Gazing into someone’s eyes can make us feel as though we are seeing into the person’s soul. In the Bible, as in life, we find many types of eyes, including, beautiful eyes (Gen 29:17; Song of Sol 1:15; 4:1); prideful, arrogant eyes (Pro 6:17); lustful eyes (2 Pet 2:14); sad eyes (Ps 6:6); and desiring eyes (Zech 2:8). People who are seeking revenge take “an eye for an eye” (Exod 21:23-25; Lev 24:20; Deut 19:21). How a person judges morality is described as “doing right in [one’s] own eyes” (Judg 17:6; 21:25; 2 Kings 10:5, all ESV). This contrast with doing “what was right in the eyes of the LORD” (1 Kings 15:5, 11; 2 Kings 14:3, all ESV). The use of eyesight as an image is varied and far-reaching, but two main uses emerge in Scripture.
Sight is common metaphor in the Bible for the ability to understand spiritual truth (Deut 29:4; Ps 119:18). We all start out life spiritually blind, and it is God who opens our eyes and gives understanding (Isa 44:18; John 9). Our spiritual eyesight may be darkened through habitual rebellion: “The god of this world has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. As a result, they don’t see the light of the Good News about Christ’s glory” (2 Cor 4:4; see also Acts 28:27). Turning away from God makes people spiritually blind, unable to see truth even when it is right in front of them.
Once we have had our eyes opened to spiritual truth, our eyes remain an important metaphor for the focus of our lives. The psalmist prays, “Turn my eyes away from worthless things. Give me a new life in your ways” (Ps 119:37). More specific than the general direction of our gaze is what we choose to look at moment by moment, either good or evil. Jesus said, “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is unclouded, your whole body is full of light. But when your eye is evil, your body is full of darkness. So be careful that the light in your isn’t darkness” (Luke 11:34-35; see also Ps 101:3). This image makes clear that we have some control over the health of our spiritual eyesight. What we look at with our physical eyes determines how sharp our spiritual eyesight will be and how full of light our lives will be.
THE GOD WHO SEES
God’s omniscience is often referred to in eye-related imagery. “The LORD’S eye scan the whole world to find those whose hearts are committed to him and to strengthen them” (2 Chron 16:9). “The LORD’S eye are on those who fear him, on those who wait with hope for his mercy” (Ps 33:18). He sees all people, inside and out, from before we are even conceived and throughout our lives (Ps 139:16; Heb 4:13). Making this truth more concert, in Ezekiel the creatures that surround God are portrayed as being covered with eyes (Ezek 1:18; 10:12), God sees everything that takes place on earth (Job 34:21).
God has the ability to refuse to see, and thus refuse to help, God tells rebellious Israel, “So when you stretch out your hands in prayer, I will turn my eyes away from you. Even though you offer many prayers, I will not listen because your hands are covered with blood” (Isa 1:15). This leads human beings to plead with God to turn his eyes toward us, as in these words from the dedication of the temple: “Day and night may your eyes be on this temple, the place about which you said your name will be there” (2 Chron 6:20). Knowing that God seems to reserve this refusal to see for rebellious nations, rather than individuals, is comforting, We know that Christians need never fear that God will turn a deaf ear to their prayers (Ps 4:3).
As we think of God who sees us, we recognize our opportunity to see God either through clear eyes that have been made pure through the work of Christ and remain clear through our choices, or though eyes that have been made muddy by our own sin. Our hearts should echo the prayer of Paul: “I pray that eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Eph 1:18-19 NIV).