4.3 Blind Men
There is one theme that the Bible continually pushes: human beings,
including the believers, are incredibly spiritually blind and obtuse
when it comes to spiritual things. We just don't see (i.e. understand)
what's in black and white. There are some obvious examples of this:
- First century Israel didn't recognize Jesus of Nazareth as
Messiah, even though the writing was more than on the wall. It
must have broken the Lord's heart to hear that the people thought
that He was perhaps only a resurrected John the Baptist (who did
no miracle), or Isaiah (Mk. 8:28). He had done among them the
works that none other man did, He had spoken to them of the depths
of spiritual wisdom, which many a prophet and righteous man had
desired to see and hear. But they passed off the majestic Son
of God, standing before them in the Name and Glory of the Father,
as a mere man.
- The disciples were told, time and again, that their Lord would
die (by crucifixion, He even said), and be resurrected the third
day. The Lord Jesus could not have spelt it out any plainer, time
and again. But His death was a shattering blow to them, and they
dismissed the news of His resurrection as the babblings of a mentally
ill woman. Dear Mary thought that the risen Lord was a gardener.
There is something artlessly pathetic about this. It is an eloquent
essay in the spiritual blindness of man to the glory of the Father
and Son. And even despite the experience of the resurrected Lord
Jesus, dear Peter, in frustration, tells the guys that he's going
back to the fishing which he once quit for the Lord's sake (Jn.
21:3). And it seems they went with him; only to be met by the
risen Lord on the beach, with breakfast already prepared for those
tired, angry-with-themselves men. Exactly why they were
so blind to the teaching about His death and resurrection is hard
to fathom. It could be that because the flesh resents the idea
that the cross must come before the crown, therefore they switched
off to the preaching of the cross. And many of those who quite
genuinely 'can't see' the urgency of the Gospel may have the same
problem of spiritual blindness.
- And still they didn't learn their lesson. The Lord told them
to go into all the world and preach the good news of His resurrection.
But they didn't, it took Peter a special vision to shake him into
appreciating that the Gospel had to go to the Gentiles.
And he had to break the news of this ever so delicately to the
other believers. The idea of converting Gentiles was anathema
to them: in the face of their Lord's clear commands and teaching
about this, and despite the numerous Old Testament hints at it.
They even hauled Peter up in front of them to explain whatever
he'd been doing baptizing and (horror of horrors) breaking
bread with a Gentile. Even Paul was told to go " far
hence" and be a light to the Gentiles; but it seems that
it was only his bad experience of preaching to the Jews that made
him truly turn all his powers to the fulfilment of this commission.
- It was quite obvious that the Mosaic Law couldn't save
men. The Spirit spoke expressly about this; through Paul and Peter,
the early church was told that the Mosaic food laws were finished
once for all. Yet the Jewish Christians just couldn't accept this.
They held on to the keeping of the laws, the feasts and the Sabbath;
and God was willing to tolerate their spiritual blindness.
- Amaziah, a man not completely without faith and
the knowledge of Yahweh, worshipped the gods of Edom whom he had
just defeated (2 Chron. 25:19,20).
- Jonah knew the Psalms. His prayer from inside the fish is packed
with allusion to them. And yet he thought he could flee from Godís
presence (Jonah 1:3)- even though Ps. 139:7-9 almost prophesies
of Jonah, that nobody can flee from Godís presence, and the sea
itself, and geographical distance, wonít hide enable such flight
from God. Jonah knew this. But he simply acted in a way diametrically
opposed to that knowledge. He didn't resist his own spiritual
If this is how blind 'enlightened' believers can be, it's evident
that the world in general (and those who leave the faith) are blind
indeed. Biblically, spiritual blindness refers to not understanding
God's ways; apostate Israel are therefore described as blind (Dt.
28:29; Is. 56:10; 59:10; Lam. 4:14; Zeph. 1:17; Mt. 15:14; 23:16-26).
The world is alienated from God on account of their blindness (Eph.
4:18). There is no blindness in God (1 Jn. 1:5); He describes Himself
as covered in eyes (Ez. 1:18; Rev. 4:8). God almost seems to poke
fun at man's blindness, at our inability to perceive the most basic
truths. The Lord's picture of a blind man feeling qualified to pull
a splinter out of his brother's eye (with a superior, condescending
air about him) is one such case (Mt. 7:3-5). Or the man whose uncontrolled
words become a self-made snare for himself (Prov. 18:7). Often the
Spirit points out that the sinner is only harming himself by his
actions- and yet he earnestly pursues his course, in the name of
self-interest and self-benefit (Num. 16:38; Prov. 19:8; 20:2; Hab.
2:20; Lk. 7:30). Sin is therefore associated by God with utter and
derisable foolishness (e.g. Num. 12:11; 2 Tim. 3:9); but this isn't
how man in his unwisdom perceives it at all. Indeed, to him self-denial
is inexplicable folly and blindness to the essentials of human existence.
" This their way is their folly: yet their posterity approve
their sayings. Selah (pause to meditate)" (Ps. 49:13). The
folly of sin is only fully evident to God. Or
consider Is. 44:14-18. Here God describes how a man cuts down a
tree, cuts it in half, uses half to make an idol, and the other
half of the trunk he burns to make fire for a sacrifice. He then
falls down in worship to his idol. God says this is a result of
the blindness of man: " they cannot see...they cannot understand.
And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge or
understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire...a deceived
heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor
say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?" (Is. 44:18-20).
Yet we live in a world where the wisdom of man is glorified, where
the impression is given that ultimately science will solve our problems;
that spiritual blindness doesn't exist ultimately. Many newly baptized
brethren and sisters are either students or educators in worldly
institutions. They particularly are prone to be deceived by the
appearance of rationality and genuine intelligence which modern
scientists present. Yet the blindness and utter stupidity of man
has been recognized by some of the most intelligent and intellectually
honest human beings. Whether you are studying arts or sciences,
you will find evidence for this even within the materials you are
required to study. So much modern thought and development is only
re-tracing the paths already trodden, in principle, by earlier generations.
History repeats itself; yet the very process of personal discovery
and realization leads human beings to feel that they are discovering
something essentially new. Arthur Koestler's book The
Sleepwalkers sums up the Biblical picture of humanity and spiritual
blindness in its title alone (1). The
whole human experience is analogous to sleepwalking; we go through
the motions of reality, but actually (as a race) we are spiritually
asleep. The world around us are sleepwalking, in God's eyes.
And we too should share His perspective. The Lord said that Lot
in his last days in Sodom was a type of the believers living in
the world at the time of the end (Lk. 17:28-31). Lot in those last
hours was walking around the streets of that city trying to save
his family, walking amidst angry, blind people who hated him, drunk
on their own lusts. Walking those streets must have been an uncanny
experience. But that is God's picture of the world of our day, and
our own uncanny, almost charmed life amongst the sleepwalkers (2).
(1) Arthur Koestler, The
Sleepwalkers (London: Macmillan, 1952).
(2) Peter speaks of the
people of this world as pigs rolling around on their backs in the
slime of their own excrement. If we appreciate this, friendship
with the world, loving them or marrying them, will be seen for what
the Spirit says it is: hatred of God.