Blinded Eyes

If most of us were asked to construct a sentence which contained “Jesus” and “blind”, we would likely produce something along the lines of “Jesus healed those who were blind” or “Jesus made the blind to see”. We characterize Christ’s earthly ministry in our minds as largely consisting of miracles of healing the sick, casting out demons, making the lame to walk, and causing the blind to see. While most would understand these miracles also as signs of His deity and symbolic demonstrations of Spiritual truths, there is another aspect to Christ’s ministry involving blindness which we are more reluctant to take to heart.

In those miracles where Jesus healed the blind, we see a vivid picture (no pun intended) of Christ’s redeeming work in our souls, allowing us to be enlightened and renewed in our spirit, able to perceive the world around us as God sees it and ultimately to see God Himself and dwell in His Light. However, in parallel with this symbolism, we are also given the picture of those who are “seeing” but not perceiving anything. Here is not the blind being made to see, but the “seeing” being made blind! This principle originates in Isaiah 6:8-12 as Isaiah is commissioned by God to be His ambassador – not of mercy, but of judgement. We tend to read passages like this as being very “Old Testamenty” – that is to say full of wrath and judgement under the Old Testament law as compared with the mercy of God in the age of grace through Christ in the New Testament. There is one small problem with this mindset. That is the problem of Matt. 13:13-15, Mk 4:11-12, Jn. 12:37-40 and Acts 28:24-27.

In each of these passages, Isaiah 6:9-10 is quoted and applied to those who were hearing Jesus’ teaching or seeing Jesus’ miracles, but would not believe. Even as we read through these passages, we tend to interpret this teaching as God’s response to those who had hardened their own hearts and were indignant towards Him. While this is partly true, it does not give us the full picture. Read John 12:39-40 closely. It is not that they are being made blind because they would not believe. They are unbelieving because they have been made blind! God is in effect assuring that certain ones would not believe by making their eyes blind and their hearts hard, so they will not respond to Christ’s teaching.

Take a moment and let that sink in. This reality of God’s overarching sovereignty tends to make us quite uncomfortable. This is not the fuzzy, cuddly “Your Best Life Now” God that modern Christian culture is eager to embrace. This is that stumbling block, that rock of offense that God laid in Zion (I Pet. 2:8)! How does one approach a God like this?

If we are to come near to God, it must be with fear and trembling (Deut. 10:12; Prov. 9:10; Phil. 2:12). This is the heart of humility that God will receive (Jas. 4:6-8). However, you may rightly ask: “How can one of himself do anything, if God is so sovereign that He makes it impossible to perceive and believe?” To answer that question, let us examine a passage in Psalms that we do not typically associate with the Isaiah 6 principle.

Psalm 135 contrasts the great power of God with the futility of all other supposed gods, and the great joy of those who serve God with the vanity of those who worship idols. Note the language of verses 15-17:

15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands.

16  They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see;

17  they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths.

This is a clear description of the powerlessness of man’s objects of worship. However, the description sounds very similar to the passage in Isaiah and its corresponding NT quotations, doesn’t it? Verse 18 is the clincher:

18 Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them.

Get this principle! We become like what we worship. With this understanding, we can begin to grasp why people will hear God’s Word, will even see His miracles, and yet will remain blind, deaf, and unbelieving. It is because their heart already belongs to another master (Matt. 6:24) which has made them powerless to understand or receive Spiritual knowledge that leads to faith. The worship of impotent things renders us impotent ourselves and blind to the truth of God’s Word. Therefore, if we are to come to God, we must completely forsake our idolatry (whether outward or of the heart), and come prostrate before His presence seeking His infinite mercy. If one continues down the path of willful idolatry, having refused the message of truth and grace, that one increasingly comes in danger of being permanently blinded by God.

So then in the final analysis, do people make themselves blind? Yes. They do so by worshiping gods of their own making. Does God make people blind? Yes. He does so in the mystery of His sovereign will. How do these two things work in conjunction? I believe that the fullness of this question cannot be answered, but rather must be taken in faith as truth, the full understanding and outworking of which belongs to a Sovereign, Immutable God.

The great, unsearchable nature of God should cause us to worship Him, as should His great, everlasting mercy on those whom He chooses which perfectly parallels His righteous judgement throughout all of these passages (Isa 6:13, 7:14; Matt. 13:16; Mk. 4:11a; Acts 28:28; Ps. 135:4).