“Without revelation people run wild, but one who listens to instruction will be happy”-Proverbs 29:18
On our next to last day, before returning from Ione last night, our Terriers got loose. Brea came back, but Sherlock, the Wire Fox, promptly ran down and along the bank of the river until he headed up a neighbor’s ramp. Either he is becoming more domesticated, or getting older, but he simply sniffed around the neighbor’s yard until we found him and got him back on leash. It hasn’t always turned out this way.
On one of our first journeys to the wilderness, Heather suggested I unleash Sherlock and let him enjoy the walk unrestrained. I still remember her words, “He’ll be just fine.” Immediately, Sherlock shot off like a cannon heading south. I ran as fast as I could, but he eluded my grasp. Turning west, he eventually ended up on Hwy 20, running now north in the middle of the road. Seeing horses in the distant hills, he took another turn due west, through a fence. He was now in the chase. If it was a movie, the lyrics of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” would be playing in the background. Everyone and everything was scattered in all directions–with me, nearly exhausted, still in hot pursuit. Eventually, I cornered the stupid–yes STUPID!–dog in a pen, surrounded by some rather amused geese.
In this 29th Proverb for the 29th day of August, the sage is saying that something like this happens when people do not place themselves under God’s wisdom. They tend to break out, let loose, run wild, go naked. Who knows how many sermons have been inspired by the KJV’s rendering: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” I have used this passage myself to encourage people to dream their dreams and see into the future. It’s a great thought, but it doesn’t really reflect the language here. It’s less a call to imagine life in ten years–more a warning of what happens when you stop listening to God’s voice today.
“Vision” is better translated “revelation.” “Law” in the second line is an intentional parallel. And in the context of Proverbs, it speaks to the revelatory wisdom God has imparted to us. Understanding, prudence, knowledge, discretion–whatever word you choose to use–is given by God to ensure we stay within divine parameters. Otherwise, unleashed, we too tend to run off the reservation. We go helter skelter–in confused, disorderly haste. We become like Israel in the wilderness, when God’s voice is absent (Exodus 32). We mindlessly “dance around a calf.”
Have you noticed when God’s word is not leading your life, when divine restraints are removed, that anger tends to erupt, words go over the line, buying becomes impulsive and out of control, and passions go unrestrained? Like a governor, the word of God keeps us at the right speed and on the right course. And when one lives under this kind of guard, he/she is blessed. Ironically, we end up more free than ever (John 8:31).