Proverbs tells us -- in the King James Version of scriptures - that "where there is no vision, the people perish." (Proverbs 29:18). In my humble opinion, this might well be one of the most misunderstood and misapplied verses in the Bible. Preachers and church leadership conferences and church leadership books often quote this verse as a rationale for getting churches and pastors to formulate what they call a church vision statement. ... And, when you think about it, the King James wording fits nicely - for those who wish to persuade pastors and church members that they need for a vision statement.
Don't get me wrong -- I think it is great for pastors and other church leaders to communicate vision to their parishioners. But if we take time to look at translations closer to the original language, we see that what the KJV renders "vision" actually refers to a special revelation from God. That should change our view of the verse - the principle being that apart from God's word, society quickly spins into moral chaos.
For instance, one version translates the same scripture in this way ... "Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint."
The word translated "prophetic vision" again refers to special revelation from God's Word. The word translated "cast off restraint" carries the idea of there being a total loss of social order and morality with chaos and anarchy taking over.
The same word is used to describe the frenzy that went on during Israel's Golden Calf incident in the Wilderness. This is where we read about Moses coming down from the mountain and witnessing the people running wild. The verse also says that Aaron had let them "get out of control." (Exodus 32.25)
There is a very important lesson for us to learn from this study: If people do not hear God's Word, we can expect society to break down. We can even expect the church to cast off restraint. Some even argue that the reason there is so much immorality in the church today -- be it Evangelical, Protestant, or Catholic -- is because God's word is not being preached.
There is just no way for social civility and just "doing what's right" to be achieved without the hearing and practicing of God's word. And society can only experience God's word through the correct preaching, teaching and reading of scriptures.
Many people think the term "public morality" is not for today; that we are beyond the point where we can or should expect a moral society. We tend to think that everyone has their own morality; their own normal; their own civil. If that's the case, then why do we have laws? Why do we tell someone what they are doing is "wrong?"
Because there truly is a "right" and a "wrong." And the basis for that right and wrong can be found in the revelatory communication and experiencing of God's word.
How important is the prophetic revelation of God's Word? ... It is so important, scripture says, that without it society -- all areas of society - casts off restraint; chaos ensues; society as we know it begins to crumble; and we are left with Godless anarchy.
When we speak of vision in the context of this verse it doesn't refer to a need to formulate goals and then work toward them. Instead, it speaks of God's guidance in our lives; God's revelation for our lives; and God's authority in our lives.
It's about prophetic revelation that comes only through experiencing God's Word and letting that revelation drive our lives. If we don't, the Word says we run the risk of casting off restraint and falling into chaos.
I just hope and pray that it's not too late.