-Proverbs 29:18a, KJV
When was the last time you heard this verse? Sadly, in most evangelical American churches, this first part of the verse is used as a Scriptural justification for ministries, programs, or whatever new thing the pastor wants to get the church rallied behind. I am so sick and tired of the misuse of this Scripture it makes me want to spit.
Over the years I have dealt with a few different instances where the wording of the KJV is such that today's meaning is a whole lot different than the 1611 meaning. I am rapidly losing any reservations I have tried to maintain as far as not calling out the KJV as a version that should not be used any longer by English-speaking Christians.
This current verse is part of that. Of course, the main blame goes to modern church and ministry builders who don't think twice about pretexting their ambitions with Scripture.
I carry an NRSV study bible to church. It reads thusly:
"Where there is no prophecy, the people cast off restraint,"
Well right there you have an entirely different message that doesn't support "vision-casting," "ministry building," or any other such drivel. Nonetheless, it was important for me to verify this translation with others and also find the meaning.
I pull out my smartphone and call up the NKJV, which reads:
"Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint;"
Well now I think we have a winner. I then grab my wife's Thomas Nelson KJV Reference Bible and check the notes, to find "vision" footnoted as "prophetic vision" and "perish" footnoted as "cast off restraint."
Well how about that boys and girls????? If the brownie girl in the pulpit had dared study they would know better. But shall we stop there? Oh, no. Let's get to bottom of this bucket-o-noodles. I think it's time that every man and his dog be allowed to see the whole verse, eh? Courtesy of the KJV:
"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he."
Well, dog biscuits! It's rather hard to shoehorn the idea of a church having a vision for some program or ministry or building expansion in the context, isn't it? Shall we stop there? Oh, no. More context coming right up. Verses 15-19 courtesy of the NKJV:
15 The rod and rebuke give wisdom,
But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
16 When the wicked are multiplied, transgression increases;
But the righteous will see their fall.
17 Correct your son, and he will give you rest;
Yes, he will give delight to your soul.
18 Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint;
But happy is he who keeps the law.
19 A servant will not be corrected by mere words;
For though he understands, he will not respond.
Follow the bouncing ball. Verses 15, 16, and 18 all follow a negative "but" positive format. Pretty much the whole chapter has to do with--DRUM ROLL RATA-TAT-TAT: the blessings of submitting to the Lord's commandments versus the chaos and shame of going one's own way.
Are you looking for an edifying understanding of this verse? Consider what Baptist pastor John Gill had to say:
"prophesying is often put for preaching; and here vision, or prophecy, signifies the public ministering of the word and ordinances, and want of persons to administer them; no expounder, as the Septuagint version; or interpreter, as the Arabic.
"where there is right vision and prophecy, or true preaching of the word, and that is despised and neglected, men perish notwithstanding;"
Consider this also from the notes from the NET Bible:
"It must be stated that the prophetic ministry was usually in response to the calamitous periods, calling the people back to God. Without them the downward rush to anarchy and destruction would have been faster than with these prophetic calls from God."
Proverbs 29:18 is then paraphrased thusly:
"Where there is no teaching(/preaching) of God's revelation, the people cast off restraint, but happy are those who keep the law."
Thanks for reading and good night.