Recently lying in a tent in the back country listening to the rain I was reflecting on Proverbs 29:18. The old King James is likely familiar to people from the oft repeated quote, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” It is applied by business people and self help gurus alike. Yet the latter half of the verse receives short shrift. Here is the whole verse.
18 Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law. Proverbs 29:18 (NKJV)
To properly understand and apply the first half we need to embrace the second half. The first half tells us that the lack of something leads to a casting off of restraint, a loss. We find in the second half of the verse that the thing lost is an understanding of the law, in this case the Mosaic Law. The law was given to guide proper behaviour and as a restraint on wrong behaviour. The implication is that it isn’t about the need for vision or revelation in general. It is a need for a revelation of the role of the law in our lives.
The English Standard Version translates the first phrase as “Where there is no prophetic vision.” While the word ‘prophetic’ is added for clarity it is implied in the context. The role of the prophets in the Old Testament was primarily calling the people back to obedience to the law.
So, given this let’s apply it to our lives. In our natural lives one of the roles of parents and other authority figures is to provide external controls in the lives of children. As they grow and mature children develop greater internal control and so need less external control. As believers we start out as spiritual children and are supposed to mature and grow (see 1 Jn. 2 for examples of the stages of spiritual growth).
The implication from Proverbs 29:18 is that in our growth we need to learn to adhere to the principles of scripture by knowing His word and as we mature we develop a greater sensitivity to His internal leading and less reliance on knowing the ‘right’ thing to do in different situations. The learning of the principles is the fruit of disciplined time spent in His word and meaningful fellowship with more mature believers.
In the church at present we have many varied and conflicting beliefs. One movement gaining many adherents is ‘progressive’ Christianity, which when examined isn’t Christianity at all. Below are the first two of the eight points from progressivechristianity.org, updated for 2020.
1. Believe that following the path of the teacher Jesus can lead to healing and wholeness, a mystical connection to “God,” as well as an awareness and experience of not only the Sacred, but the Oneness and Unity of all life;
2. Affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience “God,” the Sacredness, Oneness and Unity of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom, including Earth, in our spiritual journey;
Notice that Jesus is just a good ‘teacher’ and one of many ways to God. This movement has made great inroads in the evangelical church because of our lack of knowledge of and understanding of scripture. There has been a casting off of restraint and a rejection the ‘law,’ the truths of scripture. So, if we are seeking vision or revelation let us seek that which calls and draws us to adherence to the timeless truths of scripture and anchors us in His word and presence.