September 22, 2019 Exodus 3-4:17; Luke 1:5-22
Our congregation spent some time together at P&M Pumpkin Ranch Sunday afternoon. Seven years ago, that place was uninhabited, by people anyway. Just trees, crop ground, a little creek. As we walked the grounds, we looked at all the rock that’s been brought in – really heavy rock. The landscaping, the gentle partnering with the land to shape place. The pathways and pedal tracks. The buildings constructed, many on site by Tim Kaminkow (owner) with help from family and young adults who have worked there over the years. That place is an evolving vision. The dictionary defines vision as “the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination and wisdom.” On P&M’s website, they describe their place as a God-sized dream. That’s a really good way to define a vision, a God-sized dream. Tim and Jamie, the owners of the pumpkin ranch, had a vision years ago and in the intervening years they have partnered with God to make this vision a reality. But God keeps whispering in their ears and urging them on. The God-sized dream continues to grow and so each year people get to go and see in what new ways it is taking shape.
I did some scripture reading on the word “vision” this last week. The Hebrew word for vision is “chazon” (khaw-zone) and means, a revelation, an oracle or a dream. We first find the word “vision” used in the book of Genesis a few different times and it continues to keep making its appearance throughout the Old Testament. It appears only a few times in the gospels before really making a resurgence in the book of Acts as we learn about Peter’s vision and discover Paul had multiple visions. And fittingly, the last time vision is used in scripture is in the book of Revelation.
The Greek word for vision is “optasia” and means an appearing or spiritual seeing. I like that last idea too, that a vision is seeing spiritually. I’ll take that even a step further, because as I read through all these scripture texts that included the word “vision” this last week, I almost got the sense that vision, as the Bible speaks to the topic, is more about catching just a glimpse of time and space, or possibility from God’s perspective – seeing a sliver of reality with God’s eyes.
So I want to share with you five kind of interesting things to know about visions as written about in scripture. First of all, they’re real. Visions really do happen. Several of the prophetic books in the Old Testament, the book of Isaiah, for example, right off the bat in the very first verse say basically, “So here is a vision I had from God that I need to share with all of you.” Ezekiel describes his vision as the heavens opening to communicate. Samuel has his vision in the form of a dream as does Peter. Sometimes the vision, ironically, isn’t something we see, but words we hear, God speaking as we do our best to listen. This is how it worked for Ananias in the book of Acts when God called to him in a vision to get up and go minister to the fearsome Saul who had been blinded on the Damascus Road. Visions may come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but they’re real. They happen.
With that said, secondly, not all visions are from God. Here are wise words from the prophet Jeremiah, 23:16 when he speaks to the issue of false prophets in their midst – “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.’”