Proverbs 29: 18 Where there is no prophecy, the people cast off restraint, but happy are those who keep the law.
This is a very well-known verse of scripture, though it is usually quoted in the King James Version – “Where there is no vision, the people perish…”
I’ve heard this verse explained many times as meaning that the church needs a clear vision for its mission or it will die. This is usually spoken by a leader who then speaks forth a vision statement of some sort.
That’s not what this verse means.
The key clue as to its meaning comes in the second half of the verse “but happy are those who keep the law”. Those who observe the boundaries/limits given by God to Moses and to the people (the law) are “happy”. In other words, things go well for them. They avoid many pitfalls and struggles in life because they trust that the boundaries/limits God gave to people are designed for their happiness and well-being.
Which brings us to the meaning of the first part of the verse. The term “prophesy” refers to a word or guidance from God. When there is no guidance from God, people tend to do whatever they like – which usually leads to our demise.
Bottom line? People need to be fenced in a bit. For our own good, we need limits and boundaries to thrive. I wish I had understood this more clearly as a younger man. Would have saved me lots of grief, heartache, and misery. What about you?
Heavenly Father, thank you that you do not leave us to figure out how to live. Give us grace to not simply read your word, but to live by it – and, in doing so, to thrive. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.