Proverbs 29:18 (NASB)
Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law.
When church leaders or Christian leaders in general want to lend support to their plans for the future, they will often cite this particular Proverb – but in the King James version, which says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Unfortunately, they are taking it out of context and leaving out the second half which completes the overall “if-then” structure and point. Solomon, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, did not write this verse to baptize the plans of future Christian leaders. He wrote it to dispel the desire for new revelation over the need to simply obey God’s law.
The word “vision” is from the Hebrew word “hazon” which means revelation, or vision – a divine communication. Given the context and inclusion of the second half of the verse, it is obvious that this is referring to a word from God. Back in Solomon’s day, this “word” would usually come through the Prophets…but they also already had The Law as given in the first five books of the Old Testament. Essentially, Solomon was warning that if the people were only looking for a new revelation while at the same time refusing to obey what God had already given in the law, they would run wild. No kidding.
The Hebrew word for “unrestrained” is “para” which means to be “let loose”. In Exodus 32 it is used to describe what the Israelites did when Moses went up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments. They left all restraint behind and engaged in a massive party full drunkenness and sex. They melted down their jewelry and formed it into a golden calf to worship. God told Moses to return to the scene of the crime as the people had “corrupted themselves” (Ex. 32:7). This concept is indeed an on-going spiritual reality: Where there is no revelation or word from God, the people become morally bankrupt.
In context, this passage is easily applied to any group of people, including Christians, but it can also be applied to individuals…to you and me. No church or ministry or individual should get caught up in looking for a “new word from the Lord.” At this point in history He has already given us everything we need to lead happy and godly lives. Staying in His Word consistently will help us keep ourselves from “letting loose” and will enable us to live the better life He wants to provide.