By Titus Chu
When I was a young man still living in Taiwan, I had a funny vision of how wonderful life was in the US. American movies had taught me that no one in the US ever had to work. Even when Americans went to their offices, it seemed they just went for fun. In my so-called vision, everyone in the US drove a good car, had a good house, and lived the good life, singing songs at the beach. When I looked at the brochures from American universities, they all showed smiling students in front of beautiful buildings. Even the paper they were printed on was high quality. I could well imagine how marvelous the educational system must be. In the US, everyone lived well and was respected, no matter what their profession. While this vision was inaccurate and in many ways funny, it seemed real to me and got me excited to go there myself.
When I finally arrived, I began to see the US much more clearly. There were many poor, and those who lived the good life were deep in debt. When I got my first pay check I discovered that I had to pay tax. My check was already small, and the government took so much out. At that time my vision was that the US should be for my benefit. It was supposed to make my life better, not take my money from me.
Now that I have lived here many years my vision of the US is much clearer. It is the same country, but my seeing is different. Before the US was for me; now I am for the US. I no longer object to paying taxes, because I see the need for government services. The US is indeed a good place to live, and I stand behind the government even when it does things I object to. My first vision of the US was exciting, though not so clear or accurate. My vision today is much more realistic, and I am all the more committed.
Two Aspects of Vision
There are four Hebrew words used for vision in the Old Testament that help us understand these two aspects of vision. They can be grouped into two pairs, since each pair comes from a different Hebrew root word.
Initial Vision—Machazeh and
Chazon, from Chazah
The first pair of Hebrew words, machazeh (Strong H4236) and chazon (Strong H2377), comes from the root word chazah (Strong H2372). The Bible says, “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision [machazeh], saying, ‘Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great’” (Gen. 15:1). Abram had no idea what the Lord was going to do. He saw a vision that God would be his shield and that he would somehow get a great reward. No doubt this was very exciting, but Abraham was not at all clear. He even suggested, contrary to God’s plan, that his servant Eliezer become his heir to inherit all this blessing. Even though Abraham was unclear, his response to what he saw was enough for God to declare him righteous (v.6). This initial vision was exciting, like a dream of ecstasy, and it directed Abraham for the rest of his life. The Bible says, “where there is no vision [chazon], the people are unrestrained” (Prov. 29:18). Other translations say they “run wild” or “perish.” Once we see such an ecstatic vision, even though we are unclear, it will restrain us and God will have a way.
Mature Vision—Marah and
Mareh, from Raah
The second pair of Hebrew words, marah (Strong H4759) and mareh (Strong H4758) comes from the root word raah (Strong H7200). This is the vision of the spiritually mature. It is clear and full of understanding. For instance, “God spoke to Israel in visions [marah] of the night and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’” (Gen. 46:2). Israel was Jacob’s name in maturity. God was able speak to him clearly in visions concerning his going to Egypt to be with his long lost son Joseph. Similarly when Moses was eighty years old, he said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight [mareh], why the bush is not burned up” (Exo. 3:3). It was not until he was old that Moses saw who his God really was and how God would fulfill the vision given him in his youth.
The Value of Chazah
Picture a young man the first time he sees the girl who will one day become his wife. It may be that he is taken by a vision of how wonderful and perfect she is. He thinks, “I will do everything to marry this girl.” But though he is filled with visions of ecstasy, he really doesn’t know her at all. He gradually gets to know more about her as they date, but even on the day of their marriage, he doesn’t know who she really is. He is still in his dreams. It is the same with the girl. She has no idea who her new husband is. They are both caught by the initial unclear vision of ecstasy. Yet that is enough for them to start a life together and be blind to all others. It will take many years of marriage, passing through both good and hard times together, before they will arrive at a clear vision of who their partners are.
If a man is not in a dream when he first begins to date his wife-to-be, something is wrong. He shouldn’t get married because he first studied all the girls and found which one is better at this or that. We all marry while we are blind, in a dream state, and usually the one we marry is not as good as we dream. Of course, once we marry we have to take it all. But without a chazah vision, nothing will even get started.
When some students are about to graduate from high school, they begin to explore various colleges they might attend. Each school has beautiful brochures, beautiful web sites, and even the campuses seem designed to make young people want to go there. The various schools work hard to create a vision of a dream world to make potential students eager to apply, but in the end no one goes to a college just to look at the campus. Eventually the students discover that the dorm rooms are nothing special, the professors are common, and even the food is not that good. As the dream gives away to reality, they may wonder if they chose the right school, but it is too late. They may have picked their school for the wrong reasons, but they are already enrolled.
Until a man has chazah concerning his wife-to-be, he can date all the girls. Until students have chazah concerning what university to attend, they can go anywhere. This is to run wild. Chazah restricts and protects us.
Growth in Vision
God appeared to Abraham and gave him a lot of promises, but Abraham had no idea what it all meant. All his descendants up to the time of the Lord Jesus still did not understand. It took the apostle Paul to see that the promises were not to Abraham’s many seeds, but “to your seed, that is, Christ” (Gal. 3:16). Paul explained it. To this day the Jews insist that they are God’s unique chosen people, because they still have only a chazah vision, a dream. They somewhat see it, but they don’t see it. They somewhat know it, but they don’t know it.
The initial chazah vision passed from Abraham to Isaac, then to Jacob, who become Israel. One day God appeared to Israel, telling him to go down to Egypt (Gen. 46:2). This is where the clear sighted raah vision comes in. Based on this clear vision, Israel peacefully took his family to Egypt with the full assurance that they would one day carry his bones out of that place back to the land promised them by God (50:25). Everything had become very clear to him.
Vision should always advance from chazah to raah. To have a chazah vision is easy because God just gives it to us. But to live in and be possessed by a raah vision, we need a long time of experience and growth. We may think we see Christ and the church, but it could just be a dream. We have no idea what is ahead of us. If we knew how hard it would be to follow that vision, we may have tried to escape. To grow from chazah to raah is a long difficult process. We only stay because we see something. At least we see chazah, the initial vision of ecstasy. Or we can use the word from Proverbs 29:18, chazon. Proverbs says, without chazon, we will be unrestrained, run wild and perish. We will be in real trouble. But we do see something that both captures and restricts us. Following this initial vision, we have a long process to pass through and at times it seems we cannot keep going.
Reaching the Goal
It is the initial chazah vision that causes unbelievers to believe in and receive the Lord Jesus as their savior. Every genuine believer has at least this much vision. It takes a deepening of this vision, however, for new believers to fall deeply in love with the Lord and His testimony, and to eventually consecrate themselves to Him. This vision is continually accumulating, growing, enlarging, and rising higher in these consecrated ones until it reaches its goal to unite them to the very heart of God. It is only then that they are one with what He is after.
So many Christians have no experience of this. They have the initial vision that got them saved, but it seems that vision has at some point stopped growing in them. They read the Bible and love the Lord, but are caught up in things that are not related to what God is really after. For lack of a fresh, growing vision, they run wild, doing what they think will please God according to their own concept.
God appeared to Abraham in a vision. Abraham saw something about having a son, but had no idea what it meant. Based on this vision, Abraham followed by faith. He determined that from that point on, this was what his life was for. Because of this, he was able to advance from a vision full of ecstasy to one of clear sight. He had a son, Isaac, and eventually a grandson, Jacob. Then God appeared to Jacob, who had become Israel, and told him to go into Egypt. God could give Israel a clear vision because Israel was spiritually matured.
Based on this vision, Israel took his household of seventy into Egypt where they passed through many trials. The children of Israel spent over 400 years there, but through it they became a great nation of over two million people as the testimony of God. This was God’s goal for them.
A Life-long Journey
This history should warn all Christian that they have to see something. We cannot live a common life. We have to be very clear what our life is for. It was once very common to see bumper stickers on cars that said. “Go to the church of your choice.” But what about God? What is the church that He desires? Until we see something, we run wild.
We shouldn’t come together because we are close in age, because we are friends, or even because we love one another. We come together because we have a view of what the Lord is doing. This view should bring us into a kind of ecstasy that makes us so joyful, so happy. It should make us value being a Christian who loves the Lord and sees something of what He is doing. But this is just the beginning.
We need to live a long life full of all kinds of experiences before we begin to have a raah vision. What we see must become a part of us. I have had many hard experiences, often inflicted on me by my fellow Christians. Sometimes I am asked if I am still for the church after the brothers have treated me so poorly. My answer is always “yes” because my vision is very clear. Even if nobody else goes this way, I will go this way. If everybody else gives up, I will stand firm according to what the Lord has unveiled to me. That part I can’t compromise.
What we see must be much more than a dream, because a dream is easily forgotten. We must have a clear vision and let that vision control us. Are we ready for this? This is a life-long journey.