Why do so many hermeneuts get it wrong? Take, for instance, the distinction between exegesis (analysis of a text) and its application. Application to what? To life? Often “application” requires mutilating the context of a passage and applying it to the mutilator’s life.
Example: Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” What do many preachers do with this half a proverb – the likes of Adrian Stanley, Rick Warren and Joel Osteen, and the “Word of faith” people? They turn it into a sermon series or book on how to get a new vision for your life. Believers love it to pieces. Why do you think Christianity is growing so fast in many countries; in Nigeria and South Africa, for example. Envision your vision; see yourself well, see yourself with a good job, new car, the mortgage paid off. See yourself hounded and beaten for the faith; or for just being a drip – hmmm. It’s easy to catch these preachers with their hermeneutical pants down; if you really want to really. It’s not difficult to know where to look. Just read the bits before and/or the bits after the tasty morsels that these preachers feed you. Example: we return to the “vision” bit in Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” It has a context. Read the next bit in the verse: “but he that keeps the law, happy is he.” “Perish” in the KJV is not a good translation of the Hebrew פָּרַע para`. A better translation of Proverbs 29:18 is “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.”The Hebrew word for vision is חָזוֹן chazon (wrongly transliterated in the Blueletterbible as chazown (North American English pronunciation). Possible meanings of this word are 1. vision (in ecstatic state), 2. vision (in night), 3. vision, oracle, prophecy (divine communication).
Chazon in this verse means being able to grasp what God’s word emanating from the prophet’s mouth (not the vision God gives you) is saying about God’s law. If you take God’s law to heart by keeping it, you will be blessed. Here is John Calvin in his preface to his Institutes of the Christian Religion, addressing the French king: “
“The characteristic of a true sovereign is, to acknowledge that, in the administration of his
kingdom, he is a minister of God. He who does not make his reign subservient to the divine glory,
acts the part not of a king, but a robber. He, moreover, deceives himself who anticipates long
prosperity to any kingdom which is not ruled by the sceptre of God, that is, by his divine word. For
the heavenly oracle is infallible which has declared, that ‘where there is no vision the people perish’ (Prov. 29:18).”
A word out of context has a dictionary (lexical) meaning but no useful (pragmatic) meaning. A word without a context is connected to nothing – in the real world – only to a dictionary.
Pastors, please, no more cutting and pasting your way to sermons and books – and prosperity.