The other morning, while standing by my kitchen table, I flipped open my Bible and landed on a chapter in Ezekiel that made me set my coffee cup down. I began to count carefully the words I found in reference to vision or sight—almost 20. I’ll expound on that in a bit, but first, let’s talk about the windows of our soul. In the book of Numbers, Balaam, the prophet is dabbling in sorcery, but he eventually gets eye surgery.
“And when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not resort to sorcery as on previous occasions, but he turned his face toward the wilderness. When Balaam looked up and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the Spirit of God came upon him, and he lifted up an oracle, saying:
“This is the prophecy of Balaam son of Beor,
the prophecy of one who hears the words of God,
who sees a vision from the Almighty,
who bows down with eyes wide open:
How lovely are your tents, O Jacob,
your dwellings, O Israel!
They spread out like palm groves,
like gardens beside a stream,
like aloes the LORD has planted,
like cedars beside the waters.
Water will flow from his buckets,
and his seed will have abundant water.”
We have five senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing. Balaam gained them all when his vision was repaired and his heart changed. Moses died at 120, but we read that his vision was not dim. (Duet. 34:7). There are so many stories about eyes in the Bible that it would be hard to cover them. We would have to begin with the first chapter of Genesis when light burst forth out of darkness. (Ephesians 5:13) “But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light.” Yeshua is the Light.
The 16th letter of the Hebrew Aleph-Beit is Ayin, and it is a picture of an eye. Ayin has to do with sight and also a spring of water ma’ayan. When we look at a spring of water, it reflects the sky and the trees and appears as an eye seeing the view. Even those who are physically blind see. All their other senses kick in and take over. But as you know, our eyes can get us in trouble, and even with 20/20 vision, we often are as the old cliché’ “blind as a bat.”
Live Science has an interesting blog on bats. Contrary to myth, bats aren’t blind. In fact, research shows that depending on the circumstances, bats sometimes prefer using eyesight to sound when hunting. And many fruit bats, which drink nectar rather than hunt insects, don’t echolocate at all. These species have particularly sharp vision, and some can even see ultraviolet light. . . Pallas’s long-tongued bat (Glossophaga soricina) and Seba’s short-tailed bat (Carollia perspicillata), two small bats from South and Central America, have visual receptors enabling them to see in daylight and to see some colors. In fact, some of the receptors may enable these bat species to see ultraviolet light, wavelengths of color that are outside of the human visual spectrum.
So, yes, we are often blinder than a bat.
The Hebrew letter Ayin is said to be silent. When we are silent, we often see clearer.
A recent study published in Scientific Reports looked at the effect of gaze direction on hearing, with some interesting results. They found that the brain needs to work harder to hear when we are looking away from what we are listening to. This happened even when participants were put in a dark room and asked to either direct their gaze at a speaker in front of them or look away. When they looked away, the researchers found that the participant’s reaction times were slower, and their brain was more active (working harder to listen for the sound.
Ayin is silent, mostly, I noted earlier because if you ask a Sephardic Jew from Iraq or Iran or Syria if ayin makes a sound, they will tell you, “Most definitely.” For them, the ancient guttural is found deep within the ancient roots of the letter ayin, suggesting to me, anyway, that as with every Hebrew letter and Hebrew word, there is much to be discovered if we look deeper. Ayin is silent in the way that a dog whistle only can be heard by dogs. It is silent only because we aren’t yet sensitive to its pitch. It is a deep theological entry point; it is a place that some will truly find only when their heart is broken and their soul bound up in angst. It is the sound of an ancient weeping, of a level of fear and anxiety and loss that we sometimes touch but are often unaware of.
Moses was a prophet like Yeshua, who died with good vision. He did not get to enter the promised land, but he saw it. In John 9, after Yeshua heals a man who was blind from birth, the religious leaders question the people about the miracle. They question the man’s parents. Yeshua’s disciples ask him, “who sinned the man or his parents that he was born blind? How could a baby in the womb sin? Innocent children are innocent, not guilty by birth. We can see by reading this question that Greek thought was alive and dangerous. Yeshua corrects them and tells them neither sinned but that the man was born this way to proclaim the glory of Adonai. The story becomes more interesting as the Pharisees question the man’s parents, who are afraid of being thrown out of the synagogue, so they direct them to question their son. And their son has the answer to gaining much sight, but the religious leaders can’t receive it, and the most absurd thing of all is how Yeshua responds to these leaders. He tells them if they would lose their vision and become blind, they would SEE.
There is a woman who lost her eye as a child. In middle school, she was called third eye. By eight, her left eye was removed. By nine, she had a prosthetic eye. At 12, her ballet coach transformed her handicap into a strength, and by 19, she was teaching cardiac surgery. Her name is Katarina Stephan. I touch on this story because I feel like many times, we have eyes to see but do not see. And what are we missing while we go about our daily lives? Driving across town to an appointment, inspecting fruit at the supermarket, doing dishes, talking on the phone, etc. What are we not seeing that is right in front of us? How many times did it take for someone to mention Sabbath or feasts days before we looked at them with one eye, our 3rd one? How long did it take for passages to slap us in the face? How long did it take to notice the broken member of our family? The friend who was in dire need of love and acceptance? We all can see spiritual things if we become awake and aware and ask. The Father is always speaking. He is a God who hears, sees, weeps, and has every emotion we do. How many people do we pass over because our eyes do not find worth, time, or love to give them?
One day I was sitting with a group at a writers workshop. A lady sat next to me and read an excerpt from her short story and then began to strike up a conversation with me and a friend. She made comments in ignorance about Biblical topics she had no knowledge of (Been there—raising my hand), and as she talked on and on, my friend and I nodded and smiled. Soon someone else was reading a different type of excerpt, but I was far off and thinking deeply about the woman with the perfume who wiped Yeshua’s feet with her tears. The religious leaders said if this man were indeed a prophet, he would know what sort of woman she is. The woman they were pointing out as a promiscuous woman had eyes to see the Messiah. The lady at our workshop table was sitting next to one of the greatest teachers I know, but she could not see that. Another woman in the Bible was a Samaritan who went to the well and talked to the Master Yeshua about the Messiah and what He would do when He came. Yeshua looked at her and said, “I am He of who you speak.” She had no idea. These people could not see who was right in front of their faces. How many times have we been speaking with the Messiah and did not know? How many times have we walked across the street because He was disguised as a beaten Samaritan who needed his wounds bandaged, who needed oil and wine?
How many times have our eye gate failed us? The Sages, the Torah Scholars, the Scribes, the men of prestige and honor are speaking to the man who had been born blind, and they say, “What did Yeshua do to you?” “How did the man from Nazareth open your eyes?”
“He replied, “I already told you, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?” Then they heaped insults on him and said, “You are His disciple; we are disciples of Moses. We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this man is from.
“That is remarkable indeed!” the man said. “You do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but He does listen to the one who worships Him and does His will. Never before has anyone heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do no such thing.” They replied, “You were born in utter sin, and you are instructing us?” And they threw him out.
“When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, He found the man and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
“Who is He, Sir?” he replied. “Tell me so that I may believe in Him.”
“You have already seen Him,” Jesus (Yeshua) answered. “He is the One speaking with you.” (Aww, it is just as the woman at the well).
“Lord, I believe,” he said. And he worshiped Jesus.
Then Jesus declared, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind may see and those who see may become blind.”
Some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard this, and they asked Him, “Are we blind too?”
“If you were blind,” Jesus replied, “you would not be guilty of sin. But since you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” (John 9)
Do we claim to see? Yeshua came into the world so that those who see would become blind. How does one become blind? Humility. Compassion. Hessed. Mercy. Long-suffering.
In chapter 12 of Ezekiel, the prophet mentions words concerning sight around 20 times in a total of 28 verses. Eventually, the king of Judah will betray the oath he swore with Nebuchadnezzar and hook up with the Egyptians. He will be taken captive, and his sons who were to reign after him will be slain in front of his eyes, and then his eyes will be gouged out, and he will be imprisoned. Reminds me of the story of Samson a bit. The 9th of Av will be here before we know it, and it is a time of reflection and much pondering on our own temples that may need to be demolished so we can build His House.
As you read all the words concerning sight and vision from Ezekiel 12, ponder and reflect and let me know if you SEE any I missed. Contemplate and meditate on darkness and light and the burden of the prophet/priest Ezekiel to do everything he is commanded to do in the sight of the people.
“Son of man, you are dwelling in the midst of a rebellious house. They have EYES to SEE but they have not SEEN, they have ears to hear but they have not heard, for they are a rebellious house.
3 “Therefore, son of man, prepare your baggage for exile, and go into exile by day before THEIR EYES. And you shall go from your place into exile to another place before THEIR EYES. It could be that they SEE, though they are a rebellious house.
4 “And you shall bring out your baggage for exile before THEIR EYES by day, and at evening go before THEIR EYES, like those who go into exile.
5 “Dig through the wall before THEIR EYES, and you shall bring them out through it –
6take them on your shoulders and bring them out at dark before THEIR EYES. Cover your face, so that you DO NOT SEE the land, for I have made you a sign to the house of Yisra’ĕl.”
7And so I did, as I was commanded. I brought out my baggage for exile by day, and at evening I dug through the wall with my hand. I brought them out at dark, and I took them on my shoulder before THEIR EYES.
8And in the morning the word of יהוה came to me, saying,
9 “Son of man, did not the house of Yisra’ĕl, the rebellious house, say to you, ‘What are you doing?’
10 “Say to them, ‘Thus said the Master יהוה, “This message is to the prince in Yerushalayim and all the house of Yisra’ĕl who are in their midst.”‘
11 “Say, ‘I am a sign to you. As I have done, so it is done to them – they are to go into exile, into captivity.’
12 “And the prince who is in their midst is to bear his baggage on his shoulder at dark and go out. They are to dig through the wall to bring them out through it. He is to cover his face, so that he DOES NOT SEE THE LAND WITH HIS EYES.
13 “And I shall spread My net over him, and he shall be caught in My snare. And I shall bring him to Baḇel, the land of the Chaldeans, but HE SHALL NOT SEE IT, and yet die there.
14 “And I shall scatter to every wind all who are around him to help him, and all his bands, and I shall draw out the sword after them.
15 “And they shall know that I am יהוה, when I scatter them among the gentiles. And I shall disperse them throughout the lands.
16 “But I shall let a few of their men escape from the sword, from scarcity of food, and from pestilence, so that they recount all their abominations among the gentiles wherever they go. And they shall know that I am יהוה.”
17And the word of יהוה came to me, saying,
18 “Son of man, eat your bread with trembling, and drink your water with fear and with anxiety.
19 “And you shall say to the people of the land, ‘Thus said the Master יהוה to the inhabitants of Yerushalayim and to the land of Yisra’ĕl, “Let them eat their bread with anxiety, and drink their water with astonishment, for her land is emptied of all who are in it, because of the violence of all those who dwell in it.
20 “And the cities that are inhabited shall be laid waste, and the land shall become a wasteland. And you shall know that I am יהוה.”‘”
21And the word of יהוה came to me, saying,
22 “Son of man, what is this proverb that you people have about the land of Yisra’ĕl, which says, ‘The days go by, and EVERY VISION shall come to naught’?
23 “Therefore say to them, ‘Thus said the Master יהוה, “I shall make this proverb to cease, so that they no longer use it as a proverb in Yisra’ĕl.” But say to them, “The days have drawn near, as well as the matter of every VISION.
24 “For no longer is there to be any FALSE VISION or flattering divination within the house of Yisra’ĕl.
25 “For I am יהוה, I speak. And the word which I speak is done. It is no longer deferred. For in your days, O rebellious house, when I speak the word I shall do it,” declares the Master יהוה.'”
26Again the word of יהוה came to me, saying,
27 “SON, OF, MAN, SEE the house of Yisra’ĕl is saying, ‘The VISION that he is SEEING is for many days from now, and he is prophesying of times far off.’
28 “Therefore say to them, ‘Thus said the Master יהוה, “None of My words are deferred any longer. When I speak a word it is done,” declares the Master יהוה.'”
Ezekiel has such a love for his people–the Father’s people. Ezekiel wants to correct, rebuke, and encourage them and cause them to turn back to Adonai.
They see but do not see. They hear but do not hear. Ezekiel physically suffers in his body as Hashem’s body suffers.
“. . . Ezekiel repeatedly refers to symptoms of severe maladies, such as paralysis of the limbs and of the tongue (3:25 et seq.), from which infirmities he is relieved only upon the announcement of the downfall of Jerusalem (24:27, 33:22). These statements are to be taken not figuratively, but literally; for God had here purposely ordained that a man subject to physical infirmities should become the pliant instrument of His will.” Jewish encyclopedia.
Can you picture a loving Father not wanting His children to suffer? The Father is crying out and sending His prophets to warn, correct, and plead with them, but they have eyes and cannot see their condition. They have their Father’s Name. like the popular singer and songwriter Jim Croce bellows in his 1970s hit, “I Got a Name.”
Like the pine trees linin’ the windin’ road
I’ve got a name, I’ve got a name
Like the singin’ bird and the croakin’ toad
I’ve got a name, I’ve got a name
And I carry it with me like my daddy did.
His people who carried His Name will now be carried out of the land and into exile.
“I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. And wherever they went among the nations they profaned My holy name, for it was said of them, “These are the Lord’s people, and yet they had to leave His land.” (Ezekiel 36:19)
They profaned His Holy Name. Where is the good news? The same prophet who dug through a hole and prepared his traveling bags in broad daylight would also proclaim and speak a proclamation over dry, dead bones and watch them shake and come together, dressed and clothed like a great army. Although the Father corrects those who are His children, He is a God of restoration and healing. He is a loving Father and just like any parent, He wants to raise healthy children who have good eyesight and a heart tender and ready to be obedient. He is a Yah that sees us even when we don’t see well. He wants to restore sight to the blind and give blindness to those who think they see well. Today if you have eye trouble, gaze upon His Word. Invite Him to your table and eat bread with Him. Think of His Great Name–His Holy Name and His longing to be intimate with us. May we remember our wedding vows and our journey with Him. May eye salve be applied, and scales fall off. May we see with divine sight.