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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Newt Gingrich's Misuse Of The Bible

In several speeches I heard Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich misquote Proverbs 29:18, "Where there is no vision, the people perish."
“I’ll fine-tune my message to say: Without vision, the people perish,” he said, paraphrasing Proverbs 29:18 and casting its admonition as his central campaign theme. “You need a visionary leader with very big, very bold ideas. This is a very big, very bold country.” 
Gingrich does not ever directly say he is that visionary candidate, perhaps mindful of the biblical warning that comes just a few verses later: “A man’s pride shall bring him low.” But his point is clear as he outlines what he casts as “big ideas” and “big solutions.”
What exactly does the Bible mean by the word Gingrich used? What is this vision to which he mistakenly refers? Let's start with the full quote from the King James version:
Where [there is] no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy [is] he. - Prov. 29:18 KJV
The word, chazown in Hebrew, is variously translated in other versions:
  • revelation, NKJV
  • divine guidance, NLT
  • prophetic vision, ESV
  • prophecy, RSV
We encounter the word in 1 Samuel 13 when the future prophet Samuel hears the LORD speak to him during the night. The writer of Samuel comments that "the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision (chazown)" I Sam.3:1—ESV. By this the writer implies that there had been a time when God spoke His word (dabar in Hebrew), but such times were infrequent in Samuel's day.

Earlier we read that the word (dabar) of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, promising that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars (Gen. 15:1-5). The word for Abram's vision (machazeh in Hebrew) is the same word for the oracle that the strange alien prophet Balaam received. In his vision Balaam could only praise and bless the Israelites coming out from the desert. As a result, Moab's ruler, Balak, screamed that he had commanded Balaam to curse, not bless Israel. Balaam replied,
'If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the LORD, to do either good or bad of my own will. What the LORD speaks, that will I speak'? - Num 24:13 ESV
Both chazown and machazeh are nouns that come from the verb chazah, to look, see, behold or prophesy. Some applications:
  • Moses is commanded to "look (chazah) for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens." - Exd 18:21 ESV
  • David rejoices, "So I have looked (chazah) upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. - Psa 63:2 ESV
  • The 70 elders who went with Moses, Aaron and his sons up on Mt. Sinai "beheld (chazah) God, and ate and drank. - Exd 24:11 ESV
  • The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, "Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen (chazah) and its interpretation?" 
Daniel answered the king and said, "No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these . . ." - Dan 2:26-28 ESV
  • And after the resurrection all saints will join Job to say, "After my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see (chazah) for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! - Job 19:26-27 ESV
The point to be emphasized in all of this is that no one ought properly to speak about a vision unless he can also say that the LORD God has revealed His mysteries to him. Only then can he claim to be a spokesman, a prophet who speaks the word (dabar) of the LORD.

Further, if any prophet claims to speak a word that conflicts in any way with what the LORD has previously revealed to His true prophets and seers (1 Chron. 29:29), that false prophet must be rejected and denounced (Deut. 13:1-3).

And finally, in the coming resurrection of all God's saints, the LORD will grant them to see Him in all His majesty and glory.

Sorry Newt, but I don't think you qualify as a prophet, regardless of what vision and big, bold ideas YOU may have for America. Next time, please don't misuse Holy Scripture to support your political agenda.