Proverbs 29:18: Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (KJV)
Where there is no prophecy the people cast off restraint…(RSV) When prophecy shall fail, the people shall be scattered abroad…(Douay) When there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint… (NET Bible) There shall be no interpreter to a sinful nation…(CAB/Sept.) Without a prophetic vision a people become unruly…(Leeser) Without revelation people run wild…(HCSB)
All of these various translations of this Proverb bring out what happens when a people—individuals, a nation, a church or even a church movement—loses its prophetic vision. The casting off of restraint, or being unruly or wild—which leads to destruction—is the result of not following the prophetic vision God reveals to us through His Word, and which He confirms through prayer and walking in obedience to His will.
We can see this in our nation today, where God’s prophetic revelation is disregarded, resulting in rampant immorality and upside down values that permeate the entire society and government. And we wonder aloud how an alleged mother can kill her 2-year-old daughter and get away with it (with the evidence clearly showing the “mother” committed murder, the jury let her go largely because they couldn’t figure out her motive. Was that REALLY needed to convict her? Murderers have been convicted before when they DIDN’T have a motive).
But the church world can suffer its own brand of no “prophetic vision,” and not just in the area of “ministry expansion.” If a church’s prophetic vision doesn’t go beyond its four walls; if prophecies given are aimed at only addressing the church members (which runs counter to 1 Corinthians 14:24-25), or are not provoking the church to shine its light in the community; then yes, that community will be without restraint, and its people who are unsaved eventually perish, with the church’s witness absent. And like the Laodicean church of Revelation 3, the culture will have affected the church, instead of the other way around. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, the church will no longer be the thermostat that transforms the culture’s temperature, but will be a mere thermometer that reflects the culture and maintains its norms, including its unregenerate ones.
Help us Jesus—in our lives and in our churches—to once again receive and follow your prophetic vision, so that our whole communities will experience your blessings! “…[B]lessed is he who keeps the law.” (ESV)