14 I have been silent for a long time. I have kept still. I have restrained myself. But now, like a woman giving birth, I will scream. I will gasp and pant. 15 I will dry up mountains and hills. I will make all their grass wither. I will turn rivers into islands. I will dry up pools. 16 I will lead the blind on a way they do not know. Along paths they do not know I will direct them. Ahead of them I will turn darkness into light and rough places into level ground. These are the things I will accomplish for them. I will not abandon them. 17 They will be turned back and completely disgraced— those who trust in an idol, those who say to molten images, “You are our gods.” 18 You deaf ones, listen! You blind ones, watch carefully so that you can see! 19 Who is as blind as my servant? Who is as deaf as my messenger whom I sent? Who is as blind as my associate, as blind as the servant of the Lord? 20 You, Israel, see many things, but you do not observe. Israel opens his ears, but he does not hear. 21 Because of his own righteousness, the Lord was pleased to make his law great and glorious. (EHV)
Dear Friends in Christ,
My guess is that some of you don’t see as well as you used to. I’ve known people dealing with macular degeneration. If you’re fortunate enough to live longer you get to have cataracts removed, maybe more than once or twice. But can you imagine what it would be like to be born blind? To have never seen anything? Years ago, I used to visit a group home every Friday afternoon to teach Bible lessons. One of the happiest residents there was named Robert. He was so excited to sing Bible songs and hear Bible stories. He was about 35 years old but had the development level of perhaps a 10-year-old. He wasn’t only blind; he had been born without eyes. But He could see his Savior! He loved Jesus. He was eager to be baptized, but his mother, who had eyes that worked, but was spiritually blind, refused to allow it. That was not a good thing to do The Lord soon ended her life unexpectedly and Robert was finally free to be baptized. How happy he was that day! Now he could see his Savior even better!
Why was he born blind? I don’t know, but I do know that God sure used it to give him eternal vision! One day in Jerusalem people asked Jesus about a man born blind. They figured it was a direct punishment of either him or his parents. The Lord answered, rather, it was so that he could meet Jesus that day, be healed in public, and thereby bring glory to God. Many could see what had happened and did glorify God, but not the spiritually blind Pharisees who proudly claimed that day that they were the only ones who could see everything ‘clearly’. Jesus warned them ominously, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”
How about you? Can You See What God Sees?
Those Who Think They See Are Blind and in Danger
Like the Pharisees, many of their Jewish ancestors were also spiritually blind but thought they could see everything clearly. Based on their outward peace and prosperity, they claimed ‘the proof was in the pudding.’ They were living in ease and luxury. They had the same prideful attitude as those who asked Jesus why the man had been born blind? “Who sinned?” they asked, as if bad people always have it bad, and so-called good people always have it easy. Day after day God sent His prophet Isaiah to warn of coming judgment for Judah, but they dismissed his message because no judgment had yet come and they were still living in ease. In our text, God admits that His judgment has been delayed—because of His longsuffering mercy—but that His patience would soon wear out! 14 I have been silent for a long time. I have kept still. I have restrained myself. But now, like a woman giving birth, I will scream. I will gasp and pant. 15 I will dry up mountains and hills. I will make all their grass wither. I will turn rivers into islands. I will dry up pools.
The Pharisees thought they saw everything clearly. The people of ancient Judah thought they saw all things clearly. If we are arrogant like them and trust our own so called “common sense” more than God’s Law and His Gospel, we put ourselves in the same category—the blind who think they can see.
Without the Light of God’s Word, our world is filled with blind people—people who believe there will be no judgment. ‘We can live any way we want. We can dismiss the 10 Commandments as out of date. There is no God. There is no Jesus.’ Listen again to God’s words through Isaiah: 14 I have been silent for a long time. I have kept still. I have restrained myself. But now, like a woman giving birth, I will scream. I will gasp and pant. Don’t be fooled by the Lord’s gracious delay in sending judgment. The silence will not last. The Lord’s tolerance of arrogant mankind will not last. I will dry up mountains and hills. I will make all their grass wither. I will turn rivers into islands. I will dry up pools. Arrogant Judah thought their land would last forever, but the Lord sent the Babylonians. The Babylonians after them thought their empire would last forever. But then, suddenly, the Lord broke His silence again. He cried out like a woman in labor and Babylon was destroyed by the Medes and the Persians, and a small, believing remnant of Jews was allowed to return to Jerusalem.
If God did not spare Judah. If He did not spare the ancient empires, will He spare modern kingdoms and countries which mock and defy Him? What awesome responsibility falls on those called to be spiritual leaders, who are to see and then show what God says and warns, such as the leaders of Judah at the time of Isaiah and the spiritual leaders of Israel at the time of Christ. “18You deaf ones, listen! You blind ones, watch carefully so you can see! 19Who is so blind as my servant [Israel], or so deaf as my messenger, [the people] whom I sent [to tell the the world the truth]? …You, Israel, see many things, but you do not observe. Israel opens his ears, but he does not hear. And what will be their punishment? 17They will be turned back and be completely disgraced….”
God had given Israel the Gospel. He had blessed them with the saving truth of His Word, and they had ignored it. They had twisted it. They had lost it, and God held them accountable.
New Testament Israel is the church, and it is incumbent now upon us to listen carefully and see clearly both God’s warnings and His mercy, lest we in our turn, be turned back and be completely disgraced….” Let us keep getting our hearing and eyesight checked. Let us look for the beams in our own eyes and the motes that block our vision. Let’s check for nearsightedness that prevents us from seeing God. Let us correct the stigmatism that blurs our understanding of God’s truth so that We Can See What God Sees and be His faithful messengers.
Those Who Recognize Their Blindness Will Be Led by God
Only the one who goes to the eye doctor, comes home with new glasses. Only those who recognize their natural blindness hold out their hands to be led by God. God graciously offers, 16 I will lead the blind on a way they do not know. Along paths they do not know I will direct them. Ahead of them I will turn darkness into light and rough places into level ground. These are the things I will accomplish for them. I will not abandon them.
The Lord is always gracious to those who turn to Him for help. As later generations of Jews like Daniel and his fellow believing Jews in Babylon opened Isaiah’s scroll and read God’s then 100-year-old promise through Isaiah, they were comforted knowing that somehow the Lord would keep His promise and bring His people back home. He would make a way in the desert and lead them along new and unfamiliar paths until they were finally back in the Holy City. The Lord kept His promise: “I will not abandon them.”
But the Lord fulfilled these words in a much more dramatic and lasting way 700 years later when He, the Lord Himself, personally and physically came in His mercy to lead the blind home to the true promised land of heaven. Jesus didn’t heal every case of physical blindness. He came to heal the spiritual blindness of our souls so We Can See What God Sees. But in order to prove He was the One foretold by Isaiah, He did heal the blind, like the man in today’s Gospel. He did it so others would see the authority of His Words and listen.
Most of us don’t like to talk about our weaknesses. But there comes a time when we realize only God can help. The blind man in our Gospel had come to that point. Can we admit our blindness and beg Jesus for light and sight?
When God came to rescue the Jews from Babylon, He literally opened up a “new highway in the desert.” Thousands of former captives followed God’s lead through men like Ezra and Nehemiah. Not only did they return to their homeland; not only did they rebuild the temple and the city; but now they listened to God’s Word and they believed what they heard. They believed and waited in faith for the coming of Messiah and were saved.
When Jesus came, He opened up a new highway for all people, a Way through the wilderness of this world to the promised land of heaven. Jesus opened that Way by taking our sins on Himself and being punished for them in our place by dying on the cross. Then He rose from the dead and ascended ahead of us to open the final stretch of the highway to heaven.
And now He Himself takes us by the hand—we who were blind—and leads us in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. He alone knows the way. He IS the Way! We need Him to take us by the hand and bring us safely there. We need Him to keep us from stumbling and falling. The minute we think we can see on our own we start to wander and put our souls at risk. As our text says, these are “ways [we] do not know.” We don’t know the turns. We don’t know where the rocks might be along the way or holes on the side, or steep cliffs at the edges. We have to let Jesus take us by the hand and lead us.
The Lord leads and guides us when we listen to His Word. That’s the only way He can turn our darkness into light. “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” When the apostle Paul was converted, he was struck blind. Then as he was instructed in the Word by the aged Ananias, something like scales fell from his eyes. The same thing happens for us throughout our lives as we continue to learn from God, admitting we can’t see what God sees on our own.
It is sad how many refuse to allow the Lord to teach and lead them. We all fall into that trap at times. We need to continually ask ourselves, ‘What is my attitude toward hearing, reading and learning God’s Word? Do I think I can see the truth on my own? Am I at risk like the Pharisees of being blind while claiming to see? None of us sees 20/20 spiritually.
The Lord didn’t promise to lead those who claim they see. No, He said, 16 I will lead the blind on a way they do not know. Along paths they do not know I will direct them. Ahead of them [the blind] I will turn darkness into light and rough places into level ground. These are the things I will accomplish for them. I will not abandon them.
Will you follow Him? We were blind, before God gave us sight through faith. And we’ve still got a long way to go. Let’s keep begging Jesus for sight. In this Lenten season, let us repent of our sins of pride and self-assurance. Let us repent of overestimating our wisdom and knowledge. Let us ask Jesus to forgive us these sins for the sake of His sacrifice on the cross. And let us resolve to let Him lead and guide us through His Word, so We Can See What God Sees. Amen.