This morning I want to invite you to focus on the subject of vision. Our vision: our ability to see. To see with our physical eyes, and to see with our spiritual eyes, to see with our theological eyes. Let me begin by sharing a simple definition of vision.
A simple definition of vision is:
: the ability to see :
: something that you imagine : a picture that you see in your mind
: something that you see or dream especially as part of a religious or supernatural experience
Now, as you can see from this definition, vision is experienced in a number of ways.
There is an account of one form of vision in the Old Testament – in Jeremiah 32. It is a dark time for the Israelites. The Babylonians had Jerusalem under siege. The Prophet Jeremiah had been imprisoned by King Zedekiah because all the words the Lord gave Jeremiah were bad news about their coming defeat at the hands of the Babylonians. But Jeremiah has a God-given vision of the restoration of Israel after this defeat and to show his faith in what God has told him, Jeremiah buys a field at Anathoth. This would be like buying land at ground zero of an incoming nuclear attack! It was a statement of faith, a statement of trust, by Jeremiah in the God who had provided him this vision, this unveiled vision of the fact that God would revive Israel!
That is a form of vision that we in the church often call prophesy.
Prophesy – the gift of receiving God’s word of His future intentions.
Prophesy is a God-given view of the future, an unveiled view of the future. A God-given vision of what God is going to do in the future. So, vision includes this form of vision, being able to see God’s plan for the future as well as a vision to have the ability see the possibilities of the future.
This idea of vision, being able to see future possibilities, includes the ability to foresee future needs. When I stop to think about Faith Church’s facility here, and the wonderful expanse of land on which it sits, I can’t help but think about the visionaries whose clear vision of potential future needs must have led them to acquire this marvelous property which will provide space for this congregation as it continues to connect, – to serve, – and to grow into the future! Those faithful folks definitely had this ability of vision; to see the possibility of the future needs of this congregation. We, as faithful followers of Jesus, need to always be listening and watching for God’s vision for our future. Again, an example of unveiled vision.
Now, at the risk of violating some form of the H.I.P.P.A. law, I want to ask you some questions. How many of you folks have some sort of vision problem? Wear glasses or contacts? Do any of you have cataracts? Well, a few years back, I had cataracts that had so veiled my vision; had so clouded my vision, that they had to be dealt with. It had gotten to the point where my night vision in particular was so poor that it was not safe for me to be driving at night. The lights of oncoming traffic literally blinded me. Now both of my eyes had progressed to the point that it was definitely time to do something about these cataracts. At that time, the surgeon would only do one eye at a time with a 3-4 week wait time between eyes. So I had my first surgery scheduled; and I have to admit that I was somewhat concerned about having someone holding my eye in the open position so that they could stick their surgical instruments right there in my eye! But fortunately, they gave me a happy juice injection and in a few moments I would have let them do whatever they wanted to do with me or to me. Now after the surgery, I was sent home with a patch over that eye and a black plastic shield on top of that so that the eye would not get bumped or I would not rub it. I was told to keep the patch and shield in place while I was sleeping that night. Well, Connie went to bed at her regular, early, hour and I was getting ready for bed in the bathroom. I had been wearing a long-sleeved tee-shirt which I removed as I readied for bed. Now I was getting really anxious to see what a difference my surgery had made to my vision so I carefully removed the shield and the patch, keeping my eye closed. Then, I opened my eye to a bright, vivid, beautiful world of color that I had forgotten existed! It was almost unbelievable what a difference I was seeing! Everything looked so bright, so clear, so sharp! Then, as I looked into the mirror, I noticed this very distinctive rash across my chest, across my shoulders, and even down both of my arms! What could this be? Was I having a negative reaction to the happy juice I had been given? Should I be concerned? Should I wake Connie to have her look at it? What was I to do? Well, I decided the first step was to wake Connie, have her look at it, and help me decide if it warranted a trip to the ER. So I woke her, I explained that I had this rash and that I wanted her to look at. So, after wiping the sleep from her eyes, Connie looked at my chest, my shoulders, and my arms. She stepped back, shook her head and said; “That’s no rash! Those are the same brown age spots that you have had for years! You just were unable to see them!” See, I had been suffering from veiled vision! I was unable to see clearly because my vision was veiled by the cataracts. But, praise God, I can see clearly now! This is a form of physical vision but I ask:Are you trying to see God’s activity in your life thru the veil of spiritual cataracts?
Then there is a record of a different form of veiled vision that occurs in Exodus 34 where the account of Moses receiving the SECOND set of the Ten Commandments is recorded. You may recall the story; Moses was on Mount Sinai for so long that the people thought he wasn’t coming back. So they convinced Aaron to make a golden calf as a god for them. When Moses came down from the mountain and saw the golden calf he was angered to the point that he threw down the stone tablets that contained the Ten Commandments and they were broken, just as the Israelites had broken their covenant with God. But Moses intercedes for these sinful people, much like Jesus intercedes for you and I, and God invites Moses to the top of Mount Sinai to receive the replacement tablets containing those same Ten Commandments, a sign that God is renewing the covenant relationship with Israel. This is such a high and holy experience for Moses that his appearance is changed; he glows! Here is the account from Exodus 34, beginning at verse 29.
29 When Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of the covenant in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on mount Sinai. 33 When Moses had finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.
The Israelites were uncomfortable in the radiance of God! They were so uncomfortable that they had Moses veil his shining face! You and I know that it can be uncomfortable to be in the radiant presence of God, can’t it. I can’t help but believe that the reason for the Israelites discomfort is the same reason you and I are uncomfortable in that radiant presence: it’s our self-awareness of our sinfulness. The glowing radiance of God’s Presence makes us all too aware of the ways in which we have fallen short of God’s glorious purpose for us. Ah but, there is good news! God knows our weakness; God knows our shortcomings. And still he loves us! He loves us enough to die for us! He loves us enough to forgive us! He loves us enough to cure our veiled vision!So there is no need to try to hide behind a veil in the presence of God.
Vision, veiled and unveiled. There is an account of the inner circle of the disciples: Peter, James, and John having the veil removed from their vision of Jesus. It is written in the Gospel of Luke, the 9th chapter, beginning at the 28th verse. Jesus had been preparing his disciples for what they were to see and experience in the near future: the suffering of Jesus, his death, and his glorious resurrection. The account begins at the conclusion of the words of Jesus about his future.
28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John, and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it’s good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.) 34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen. listen to him!” 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone.
Now the disciples have heard the teachings of Jesus. They have had glimpses of his miraculous powers. Yet there may still have been lingering confusion among the disciples about exactly who this Jesus is. Well, the event described here is known as The Transfiguration. It is a visible transfiguring, a transforming, of Jesus which these three witnessed. As a result these three had the veil removed from their vision, from their understanding of exactly who Jesus is. It was now more clearly made known to them! They had confirmation, visual and vocal, that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the only begotten Son of the most High God! And, at least momentarily, the veil was removed from their vision. The recollection of this vision, this assurance of Jesus as the promised Messiah, became a source of hope for the disciples in the trying times that lay ahead for them. Vision, veiled and unveiled.When our vision of Jesus becomes clear, it becomes the source of hope for the difficulties we face in life.When our vision of Jesus becomes clear, it becomes the source of hope for the difficulties we face in life.
There is another place in the Scripture that speaks of veiled vision and actually refers to our text from Exodus. It’s found in 2 Corinthians, beginning at chapter 3, verse 7.
7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! 12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Paul wrote in v7–
v7 … if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, …
Of course Paul is speaking of the Law of Moses, the first five books of the Old Testament, symbolized by the Ten Commandments–which were written in stone. It would be good for us to remember that Paul, the author of this letter to the church at Corinth, was a Pharisee. Pharisees were the experts in the Law: the Law of Moses. Paul said of himself that he was a Pharisee among Pharisees! He was saying that he was even more of an expert in the Law than other Pharisees! So that makes these words of his comparing of the condemnation the Law brings to the freedom found in Christ even more powerful! Paul’s vision was unveiled! He saw that the key to this clearer vision, this clearer understanding of God, is made known through Christ Jesus, and was found in his faith in Jesus as the Promised Messiah! He saw that Jesus was and is Emmanuel! God with us! God come to redeem us, God come to save us from our sin! When we come to a personal faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, when we personalize that faith; that’s when the Lord becomes MY Lord; that’s when the Savior becomes MY Savior, that is when we come to a clearer, unveiled vision, of who Jesus is and whose we are. Paul when to say in v 15–
v15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.
I believe that Paul was primarily speaking of his fellow Jews at that point in time but I believe that the truth of his words applies to all people: Jew and Gentile alike. It applies to you and me as well. One can best get an unveiled understanding of the Old Testament by having full faith in the Messiah of the New Testament! Paul confirms that in verse 16:
v16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
It takes a personal faith in Jesus as one’s Savior to begin to understand the Scriptures of the Old Testament, — to have the veil removed. I also believe that this expanded degree of understanding of the Old Testament enables one to more fully appreciate the freedom from sin and guilt that faith in Christ Jesus offers us as explained in the New Testament.So don’t allow your vision, your understanding, to be veiled by a lack of exploration of the Scriptures.
How is your vision, your faith vision, is it veiled or unveiled? Have you come to the point of fully placing your faith and trust in Christ for the restoration of your relationship with Almighty God? Have you come to making that faith personal? Has THE Lord become YOUR Lord? Has THE Savior become YOUR Savior? I pray that you have come to that clear vision of your relationship with God-in-Christ. For when you do, when we do, we receive yet another blessing! We receive the blessing of being called to ministry! The ministry of helping others to receive their unveiled vision! Helping them come to a personal faith in Jesus the Christ. You have been blessed with this clear vision in order to be a blessing in helping others receive the blessing of their clear vision as well.
May the Holy Spirit guide and equip us in this mission and ministry.