“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (Prov. 29:18). This passage gives insights concerning divine revelation. On the one hand is the burden where God’s message is absent while the other hand shows the blessing of its presence in a person’s life. The Bible is filled with passages that address the need for all to have divine instructions and the application of it. Consider three points from this passage.
The Prophetic Word and the Law. The Hebrew word that is translated “vision” in this passage is the word meaning “divine communication in a vision, oracle, prophesy” (Brown, Driver, Briggs: Hebrew and English Lexicon, p. 303). The Hebrew word that is translated “law” in this passage is the word meaning “direction, instruction, law” (BDB, p. 435). Both terms refer to the revelation that comes from God whether spoken through the prophet (cf. Heb. 1:1) or the written revelation from former prophets, like Moses. While today all scripture is inspired of God (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16) and God’s entire revelation for man’s needs has been given (cf. Jude 3), when Solomon gave this proverb, the Holy Spirit communicated the will of God through visions, dreams, etc. as well as the written word that was then in existence. The silence of God as well as the speaking of God is seen in this passage through the words “where there is no vision” and “he that keepeth the law.” Therefore, there is a marked difference between the value of the existence of divine revelation and the absence of it. Having revelation is good. Having no revelation is bad. Therefore, here is another case for the spreading of the gospel to the world.
The Perishing of Some and Happiness of Others. The Hebrew word translated “perish” in this passage is from the word meaning “to let go, let alone” (BDB, p. 828) hence the clause “the people is let loose, lacks restraint” (BDB, p. 829). This same word is found in Eliphaz’ words to Job, “Yea, thou castest off fear, and restrainest prayer before God” (Job 15:4). This is the same problem that Aaron created for the first generation out of Egypt when he permitted them to follow idolatry while Moses was on the mount (cf. Ex. 32:25, ESV). The thought of a people perishing where there is no divine revelation is seen in that there is no restraint for controlling a people who do not have God’s word. On the other hand, the one who has the revelation of God and keeps it finds a pleasant life. This is seen in Psalms 1:1-3 as well as in Luke 8:15.
The Power of the Absence and Presence of the Word. People are destroyed for a lack of knowledge (cf. Hosea 4:6). Man is blind without guidance from divine revelation (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4). Where the presence of the word is among people, they have access to all the blessings from it (cf. Acts 10:33). Consider the nations of the world where the Bible is not present or a lack of study of the Bible is not found and one can easily see the destructive power of the absence of the word of God. Look at the lives of people where the Bible is valued the most and studied supremely with daily applications and see the benefits that come from such. Paul told Timothy, “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all” (1 Tim. 4:15). The value of divine revelation is clearly seen in the product.
“And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:25).
Paul spoke to Felix concerning “the faith in Christ” (Acts 24:24). That faith struck at the heart of the ungodly life of Felix. He had taken Drusilla to be his wife who was formerly the wife of Gaius Julius Azizus (The writings of Josephus “Jewish Antiquities”, xx, 7.1). Felix was emotionally moved by the truths taught but was not committed to apply what was taught. He leaned upon the excuse of looking for a “convenient season” to hear more. There is no indication that Felix ever did anything more than what is recorded in Acts 24.
Some people today often look for convenience when it comes to following Jesus. If there is some great price to be paid, excuses of all kind are made. Look at the prices that Jesus has paid for mankind and ask the question “Why should it be convenient for us?
Jesus Left Heaven To Come To Earth For Us. The Holy Spirit makes it clear that Jesus willingly gave up the glories of heaven to come to earth and live as a servant for man’s benefit. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:5-7). It is written again, “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:5-7). Jesus left where the saint is trying to go. Would anyone think it was convenient for Jesus to do such? Why then should it be convenient for us?
Jesus Lived His Life As A Pattern For Us. The life that Jesus lived was not an easy, convenient life to live. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Again, it is written of Jesus, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Heb. 12:2-3). Jesus had a much tougher life to live than anyone ever had. Nevertheless, he set the standard for all men (cf. 1 Peter 2:21). Life was not convenient for Jesus. Why should it be convenient for us?
Jesus Laid Down His Life For Us. Giving up one’s life for sinners to be saved is the ultimate inconvenience. Nevertheless, Jesus did just that. Paul often addressed the gracious sacrifice of Jesus (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15; Titus 2:13-14). Paul never lost sight of the great sacrifice of Christ and the need to live unto Him with all his being (cf. Gal. 2:20). The cross was the only way for man to be saved (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-31). Why should anything be convenient for us in view of this? Jimmy Clark
“And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say” (Ex. 4:10-12). Moses ultimately became one of the great teachers of the Israelite nation (cf. Deut. 4:1), but it was not without his need of encouragement from the Lord. All teachers, whether just starting out or those highly experienced, need to be strengthened to do some of the greatest work among mankind. Consider some thoughts about encouraging teachers.
Further Development Builds Greater Ability. Moses was a man of learning in the ways of Egypt. Stephen stated of Moses, “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds” (Acts 7:22). However, when it came to his speaking for the Lord, he felt extremely inadequate. Solomon wrote of wise and just men and their continued learning, “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning” (Prov. 9:9). All teachers need to deepen and broaden their knowledge of the Bible. Teachers of all fields are required to stay abreast of things to improve their competency of instruction. Man will always need to be exposed to both the fundamentals and the deeper principles that give a broad understanding of the Bible. Moses went “back to school” at the age of 80.
Faith in the Lord’s Approval Gives Courage. The Lord encouraged Moses by saying, “I will be with thy mouth” (Ex. 4:12). Jeremiah was told when he saw himself as unqualified to serve as a prophet due to his youth, “But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord” (Jer. 1:7-8). While it is true that both Moses and Jeremiah were inspired prophets who did not have to study as to what to say, they still had to have the courage to do the work. Knowing that the Lord is with those who work for Him is a very encouraging thought. Paul wrote to the young man Timothy, “Study to show thyself approved of God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). When man draws nigh to God, He draws nigh to man (cf. James 4:8).
Future Blessings Abound in the Task. Moses’ teaching was paramount to the success of the nation (cf. Deut. 4:1-8). It was their wisdom (cf. Deut. 4:6). How much more is the New Testament the blueprint for success in the world today? Paul specifically instructed Timothy to pass on the inspired word of God to others that they also might teach (cf. 2 Tim. 2:2). That word is food to the soul (cf. Matt. 4:4), light in a dark world (cf. Ps. 119:105) and the sword to stand against the wicked one (cf. Eph. 6:17). No one who learns it and passes it on to others will every regret it. Let everyone know and remember that God’s own Son was a teacher (cf. Acts 1:1). Jimmy Clark
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). This time of year marks the beginning of many going back to school after the summer break. A new start should bring the anticipation of development and improvement unto maturity. However, there can be learning only if there is the proper approach to learning. Solomon is addressing this at the beginning of the book of Proverbs. Consider three thoughts about the basic attitude of respect for the Lord as it relates to learning.
Respect for the Source of All Learning. The Lord is the ultimate teacher. The proverbs of Solomon were not simply short statements of his personal experiences. It is written, “And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the seashore. And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. . . . And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five” (1 Kings 4:29-30, 32). Solomon’s wisdom was inspired of God, not mere human accumulation of learning by the experiences of research. There is no need of trial and error with God’s wisdom for it is perfect in nature. Whenever anyone despises the Lord and thus despises the divine revelation of the word of God, it is to his own detriment. The apostle Paul stated of God and His instruction, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Rom. 11:33-36).
Respect for the Sacrifice It Takes to Learn. Learning does not simply take place by sitting in front of a teacher and letting the words go into the ears. There is work, hard work, to be done to attain unto learning. One must respect the price to be paid to gain that learning in order to become wise. Solomon wrote, “Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Prov. 2:3-5). Too many are not willing to be that “workman” (2 Tim. 2:15) that finds himself approved of God. Laziness and apathy eat away at the mind while worldly pursuits and pleasure turn learning into a wasteful existence. As the old adage goes, “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”
Respect for the Structure of the Highest Learning. The knowledge that comes from God is a well-ordered life. There is structure and the use of proper judgment in all decisions of life guided by the inspired word of God. Solomon warned about fools who despise “wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). It is the Lord who directs the paths of those who acknowledge Him (cf. Prov. 3:6). When one fears the Lord, he will depart from evil (cf. Prov. 3:7). There is a path to follow in life and that is the one marked by the instruction of heaven (cf. Prov. 10:17). The Lord made man and knows what is best.