Daily Archives: 6th September 2015

Vision of the Valley

In 1991, the Christian musician Don Francisco published an album entitled ‘Vision of the Valley. The title track, ‘Vision of the Valley’ was a prophetic song depicting God’s feelings against the fake shepherds of the Christian Church; those interested in being leaders only for the money, the power and/or the prestige and social standing that the ‘job’ gave.

Now, almost a quarter-century later, I believe that this song is echoing what Father is doing in this time.

You see, for too long, many (but not all) churches all around the world have concentrated on god’s anger, judgement, ‘holiness’ (in this context, meaning his being ‘set apart’ from, or in other words allergic to, ‘sin’), rules and laws, and other unsavoury aspect of the character of ‘angry god’ portrayed especially in the Old Testament. Churches have been harsh and unbending, they have been unwelcoming to those that don’t fit in. The way they treat their members, at least those who deviate even slightly from the ‘normal’ behaviour, is reprehensible. They have persecuted the minorities – such as gay/lesbian/transgender people, they have rejected the widows and their children (divorcees and remarried people – see my article on this here) and they have shunned those who do not agree with them on absolutely every point of doctrine.

There are people bleeding and broken by ‘heavy shepherding’ – bullying, strong-personality leader types who make their congregation do things without question and order them around in God’s Name, and confront them with their ‘sins’, supposedly ‘in love’.

Love could not be further from these people. They are not being Christ to their people, nor to those outside. Is it any wonder, then, that the world looks in on the Church of today – whether that particular congregation is guilty of this or not; they are all tarred with the same brush by those outside – with contempt. This is the face of Religion – cold, hard, unbending, unmerciful. The Church, generally, is no longer seen as representing Christ  to the world – the Christ Who turned the cold face of Religion on its head and redefined how people can relate to God…..

So what Father is doing is that there are many people around the world who do represent Jesus, and He is raising these people up and bringing them out into the limelight. People whom before we ‘…hadn’t noticed’. People in every walk of life who love Jesus and love others. People like me, who have recently ‘come out’ as an affirmer of Lesbian/gay/transgender people. People like good friends of mine, who have realised that the harshness of the Old Testament is not a true reflection of God’s nature, and that proper interpretation of Scripture is essential in determining doctrine, if indeed you even need doctrine as such, but in any event at least where that doctrine dictates how you treat others.

Jesus is in this day reaching out to those who need Him in their lives. The broken, the bleeding, those damaged by bullying religion, those bound up by archaic rules and laws that Jesus came to set us free from.

So, here’s the song – Vision of the Valley – by Don Francisco, used here with his permission:

Vision_of_the_Valley

The vision came unbidden, at an unexpected pass
Where the winds of change blew colder
Whippin’ snow that cut like glass
But like an old man in regret
For foolish sins and wasted youth
The scene that lay before me
Had no beauty save its truth
For the wind came down the mountains
Never slow and never still
And the sheep were scattered shepherdless,
Alone across the hills
They were prey to every beast that roamed,
And entrapped by every curse
And they stumbled in their sickness,
In their weakness and their thirst

Below them in the valley,
The polluted waters flowed
Where the shepherds that were hirelings sat
And argued what was owed
And the ambitious and the abusive bragged
And they boasted on their might
And their profits from the slaughter
Of the ones who could not fight

And the wind just kept on howling,
As I cried, “Oh Lord, how long
Will your people be the victims
Of the ruthless, proud and strong?”
And at once there came an answer
In the quiet of my soul
“The time has come for judgement
And to make the wounded whole”

“For my heart is still a shepherd’s heart
I know each one by name
The ragged and the beautiful,
The healthy and the lame
And I myself will lead them out,
And I’ll feed them on the best
In pastures by still waters
In a place of peace and rest

O, but woe unto the shepherds who abuse my sheep and kill
With harshness and severity you’ve bent them to your will
And today I am against you as I take them from your hand
When the fire of judgement comes
The stubble will not stand!”

Then darkness filled the valley
And I saw it take up form
Screaming winds and fire and lightning
More than any earthly storm
Where it passed were no survivors
For the land was cleansed and bare
But the streams flowed clear and purified
And the grass grew green and fair

I saw a man come walking
And his heart glowed like a flame
All the sheep began to run to him,
And he called each one by name
He spoke to them in gentle words
And he soothed their fearful minds
And he healed the brokenhearted
And the crippled, sick and blind
Then many others like him,
All with hearts that glowed the same
That before I hadn’t noticed,
From the farms and fields they came
They weren’t famous, wise, or noble
But they spoke a common word
A word the flock could recognize
And follow when they heard

They led them in green pastures,
By still waters in the light
Standing guard against the wolves
And other creatures of the night
Going out into the mountains
In the darkness and the cold
Bringing back the lost and wounded
To the safety of the fold
And the news went out around the world
In every street and town
That something wonderful was here,
That heaven had come down
And millions gave their hearts in trust
That long had been betrayed
And the bride at last was ready,
And the trumpet call was made

And the news went out around the world
In every street and town
That something wonderful was here,
That heaven had come down
And millions gave their hearts in trust
That long had been betrayed
And the bride at last was ready,
And the trumpet call was made

The ‘many others like Him’ are those people who, in this time, are spending time getting to know the Great Shepherd’s Heart, and then expressing that Heart to those around them. They are the ones who have forgotten their ability to judge others, and instead have decided to preach the Good News of the Kingdom either directly, or by the way they express the Love of Jesus in their lives.

Are you one of those people? Would you like to be one of those people? Maybe if you listen to ‘Vision’, your backbone feels like there’s electricity running down it right from that opening harp arpeggio right at the beginning of the song? Does your heart burn with the dual emotions of excitement of believing what God is doing today and the deep weeping for those so badly treated by those who should know better? Does your heart weep for those sheep, and long for them to be released into the freedom that Jesus bought for them? If any of these descriptions strike a chord with you, then the Spirit is indeed speaking this to your heart – so be encouraged! He will work this out for you if you ask Him.

What does this mean, then, for the ‘shepherds’? What is this ‘woe’ that the song speaks of, reflecting the passages in Ezekiel 34:2-10 and Jeremiah 23:1?

Quite simply, as people leave the churches of these people, they will be out of a job! Sure, their existing congregations might well stay the same size, since they will probably be made up of people who are equally hard and harsh. But as Holy Spirit works on the hard hearts of those people, and even on the leaders, they will come round to His way of thinking. And the Church will grow, but not the churches that are hardened, at least not with people who know their relationship with Jesus has saved them from the hell of a life lived on the streets without Him. They will form their own groups around those who go out and find them; in short, relationship will win over rules and organisation. Don’t forget that God loves even the harsh shepherds, and longs for them to realise their error and to come into the fulness of His Kingdom in this life. They are missing out on so much!

So, listen to the song again and again. Soak in it; hear its message, and if you are one of these hard-hearted people, then let the Spirit change you into the person you always wanted to be.


Edit: Here’s another version of the song, live by Don Francisco, in the 1989 UK ‘Vision of the Valley’ Tour. The keyboard player is Yorkshireman Dave Bainbridge, of the band ‘Iona’; I played piano at his baptism….

00