"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he." (Proverbs 29:18)
The "vision" mentioned in this familiar verse is more than just a noble goal; it means a literal revelation from God to His people. It was first used in the sad testimony of 1 Samuel 3:1: "And the word of the LORD was precious |that is, 'rare and costly'| in those days; there was no open vision." This was just before the capture of the Ark by the Philistines and the death of the inept prophet Eli.
The word used for "perish" here means "exposed and helpless," and the glory soon departed from Israel once they had forsaken God's leadership (1 Samuel 4:21). Our own nation was also founded on God's written Word (the modern equivalent of the divine "vision"), but the Word has now been almost forgotten, at least in our schools and other public institutions, as well as in the daily lives of most of our people. Consequently, "the people" are indeed largely exposed and helpless before the attacks of the wicked one. The terrible warning of Psalm 9:17 hangs over our nation: "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God."
There is an encouraging exhortation to the believer, however, even if he lives in an apostate nation: "He that keepeth the law, happy is he." To keep the law means not merely to obey God's commands, but more precisely, to guard His Word! Even if all around us are neglecting, or even ridiculing and seeking to destroy the Scriptures, we must defend and obey and proclaim their eternal truth and authority. Even if this should entail opposition and persecution, God assures us that here is the way of blessing and true happiness. "Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book" (Revelation 22:7). The people will perish who lose God's Word, but "happy is that people, whose God is the LORD" (Psalm 144:15).
h/t Dr. Henry M. Morris-Institute For Creation Research