A friend of mine, a member of my church, will have cataract surgery in a few days. While I was thinking about my friend’s upcoming surgery, I thought about the story of the man born blind, narrated in John 9. It is amazing how we take the gift of sight for granted. To a person born blind, the gift of sight is an extraordinary gift that cannot even be imagined.
Those who are blind do not know the beauty of God’s world except in their thoughts; all they know comes by touching, by what they hear, and by the use of their other senses. How sad it is for those deprived of sight never to have been able to see the blue heaven when the sun is shining in the sky. To them the blue heaven is like something that could almost be touched by hands and yet they may never be able to understand how distant it is.
How can we explain to a blind person the twinkling of the stars, the beauty of the flowers, the white clouds in the skies, the majesty of the rainbow, the flash of lightning, and the multicolored butterflies?
How can one conceive in one’s mind the shape of people’s faces, the snail crawling on the ground, or a bird flying in the sky? How can one explain to people born blind the difference between night and day, light and darkness when their days are always nights and their light always darkness?
Those who have never seen clouds in the sky, trees with all their green leaves, flowers in all their colors, the innocent smile of a baby, the dew of early morning, the full moon shining in the skies cannot fully grasp what a wonderful gift the gift of sight is.
Old age, little by little, weakens our eyes to the beauty of God’s creation. How fortunate is the person, who like Moses, can live to be seventy or eighty years of age and still have good eyesight. When Moses died, he was a hundred and twenty years old; his eyes were not weak and his eyesight was clear and strong (Deuteronomy 34:7).
In ancient days, many people lost their eyesight because of age or diseases. In his old age, Isaac’s eyes were so weak that he could no longer see (Genesis 27:1). And the same thing happened with Eli, the priest in the days of Samuel. When Eli was ninety-eight years old, his eyes were so weak that he could not see (1 Samuel 4:15).
Modern medicine and specialized treatments have conquered many diseases and have helped us preserve our eyesight until the end of our old age. And this is a gift from God. As the wise man wrote:
“Give the physician his place, for the Lord created him. There is a time when success lies in the hands of physicians, for they too will pray to the Lord that he should grant them success in diagnosis and in healing, for the sake of preserving life” (Sirach 38:12-14).
A tragic event in the Old Testament was the way Zedekiah, king of Judah, lost his eyesight: “They [the Babylonians] slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains and took him to Babylon” (2 Kings 25:7).
It was customary in the Ancient Near East for the victor to punish their conquered enemies by blinding them. The Philistines blinded Samson (Judges 16:21). Sargon, in one of his sculptures, is seen blinding a prisoner with a spear.
Zedekiah was a young man, probably no more than thirty-two years of age at the time of his captivity, therefore his sons must have been minors at the time he lost his eyesight. Zedekiah saw his own sons slain before his eyes and this was the last thing in life he ever saw.
Life for Zedekiah ended tragically. The death of his sons would be a torment in his heart, greater even than the pain of the iron which pierced his eyes. With the death of his sons and the loss of his sight, the joy of life was now lost to him, like the darkness which had now fallen forever on his lightless world.
The unhappy living death of the prison was all that was left to him. Now, without his eyes, Zedekiah would see in his mind, over and over again, the savage manner by which his sons were killed.
The loss of our spiritual eyesight can also deprive us from seeing God’s wonderful work. One good example is found at the time when the Arameans were fighting against Israel. Elisha’s servant was afraid because the King of Aram had a strong army. Elisha’s servant cried to his master: “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:15).
Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:17).
When the eyes of the young man were opened, he saw God at work on behalf of Israel. Because his spiritual eyes were closed, the young man did not see the horses and chariots of fire that were all around Elisha. He did not realize that salvation was at hand. Many times, we also are blind to the power of God available to us, blind to the providence of God in providing for the needs of his people.
We too, need to open our eyes to see God’s amazing work in the world:
Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my eyes,
illumine me, Spirit Divine!
When we reach the end of the story of the man born blind, we can understand his joy when his eyesight was restored to him. His shout of joy was: “I was blind, and now I can see” (John 9:25).
It is true: the gift of sight is a wonderful gift from God.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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