Proverbs 29:18 contains one of the more widely quoted verses from the Bible.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” (KJV)

I recently read the Christian Standard Bible’s translation, which is slightly different.

“Without revelation* people run wild, but one who follows divine instruction will be happy.”

The choice of the term revelation in the CSB translation appeals to me.  The authors included a footnote for their choice of revelation, saying it can also be read as vision.  The more I have learned about Jesus and our heavenly father, the more I have learned that we really only “discover” things on earth, even when we invent.  The Latin root of the word discover is discooperire, “uncover,” which combines the prefix dis-, or “opposite of,” with cooperire, “to cover up.”  So discover really means to remove the cover on something which was always there.  That’s what revelation and vision are: the time has arrived to remove the cover.

The phrase “people run wild” adds amplification to “perish” in the original KJV version. Perishing itself is a process, and manifests after an extended period of running wild.  I was once told by a pastor that the best way to understand Proverbs 29:18a is “Without vision the people cast off all restraint”.  This is better way of understanding running wild. It’s interesting to think of that interpretation in the context of what has been going on in the past two decades , and is now moving into the next logical phase in this year of 2020.

So with the insights of the old and new translations, and the context of this year 2020 (which so many are anxiously awaiting its end), it is easy to see the progression which has been going on for a long time, and culminating in what we are starting to see today.

  1. Push God to the side, as less important than something else.
  2. When the consideration of God and being accountable to Him  is not number one in your life, there is nothing stop you from doing something which you know He would not approve of.
  3. When you have done something which you know doesn’t please him, push God further away so that He is not bothering you anymore.
  4. When there is finally no influence from God (which can accompany total forgetfulness of God or unthrottled hostility), there is no ultimate accountability.
  5. When there is no ultimate accountability, there is no reason I should not do anything I want.  (this is known as relative morality)
  6. When I can do anything I want, there is no reason anyone else should not be able to do what they want.
  7. When everyone realizes that they can do what they want, trust erodes and fights break out over what little there is.  (God has halted his blessing of abundance by this point).
  8. Finally, the point of perishing sets in.

Perishing is when God has removed his blessing and allows judgement.  And it is not what most people expect.  Most people expect things to fall from the sky, nasty storms, maybe even lightning blasting people from the sky like a laser, or a series of bad luck which can’t be explained.

His judgment is actually more straight-forward: it’s subtle yet observable.  He simply gives everyone more of what they are doing, and does not hold back the consequences.  The consequences won’t be felt at first: God’s enemy has no interest in making a person’s life miserable, until they have fallen far enough into his trap.  Remember, the devil is not a creature with a pitchfork and a pointed tail, and doesn’t look threatening.  That would work against his cause.  He will always appear as a beautiful, self-confident creature, and the thing you have chosen will be sold to you as great, not harmful.  The Bible even says the devil was the most beautiful creature in heaven–before the fall.  He can even masquerade as an angel of light, and fool those not close to God.

If the person does not repent and cry out to the Lord, they are drawn into an endless cycle of desensitization and needing more of their sin or idol to maintain the pleasure expected from it. It doesn’t matter what it is: money, sex, power, drugs, alcohol (and includes even politics and political figures). He won’t stop whispering to us our about need to let go and come back, but he also will not hold back on the growing negative consequences if we chose to cling to our addictions and idols. And the devil will always be pulling the guilt strings to try and stop us from responding to the Lord. “How could God love or forgive you after what you did?” But that’s exactly what He does.  (Doctor) Jesus pointed out that it is not the healthy who need a doctor.

Ultimately everyone needs to realize when they are in this cycle, and to get out… immediately!  “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13).  The running wild part of life is not hard to recognize.  You just have to slow yourself down enough to see it.  So abandon your addictions or idols, and run back to the restraint which comes from loving the Lord.  The only thing that is hard to know is when the point of perishing will arrive.  And that’s a game of chicken or a dare that no one should ever accept.

Get out with Jesus, while you still can.  His love never fails and his forgiveness is available for the asking, but you have to be in it … before the grace period is over.