Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law. (Proverbs 29:18)The KJV says “where there is no vision, the people perish.” That motivates me to check a Hebrew dictionary. In it, revelation or vision simply mean any sort of divine communication.
The other word is more interesting. Restraint can be translated several ways including: move to leadership, be naked, be let loose, be without restraint. Perish isn’t included, but I suppose the KJV translators saw that as the end result of freely sinning, or being a lead sinner, so they used that word.
Scholarship may revisit the way to translate words here and there, but the essential message of the Bible is not changed. Without divine communication, people are unrestrained in their sin. Even with a revelation from God, people sin. Unless that revelation is obeyed, we become unrestrained (take the leadership) in sin. I think of this passage:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. (Romans 1:18–24)This portion of the New Testament goes on to describe sexual sins. Today, those committing those sins are demanding their “rights” that their lifestyles be not only condoned, but made legal. The words “move to leadership, be naked, be let loose, be without restraint” definitely come to mind.
How is this practical for me? I remember once reading a verse that seemed to say that without the Lord I would be like Sodom and Gomorrah. I interpreted it for myself to mean that without Jesus, I would fall into the same sins as those ancient peoples. It made me instantly both terrified and grateful for my salvation. Now I know that the verse was talking about the judgment of God on those people. It means that without Jesus I would be doomed to the same harsh judgment as those cities full of wicked people. But the other interpretation isn’t far off. Without Jesus, who knows what I would do?
Salvation and living for God depends on revelations from Him, not so much visions but some sort of divine communication. It is His Word, both written and Living, that produce the changes in my heart. Without Jesus, I would have no self-control and would do whatever my sinful desires dictated.
The verse from Proverbs talks about righteous living in terms of law-keeping. Since Christ lived and died and rose again, God’s people are righteous only by His grace and by His indwelling presence, not by what we do. However, grace produces a change in what I do, and walking in the will of God results in great peace and joy.
The whole world wants to be happy. Everyone pursues what they think will make them happy, whether it be money, power, good health, reputation, achievement, or popularity. Following Christ and doing what He says may result in some of those things, but even if it doesn’t, God’s Word is correct: those who obey Him are happy, more than happy — we are joyful.
What could be more practical than that?