“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.