The Valley of Vision

Isa. 22:1.---'The burden of the valley of vision.'

We do not associate visions in life with the valley. When we speak of vision we think of hill-tops, of high places, leagues of light and air and a measureless horizon. One remembers "the high hill, called Clear," where Christian and Hopeful could dimly see the gates and also some of the glory of the celestial city. Often we are too busy and too weary here in the valley to climb to the crest of the hill for the larger view and the ampler air; but we look up to the height, and that upward look counts for something in our daily life. There is always light on the hills of hope; and we who live at the foot of these hills learn to live our life by the light that crowns them.

But that is not the only light by which God means us to live. There is a VALLEY of vision. It is, if you like, the valley in which we walk day by day. We know it well as a valley of toil. Some know it even more intimately as a vale of tears. We work in the valley, and we suffer in it. But perhaps, if we really knew our little valley as well as long familiarity leads us at times to think we know it, we should find it the valley of vision. We should see in it men and women bearing burdens, not because they must bear them, but because for love's sake they choose to stoop under them; and these lowly ministries and the infinite unselfishness of God are parts of the same high sacrament of love. We should see the angel-messengers of God coming down the hill-sides and bringing whispers of peace and gifts of strength to the places where men hope and weep and pray.

The places of vision in life---the places where we see the deeper meanings, and the hidden beauty, and the profound reasonableness, and the eternal purpose of the things that go to make life---are not a few lofty and occasionally accessible peaks of experience. All that life has to teach us is not written on a far horizon. There is a revelation in near and lowly things. That is a truth that Jesus has given to the world. The raiment of the lilies, the blades of grass, the seed-time and the sheepfold, and a man's love for his son, and all the simple things that make our complex life, were full of light for Him. He saw, too, the possibility of purity in the Magdalene, of tenderness in the son of Thunder, of heroism in Peter the fisherman, of something holy in every human soul. And these are the things that we, too, by the grace of Christ, may see------ things we should see but for the sin of our souls; and seeing them, the valley of life is the valley of vision. But the text speaks of the BURDEN of the valley of vision. The prophet had seen something that laid a weight upon his spirit. He looked out on a joyous town, a people reveling on their house-tops and holding high carnival. But he saw the awful meaning of that mad holiday. Their unholy alliance with Egypt had failed them. Their allies, the Egyptians, had been beaten, and the Assyrians were upon them. And with the failure of their material hope there came a sudden collapse of their merely formal religion; and they turned to mad revelry with the desperation of the faithless, resourceless soul. In a word, Isaiah saw through appearances into the reality of things. He passed, lonely and bowed down, into the valley of vision. And there is vision in life waiting every man, not to lighten the load of life for him, but to lay a heavier weight upon his heart. There is no burden in all the world like the burden of the man who has had the courage and sincerity, patience and faith, to enter the valley of vision.

There is one valley we are loath to enter, and the name of it is humiliation. And the word spoken at the gate of this valley, the "open sesame," is this, 'Know thyself.' More often and in more ways than we can count has God opened to us the gate of this valley, and the pride and the fear of our hearts would not let us enter. The world is unwilling to go where it cannot take its gaieties, and its shallow self-satisfactions, and its unsound self-respect. But it is only when a man stoops beneath the burden of this valley---the burden of humbling self-knowledge---that he can find a truly glad heart. The perfect life, the sinless life, has been lived among men. The ideal has taken shape before our eyes. And the way to the ideal always lies through the valley. Jesus calls the heavy-laden unto Him to give him rest. But let us not misread that gift. It is rest from bitter remorse and vain regret, rest from the burden of a wrong-laden past, rest from the weight of unprofitable anxieties and fruitless disquietude; but He lays hold upon all who come to Him a burden---none the less a burden because it steadies and strengthens the man who bears it---the weight of realized imperfections and of responsibility for a character that is yet so far from the divine and Christly ideal.

But there is a valley of vision where a man walks alone with Christ and bends beneath the judgment of a perfect purity, so also there is a valley of vision where a man sees some measure of the sin and the suffering of his fellows, and bends beneath the burden of this sad, strange world of human life.

As Isaiah stood at the door of his house in Jerusalem, and read all the shame and vanished faith that the revelry of the city had taken, and took the pity of it and the peril of it into his own heart, so are men learning to look upon human life today. The problem of the many is coming home to individual hearts and consciences. The man whose bread is sure is concerned about his brethren who are hungry. The woman whose life is set amid the sweet protections of a love-lit home is taking to her heart the pain and peril of her sister who is compelled to live her life face to face with the shames of the world. Thus the Christ, the Savior of the world, is leading men day by day down into the deep places of human wrong and pain and need, and the burden upon their hearts is the burden of the valley of vision.

How much of this burden of vision have we taken upon our shoulders---upon our hearts? Have we accepted the stern, humbling, merciful judgment of the Christ upon our own character? Have we passed, are we passing ever further, into the valley of self-knowledge, of confession and contrition, where all lasting amendment and attainment begin? And how stands it with us in regard to a sin-stained and suffering world? Are we willing to know, and endeavoring to know, something of the pathos and tragedy hidden in the darkness of the terrible world?

In a word---for it all can be reduced to this---are we following Jesus Christ? He it is who in His mercy and power reveals and cleanses the worst and fulfills the best in every human heart that receives Him; and it is He alone who can give us grace to see, and suffer for, and serve our brethren.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha