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 God’s presence (Jonah 1:3)- even though Ps. 139:7-9 almost prophesies of Jonah, that nobody can flee from God’s presence, and the sea itself, and geographical distance, won’t 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 blindness.
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).
(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.