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May 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 2, 2021



Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. . . . The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. [the entire text fort his talk is Acts 9:1-18]

Intro: Paul will tell his story of this encounter two other times in the book of Acts

And he will share a condensed version of it again with the Galatians
• in 1 Corinthians he will argue,
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? (1 Cor. 9:1)
• that was the day Jesus stopped Paul in his tracks and turned him around
– but if not for his eyes, there would be no story
• if you look for visual clues in the story, words and sentences pop out
a light shone; others were hearing the voice but seeing no one;
getting up although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing;
he was without sight; Ananias was given a vision in which he was told him to look for Saul;
Jesus told Ananias, behold, Saul too had seen a vision;
Ananias went to so he could regain his sight;
Jesus was going to show Saul how much he would suffer;
Jesus had appeared to Saul—and so on
(notice also the similarity of Saul’s experience and what happened on his first mission (Acts 13:11)

We are discovering how biblical spirituality is centered in the body
– our body part last week was the face – today it’s the eyes
• today my talk is easy, because the spiritual potential of the eyes is obvious
• what concerns me is I’m afraid that I’ll overlook something
◦ eyes are mentioned 866 times in OT alone
◦ the root word for seeing occurs 1300 times 🙁

In the Bible, eyes sometimes refers to the literal organs of sight

For instance, in our story today, Paul’s eyes were literally blinded
– Moses reminded Israel of what they had seen with their own eyes (Deut. 3:21; 4:3, 9, etc.)
• sculptors who make idols carve eyes, that cannot see (Ps. 115:5)
• and typically eyes grow dim with age (Ge. 27:1; De. 34:7)
– with our eyes we read other people eyes
And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him (Lk. 4:20)
• they were not only listening to Jesus’ words, they were studying the person
• we also speak with our eyes – communicate joy and sorrow
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eye is wasted from grief;
my soul and body also (Ps. 31:9)
Pat Ogden, “Children are very sensitive to the quality of eye contact with their attachment figures. A sudden tightening or narrowing of the eyes can convey pain, aversion, disagreement, surprise or shock. Other ways of communicating with the eyes (i.e., glancing . . . blinking eyes, , , , eyes angled downward or upward, frequency, length and intensity of eye contact) all convey implicit messages. . . .
◦ those messages can affect us for a lifetime
Ogden, When small children try to get close to a parent (hug or be held) and the parent ignores or pushes them away “the child may learn to avoid making eye contact, reaching out, and stop seeking closeness. . . . If eye contact is not satisfying in infancy and childhood, we may have difficulty with eye contact in adulthood. Even as adults, we may expect to see similar criticism, disappointment, withdrawal, or rejection if that was what we perceived in the eyes of the people close to us growing up. We may also be anxious about making eye contact if we fear being seen ourselves, if we have beliefs like ‘I’m bad,’ or ‘If people see who I am, they will not like me’ . . . ”

In prayer, we typically close our eyes – an act of reverence
– the lowered gaze or sometimes bowing or bending all the way with the face to the ground (2 Chr. 7:3)
• sometimes a people bowed the head because they felt unworthy
for instance, the tax collector who would not even lift up his eyes to heaven (Lk. 18:13)
– Jesus, however, did lift his eyes to heaven (in his public prayers; Jn. 17:1)
• posture in prayer is not most the important part, but it is significant
◦ posture and gestures are ways to bring the whole self to God or to pray with whole self
◦ postures and gestures are meant to express what is in the heart

The eyes serve as a doorway to the inner person
– so the psalmist determined to be careful with where he looked
I will not set before my eyes
anything that is worthless (Ps. 101:3)
• and he prayed
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things (Ps. 119:37)
– whatever enters the eyes, enters the mind and heart

Frequently, when the Bible speaks of the eyes it refers to their function

Staubli and Schroer, “Seeing . . . in the view of the First Testament is never merely a sense apprehension, an event without personal involvement or consequences. One sees something and acts accordingly.” “[when it speaks] of the eyes of God, what is in the foreground is never the form or physical function of the eye, but always the quality and dynamism of the gaze.”
– so to lift up your eyes can be both literal and figurative
• “lift up you on high” can mean, to focus attention on God (Isa. 40:26)
• the Hebrew word for eyes can also be translated:
◦ “sparkle” like wine (Pr. 23:31) or “polished” like bronze (Eze. 1:7)
– the eyes can also indicate vitality
• Jonathan ate honey and his eyes brightened: shine, like sun (1 Sam. 14:27-29)
◦ he was invigorated

The eyes usually stand for sight, and at deeper mental level, perception
God told King Jehu, you have done well in carrying out what is right in my eyes (2 Ki. 10:30)
– that is to say, Jehu’s actions were right according to God’s perception
– seeing is also coupled to knowing
• sometimes to know something we have to see it (Isa. 41:20)
• other times, we have to know something, then see it (Jer. 2:19)

The most important function eyes perform is spiritual

In fact, it may be that the eyes are the most spiritually sensitive organ of the body
The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness (Mt. 6:22)
– so we have to take its role with extreme seriousness
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell (Mt. 2:29)
• a theme of seeing and believing runs all way through John’s Gospel
◦ but it comes to a startling climax in chapter 20
Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (Jn. 20:29)
• Jesus said this for our sake; we who have not seen him in the flesh
◦ and it becomes the essential condition of our spiritual life
. . . we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18)
– there is a spiritual sight that looks beyond appearance
• it allows us to see the things of the world for what they are
For all that is of the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (1 Jn. 2:16-17)
• there is also is also a spiritual sight that looks through things
◦ what is invisible to our physical eyes appears to the eyes of our hearts
that God may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know the hope to which he has called you (Ep. 1:17-18)
◦ Elisha’s prayer for his servant
O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see (2 Ki. 6:17)
(you really need to read this whole story in 2 Kings 6!)

The ongoing problem with God’s people

Let’s take Samson as a parable – his name means “shine like sun” (cf. Jdg. 5:31)
But he did not know that the LORD had left him. And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes (Jdg. 16:20-21)
– his physical blindness was the result of already becoming spiritually blind
• at some point he stopped looking to the Lord,
◦ and did so until he could no longer discern God’s presence or realize that it left him
• the faculty of spiritual sight is like a muscle — if it is not used, it can atrophy
◦ what we fail to use, eventually becomes useless
◦ to God, Israel had become
a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not (Eze. 12:2)
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 4:3-4)
Staubli and Shroer, “Seeing something always has consequences.”
◦ Eve saw the fruit was delight to the eyes
◦ Moses looked this way and that, then killed the Egyptian
◦ Achan saw and took what was not his (Jos. 7:20-210; and so did David (2 Sam. 11:2-4)
– I don’t want to be so engrossed in my worldly life, that I go blind to the presence of God
• there is a spiritual intuition that enters an open heart
• I know there is more to be seen in the every day scenes of my life,
◦ because others have seen it and written about it
◦ and being inspired by their insights, I want to gain such insights on my own

Conclusion: God’s first words to Moses were, I have seen, I know, and I have come (Ex. 3:7-8)

Sometimes men and women in the Scriptures were surprised to learn that God saw them
– for instance, Hagar in Genesis 16:13-14
He who formed the eye, does he not see? (Ps. 94:9)

Henri Nouwen, reflecting on the story of when Nathanael was brought to Jesus and discovered that Jesus had seen him when he was off sitting by himself, wrote:
“The story speaks deeply to me since it raises the questions ‘Do I want to be seen by Jesus? Do I want to be known by him?’ If I do, then a faith can grow which proclaims Jesus as the Son of God. Only such a faith can open my eyes and reveal an open heaven.”
“Thus, I will see when I am willing to be seen. I will receive new eyes that can see the mysteries of God’s own life when I allow God to see me, all of me, even those parts I myself do not want to see.”
God has not forgotten or overlooked you
he sees you, knows your circumstances and what you feel,
he knows what hurts or oppresses you,
and he has come to your rescue

O Lord, please open our eyes that we may see!

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