Eye Hath Not Seen
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
Our passage today comes from Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians; this is an interesting book to an interesting people. I say interesting because geographically and spiritually the people of Corinth were exposed to all kinds of pagan influences. This is not to say that the world is any less pagan today than it was then (there is nothing new under the sun). Within this epistle Paul addresses many issues; including: various divisions within the church, sexual immorality, the worship of idols and food offered thereto, leadership in the church and orderly conduct in the church.
If I was to best describe the purpose of this letter it would be to bring order out of chaos. Paul does this wonderfully; by focussing on the gospel first and foremost. We know ourselves it was only the light of the gospel which turned our chaotic lives for good.
For this reason, Paul starts this short but powerful chapter (2) in the First Book of Corinthians by extolling the virtue of the cross of Christ over any wisdom that he or any worldly person may possess; stating that he is determined only to know Christ and him crucified. This is such a sweeping statement considering all there is to know or could be known both from a worldly perspective and a faith perspective. Nevertheless he says it and I think if we allow ourselves to ponder for a while we too would see that the cross of Christ is central to every other reality that exists in this world. I stress reality because there are many world views and they are completely out of touch with reality.
My focus today is verse 9.
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
(1 Corinthians 2:9)
It is an interesting verse to say the least and compels us to ask:
What has the eye not seen?
What has the ear not heard?
What has not entered into the heart of man?
What has God prepared for those that love him?
And with regard to these questions we must ask, “why not?”
On the surface we might be inclined to say that the thing not seen or heard is our eternal home; this is fair comment and the obvious answer but I believe it runs deeper than this.
Verse 7 reveals the answer and it is in fact the gospel which is or was the hidden wisdom of God (and deliberately so); we define gospel as the death burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.
[I could probably finish there but as we see how this plays out in scripture I pray that you will be as blessed as I have been]
Paul begins verse 9 by saying, “It is written” and in doing so he expounds Isaiah 64:4. It is always a good when we read “it is written” to find out where it is written.
For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.
In saying “For since the beginning of the world” it seems that ignorance (that is a lack of knowing) of this kind is an age old problem. And yet as we look through scripture we recognise that it wasn’t impossible to know something of God’s plan of redemption.
In fact one way I like to describe the bible is just that: God’s plan of redemption for all people for all time. From Genesis (the beginning of time) through to Revelation (the end of time) we see the Lord working to redeem mankind from the wages of sin which is death.
But in terms of that age old problem of ignorance and separation from God we read in Psalm 53:3-4
Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread: they have not called upon God.
[Whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved]
It also implies that a remedy for man’s sin was already in place; in spite of this reality not being seen. Revelation 13:8 highlights this as we read:
And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him [referring to the antichrist], whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
In saying “from the foundation of the word” we must acknowledge that it was already God’s plan; that he would give his only begotten Son die for the sins of the world from the creation. And so when Adam sinned, the Lord didn’t say to himself “what am I going to do now?”
Consequently, the gospel was told [figuratively] in the garden; immediately after the “fall” we see the shedding of innocent blood to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness with animal skins.
It also seems that Abel instinctively or otherwise knew that only a blood sacrifice was acceptable to God.
The Lord also declares that he would send a Saviour (the seed of the woman) who would bruise the serpent’s head and his heel in the process.
Even Job had some understanding of his Redeemer when he says:
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.
The point I am making is that it wasn’t impossible then nor is it impossible now to see or to know things of an eternal nature.
And so what exactly has God prepared for those who love him?
Again when we are talking about seeing, hearing and perceiving we are not simply talking about the natural senses alone. Certainly our natural eyes are not capable of seeing heaven and flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.; for this reason it is those who know the Lord that will receive a glorified body (one that is fit for heaven).
It is those who are born of the Spirit who will see the kingdom of heaven. But more importantly as pertaining to our text, the Lord has prepared the way of salvation; the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In our verse today there is a sense of both: that is to say the natural and the spiritual.
Spiritually speaking seeing and hearing are actions which are able to affect a person’s heart and thus their eternity.
Paul confirms this when he expounds Isaiah (nor perceived by the ear) saying “neither have entered into the heart of man”.
This is the nature of revelation (that is to say, something revealed); it comes from an outside source and enters into our consciousness. At this point we can either accept it or reject it.
The Eyes of Natural Man are blind to the Work of God
“Eye hath not seen”
[Example from personal experience]
I had a situation at work recently which caused a medication error. Basically I was staring at the treatment sheet and because I was blinded by a preconceived idea and a discussion with my co-worker which I had in my head I failed to notice one word and consequently a morning medication was missed. It didn’t help that the word was in Latin and written in doctor’s scribble. The issue is that the word was clearly there and always was and yet because of my own preconceived belief I was blind to it.
In relation to our text we see that the eyes of the natural or unregenerate man are not always able to see things of a spiritual or eternal nature (this is especially true of the gospel); all revelation of this kind is given by God. As Jesus says to Peter upon his confession of him as the Christ: Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee. Jonathan Edwards calls this Divine Light and it is certainly an accurate description.
As well as the hidden nature of the gospel in the Old Testament, unbelief played a part in spiritual blindness in the New Testament. When looking for examples of unbelief we cant go past the scribes and Pharisees. In John Chapter 9 we see this example. Remember Jesus expected the Pharisees to know that the scriptures testified of him.
And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
Jesus, being the light of the world promises that those who believe in him would not walk in darkness. And as such he was more than able to expose the darkness in the hearts of the Pharisees. He makes the perfect statement in order to draw out the response that he was seeking: “Are we blind also?”
From the gospels we have a reasonable idea with regard to the cause of their “spiritual blindness”. They tell us this about the Pharisees.
But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
They were completely taken by their own self-importance. Their eyes were on themselves. In the end the word of God which was supposed to be a lamp to their feet and a light to their path caused their eyes to be blind and their hearts to be hardened.
Jonathan Edwards, in his work titled “Divine Light'” adds to this by saying that they were blinded by their own prejudices; to be prejudiced is to pre-judge.
They had already made up their minds (remember that knowledge puffs up) and therefore they were determined not to believe on the one who could open their eyes even though he was standing right before them.
Jesus sums it up perfectly later on in John’s gospel.
That the saying of Esaias* the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.
[*It’s interesting that so much of the gospel is contained in the book of Isaiah; and also the reasons for people rejecting it]
In the end this would become their spiritual state; because of their unbelief their blindness would be permanent. A veil remains over the hearts of the Jews even to this day.
[In contrast we see the response of the man who was healed of his blindness.]
Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
He saw and believed.
Any rejection of truth or revelation from God is a deliberate rejection and we are accountable before God for that rejection. It is important for us then as recipients of God’s grace through the gospel to foster a love for God’s word that it might do the work for which it is purposed in our lives. Being indifferent to it can have the opposite effect as unbelief leads to a hardening of our hearts. One of the benefits of his word is this: it has the effect of taking our eyes off ourselves (at least in a self-centred way) and fixes our eyes on the Lord. As his word builds our faith we see him for who he is. For us this then is the case: We believed and then we saw.
The Ears of Natural Man are Deaf to the Voice of God
“…nor ear heard,”
Again; because of the hidden nature of the gospel it wasn’t heard; it wasn’t heard in any way shape or form. How did the Lord intend for it to be heard; that is the question.
Paul tells us that the pre-ordained method of the gospel being heard was through the preaching of the cross.
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
Sadly we see the part of unbelief rear its ugly head; causing the message to go unheard.
Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
A heart which is “waxed gross” or grown large is most likely full of itself and its own desires.
The phrase dull of hearing is an interesting one and perfectly illustrates the concept of spiritual deafness. I liken it to putting your hands over your ears; the sound becomes distinctly muffled.
Just what it is that “muffles” the sound of God’s word and prevents it from being perceived is uncertain. Is it possible that the truth of God’s word was drowned out by the sound of their personal objections? Certainly today people live with a lot of background noise both internally and externally; internally by worried thoughts and externally by all of the amusements that are designed to replace the comfort of knowing God. It is often hard to gain the full attention of people. It’s sad for the unbeliever because ultimately they are shut out from hearing and receiving the words of eternal life.
What we do know that was true then and is possibly still true today and that is:
David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.
When it came to hearing even Christ’s disciples had their issues as we see on the road to Emmaus.
Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
As we know the disciples were perplexed by the events of the crucifixion. They certainly did not understand Christ’s teaching that he would be betrayed into the hands of sinful man and that he would be crucified and rise on the third day; despite being told numerous times and in numerous ways. He spoke about the sign of Jonah; he spoke about the destruction of the temple of his body.
It is possible also that as believers we also become dull of hearing in much the same way as unbelievers. This is sad because we know that we shouldn’t lean on our own understanding. The words of our mouth and the meditations of our heart should be acceptable in his sight. We should seek to be in frequent (if not constant) communion with him. Thus the concerns of this world should not compete with God speaking to our hearts.
Again being attentive to God’s word and spending time with him both in prayer and the word is vitally important in the life of the believer. God’s word should cause us to marvel and not be something mundane. True; some portions of scripture are harder to understand than others.
Pride and the deceitfulness of sin is a hindrance to spiritual growth. This is so sad because it contradicts the sole purpose of our existence which is to be conformed to the image of Christ through the power of the gospel and his word.
It is our duty then to humbly seek God’s grace to understand the things we do not understand. Then in due time we will receive the wisdom which comes from knowing him through his word.
It is God’s Love which prepared the way of salvation for all Mankind
“…the things which God hath prepared for them that love him”.
If we compare this with the parallel verse in Isaiah we read:
“what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him”. (Isaiah 64:4)
It seems that those who love the Lord had an expectation and waited for him and possibly his salvation.
In Luke’s gospel we see this amazing account:
And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
Again I ask; what is it that God prepared?
He prepared a virgin (Isaiah 7:14)
He prepared a body (Hebrews 10:5)
He prepared a Son (Isaiah 9:6)
He prepared the time (Galatians 4:4)
And I have only scratched the surface.
So when it comes to God’s love and provision of a Saviour, John 3:16 perfectly sums up the gospel and begins “For God so loved the world”
What can we say in regard to our love for the Lord? The apostle John exposes what miserable wretches we are. God who is love does not need us to show love unto him in order to love us in return; he loved us first.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
(1 John 4:10) [Let that sink in]
What a wretched state; that the very God in whose image we are created should be regarded with such indifference. This is made particularly heinous by the fact that he should die in our place. It is obvious then that if the natural man cares nothing for God’s love, then he cares nothing for the provision he has made for him; both in terms of the gospel and an eternal home.
This is exactly why we are told not to love the world or the things which are in the world. The unbeliever is naturally attached to material things whereas our treasure is in heaven (or at least it should be).
Therefore those that have had the love of God lavished on them wait with an expectant heart for that which he has promised. We look up because our redemption draws near. Nothing can separate us from his love or the certainty of that provision.
Despite the lavishness of our eternal home [streets of gold etc.] we must remember that it the Lord we desire to see; as the psalmist says: Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. (Psalms 73:25)
He is our portion and we must never forget that
[Look at some of the rewards to the 7 churches in Revelation: I will give the morning star; I will give you the hidden manna.]
At the same time I’d like to turn it around:
As much as the Lord prepared the means of our salvation in advance is preparing a place for us, he is also preparing us for that place and this is only made possible because of the gospel and its power to transform our lives.
If God in his sovereignty made all of the preparations (that I mentioned before) then all things truly possible with God.
Only through the Light of the Gospel can these things be known
In chapter 1 of 1st Corinthians, Paul tells us that Christ (and in particular the preaching of the cross) is the wisdom and power of God. Also if you remember; at the beginning of the chapter 2 Paul compares human wisdom with the wisdom that only comes from God.
We should ponder then; what is it about the cross that displays God’s wisdom.
We are well familiar that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and understanding. It is not surprising then that something as fearful as the cross should be also associated with wisdom:
Fearful because it represents the just punishment of a holy God
Fearful because it represents the perfect sinless standard required of God to enter heaven
Fearful because the believer must empty himself of every pre-conceived notion he has about himself and humbly accepts that he is powerless to save himself.
It is through the cross that we see sin judged and the fate of those who reject the provision of a Saviour. His vicarious death [he died in your place] paid the penalty for your sin. If you reject this provision then you must pay that penalty yourself. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Therein lies our righteousness and our understanding: our understanding of our own sinful state before a holy God and that our best efforts weren’t good enough to bridge that gap. Underlying all of this is humility; we confess ourselves sinners and be imputed with his righteousness, we confess ourselves fools and become wise. If we could claim any credit at all for our salvation then his righteousness would be less than perfect.
I am therefore not surprised then to see following on from our parallel text [Isaiah 64:4] this verse:
Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we shall be saved. But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Relying on their own goodness (there is no good thing in me), the people of God neglected the commandments and ordinances that pointed them to their need of a Saviour; the one who would be their righteousness. And so we see the juxtaposition between self-righteousness (described in Isaiah) and enlightenment and imputed righteousness through the gospel (described in 1 Corinthians).
And so, having been saved through the preaching of the cross, Paul affirms to them that they are now privy to the knowledge which only comes from God and no other place. And such a privilege it is; we are passed from death to life, darkness to light and complete and utter ignorance to having the mind of Christ.
Is it any wonder Paul exclaims to the Romans?
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
So with regard to God’s wisdom:
You won’t find it inside yourself. You won’t find it in the newspaper or the Woman’s Weekly. You won’t find it in library books; with the exception of the bible and only if you approach it with the right heart. You probably won’t find it on the internet; if you did it would only be through the providence of God
Thus Paul says:
But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
Notice: these things are freely given. You cannot buy them.
It doesn’t matter how much you tithe. It doesn’t matter how much you do for God. They are FREELY given. But that doesn’t mean they were without cost. It cost our Lord his life and it cost you your (old) life if you are born-again.
In addressing my original question of “why” in regard to spiritual blindness and deafness; it has to be answered in the case three groups or individuals:
The nation of Israel, the Pharisees in particular
The world (Gentiles)
We see that the gospel was indeed a mystery and purposefully hidden by God. We also see that unbelief is also a hindrance to faith [the god of this world has blinded the eyes of the unbeliever].
Time doesn’t permit me to fully explain; yet in all cases we must remember that we are all accountable to God and without excuse with regard to obeying the gospel.
Solomon makes an interesting statement in Ecclesiastes. He says:
He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
As mortal beings it is not possible to fully see or to know all the things which God has done in the past, is doing in the present and will do in the future; this is true in terms of the work he does in man’s heart to bring him to a saving knowledge of himself and also in terms of all the preparations he made in regard to revealing the gospel.
With this in mind we see that even those that prophesied of the Messiah had very little understanding of what they had written. It was only after the fact and especially on the day of Pentecost that everything fell into place and Peter was able to speak that well know verse, “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel”.
Again in regard to the Old Testament prophets Peter writes in his first epistle:
Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
This reiterates the statement which I made at the beginning of this message with regard to the bible as being God’s plan of salvation for all people for all time. Elements of the gospel are scattered throughout scripture and for the major part only after the fact were they able to be known. This is consistent with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost; 3000 were added to their number in one sermon.
This emphasizes and highlights the need for pray in regard to our personal witness and sharing of the gospel. Without the Lord and the work of the Holy Spirit we can do nothing; salvation truly is of the Lord.
We too are recipients of the grace that bringeth salvation; let us not take it for granted.
In his epistle to the Ephesians Paul prays this prayer for the saints in this church. We should make it our prayer also.
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
Let us pray!!