Proverbs 29:18 – A Verse on Direction

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Picture of a map and compass, which give objective direction, applied from Proverbs 29:18.

In today’s Bible reading* includes a familiar passage, Proverbs 29:18. Comparing the following translations, we can see a wide range of the ways Bible translators go from the original language into English.

We’ll begin with the translation most of us who grew up in church are probably most accustomed to, the King James Version.

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.
Proverbs 29:18 (ESV)

Without revelation people run wild, but one who follows divine instruction will be happy.
Proverbs 29:18 (CSB)

When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful.
Proverbs 29:18 (NLT)

Without prophetic vision people run wild, but blessed are those who follow ⌊God’s⌋ teachings.
Proverbs 29:18 (GW)

Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God], the people perish; but he who keeps the law [of God, which includes that of man]—blessed (happy, fortunate, and enviable) is he.
Proverbs 29:18 (AMP)

If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.
Proverbs 29:18 (MSG)

I have highlighted a major difference in one key word in each translation. Looking through my Hebrew Lexicons, and comparing the translations, it’s clear that this Hebrew word means more than merely looking at something. There’s an element of seeing God’s perspective, taking in an objective reality. The ESV, NLT, GW, and AMP translations more clearly translate the meaning behind this Hebrew word. In other words, if you want to be blessed/joyful, you have to seek God’s counsel.

Otherwise, Solomon says, without God’s perspective, there is no objective standard for living, and anything goes.

When people do not accept divine guidance,
they run wild.
But whoever obeys the law is joyful.

Proverbs 29:18 (NLT)

Abbreviations of Bible translations noted above:
KJV: The King James Version
ESV: The English Standard Version
CSB: The Christian Standard Bible
NLT: The New Living Translation
GW: God’s Word Translation
AMP: The Amplified Bible
MSG: The Message


An objective standard is something we need these days! Just look around. It seems that everything goes. Everybody is told that they should “Live your truth.” “You do you.” “Be true to yourself.” “Be who you truly are.”

Do any of these sound familiar?

What’s wrong with all of these very popular sayings is that they present a subjective view of truth. They ignore the exclusive truth-claims of Jesus. He doesn’t just claim to be a truth or a way to truth. He says that He is the truth. (John 14:6) In other words, everything we say and do should be run through the filter that there is an objective truth about everything.

I can tell my version of the truth, but my version isn’t the indisputable, irrefutable truth. Only Jesus is the truth. And Jesus will never tell you a lie. The Baptist Faith and Message says, “The Bible is true without any mixture of error.”

Believer, don’t fall into the trap of today’s way of talking about things. Just because someone expresses their view of truth doesn’t make it true. Just because someone talks about reality doesn’t make it real. Feelings are fickle; they can change. And they often do.

In my years with the Scouts — both as an advancing Scout and as a Scout leader — we learned to navigate with a map and compass. (That’s what most everyone used before GPS.) When you have a map and compass, the very first thing you need to do is orient your map. What that means is, you position the North on your map to the Magnetic North Red Arrow on your compass. Sometimes you have to turn your map completely around.

Unless you orient your map first, you’ll have a lot of difficulty finding where you are, determining where you want to go, and plotting a course to get there. You may feel like you’re facing North, but you may be truly facing any one of three hundred, fifty-nine other degrees around the compass. One degree off here may result in thousands of miles off if you continue in the direction you’re facing. And if you’re navigating by a map and compass, you need to frequently reorient your map to make sure you’re still on the right course.

The Bible is your objective basis for determining where you are so you can know where to go, and how to get there. Orient your life to your Bible. And do it frequently!

Read it often. Study it often. Memorize verses often.

* Chapters covered in today’s reading:
Proverbs 27
Proverbs 28
Proverbs 29

This devotional was originally published on June 11, 2021.

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