!
All Is Lost When A Vision Of God Is Lost
This is what the Bible says: Her gates are sunk into the ground; he hath destroyed and broken her bars: her king and her princes are among the Gentiles: the law is no more; her prophets also find no vision from the Lord. Lamentations 2:9
When there is no vision, people perish. God’s people perish. When there is no vision the people become defenseless and naked.
Where there is no vision, the people become destroyed and powerless. When there is no vision, the people actually go to pieces. And every man does that which is right in his own sight.
A Vision Of God Teaches Us What Pleases Him
There’s never been so much arguing over holiness. There’s never been so much division over just how much does it take before you’re living holiness and just how much of the world do I have to give up before I’m considered holiness.
There was a time when God did most of the convicting and the preacher didn’t have to tell the people “how long is long,” and just how much can the boys let their hair grow; And just how much jewelry can a person wear, and just how much can you actually go out into the world and do, and just what amusement parks can you go to and just what little bitty things can you do and still be holiness.
There was a time when the Spirit of God dealt with our hearts and we had a vision of God and we did and didn’t do things because we knew what did and didn’t please God.
IF PEOPLE COULD MAINTAIN A VISION OF GOD
THERE WOULD BE LESS HOLINESS PREACHING
BECAUSE THEIR VISION OF GOD WOULD SHOW THEM.
Where there is no vision the people perish, they become defenseless. There was a time when the Pentecostal movement literally challenged the devil. We didn’t run. We stood our ground. We knew because we had a vision of God. God was there.
Those were the days when we “prayed through” on things. We touched God and when we touched God we were immovable because we prayed through and had a vision of God and heard God’s voice and we knew what God thought about it! Once we had that vision of God we were willing to stand no matter the cost because we had the vision of God; we had the assurance that we were right and this was what God wanted and what God was going to do for us.
Now we are defenseless and a lot of our people cannot maintain a constant victory. One day it’s “glory hallelujah!” The next day it’s “Oh, my!” Today I’m in and I’m telling everybody how to live. And tomorrow I’m out and I don’t care how I live.
A Vision Of God Effects Me Personally
When a person has a consistent spiritual life it’s because he maintains a constant vision of the Lord. When we have a constant vision of God and He’s always before us and we are following Him and we climb to heaven and look through heaven’s window and look into the smiling face of God and see the holiness of God, it’s only then can we maintain a constant spirit before God. It’s because we have no constant vision that we vary so much in our experience.
Isaiah’s Vision Of God
Isaiah had a vision of the Lord when king Uzziah died. (Isaiah 6:1-8)
Notice it affected him personally.
The first thing Isaiah said after he had described this vision of heaven and God’s holiness…the first words that he uttered were…”Woe is me. For I am undone.” You talk about an altar service! We would have an alter service like we’ve never had, if we would have a vision of God as Isaiah did!
When Isaiah had his vision of God, the first person he wanted to do something with was himself.
I would to God that every deacon board would have just one good vision of God.
I would to God that every Sunday School teacher would have a vision of God.
A Vision Of God Teaches Us Right Values
I wish every neighbor would have a vision of God. We could make every problem of the world disappear if we could get people to have a vision of God. People look at the television preachers, they listen to the radio preacher then look at their own pastor. We get a vision of the “big preachers” and then when we look at our pastor it doesn’t look like he’s accomplishing anything. He doesn’t drive a million dollar bus, doesn’t seem to attract thousands of people into the church. We wouldn’t be effected like that if we had a vision of God. It’s because we have no vision of God that we compare preachers with preachers.
It’s no vision of God that makes us compare ourselves with others around us. It’s because we have no vision of God that we like to look at our self and say, I’m as good as they are. Our church is as good as the one down the road.
A VISION OF GOD’S HOLINESS
It doesn’t matter who we compare ourself with, when we see God we will start comparing ourselves with the holiness of God and not others. When we have a vision of God we will see ourselves and become concerned with our own condition instead others. When we have a vision of God it will be the same as it was with Isaiah the prophet, Woe is ME. The first person to be effected will be old number one.
WE BEGIN TO SEE HOW FAR WE ARE FROM GOD
WHEN WE SEE GOD.
It will make you feel undone when you begin to measure yourself against God’s holiness.
The Effect Of The Holy Vision Upon Isaiah
The next thing he said was “I am a man of unclean lips”. The unclean lips meant that in his heart there was perverseness. There was a need of a cleansing and he knew it. Jesus tells us where real defilement comes from. (Matthew 15:11) It wasn’t from touching the dead, it wasn’t eating with unwashed hands, no sir – it was when man thought evil thoughts in his heart that made a man defiled. Isaiah realized this. When he had his vision of God, he said “I’m a man of unclean lips”.
When we begin to see God it will affect our hearts. We will go to the great heart surgeon. We will bow before God and we will confess our shortcomings and we’ll ask God to do something about us. And when we get ourselves taken care of then we can preach to somebody else.
Brother, you talk about revival. If God’s people in any given church would begin to “seek His face” until they had a vision of God, until we would start praying and crying out like Isaiah about our own spiritual condition, you wouldn’t have to ask the pastor when the next revival was going to be…you’d start it yourself!
God Is The Only Source Of Forgiveness And Purity
God was the only one who had the remedy for Isaiah. If you can look into this thing, you’ll see that the first thing God does after the confession, was give the nod of okay to the seraphim and who takes the tongs from the altar, reaches over and gets a live coal, one of the hot ones, off the altar and holding it in the tongs he flies swiftly towards the man that had just seen God. And he said, “this has touched thine lips and thine iniquity is purged.” In other words, your sins have been dealt with.
Brother I tell you what, it would be good for me and you to get a vision of God that would affect us the same way. We see the mercy of God in all of this! We also see the justice of a God who will not tolerate sin in the lives of His people. When the prophet confessed, the fire from God’s alter purged him of his sin; that’s justice! But it also gave forgiveness to a failing prophet, and that is mercy! From that time on Isaiah prophesied with a pure heart.
Anybody who knows anything about the book of Isaiah knows that the greatest prophecy of Christ and the cross in the Old Testament is in Isaiah 53. But there wouldn’t have been an Isaiah 53 if there hadn’t been an Isaiah 6. Isaiah could see Christ because he had a vision of God.
A Vision Of God Gives The Church Direction
In the book of Acts, it is recorded that Peter had a vision from God and heard God’s voice.
He was saved, sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost, was he not? But when God wanted to save the Gentiles it took a vision to make Peter ready and willing to go do the work of God.
The reason why we don’t go is because we never had a vision. Can you actually have a vision of God and not want to go? Can you have a vision of God and not have a burden? Can you have a vision of what God demands of this world knowing it’s headed for judgement and sit idly in a pew without praise, without a burden for lost souls?
A Vision Of God Causes Us To Answer God’s Call
When Isaiah was cleansed by the fire of God the first he heard from heaven was “Who will go for us?” Isaiah didn’t stand back and say, “I hope somebody answers the call.” No! He said, “Here am I send me!” Oh God, help to get that kind of vision that will cause the church to shout “send me.”
If the church doesn’t wake up and lift it’s eyes toward heaven, it will fall into nakedness and make the same mistake Adam and Eve made! They didn’t feel any guilt or shame for their disobedience until God came to them. When they had a vision of God and heard the voice of God they went to stitching fig leaves together to try to cover their nakedness, but it was too late..
OH GOD, HOW CAN WE SIT IN YOUR PRESENCE AND
NOT FEEL THE NEED OF WALKING A SEPARATED
AND HOLY LIFE?
How can it be? The answer is when the church loses it’s vision of God.
WHEN MEN SEEK THE VISION
Listen to what Ezekiel says; Mischief shall come upon mischief, and rumor shall be upon rumor; then shall they seek a vision of the prophet; but the law shall perish from the priest, and counsel from the ancients. The king shall mourn, and the prince shall be clothed with desolation, and the hands of the people of the land shall be troubled: I will do unto them after their way, and according to their deserts will I judge them; and they shall know that I am the Lord. Ezekiel 7:26-27
“Then they shall seek a vision.” Then we’ll want to see our signs. Then we’ll want to know where God is at. Then we’ll want to know what God is thinking about this. When judgement falls then we will want to hear what God has to say, then we will want to have the vision of God.
You know, when I get sick, I get awful interested in God. Don’t you? I want to know what God’s thinking about this. If I can get to where I can hear what God`s thinking, if I can get close enough to Him and pillow my head on His bosom for a while and listen to his thoughts and know that He is thinking about me, it’s a great comfort. There’s hope when we can hear God’s voice but when there is no vision from the prophet, no message from God coming from the preacher we are in mental agony because we don’t know what God is doing…it is a bad time.
That’s why we need a vision. We need to know where God’s at and what God’s thinking.
The Word Gives Us A Vision
Behold the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: Amos 8:11 Notice that God takes full responsibility for this, “I will send a famine…”
It’s a sign of judgement. It`s a sign God has changed His mind about something and just before He sends judgement there is silence! No prophet, no priest, no vision, the people perish, they go to pieces, they become naked, they become defenseless. They fall the helpless victims of God’s judgement.
Material Plenty And Spiritual Famine At The Same Time
This is what the Book says: there will be a famine of hearing the Word. Bread to eat, yes; water to drink, yes. But the voice of God speaking? No.
No Vision Of God Is Spiritual Blindness
Have you noticed in the book of Revelation that the seven messages of Jesus to the seven churches (chapter 2 and 3) are marked with “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches.” I’ve got to have an ear to hear what the Spirit says. If you don’t have a vision of God then you don’t hear what God is saying but a man that sees God wants to know what God is saying and you’ll move close enough to hear it.
God’s Vision Of Man
In Revelation 3 it says, “Because thou sayest I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing.”
First notice the vision they have of themselves; “increased with goods and have need of nothing.”
Now notice the vision that God had of them. “And knowest not that thou are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”
Then God offers them three remedies. Notice what they are; I counsel thee to (1) Buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and (2) White raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness doth not appear; and (3) anoint thou eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
Where there is no vision the people perish. Here in this last church age He is dealing with people who cannot see and people who are going around boasting of their riches but who are naked in the sight of God saying I have need of nothing. But God said you need to buy of me gold tried in the fire and you need to buy of me white raiment that your nakedness does not appear and you need to come to me that I can open your eyes and let you see.
You know the reason why they needed to see? They had lost their vision of God!
There are people among us who maintain their vision of God but most folks are more interested in what they’re going to do after church than they are in what God wants to do during church.
Desperate For A Vision Of God
I had a preacher come for a revival and things didn’t go too good. The people began to talk about wanting to close it. When he heard this talk he went way out in those hills of Arkansas, climbed a high ledge and then climbed up into a tree, way up into the top of the tree, and prayed. When he came back to earth and to the pulpit that night, he said, “We are going to have revival. I prayed through and talked to God about it today.” And you know what, that revival broke loose and lasted not for weeks but for months!
If it takes climbing to the top trees for somebody to have a vision of God, do it! We’re in a desperate plight. Our churches need to hear something from God. It’s not that we’re not preaching the Bible, we are preaching the Book, but we need it to effect our vision of God.
We’re becoming mechanical. We’re becoming very educated and we`re able to soothe the people with the scriptures and manipulate the crowds with words. We don’t need a manipulated audience. We don’t need to tell the church “Now raise your hands, now put your hands down, now stand up, now hold hands and repeat after me…” We need a vision of God so that when we walk through those doors we have walked into the Shekinah cloud and encountered such a presence of God we are humbled before Him!
Blessings Or A Vision Of God?
We preach camp meetings, revivals, fellowship meetings. It seems they want to grade your paper by just how many people get blessed. I’ve seen them get blessed and the next night come back and you need to bless them again. And they’re so used to the preacher coming along with their jack to jack them up they just come and sit there saying “Jack me up preacher, preach me happy.”
If you ever get a vision of God, you’ll not need to be jacked up. You’ll not need to be primed up. You’ll not need to be worked up and lathered up. If you ever get a vision of God you will see God and He will move you and you will move in Him.
In some places I’ve preached I have prayed, “God don’t shout them; don’t shout them. Please don’t do it. But, God touch them. Open their eyes. Let them see you.”
You know what’s going to happened…if some people don’t have a vision of God? Nothing! In your lifetime will you ever encounter God in a life changing way? You’re never going to have a history until you encounter God. The only thing that’s going to be written about you is the epitaph on your tombstone.
You’re going to sit in the church pew all your life and never leave history or make a spiritual impact on a life. You’re not going to ever leave anything for anybody else if you don’t encounter God my friend.
A Vision Of His Coming
If we could but see God we would be awakened. The commandment of the Lord warns that “when you see all of these things come to pass lift up your head. Start looking, something is about to happen! Lift up your head and rejoice, your redemption draweth nigh. (Luke 21:28) That means He’s coming. The church of this last day should have a vision of His coming.
What else is there to stir us and motivate us if it’s not His coming.
Well, let me tell you what’s left, Tribulation and the mark of the beast. The oceans will turn to blood and earthquakes will increase. There will be tidal waves and fiery judgement falling out of the heavens upon the inhabitants of the earth. Stars bombarding the cities of the world. People will perish by the millions. We’re either going to be stirred by the signs His coming or we will be stirred by tribulation.
Now if you’re not looking for His coming and you’re not going to have a vision of God, and you’re not going to be ready, then there’s one more thing that you should know; that you will see the arm of God unleashed against this earth. God will utter His voice from heaven and earth will shake and men shall flee to the rocks and to the mountains and cry to the rocks and say, “fall on us and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.” Revelation 6:15
Then those who didn’t want the vision of God will have a vision of Him whether they want it or not! They won’t want a vision then, they won’t want to see Him at all, but they will. (Revelation 6:12-17)
Where there is no vision, the people perish. They are made naked and defenseless. They go to pieces. They become powerless before their enemies.
A Special Vision Of God’s Face For The Faithful!
But for those who have a vision of God there will be white robes and not nakedness! Instead of being guilty before God of being wretched and miserable and poor and naked there will be the true riches of holiness. For the righteous there will be no falling to pieces but rather a glorious promise;
And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.