The Three Stages of Vision (1)
By Titus Chu
The life of Moses shows us that there are three stages of vision. Although the vision never changed, Moses saw it in different ways in each of the three stages.
Stage 1: The Dream Vision in Egypt
Moses got his initial vision while still in Egypt. He was trained in the things of God by his nurse-maid mother, and in the things of the world in Pharaoh’s courts. He saw how his brothers, the children of Israel, were mistreated as slaves, and somehow realized that God had placed him in the unique position to become their deliverer. This was a dream vision, exciting but without any real knowledge God or of God’s plan. When he was forty years old, he tried to fulfill this vision on his own, but he failed and was forced to flee Egypt (Exo.2:1-15).
Stage 2: The Trial of Midian
He now entered the second stage of vision—forty long years of trial in the wilderness of Midian. Here, as he tended sheep day after day, he no doubt considered his vision of delivering the children of Israel. As the months and years slipped by, the fulfillment of this vision must have seemed more and more impossible. God seemed strangely distant and silent. This was no doubt a great trial to Moses.
At the end of this time, Moses wrote, “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years” (Psa. 90:10). By this we can assume that Moses, who was eighty years old, felt that his life was about over. It must have seemed that God’s plan for him would not be realized, and the children of Israel would remain in slavery. How hopeless and meaningless everything must have looked.
But Moses also wrote, “You have been our dwelling place in all generations” (v. 1) In spite of everything, he knew God was his dwelling place. He still trusted in God to shelter all the children of Israel. Through all the trials and disappointment he experienced in the wilderness of Midian, Moses remained faithful to God, and faithful to the vision he had received from God.
Stage 3: The Clear Vision
on the Mountain
At age eighty, Moses finally received a clear vision when he met God on the mountain at the burning bush. This began his third stage of vision. This was the first time the word mareh or any other Hebrew word for vision was used with regard to Moses. It seems that all the times before, when he thought he saw something, God’s evaluation was that he didn’t see anything.
Moses saw a bush on fire, and the bush was not consumed. Fire was probably common in the wilderness because it was so dry. But why was the bush not consumed? That was uncommon. Moses determined to go to see this great sight, this great vision. Here he met God, and God told him clearly what He would do.
By this time Moses was quite mature, being around eighty years old. He had been through so much. No doubt he felt that his life was about over. But it was only at this point in his life God could show that he was chosen to be such a bush. God would burn in him and use him, but at the same time He would not use him. There would be fire, but the bush would not be burned.
When we are young Christians, we all want to serve the lord. But when we grow old, we learn we cannot serve Him. Once we realize we cannot serve the Lord, He tells us that He wants us to serve Him, but He will not use us. There’s nothing we can boast in. We can only say, “Oh God, it’s all your mercy.”
In the first stage, God attracts us by showing Himself to us. In the second stage He seems to become distant and even to abandon us, though He doesn’t really abandon us. In the third stage He puts His arm around us and walks with us. Now we have not only a vision, but a vision with a living person. Outwardly we do everything, but in reality He does it all.
Experience Follows Vision
People do not become Christians because they’re convinced, but because they see something. We have no way to convince anyone when we present Christ to them. If people are merely convinced, their salvation is usually pretty poor. But when God is unveiled to them, their salvation is strong. This vision causes them to believe in the Lord, and to eventually love Him.
Why do we love the Lord? Only because we see something. We were not s0 clear who this Jesus was when we were first saved, but for some reason we began to love Him. Even more, we consecrated ourselves to him. All this was because of vision. We are saved because we see something. We love Him because we see something. We consecrate ourselves because we see something. Eventually, this vision causes us to be united to God’s heart’s desire. Everything else has it’s end. Only Christ is fresher to us every day. We continually see more of this Christ, more of the truth, and He is always richer than He was before. This vision keeps growing, taking us deeper and deeper into God.
Once the Lord Jesus led Peter, James, and John up a mountain where they saw Him transfigured before their eyes (Matt. 17:1-2). These three disciples were already His followers and thought they knew Jesus well. But this unveiling and the accompanying voice from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him” (v. 5), took them much deeper. Peter later wrote of this experience, “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Pet. 2:16). A greater seeing made Peter a closer follower.
The apostle Paul was perhaps the most spiritual man in all of Christian history. His experience of loving and following the Lord, of giving all for the building up of the church, was all due to his many visions. His first vision was of the Lord as he traveled on the road to Damascus, and immediately after of the Lord’s body as he was told to wait for Ananias to come and heal his blindness (Acts 9:3-6,12). He later testified that he had many “visions and revelations of the Lord” (2 Cor 12:1). The Lord even had to place a “thorn in [his] flesh” to keep him from exalting himself because of “the surpassing greatness of the revelations” (v. 7). Paul had revelation upon revelation, vision upon vision.
These visions caused Paul to love the Lord, consecrate himself to the Lord, and join himself to the Lord’s purpose, the church. His whole life was controlled by what he had seen. He was later able to testify before King Agrippa with a clear conscience, “I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision” (26:19). It was this heavenly vision that drove him to serve the churches as he did. He knew what the churches needed because he had a clear vision of what the Lord wanted.
If we want to serve the church, we must do it according to vision. We must be like parents who have a vision of what their children need. If parents have no such vision, they might give them nothing but ice cream and candy to eat, because that is what their children want. But they have a vision that their children will grow up to be healthy, and this vision controls what food they serve. In the same way we must have a vision to properly serve the church where we are. While a little ice cream is good, we may kill the church if we do not see what God wants and what will take us there.
Following the Vision
It is not enough to see a vision. We must follow the vision. Moses’ experience was in three stages, each forty years long. The first stage gave him his base. Do not despise this. We have to read the Bible and spiritual books, go to conferences, and get all the basics. But we should not think that because we see something in this way that we see it all. This is only the base to take us to the second stage.
In the second stage Moses was seemingly abandoned, in exile, and put aside. Here, when he felt his life was over, he was able to write such a marvelous psalm, “You have been our dwelling place in all generations.” He could still worship God.
Then, in the third stage, God came to put his arms around Moses. The vision he had was now joined to the living person of God Himself. It was in this stage that Moses received the ten commandments which testify of who God is. Here he received the revelation of the feasts that testify of the enjoyment of all His riches. Here he received the pattern for building the tabernacle where God would meet with man, the offerings that satisfied both God and man, and the priesthood which foreshadowed Christ. All these riches came from the third stage. The operating, living God was walking with Moses.
May we mature in our vision until we clearly see who the Lord is and what is on His heart. May He have mercy on us that we would follow this vision faithfully.