Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”
When we were in the Charismatic and Pentecostal, we understood this verse of the Scripture as teaching the need for prophecies, visions, dreams and interpretations of dreams. We understood it in the sense, “Where there is no dreams and revelations, the people perish;” but there are many problems with such interpretation. First, “vision” does not necessarily mean dreams and trances. If in the Daily Sun Newspaper tomorrow, we should see the heading, NIGERIA IS A NATION WITHOUT VISION, would we not be so stupid and foolish to assume “vision” in the above heading of the news means prophecy? Would any one interpret it to mean Nigeria is a nation without prophecies and trances and dreams?
In like manner, to assume and conclude that “vision” in the above passage of the Scripture means only dreams and prophecies, is to show how shallow our understanding of the Holy Scripture is, and to uncover our ignorance of divine truth!
The verse has nothing in it purporting prophecies and dreams, much less the idea of praying in tongues!
Vision here means a guide, a direction, or light from the word of God.
Without vision, that is, without guide, and direction from the word of God, the people perish.
I here submit to your consideration this short but precise and hard-hitting commentary on the verse under consideration.
A short, straight-to-the-point commentary on Proverbs 29:18
29:18 “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”
You need God’s word. This proverb is a great reminder. The Bible, the inspired scriptures of Jehovah, the only true God, is crucial for you. Without a revelation of God’s will, mankind is desperately ignorant and will self-destruct. Individual examples of dysfunction are all around you. God will soon destroy the world for its insane rebellion.
Neglect the Bible to your own peril. Fulfilment and happiness are by keeping God’s commandments, which can only be known by attention to the Bible. Your success and prosperity depend on you having a message from God. The lesson of this proverb is simple, but most are grossly misled by a false interpretation and foolish application.
The hired gun brought in by the ambitious pastor tells the contented church, “To be a big church, you need to think big. If you want to grow, then you need to think growth. If you want to triple your attendance in two years, then you need to build an auditorium that size. If you can dream it, you can believe it. If you can believe it, you can achieve it.”
He goes to his next PowerPoint slide and declares, “God agrees. The Bible says, ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish.’ Get a vision, people! Get a vision of tripling the size of your little church! Sign your pledge cards today, and help your pastor get that multi-million dollar mortgage! You need a vision, so your church won’t dry up and disappear.”
Who has not heard this sound bite, “Where there is no vision, the people perish”? The words of this proverb are well known, but the true meaning is little known. Here is one of the most abused verses in the Bible. This is the sound of words with no regard to the sense of words. May God save you from such ignorant and flippant use of the Scriptures.
This proverb is often corrupted to seduce churches to borrow large sums of money to finance unnecessary building projects. The “vision” is a plan to grow the church in size; and “perishing” is continuing on the same course with a bought-and-paid-for building. What a travesty of Bible interpretation! May the LORD bless you to read and understand the sense of this proverb, as Ezra read and gave the true sense to Israel (Neh 8:8).
As often in Proverbs, the parallelism tells you that “vision” is the hearing and reading of God’s word. A happy man is contrasted with people perishing, and the law of God is contrasted with “no vision.” There is nothing here about dreaming or building plans.
The lesson is simple but powerful. God’s word is a great blessing, and obeying it is the basis for true happiness. But where the word of God is not preached, the people will die in ignorance and folly from starvation for knowledge. Pray God to save you from such. This is the lesson of the proverb, and you should not let anyone corrupt this verse again.
God at times may take His word away from His people. Consider the days of Samuel, who anointed David king of Israel. The word of the LORD, or a revelation from God, was rare in those days, and it was called a vision, as in this proverb. In general, God was not revealing Himself and His will to Israel until Samuel arrived (I Sam 3:1).
God took His word away at other times also. Under Asa, the nation had gone a long time without a teaching priest or the law of God (II Chr 15:3). And during Josiah’s reign, the law of God, which had been lost, was found during temple renovation (II Chr 34:14). While in Babylon, God also took His word away from Israel (Ezek 7:26; Lam 2:9). Jesus saw His own people, without faithful preaching, as sheep without a shepherd (Matt 9:36).
Without the word of God to save him, man will worship totem poles, stop spanking children, teach reincarnation, believe he came from monkeys, burn children in sacrifice, eat a cracker-god, kiss a stone in Mecca, worship buffalo, burn widows on funeral pyres, save baby seals while aborting baby humans, invent same-sex marriages, and so forth.
Without God’s word, men wander out of the way of understanding and remain in the congregation of the dead, to perish there under Satan’s delusions (Pr 21:16; Acts 26:16-18; Eph 2:1-3). Consider modern history and where the greatest degree of human freedom, prosperous living, and happy people existed – where the Bible was practised.
When Paul preached at Lystra and Athens, he explained that God had let the Gentiles walk in their own ignorant ways without His word for many generations, but He was now commanding men to repent of their ignorance (Acts 14:11-18; 17:22-31). Without Scripture, men will rush with greedy ambition into the vilest of lifestyles (Eph 4:17-19).
In today’s world, great sections of it are closed to the reading and preaching of God’s word. It is generally restricted in Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and other nations. Where it is not read and preached, the people suffer in ignorance and folly of many kinds. Without God’s word, such nations are “without hope” religiously (Eph 2:12; John 4:22; I Thess 4:13), and they cannot achieve a good measure of even natural progress (Pr 8:1-31).
One-sixth of the world is Catholic, where until very recently its members were not allowed to read the Bible. The Mass – their only exposure to Scripture – was done in Latin. What superstitious ignorance! And this in the name of Christian religion! Compare a Catholic country with those around it, and perishing by ignorance is quite visible. Since they did not receive the love of the truth, God sent them delusions (II Thes 2:9-12).
The logic is simple. Religious salvation is by calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. But how can they call without believing? And how can they believe without hearing? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach without being sent? God has withdrawn His word from a world that rejected it (Rom 10:13-17).
The LORD warned that one of His judgments is to take away the word of God and leave a people starving for Him and Scripture. The Lord said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). He described the famine He will bring on a land: not a famine of bread, but a famine for hearing God’s word (Amos 8:11-12). Lord, help!
Nigeria is in such a condition. It fulfils the perilous times of the last days, prophesied by Paul in a warning to Timothy (II Tim 3:1-5). Though having an information explosion with a geometric increase in learning, there is no ability to identify or learn the truth (II Tim 3:6-7). Most of its Christians and churches think, look, and act like worldly pagans.
False teachers are everywhere, deceiving and being deceived (II Tim 3:8-13). Most Christians resent sound doctrine and truth, and they pay teachers and entertainers who will scratch their itching ears and lusts with fables (II Tim 4:3-4). Real preaching is despised as an outdated, boring, and negative activity. Entertainment rules! There is no more vision! Nigeria is in the midst of a famine for God’s word.
Men are living dysfunctional and perverted lives and perishing in folly and ignorance. A few sincere Christians throughout the nation are starving to hear and understand the word of God, but they cannot find it being taught anywhere. Confusion and error reign on any and every subject. The emphasis is on growth and programs with disdain for God’s word.
What is the cure? God-called men must preach the Word of God faithfully and dogmatically. The 1611 King James Version of Scripture is completely sufficient to make every faithful minister perfectly prepared to instruct his people in all the wisdom of God (II Tim 3:14 – 4:2; Jer 3:15). With the Bible as his handbook, a faithful man of God can destroy the errors and illusions of any people, for the word of God is a hammer and a fire (Jer 23:28-29).
What is another cure? Honour faithful preaching of His word with a ready and receptive mind, and do not despise old-fashioned Bible teaching (Act 17:11; I Thes 5:20; Jer 6:16; Jude 1:4). Reject any move to contemporary worship, and restore a proper emphasis on thundering messages from God’s word by ordained teachers. Review the great joy and national celebration of Israel hearing and understanding preaching (Neh 8:1-12).
What is another cure? Treasure His word as your greatest earthly possession, and delight in its glorious words from heaven (Jer 15:16; Job 23:12; Psalm 19:10; 119:72,103,111). Promote the Bible as the absolute and final authority on every subject where you can, in conscious defiance to this MTV generation and their obsession with fables and pleasure. Make sure you have a Bible version that you can trust at the word level to honour God, that is the 1611 King James Bible.
What else can you do? Humbly obey in sincerity and truth what you read and hear from the Bible, not merely complying outwardly by a religious ritual and habit (Ezek 33:30-33; Luke 8:18). Let others see your true conviction about Scripture by your obedience to it.
What else? Show the true joy, peace, and hope in believing that will cause others to be encouraged and ask a reason of your hope (Rom 15:13; I Pet 3:15). Those under the influences of the Spirit at Pentecost did not count their vision a light thing (Acts 2:42-47). By obeying the Bible and having a blessed life, you will do much to promote it to others.
There is great reward in having and obeying the Word of God (Ps 19:11). Moses told Israel that the precious revelation they had received from God was their wisdom and understanding above other nations (Deut 4:5-10), their righteousness and means for His blessing (Deut 6:20-25), and even their very lives (Deut 32:46-67). Building on this solid foundation will prepare you well for life’s storms that will surely come (Luke 6:46-49).
Jesus said regarding His preaching, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17). He even told a woman that hearing and keeping the word of God was a greater blessing than being His own mother (Luke 8:21; 11:28). And James added that the blessing is for those who hear and do (James 1:25). Make sure you are a doer!
The Holy Scriptures and the faithful preaching of them provide more value to a people than any other blessing. For obeying God’s word saves from horrible ignorance and trouble, leads to the highest peace, prosperity, and pleasure possible in this world, and contains all the spiritual instruction to prepare for the next world. It teaches men how to walk with God in confidence of eternal life and personal fellowship with Him. Glory!
The Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of God. There He received great gifts and spoil for His victory over sin and death, and He has in turn given these gifts of ministerial ability and authority to preach the Scriptures to His people and churches. Rejoice and be exceeding glad that you have seen the beautiful feet (Rom 10:15; Job 33:23-24) and heard the joyful sound (Ps 89:15; 68:11; Rom 10:18).
Dear reader, do you love, appreciate, read, and obey the Bible as you should? It is your life. Without it, you will perish. Neglect it to the peril of life and soul. It is your happiness. Exalt it to the joyful blessing of your own life and that of your family. Your fulfillment and happiness in all things both natural and spiritual depend on it.