"For they that dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew Him not, nor the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning Him" (Acts 13:27).
We pointed out at the beginning of the previous chapter that the above statement indicates that there is something more to be heard than the audible reading of the Word of God. "The voices of the prophets." What were the prophets saying? - not, what were the actual words used by the prophets, the sentences and statements, the form of their pronouncements, but what did it all amount to in "effect?" These dwellers and rulers in Jerusalem could have quoted the prophets without difficulty: they probably could have recited the contents of all the books o the prophets. They were well-drilled in the content of the Old Testament Scriptures, but thy never stopped and asked the simple questions: 'What does it amount to? What really is the implication? What were these men after? And because they never did that, they never got further than the letter.
Vocation Missed Because Vision Lost
We are asking those questions now. What is that which is within and behind and deeper than the written and spoken utterances of the prophets? We know that the prophets were dealing with a situation which by no means represented the Lord's mind regarding His people. I could make it stronger than that, and say the situation was very far from the Lord's thought; but I have present conditions in mind, rather than any extreme state of things, and so I simply say that the condition did not then nor does it now, really represent the Lord's mind and intention where His people were and are concerned. The prophets were dealing with such a situation, and because it was like that, the real vocation of the people of God was not being fulfilled. They were failing in that for which the Lord had really brought them into being. Whereas they ought to have been a people of tremendous spiritual strength in the midst of the nations, with a real impact of God upon the nations, with a note of great authority which had to be taken account of - "Thus saith the Lord", declared in such a way that people really had to heed - whereas it ought to have been like that, they were failing. There was weakness and failure. The prophets sought to get down to the root of that situation, to get behind that deplorable condition and that tragic failure. To get there, of course, they had to work their way through a lot of positive factors in the condition. There were all the things to which the prophets referred - sins and so on; but the prophets were solid as one man on one particular thing, that back of these conditions, resulting in this main failure, the cause was lost vision. The people had lost their original vision, the vision which had at one time been clearly before them.
When God laid His hand upon them and brought them out of Egypt, they had vision. They saw the purpose and intention of
God. it became the exultant note of their song on the farther side of the Red Sea. I am not going to stay for the moment with what that purpose was. But they were a people to whom God had given a vision of His purpose concerning them, both as to themselves and as to their vocation. They had lost it, and this was the result; and the prophets, in dealing with that, lighted solidly upon this one thing: 'Your vocation in its fullness of realization and accomplishment rests upon your vision, and fullness of vocation requires fullness of vision.' That means that if your vision becomes less than God's fullness, you will only go so far, and then you will stop. If you are going right on and through to all that God meant in constituting you His vessel, you must have fullness of vision; God is never satisfied with anything less than fullness. The very fact that you cannot go any further than your vision leads you is God's way of saying, 'You must have fullness of vision if you are coming to fullness of purpose and realization.'
Now, that is the very foundation of the thing with which we are occupied just now. The prophets were always speaking about this matter. We previously quoted Hosea 4:6: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, and will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to Me." That is only saying in other words, 'My people go to pieces for lack of vision; you have closed your eyes to My purpose which I presented to you; I have no further use for you'; and that is a very strong statement. It links with another passage: "Israel is swallowed up: now are they among the nations as a vessel wherein none delighteth" (Hosea 8:8).
If you want to get the full force of that, look at a word in Jeremiah's prophecies. "Is this man Coniah a despised broken vessel? Is he a vessel wherein none delighteth? Wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into the land which they know not? O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord. Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days; for no more shall a man of his seed prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling in Judah" (Jeremiah 22:28-30). "Israel ... among the nations as a vessel wherein none delighteth." "Coniah ... a vessel wherein none delighteth ... Write ye this man childless." There is no future for a vessel like that. We might well say of Israel as of Coniah, "Write this man childless." That is an end. A continuation, going right through without that arrest, demands fullness of vision.
(continued with # 2 - "Vision, Not Knowledge of Facts, Qualified for Vocation")