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03-05-06-Year of Jubliee-Recovery of Sight for the Blind

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We have been looking at the passage of scripture in Luke 4:18-19, where Jesus was in the synagogue at Nazareth.  The scroll of Isaiah was handed to Him and He found the place in Isaiah 61:1-2 and read it.  Then He sat down and declared that He was the Messiah (The Anointed One) who had come to declare the Year of Jubilee. 

We have learned that the Year of Jubilee, which occurred every 50 years, brought liberty, restoration, release, rest, thanksgiving, and faith to God’s people.  Jesus said that His mission was to:

1.  Preach the Good News to the Poor—Poverty (Physical & Spiritual)

2. Heal the Brokenhearted—Sorrow/Grief (Emotional)

3.  Proclaim Freedom for the Captives—Bondage (Spiritual)

4. Recovery of Sight for the Blind—Blindness (Physical & Spiritual)

5.  Release the Oppressed—Oppressed (Physical & Spiritual)

Today we want to look at the phrase recovery of sight for the blind.

Luke 4: 18-19 (NIV) “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Isaiah 61:1-2 (NIV) The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor

How many of you have been blind in your life?  Probably most of us would say we have not been blind. According to the American Foundation for Blindness 5 out of 1000 people in America are blind.  Yet, although we have not been blind, we sing the words, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see.”  So, then we have been blind.  Maybe not physically sightless, but we all have been spiritually blind.

As we have been looking at this passage we have been trying to view it through the eyes of a Jew who would have heard Jesus preach it in the synagogue that day in Nazareth. 

When John the Baptist was in prison and wanted to know if Jesus was the Messiah, what did Jesus say?

Matt 11:4-5 (NIV) Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.

So Jesus declares that the healing of the blind is a primary sign of the fact that He is the Messiah.  But when we read this scripture, we need to recognize that Jesus was quoting from Isaiah.

Isaiah 35:5 (NIV) Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.

In fact, there are numerous references to the healing of blind eyes in the Old Testament.  Here are just a few:

·        Isaiah 29:18 (NIV) In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.

·        Isaiah 42:6-7 (NIV) “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

·        Isaiah 42:16 (NIV) I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

·        Psalm 146:8 (NIV) the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous.

Yet, there is also a spiritual blindness that is talked about in the scriptures (primarily Isaiah).  In fact in Isaiah’s call he is told by God that the people are blind and deaf and will not understand his message.

Isaiah 6:9-10 (NIV) He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ 10 Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

Now that may sound harsh, but Isaiah was sent by the Sovereign God to tell a people that they had sinned and were going to be punished because they would not repent. The Northern kingdom of Israel had fallen into such idolatry that it was destroyed by the Assyrian army and the 10 tribes of the north were scattered.  The Southern kingdom of Judah and Benjamin was carried off to captivity in Babylon for 70 years.  Isaiah may have had a hard message, but he also had a message of hope.  He declared what it would be like when they came back from exile in Babylon and how that God would be among them.  He is the prophet who revealed the major prophecies about Jesus (his birth, anointing, ministry, suffering and death).  In fact Jesus quoted these same verses in Matt 13:14-15 when His disciples asked Him about why He spoke in parables.

The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” 11 He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. . . . 13 This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ 16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

So when we look at the words of Isaiah, we see the true heart of the nation of Israel and the true heart of a God who was rejected by that nation, but still loved His people.  He does not abandon them, but disciplines them.

·        Isaiah 42:18-20 (NIV) “Hear, you deaf; look, you blind, and see! 19 Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like the messenger I send? Who is blind like the one committed to me, blind like the servant of the Lord? 20 You have seen many things, but have paid no attention; your ears are open, but you hear nothing.”

·        Isaiah 44:9 (NIV) All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame.

·        Isaiah 56:10 (NIV) Israel’s watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep.

·        Isaiah 59:9-10 (NIV) So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. 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.

         

So now that we understand what a Jew would have thought of when Jesus said that He came as the Messiah to give recovery of sight for the blind, let’s see what Jesus was trying to tell them as He proclaimed the Year of Jubilee. 

1.  He came to open our spiritual eyes so we can understand who God is and how we can relate to Him.  The Greek word for blindness means to be “enveloped with smoke, unable to see clearly, ignorant, stupid, and slow of understanding.” 

5185. τυφλός tuphlós; fem. tuphlé̄, neut. tuphlón, adj. from tuphlóō (5186), to envelop with smoke, be unable to see clearly. Blind (Matt. 9:27, 28; 11:5; 12:22; Luke 7:21, 22; John 9:1ff.; Acts 13:11; Sept.: Lev. 19:14; Job 29:15). Figuratively in respect to the mind as being blind, ignorant, stupid, slow of understanding (Matt. 15:14; 23:16, 17, 19, 24, 26; Luke 4:18; John 9:39–41; Rom. 2:19; 2 Pet. 1:9; Rev. 3:17; Sept.: Is. 42:16, 18, 19; 43:8). (Complete Word Study NT)

They were walking around like they were in a fog, not knowing which way to go.  They needed a light to guide them.  Jesus is the light of the world, sent to illuminate the path of truth for all mankind. 

John 1:4-9 (NIV) In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. 6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

John 8:12 (NIV) When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

“God is light, therefore those who are alienated from Him are in complete spiritual darkness. They do not see the frightful danger to which they are exposed. Though they are led captive by Satan from day to day and year to year, they are totally unaware of his malignant (evil) influence over them. They are blind to the nature and tendency of their religious performances, failing to perceive that no matter how earnestly they engage in them, they cannot be acceptable to God while their minds are at enmity (hostility) against Him. They are blind to the way and means of recovery.” [i]

2.  He came to show the way to God, to lead us out of the fog and darkness.  To take the blinders off our spiritual eyes, so we can clearly see the true way to God.  He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  (John 14:6 (NIV))

Spiritual blindness is a figurative way of defining the lost and hopeless condition of sinful humanity. Such blindness includes willful rejection of God’s revelation in his creation and in Scripture, and an inability to see the truth of the gospel. . . . Jesus charged the Pharisees with unbelief that made them “blind guides of the blind” (Mt 15:14; 23:16). Spiritual blindness is related to “hardness of heart” (Mk 8:17–18; Eph 4:17–18) . . . According to Paul, it is also the work of Satan, who “has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe” (2 Cor 4:4). Healing from spiritual blindness is a special gift of God’s grace through the “new birth” (Jn 3:3) and by seeing “the glorious light of the Good News” (2 Cor 4:4, nlt).[ii]

3.     He came to guide us into the truth of God’s Word.  By showing us the true nature of God that He loves us.  God is not a mean old man who always has a big stick ready to beat us up when we fall.  He is a God who loves sinful man so much that He was willing to send His only Son to come to earth to live among us and show us the truth of God’s Word.

John 3:16-17 (NIV) “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

     Not only would Jesus be our guide, but after Jesus went back to heaven the Holy Spirit would be sent to live in us as the guide we need.  Jesus said He would be our comforter, teacher, and guide and would lead us into all truth (John 14:16, 26, 16:13).

     Why is it that sometimes we can read a scripture and it means nothing to us?  While at other times, the words seem to literally leap off the page into our hearts.  The reason is because we cannot discern the truth of the Word of God without being led by the Holy Spirit.  We are “blinded” by satan or our own humanness to see what truth is—only the Holy Spirit can reveal the truth to us.

As we walk in this Year of Jubilee, we need the truth of God’s Word to set us free, but only as the Holy Spirit illuminates that truth can we walk in it.  Thank God that Jesus came to give recovery of sight to the blind, because otherwise we could not see the truth.  “I once was . . . blind, but now I see!”

Recovering of sight to the blind. He came not only by the word of his gospel to bring light to them that sat in the dark, but by the power of his grace to give sight to them that were blind; not only the Gentile world, but every unregenerate soul, that is not only in bondage, but in blindness, like Samson and Zedekiah. Christ came to tell us that he has eye-salve for us, which we may have for the asking; that, if our prayer be, Lord, that our eyes may be opened, his answer shall be, Receive your sight. [iii]

2 Pet 1:3-9 (NIV) His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

Rom 2:17-24 (NIV) Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; 18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?

BLINDNESS. A defect of the eye often caused by the blowing of dust and sand and by the glare of the sun. The Hebrew word is ˓iwwer and its cognates, while the Greek noun typhlós and verb typhlóō occur in the New Testament.

No blind priest was permitted to serve in the tabernacle (Lev. 21:18, 20), and similarly no blind animal could be offered as a sacrifice (22:22; Deut. 15:21; Mal. 1:8). Yet the blind (such as aged Isaac [Gen. 27:1], Eli [1 Sam. 3:2], and the prophet Ahijah [1 Kgs. 14:4]) were to be assisted (Lev. 19:14; Deut. 27:18; cf. Job’s exemplary behavior at Job 29:15). Jesus healed many blind persons (cf. the answer to John the Baptist at Matt. 11:5), both individually (e.g., Matt. 12:22) and collectively (“the blind,” Matt. 15:30; cf. Luke 7:21). Thus, his healing ministry included the body as well as the spirit. (In the Old Testament also the promised Messiah was to heal the physically blind; cf. Isa. 29:18; 35:5; cf. Luke 4:18 quoting Isa. 61:1–2.)

While gouging of the eyes was practiced by Israel’s enemies (by the Philistines on Samson [Judg. 16:21], by Nebuchadnezzar on King Zedekiah [2 Kgs. 25:7]), this custom was considered a disgrace in Israel (1 Sam. 11:2). Nevertheless, God could cause temporary blindness — not only to the men of Sodom (Gen. 19:11) and the Syrians (2 Kgs. 6:18, in sharp contrast to the opening of the eyes of Elisha’s servant [v. 17]) but also to the Israelites (cf. Deut. 28:28). Jesus, however, did not always attribute blindness to sin (John 9:2–3), though the magician Elymas was blinded when interfering with Paul’s missionary work (Acts 13:11, possibly a case of temporary amaurosis).

Metaphorically, Israel’s watchmen are spiritually blind (i.e., without knowledge, Isa. 56:10; cf. 29:9; 42:16ff.). Paul was temporarily blinded physically (temporary amaurosis; but see Rom. 16:22; Gal. 6:11 for the permanent scars of this event) in order to come to spiritual discernment (Acts 9:9). For that reason he pleaded intensely with his fellow Jews regarding their allegedly spiritual perceptibilities (Rom. 2:19, “a guide to the blind”). Others before him had been struck by Israel’s spiritual blindness. Isaiah was called to preach to a nation that would not respond to his message (Isa. 6:9–10, quoted at Matt. 13:14–15 par.). Even here God is sovereign, for it is he who makes people “seeing, or blind” (Exod. 4:11; cf. 2 Cor. 4:4).[iv]

BLINDNESS

physical ♦ as divine judgment: Ge 19:11; De 28:28; Ac 13:11 ♦ by divine design: Ex 4:11; Jn 9:2–3 ♦ humane treatment of: Le 19:14; De 27:18; Job 29:15 ♦ as a defect: De 15:21 ♦ of animals: Le 22:22; Zec 12:4; Mal 1:8 ♦ comparison to: De 28:29; Zep 1:17 ♦ of scorn: 2 Sa 5:6, 8 ♦ as divine protection from enemies: 2 Ki 6:18 ♦ divine healing of: Ps 146:8; Is 35:5; Mt 9:27–30; 11:5; 12:22; 15:30–31; 21:14; Jn 9:7 ♦ among Israel’s remnant: Je 31:8 ♦ by human means: Je 39:7 ♦ of the worthless Shepherd: Zec 11:17 ♦ from birth: Jn 9:1–2, 32

spiritual: Is 29:9–10; 32:3; 42:7, 16–19; 43:8; 59:10; Mt 15:14; 23:16–26; Jn 9:39–41; 12:40; Ro 2:19; 2 Co 4:4; 2 Pe 1:9; 1 Jo 2:11; Re 3:17

figurative: 1 Sa 12:3[v]

E. Blindness and Hearing Loss. Three types of blindness are mentioned in Scripture: sudden blindness caused by flies and aggravated by dirt, dust, and glare; the gradual blindness caused by old age; and chronic blindness. Paul suffered temporary blindness on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:8). Scripture often refers to old persons whose eyes “grew dim” (cf. Gen. 27:1; 48:10; 1 Sam. 4:15). But the Bible more often refers to chronic blindness.

The Israelites had compassion for the blind. In fact, God placed a curse upon those who made the blind wander out of their way (Deut. 27:18). Jesus ministered to many people who were blind. He said, “[God] hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind” (Luke 4:18). Jesus healed a man born blind (John 9:1–41); a blind man whose healing was gradual (Mark 8:24); two blind men sitting by the wayside (Matt. 20:30–34); and a great number of others (Mark 10:46–52; Luke 7:21).

Blindness was often understood to be a punishment for evil-doing. We find examples of this at Sodom (Gen. 19:11); in the Syrian army (2 Kin. 6:18); and in the case of Elymas at Paphos (Acts 13:6–11).[vi]

Blindness—destitute of vision

A.     Causes of:

Old age     Gen. 27:1

Disobedience     Deut. 28:28, 29

Miracle     2 Kin. 6:18–20

Judgment     Gen. 19:1–11

Captivity     Judg. 16:20, 21

Condition of servitude     1 Sam. 11:2

Defeat in war     2 Kin. 25:7

Unbelief     Acts 9:8, 9

God’s glory     John 9:1–3

B.     Disabilities of:

Keep from priesthood     Lev. 21:17, 18

Offerings unacceptable     Lev. 22:22; Mal. 1:8

Make protection     Lev. 19:14

Helplessness     Judg. 16:26

Occasional derision     2 Sam. 5:6–8

C.     Remedies for:

Promised in Christ     Is. 42:7, 16

Proclaimed in the Gospel     Luke 4:18–21; Acts 26:18

Portrayed in a miracle     John 9:1–41; Acts 9:1–18

Perfected in faith     John 11:37; Eph. 1:15–19

Perverted by disobedience     1 John 2:11[vii]

BLINDNESS. Disqualified for priestly office, Lev. 21:18. Of animals, disqualified for a sacrifice, Lev. 22:22; Deut. 15:21; Mal. 1:8. Miraculously inflicted upon the Sodomites, Gen. 19:11; Syrians, 2 Kin. 6:18–23; Saul of Tarsus, Acts 9:8, 9; Elymas, Acts 13:11. Sent as a judgment, Deut. 28:28. Miraculous healing of, Matt. 9:27–30; 11:5; 12:22; 21:14; of Bartimaeus, Matt. 20:30–34; Mark 10:46–52; a man of Bethsaida, Mark 8:22–25; man born blind, John 9:1–7.

Instances of: Isaac, Gen. 27:1. Jacob, Gen. 48:10. Eli, 1 Sam. 4:15. Ahijah, 1 Kin. 14:4.

Spiritual: Ex. 5:2; Deut. 29:4; Deut. 32:28, 29; Judg. 16:20; Job 21:14; Job 22:13, 14; Psa. 10:5, 6; Psa. 14:1, 4; Psa. 73:22 with vs. 2–28.Psa. 79:6; Psa. 82:5; Psa. 92:6; Psa. 94:7, 8; Psa. 95:10; Psa. 119:18; Prov. 1:7, 22, 29, 30; Prov. 4:19 Prov. 7:7–23. Prov. 10:21; Prov. 13:18; Prov. 14:12; Prov. 17:16; Prov. 19:2, 3; Prov. 28:5; Eccl. 7:25; Isa. 1:3; Isa. 5:13, 20; Isa. 6:9, 10 Matt. 13:14; John 12:38–41. Isa. 9:2; Isa. 26:10, 11; Isa. 27:11; Isa. 28:13, 15; Isa. 29:10–12; Isa. 40:21, 27, 28; Isa. 42:6, 7, 18–20; Isa. 44:18–20; Isa. 48:8; Isa. 56:10; Isa. 60:2; Jer. 2:8; Jer. 4:22; Jer. 5:4, 5, 21; Jer. 8:7–9; Jer. 9:3, 6; Jer. 16:10; Jer. 17:9; Ezek. 12:2; Dan. 12:10; Hos. 4:1, 6, 14; Hos. 5:4; Hos. 7:11; Amos 9:10; Mic. 4:12; Matt. 5:15, 16; Matt. 6:23 Isa. 6:9, 10. Matt. 13:13–16, 19 Mark 4:15; Luke 8:12. Matt. 15:14; Matt. 16:3; Matt. 22:29 Mark 12:24. Matt. 23:19, 24, 26 vs. 16–24.; Mark 4:11, 12Luke 8:10. Mark 6:52; Mark 7:18; Luke 4:18; Luke 11:52; Luke 12:48, 57; Luke 19:42; Luke 23:34; John 1:5, 10; John 3:4, 7, 19, 20, 31 vs. 9–12.; John 4:10, 22 vs. 11,15.; John 6:52, 60; John 7:28; John 8:12, 15, 19, 27, 33, 42, 43, 52, 54, 55, 57; John 9:29, 30, 39 vs. 30–38.; John 12:38 Isa. 53:1. John 14:17; John 15:21; John 16:2, 3; John 17:25; Acts 3:17; Acts 13:27; Acts 17:23; Acts 19:2; Acts 26:18; Rom. 1:19–22, 28–32; Rom. 2:4; Rom. 11:25; 1 Cor. 1:18, 20, 21; 1 Cor. 2:8, 14, 15; 1 Cor. 15:34; 2 Cor. 3:14, 15; 2 Cor. 4:3, 4, 6; Gal. 4:8; Eph. 4:18; Eph. 5:8; Col. 1:13; 1 Thess. 4:4, 5; 1 Thess. 5:4–7; 2 Thess. 1:8; 2 Thess. 2:11, 12; 2 Tim. 3:7, 13; Tit. 1:16; Heb. 5:11, 12; 1 Pet. 1:14; 1 Pet. 2:9; 2 Pet. 1:9; 2 Pet. 3:16; 1 John 1:6, 8; 1 John 2:4, 9, 11; 1 John 3:1, 6; 1 John 4:8; 3 John 11; Jude 10; Rev. 3:17 See Affliction, Hardness of heart in; Mankind, Ignorance of; God, Providence of, Misunderstood.

Instances of: Israelites, Num. 16, 17. Moab, 2 Kin. 3:27. Scribes, Matt. 9:3. See in the printed text above for other instances.[viii]

Blindness, Spiritual.

1.     Explained. Joh 1:5; 1Co 2:14.

2.     The effect of sin. Isa 29:10; Mt 6:23; Joh 3:19,20.

3.     Unbelief, the effect of. Ro 11:8; 2Co 4:3,4.

4.     Uncharitableness, a proof of. 1Jo 2:9,11.

5.     A work of the devil. 2Co 4:4.

6.     Leads to all evil. Eph 4:17-19.

7.     Is consistent with communion with God. 1Jo 1:6,7.

8.     Of ministers, fatal to themselves and to the people. Mt 15:14.

9.     The wicked are in. Ps 82:5; Jer 5:21.

10.     The self-righteous are in. Mt 23:19,26; Re 3:17.

11.     The wicked wilfully guilty of. Isa 26:11; Ro 1:19-21.

12.     Judicially inflicted. Ps 69:23; Isa 29:10; 44:18; Mt 13:13,14; Joh 12:40.

13.     Pray for the removal of. Ps 13:3; 119:18.

14.     Christ appointed to remove. Isa 42:7; Lu 4:18; Joh 8:12; 9:39; 2Co 4:6.

15.     Christ’s ministers are lights to remove. Mt 5:14; Ac 26:18.

16.     Saints are delivered from. Joh 8:12; Eph 5:8; Col 1:13; 1Th 5:4,5; 1Pe 2:9.

17.     Removal of, illustrated. Joh 9:7,11,25; Ac 9:18; Re 3:18.

18.     Exemplified

a.     Israel. Ro 11:25; 2Co 3:15.

b.     Scribes and Pharisees. Mt 23:16,24.

c.     Churches of Laodicea. Re 3:17.[ix]

Blindness is extremely common in the East from many causes. Blind beggars figure repeatedly in the New Testament (Matt. 12:22), and “opening the eyes of the blind” is mentioned in prophecy as a peculiar attribute of the Messiah. Isa. 29:18; 42:7, etc. The Jews were specially charged to treat the blind with compassion and care. Lev. 19:14; Deut. 27:18. Blindness willfully inflicted for political or other purposes is alluded to in Scripture. 1 Sam. 11:2; Jer. 39:7.[x]

BLINDNESS Condition of lacking the ability to see. Physical blindness was common in the ancient Near East and is still prevalent among the poor and tribal peoples lacking the benefits of modern medicine.

Medical causes of blindness are not specified in the Bible, but poor personal hygiene and unsanitary living conditions were undoubtedly contributing factors. Newborn babies were especially susceptible. Much blindness from birth (Jn 9:1–3) was probably gonorrhea of the eyes. In the birth process germs from the mother passed to the eyes of the infant, where they found an ideal medium for growth. Within three days inflammation, pus and swelling would be evident. In such cases, primitive treatment could not prevent some permanent or even total damage to the eye. Modern medical practice treats all newborn babies with antiseptic eyedrops; but such treatment is not always available to the poor, or is rejected by them in parts of the Middle East today. Babies and young children have also been threatened by infectious ophthalmia. Carried by flies, that disease causes heavy crusting, droopy eyelids, loss of eyelashes, and eventually clouding of the cornea, often leading to total blindness. In parts of the world one may still see a mother (because of folk superstition) permitting flies to swarm continuously on her baby’s face even as she holds the infant in her lap. Blindness among adults might be due to side effects from illnesses such as malaria, long exposure to sandstorms and sun glare in the desert, accidents, punishment (as with Samson, Jgs 16:21), or old age (Gn 27:1; 1 Sm 4:15; 1 Kgs 14:4).

The OT demanded special consideration for the blind (Lv 19:14) and imposed punishment for misleading a blind person (Dt 27:18). A blind man, considered defective, was not permitted to serve as a priest (Lv 21:18).

Jesus’ healing ministry brought sight to the blind in fulfillment of prophecy (Lk 4:18). His ability to restore vision was one of the proofs given to John the Baptist that Jesus was the Messiah (Mt 11:5). Jesus healed two blind men in Galilee (9:27–30), one blind man in Bethsaida (Mk 8:22–26), a man blind from birth in Jerusalem (Jn 9), and a blind beggar named Bartimaeus and his friend at Jericho (Mk 10:46–52; cf. Mt 20:30–34; Lk 18:35–43). At times Jesus commanded immediate restoration (Mk 10:52). On other occasions he used “means” such as clay and water (Jn 9:6–11) or his own saliva (Mk 8:23). The apostle Paul was blinded at his conversion and received a miraculous cure in the presence of Ananias (Acts 9:1–9, 18). Paul later afflicted a sorcerer, Elymas, with temporary blindness for opposing his ministry on the island of Cyprus (13:11).

See also Medicine and Medical Practice; Disease.

Spiritual blindness

Spiritual blindness is a figurative way of defining the lost and hopeless condition of sinful humanity. Such blindness includes willful rejection of God’s revelation in his creation and in Scripture, and an inability to see the truth of the gospel. Moses spoke of Israel’s apostasy as “blindness” (Dt 29:4); Isaiah called it “dim” eyes (see Is 6:10, nasb). Jesus charged the Pharisees with unbelief that made them “blind guides of the blind” (Mt 15:14; 23:16). Spiritual blindness is related to “hardness of heart” (Mk 8:17–18; Eph 4:17–18) and is understood as the judgment of God both upon unbelievers (Rom 1:20–21) and upon Israel (Is 29:10; Rom 11:7–8). According to Paul, it is also the work of Satan, who “has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe” (2 Cor 4:4). Healing from spiritual blindness is a special gift of God’s grace through the “new birth” (Jn 3:3) and by seeing “the glorious light of the Good News” (2 Cor 4:4, nlt).[xi]

Aspects of Sin

Sin is an abomination (abominable; amiss; hate; miserable; noisome; perverse; vile) in the sight of God that alienates humanity from him, leading to divine condemnation (inclose) and the punishment (drown; punish) of death (dead; debt; decay; lose; recompence; wages).

Because of the fall, all human beings are held captive (beset; branded; bondage; enslaved; sell) to this curse of sin, and the human heart (delusion; desire; devise; gross; thought) has an inherent bias towards evil (bad; base; carnal; crooked; dark; malignity; revive). Human weaknesses and failings (fault) are also sinful in themselves and may lead to further sin.

Ignorance (blindness; brute; dull; rude) and folly (fool; foolishness; idle; barren; irksome; raca; stupid fellow; unwise) are aspects of sin, as is unbelief (disbelieve; unbelieving) and hardness of heart (hard; stiffnecked; to shut).

Sin produces strife (blame), shame (ashamed; reproach), dishonor and toil, and causes harm (hurt; injure) to both the sinner and to the one sinned against.[xii]

So with the proclamation of liberty to the captive, those who were bound with the fetters of sin and of the Devil. The phrase rendered “the opening of the prison” should probably read as in the r.v. margin, “the opening of the eyes” (as in 35:5; 42:7). There were many who were spiritually imprisoned and blinded by the religions of the Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees (the Lord remarks upon their blindness in Matt. 23:24).

Great the joy when the blinding film of human tradition and religion is removed by the power of the ascended Lord through the Spirit! great the gladness and gratitude in the possession of liberty and spiritual sight![xiii]

Jesus’ ministry is directed to those in need—the poor, the prisoners, the blind, and the oppressed (vv. 18–19). In Luke these terms refer primarily to spiritual need, although a literal meaning is not excluded. [xiv]

Blindness. Scripture often employs the imagery of blindness to describe the spiritual condition of persons who are either unable or unwilling to perceive divine revelation. The things of God are perceived not by observation and inquiry, but by revelation and illumination (Matt. 11:25–27; 1 Cor. 1:21; 2 Peter 1:19–21). It is the Lord who “gives sight to the blind” (Ps. 146:8; Isa. 42:16).

The figure of blindness is a favorite device of Isaiah, who repeatedly announces to rebellious Israel that God has afflicted them and their apostate prophets, priests, and rules with blindness (43:8; 56:10; 59:10). Zephaniah reveals that this condition is divinely imposed upon the hardhearted (1:17). Appropriately, then, the Messiah’s ministry would be marked by opening the eyes of the spiritually blind (Isa. 42:7, 16, 18). At the outset of his public ministry, Jesus lay claim to the messianic office by revealing that he would fulfill Isaiah’s prophetic promise to proclaim “recovery of sight to the blind” (Luke 4:18).

Some of Jesus’ strongest outbursts were directed at the Pharisees, who masqueraded their superficial conformity to Jewish ceremonial laws as sincere and sufficient righteousness in the sight of God. Jesus follows the form of Isaiah in castigating the Pharisees as “blind guides of the blind” (Matt. 15:14; cf. 23:16–26; John 9:39–41). He announces that he will impose judgment on these self-righteous legalists, “so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind” (John 9:39).

Paul tells the Corinthian believers that blindness aptly describes the spiritual state of pagan unbelievers. He points out that this blindness is inflicted by the “god of this age [who] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). The New Testament reveals that believers are subject to spiritual blindness. Peter deems those who fail increasingly to exhibit diligence in pursuit of spiritual virtue as blind or nearsighted (2 Peter 1:9). And the exalted Lord of the church views the lukewarm but haughty Laodicean church as wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked (Rev. 3:17).

Spiritual blindness, then, refers in some instances to the inability of unbelievers to comprehend spiritual truth, specifically failure to recognize the true identity of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. It is vital, therefore, to conduct all Christian witness in dependence on the Holy Spirit, who works to counteract the cataracts of Satan and to reveal the truth of God. But spiritual blindness can also afflict believers who fail to perceive their true spiritual condition. To avoid the plague of spiritual blindness and escape the condemnation of leading others into spiritual ruin, believers must be quick to appropriate and obey the Word of God.

Ralph E. Enlow, Jr

[xv]

“The Spirit of the Lord (Heb., Adonai Jehovah) is upon me because he (Heb., Jehovah) hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind.” Thus far we have the words of the LXX. The last sentence “the recovering of sight to the blind,” not being in the Hebrew Text*; while the last sentence in the Hebrew is not in the LXX. But the two words in the Hebrew contain both senses. פָּקַח (pahkach) means simply to open. Spoken once of the ears (Isa. 42:20); and often of the eyes (2 Kings 4:35; 6:17, 20; 19:16. Dan. 9:18. Job 27:19. Prov. 20:13. Jer. 32:19. Isa. 42:7). Hence the first of the two words means to open the eyes of: and the other word means prison. Thus, in reading, the sense of the first word was expanded and given in the words of Isa. 42:7; while that of the second word was expanded and given in the words of Isa. 58:6—the two together meaning that the eyes of the prisoners should be opened on being released from the darkness of their prison. Or, to open [their eyes, and open or release] the prisoners. The explanation lies in the fact that the eyelids were called “the doors” of the eyes (עַפְעַפַּיִם, aphappayim) (Ps. 132:4. Prov. 6:4. Job 16:16, etc.). Hence the term “to open” applies equally to the eyes and to prison doors.

[xvi]

Let us consider some of the solemn declarations of our Lord on the third of these dire consequences of the fall. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Until a man is born again he remains in his natural, fallen and depraved state, and so long as that is the case it is utterly impossible for him to discern or perceive divine things. Sin has both darkened his understanding and destroyed his spiritual vision. “The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble” (Prov. 4:19). Though divine instruction is supplied them, though God has given them His Word in which the way to heaven is plainly marked out, still they are incapable of profiting from it. Moses reDresented them as groping at noonday (Deut. 28:29), and Job declares, “They meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope in the noonday as in the night” (5:14). Jeremiah depicts them as walking in “slippery ways in the darkness” (23:12).

Now this darkness which envelops the natural man is a moral one, having its seat in the soul. Our Saviour declared, “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore shine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if shine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt. 6:22–23). The heart is the same to the soul as the eye is to the body. As a sound eye lets in natural light, so a good heart lets in spiritual light; and as a blind eye shuts out natural light, so an evil heart shuts out spiritual light. Accordingly we find the apostle expressly ascribing the darkness of the understanding to the blindness of the heart. He represents all men as “having the understand ing darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Eph. 4:18).

While sinners remain under the entire dominion of a wicked heart they are altogether blind to the spiritual excellence of the character, the works and the ways of God. “Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not” (Jer. 5:21). The natural man is blind. This awful fact was affirmed again and again by our I ord as He addressed hypocritical scribes thus: “blind leaders of the blind,” “ye blind guides,” “thou blind Pharisee” (Matt. 15:14; 23:24, 26). Paul said: “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not” (2 Cor. 4:4). There is in the unregenerate mind an incompetence, an incapacity, an inability to understand the things of the Spirit; and Christ’s repeated miracle in restoring sight to the naturally blind was designed to teach us our imperative need of the same divine power recovering spiritual vision to our souls.

A question has been raised as to whether this blindness of the natural man is partial or total, whether it is simply a defect of vision or whether he has no vision at all. The nature of his disease may best be defined as spiritual myopia or shortsightedness. He is able to see clearly objects which are nearby, but distant ones lie wholly beyond the range of his vision. In other words, the mind’s eye of the sinner is capable of perceiving natural things, but he has no ability to see spiritual things. Holy Writ states that the one who “lacketh these things,” namely, the graces of faith, virtue, knowledge, and so forth, mentioned in 2 Peter 1:5–7, is “blind, and cannot see afar off” (v. 9). The Book therefore urges him to receive “eyesalve” from Christ, that he may see (Rev. 3:18).

For this very purpose the Son of God came into the world: to give “deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind” (Luke 4:18). Concerning those who are the subjects of this miracle of grace it is said, “Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8). This is the fulfillment of our Lord’s promise: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). God is light, therefore those who are alienated from Him are in complete spiritual darkness. They do not see the frightful danger to which they are exposed. Though they are led captive by Satan from day to day and year to year, they are totally unaware of his malignant influence over them. They are blind to the nature and tendency of their religious performances, failing to perceive that no matter how earnestly they engage in them, they cannot be acceptable to God while their minds are at enmity against Him. They are blind to the way and means of recovery.

The awful thing is that the natural man is quite blind to the blindness of his heart which is insensibly leading him to “the blackness of darkness for ever” (Jude 13). That is why the vast majority live so securely and peacefully. It has always appeared strange to the godly why the ungodly can be so unconcerned while under sentence of death, and conduct themselves so frivolously and gaily while exposed to the wrath to come. John was surprised to see the wicked spending their days in carnality and feasting. David was grieved at the prosperity of the wicked and could not account for their not being in trouble as other men. Amos was astonished to behold the sinners in Zion living at ease, putting the evil day far from them, lying on beds of ivory. Nothing but their spiritual blindness can explain the conduct of the vast majority of mankind, crying peace and safety when exposed to impending destruction.[xvii]


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[i]Pink, A. W. (2000). Gleanings in the Scriptures: Man's Total Depravity (electronic ed.). Escondido, CA: Ephesians Four Group.

[ii]Elwell, W. A., & Comfort, P. W. (2001). Tyndale Bible dictionary. Tyndale reference library (Page 227). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.

[iii]Henry, M. (.). E4's Matthew Henry's Complete 6 Volume Commentary (electronic ed.). :: ,.

cf. compare, see

v. verse

par. parallel

[iv]Myers, A. C. (1987). The Eerdmans Bible dictionary. Rev., augm. translation of: Bijbelse encyclopedie. Rev. ed. 1975. (Page 163). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.

[v]The NASB Topical Index. 1998 (electronic ed.). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[vi]Packer, J., Tenney, M. C., & White, W. (1997, c1995). Nelson's illustrated manners and customs of the Bible (Rev. ed. of The Bible almanac, c1980; electronic edition.). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[vii]Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1995). Nelson's quick reference topical Bible index. Nelson's Quick reference. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[viii]Swanson, J., & Nave, O. (1994). New Nave's. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

[ix]Torrey, R. (1995, c1897). The new topical text book : A scriptural text book for the use of ministers, teachers, and all Christian workers. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos research Systems, Inc.

[x]Smith, W. (1997). Smith's Bible dictionary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[xi]Elwell, W. A., & Comfort, P. W. (2001). Tyndale Bible dictionary. Tyndale reference library (Page 227). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.

[xii]Vine, W. (1997, c1996). Vine's complete expository dictionary topic finder . Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

r.v. Revised Version

[xiii]Vine, W. (1997, c1996). Collected writings of W.E. Vine. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[xiv]Elwell, W. A. (1996, c1989). Evangelical Commentary on the Bible. (electronic ed.) (Lk 4:16). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Ralph E. Enlow, Jr Enlow, Ralph E., Jr Ed.D., Vanderbilt University. Vice President for Academic Affairs, Columbia International University, Columbia, South Carolina.

[xv]Elwell, W. A., & Elwell, W. A. (1997, c1996). Evangelical dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed.). Baker reference library; Logos Library System. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

LXX. The Septuagint Version (325 b.c.).

* See Ginsburg’s Hebrew Bible, which gives two readings.

[xvi]Bullinger, E. W. (1898). Figures of speech used in the Bible (Page 790). London; New York: Eyre & Spottiswoode; E. & J. B. Young & Co.

[xvii]Pink, A. W. (2000). Gleanings in the Scriptures: Man's Total Depravity (electronic ed.). Escondido, CA: Ephesians Four Group.

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