by Elhanan ben Avraham
Where there is no vision the people cast off restraint" (Heb. ipara am: become unruly, get wild, run riot, run amok; also: are uncovered) Proverbs 29:18.
The words of this passage of wisdom and warning well describe the state of much of our world today. Conflicting philosophies, politics, and religions have engaged in a war dance for so long that "peace" has become an almost undefinable abstraction. And yet "peace" is at the head of agendas across the planet, being used as a political ploy, a weapon, and at best is a synonym for "cease-fire" and "survival." "Peace" at worst is, or may be, used to seduce and destroy many (Daniel 8:25). The "shalom" describes in the Books of the Covenant has become vague, its vision blurred by pettiness and selfish motives. And can another Scripture be applied even to those who have tasted of the heavenly vision: "My people are silenced by lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6)?
Have you ever wondered how the glorious vision of the Messiah, Prince of Shalom, who went forth from the Israeli city of Jerusalem has traveled two thousand years over the planet and reached your home town?
Have you ever compared that original vision found in the pages of the Bible with the situation in your own city, your own congregation? Do you see anything similar, or do you see a collection of religious institutions professing faith in Messiah, yet who have little in common and less contact between them? Has something gone wrong? Has the vision been distorted, changed along the way?
Yet it is the very serious responsibility of those gathering in the name of Messiah to not only carry the vision to the world, but to be a living example of that vision (John 17:20-23).
The world around us appears to be casting off restraint in many realms, breaking up into even smaller units and ideals. Much of the Eastern European and Soviet worlds has cast off the counterfeit vision of communism, dissolving a union into new groupings in search of a vision. Western Europe is reforming itself, and seeks its own vision of purpose. In the prosperous West cynicism has reduced the general vision to the number One: Self realisation and immediate gratification. Even the bond of two together in the form of marriage has become an unstable institution. A large percentage of marriages end in divorce and children are left with uncertainty and instability at the core of their beings. Others fear to have children, having no sense of continuity, no sense of a past to identify with, nor a future vision with which to pass on the baton. No root and no fruit.
The heaving sands of the Arab world are being swept about by winds of Islamic vision, a desperate distortion of Old and New Testament concepts which arose in the confusion of the 7th century AD Middle East. The Far East is erecting the Church of Materialism, or exporting its philosophies and mysticism to a hungry and spiritually bankrupt West, filling its already current vision of "Me as [Elohim]."
With such a snowball of delusion barrelling on a deadly course towards the 21st century, how can we allow ourselves as [Elohim’s] children to be paralyzed by pettiness, and divided amongst ourselves by personal feuds? Has the vision of life which has been entrusted to us been dammed up by our selfishness and reduced to a festering swamp? With the spiritual starvation around us, it behoves us to carefully examine our own beliefs, and perhaps sift out those additions and subtractions which have added up to divisions. Whether it was popes, "prophets", or "priests", perhaps we must remove them from the current, that fresh and living waters might again flow from the unpolluted Source.
We must be honest with ourselves in searching, and ask: Have we perhaps built our own Golden Calf of doctrine or denomination? As the children of Israel in the desert, have we grown impatient and built a mighty one for ourselves that neither hears nor sees? It was in their impatience that their nakedness was uncovered before their enemies (Exodus 32:25). The Hebrew impara am ("cast off restraint") is the same usage in this passage as in our passage of Proverbs 29:18. And, to our dismay, we have seen recently the shameful nakedness of too many ministers and ministries exposed before their opposition. In desiring "greater things" for ourselves, have we been unfaithful with the "small" things that [Elohim] has given us? Could it even be that we have lost vision and have cast off restraint, compromising by mixing the set-apart with the unclean?
There is room for all colours in a rainbow, for many tones and textures in the Body of Messiah, but our priorities must be established for the sake of the highest purpose. Let us therefore purify the way, cast away the idols that pollute us, flee Rome and Babylon and return to Jerusalem, the Source, and the Scriptures as our model.
May the shalom of [Elohim], where all things work together for the good, be the manifest sign in and between our congregations. And may [Elohim] grant us the unity of vision to impart to a blinded world running amok.