August 25, 2013

Blinded By The Light: Being Struck Blind in Scripture

Blindness is a reoccurring condition in the Bible. There are certain instances of blindness that are specific punishments. They are instances where people are specifically struck blind. God punishes people right between the eyes to get them to snap out of a sin or to stop them from persecuting others or in sense, prevent them from persecuting themselves through the act of self-defiling sin. Sometimes the only way to get people to pay attention is to literally or figuratively slap them around a few times or poke them in the eye. These people are the types that are in a hysterical state of iniquity and depravity. In each and every case in the Bible of people being struck blind there was an action or actions of gross rebellion against God or the people of God (or both). There are also instances where people behave as if they’re blind as in the case of Isaiah 59 because of their apostasy. This “blindness” or inability to know the right thing is also a form of striking blind - it too is punishment or being given over to one’s sin individually or en masse as in the case of Romans 1 and its blindness of depravity.

In the passage in Isaiah we see a nation so fallen and depraved in sin they cannot tell right from wrong. In so doing, those in Isaiah’s time are becoming victims to the very evils that they allow to gestate in the bowels of the nation while they are in wholesale rebellion and a slide away from God. Frankly, it is not much different than I see in the world around me today--especially here in falling America.

Isaiah 59:10 ~ Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead.

Isaiah then goes on to tell the reader the exact reason for the blindness of the people.

Isaiah 59:12-15 ~ For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, inciting revolt and oppression, uttering lies our hearts have conceived. So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.

Again in Genesis 19 we see more of the same, men that have totally turned their back on God and are just hours away from destruction along with their cesspool cities. Again, like the sinners lost in spiritual blindness in Isaiah 59 we see more depraved sinners lost in their sins (like us before conversion) groping blindly trying to continue to pursue their sin.

Genesis 19:11 ~ Then they (angels) struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.

We are on the eve of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in this scene. The men of Sodom then begin to threaten Lot by pressing “hard against Lot” to get past him so they can force themselves on the “men.” It is at this point the angels intervene by dragging Lot back into the house and slamming the door. These townspeople were then supernaturally stuck by the angels with blindness. What is exceptionally disturbing in this scene is that these men wearied themselves trying to find the doorway in pursuit of their sin(s) after being struck blind. It was as if the blindness had virtually no effect. It is here we see the depravity and entrenched nature of their sin. If it is not for the supernatural intervention of God of messengers of God, these same people would exhaust themselves in perpetuity pursing their depravity.  They are lost or given over to their sin (Romans 1) to the point that they blindly grope for the doorway in pursuit of it (Isaiah 59:10)

In the end these men will not only be stuck with blindness but all of Sodom and Gomorrah will be wiped from the face of the plains (therefore the earth) in God’s consummate judgment on their sin.

It is in the same frayed sin-twisted mentality that we've seen in Sodom and Gomorrah, that we will see Paul getting struck blind on the road to Damascus. This of course is probably the most visible and well-known example of God punishing someone through a blinding. Paul is mercilessly pursuing, persecuting and killing Christians in an almost psychotic frenzy or orgy of violence. It is in the process of doing this or flailing around violently in wanton persecution that God directly intervenes and basically cuts him off from his heinously sinful endeavors. It is at the sight of the Lord Jesus of God that Paul is brought to his senses and ceases his murderous exertions. In the blinding light of God’s righteousness, holiness and glory even the most hardened sinners (like us) can be snapped to and be drawn out of the darkness. God’s lighthouse can reach even the darkest crevasse of evil.

Acts 9:3-8 ~ As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. 

In our next example we see another battle of evil being waged against God’s people. God’s people are being led spiritually by Elisha. They are being pursued by a hostile Arameans. What the Israelite army would’ve only been able to do through an exceptional loss of life in battle, God ends up doing through one person. Elisha prays and God answers his prayer by striking blind the entire army of Arameans.

2 Kings 6:18 ~ As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.

Elisha then immediately prays to restore their sight or open their eyes and God does this also. God does peacefully what man could only do possibly through acts of war. This is surprising analogous to the hardened person that refuses to see God and His truth and then in one act of blinding truth, brings the hardened person around not only to see the error of their past ways (like Paul and all sinners) but then also shows them the truth of the matter in the larger scheme or big picture.

2 Kings 6:20 ~ After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.

In the acts of saving His own people, God in His sovereignty and providence also spares the lives of the enemy…some of which could very possibly have converted to the Almighty God of Elisha having been witness (or inability of witness) to the miraculous events that had just happened. In setting feast before the enemy they essentially made a covenant of peace because eating together under one roof constitute a peace treaty in the Ancient Near East and Arameans would now be bound by social custom  to not attack a friend who had extended a gift of hospitality. As such the Arameans stopped raiding Israelite territory for quite a while. In this story we see that God is indeed concerned with war and when possible wishes to avoid it.

2 Kings 6:23 ~ So he (the King) prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.

I will mention one more blinding by God and we again visit Acts and Paul but it is not Paul being blinded this time. It is through something Paul (Saul) does that someone else is blinded. We end up seeing (pun intended) Elymas the Sorcerer being struck blind when Paul spoke the word of God. He is struck because he tries to turn Sergius Paulus from the faith.

Acts 13:7-11 ~ The two of them (Barnabas and Saul), sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.”

In this Elymas we see a special tool of the Devil strategically placed to try and circumvent the plans of God. Of course this is not possible and he is essentially verbally smacked around by Paul and sent on his way but the confrontation is of interest for Christians today. Why? We need to recognize when we're being detoured from our proper tasks. We need to give the “how-to and the what-for” to those that would attempt to withstand or actively repress our proclamation of the word of God or the Gospel.

We need to realize this passage very much speaks to us today on a few different levels. The forces of evil will stop at nothing to subvert the will and purposes of God. They will even infiltrate our places of worship and gatherings in an attempt to shut us down and silence us. This should only embolden us even more to do what we’ve been called to do by the Lord. 

Again we see someone foolishly trying to work against the sovereignty of God which is a fool’s errand. Overt and foolish rebellion against God is beyond comprehension of a rational man but people totally given over to their stupidity and sin do some really dumb things and end up paying dearly for it. This last blinding is ironic because it is Paul (once blind but now can see) speaking the Word that appears to have mitigated the blinding. It is as if, like all the other blinding incidence, that the truth of God like a blinding light incapacitates those that refuse to see God and His truth. It is as if people, even hardened in their sins and blinder than a bat in the darkness of evil and depravity cannot help but be blinded by the overpowering truth of God or His word.

God does not wish to kill us if there is more for us to do here in this life. It might take startling the living daylights out of us to get us back on track though. There are few things more unsettling than losing one’s sight when it is such a huge part of one’s ability to function in life. Today there are ways to work around blindness but in biblical time blindness would’ve been a virtual death sentence or subjection to a life of poverty and begging. In the following verse we see this and we also see the light of the world. The Fallen nature of the world and sin blinds people but the truth if God through Jesus Christ brings light to even the blindest people and the darkest places…

John 9: 4-9 ~ As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (which means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was.

So the question arises in a person’s life. Has God struck you senseless or blind to get your attention? Has he done it to turn you from a task that He wants you to stop? Have you had a Damascus Road experience in your life where God was at first trying to get your attention subtly but in the end just need to smack you upside the head? Do you think its such a good thing that God has to work that hard to get your attention when you are doing something completely wrong disobedient and against His will? God does not want us as blind spiritual beggars. He wants us as sons and daughters, heirs to the throne through His Son Jesus Christ. Will you wait for that striking of blindness of catastrophic event in your life or will you willingly submit to him without all the drama? I personally prefer less drama in life. We live in a fallen world, life is already eventful enough.

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