A woman comes to you for counseling. She has recently had a "vision" that God is calling her to leave her husband and children and go be a missionary to orphans in Africa. No one in her life has confirmed this vision as being from the Lord as she has other obligations to meet at home. She has no money, no leading from her husband, or her church. She is insistant upon the vision and keeps quoting Proverbs
3:5-6 as a "proof text" to go to Africa and leave her husband and children behind. What would you say to her in relation to Proverbs 3:5-6?
A Contextual Analysis of Proverbs 3:5–6
Proverbs 3:5–6 is situated in the context of a father teaching his son important truths about life; in no manner does this reality exclude its importance for us today. At the same time, we must keep in mind the imperative implications of historical context and the necessity to keep the original audience in mind when approaching the text.
The case study involves a married woman who is convinced that God has called her to leave her family and go into foreign missions. This certainty is based on an existential and subjective reality which she claims came in the form of a “vision” she has had which she thinks is “from the Lord.” No doubt she is confused, and there are numerous issues which would need to be discussed if she were seeking counsel (issues pertaining to theology, authority, biblical womanhood, and the like). The issue at hand is one of a contextual nature. She has, in the face of extremely obvious barriers, continued to insist that this vision is from God. Her only reliance is upon the given text. How might proper counsel be given in order to assist this sister in her wayfaring struggle to leave for the glory of God?
To begin with, it is absolutely crucial that the whole context is read with her. She is using a common evangelical hermeneutical fallacy known as “proof texting” to base her assurance upon. It is obvious, to begin with, as all twelve verses are read, that there is a series of six biblical “equations” that should be taken together. Her text falls as the third in this group. It is exactly in the middle. It is obvious from a cursory examination of these six “equations” that together they form a contextual meaning. When one focuses only on one of these “equations” they are still true, and they are still valid for the believer, but not in the way the woman seeks to apply this text in this specific case in point.
Secondly, there are numerous questions that can be posed which give rise to problems for her to answer with valid warrants for her interpretation. For instance, when the text says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” does it mean that we are to trust God in a blind faith? Are we to base our conclusions on ‘visions’ that are subjective? Again, another question which ought to be answered is provoked when the text says, “Lean not on your own understanding.” The question is, “When God gives a revelation, shouldn’t we rely on God’s interpretation? Where do we find God’s revealed will? In visions? Certainly not.
Going to another point to help this sister, we need to discuss the further context of the entire book of Proverbs to show her that God would not will for her to break her marriage covenant and leave her children. For God does not and indeed he cannot contradict himself. It must be insisted upon that God would not reveal something to her in a dream that would contradict his word. Notice that at the end of the book of Proverbs is a chapter which is almost entirely devoted to the wife of noble character. This wife brings her husband “good and not harm all the days of his life,” (v. 12) the modifier all shows us that God does not intend for a wife to leave her husband. This noble wife rises while it is still dark and provides food for her family (v. 15). She watches over the affairs of her household (v. 27). Her children rise and call her blessed, her husband also and he praises her (v.28). Can any of these be true if she fulfills her supposed vision from the Lord? The answer is an unequivocal no.