Crossways Concepts

Because it is all about the cross...

Insights from the scripture as lead by the Holy Spirit

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Could That Be An Angel In Front Of You?

For many people, they have a fear of becoming blind.  They fear that they would not be able to take care of themselves or ever again do many of the things they enjoy.

Yet, there is another sort or blindness that is widespread.  While it will also limit a person's possibilities and severely affect their life path, most of the people that experience it aren't even aware that they have it.  Worse yet, this form of blindness can come on very quickly.  While this blindness doesn't affect the eyes, it can still make it impossible to see that which is most important.

Let's examine how this works:

As we seek to serve God, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that Christianity is about the stuff we do.  The world is certainly convinced that being a Christian is all about a series of Thou Shalt Not's.  In many ways, Christianity would be easier if it were all a matter just doing the right things, but scripture makes it clear that Christianity is more about what seeing and following the leadings of God than it is about what our hands are doing.

Nowhere in scripture, is this more obvious than in the story of Balaam (Numbers 22).  He was a prophet of God.  God gave him a specific set of instructions.  Balaam proceeded to do what God told him to do.  God stopped him and said, in effect, “What do you think you are doing?”  Balaam was taken aback and tells the Lord that he would stop and go home, if that is what He wants.  God responds that Balaam should proceed and do what he was told to do in the first place. (Numbers 22:15-35)

When we consider the visible actions, we might believe that God has flipped-out.  The actions of Balaam seem to be rational, while the actions of God do not, but that is merely considering the external actions.

Knowing that God isn't crazy, it is necessary to dig a little deeper to understand what is happening.

Prior to this whole incident, Balaam was a backwater prophet.  While he had a deep spiritual connection to the Lord, he was not an important person, as the world judges importance.  When he was first approached by the representatives of King Balak requesting his services, the Lord told him to show-them-the-door.  Balaam was OK with that.

However, when men of importance showed up to beg him to come to King Balak with promises of great reward, this must have appealed to his human side.  Then, Balaam asked God what to do and God told him that he should go with these men.

I can well imagine what went through Balaam's mind that night as he prepared to leave the next morning.  I am sure that he had visions of treasure and inflated self-importance.  Balaam likely saw this as his big break.  He was on the verge of becoming somebody important.  During this night, the mission morphed from being about doing what God wanted, to being all about Balaam.

As Balaam set out the next morning, God made several attempts to get his attention.  Balaam's own donkey could see what God was doing, but Balaam could not.  Balaam was blinded to God by his focus on “self”.  An angel of God tried to get Balaam's attention, but, in his state, he was unable to see the angel that was right in front of him.

This thought causes some concern.  Are there occasions in which God wanted my attention, perhaps even sent an angel, but I was too self-absorbed to even notice?  Could it be that my mental focus has caused me to go places I shouldn't or to miss out on blessings, because I was too concerned with the things of the world to see the things of God?

The in-your-face miracle of having Balaam's donkey begin to speak, was the catalyst necessary to remind Balaam about his purpose, serving the almighty God.  When the Donkey began to speak to Balaam, then Balaam's focus quickly returned to the Lord.  As a result, he was able to see the angel in his midst. 

When Balaam realized that the Lord was trying to stop him, he immediately offered to turn around and go back home.  The angel told Balaam to continue, but to do so in obedience.  This whole event re-focused Balaam and he was now ready to go work for the glory of God instead of the glory of himself.

In this story, Balaam attempted to perform an action (that God had requested) focused on himself, but in doing so he was doing evil in the eyes of the Lord (v. 32).  God still wanted this job done, but only by somebody that was listening and obeying Him.  The physical action was in accordance with God's will, but that wasn't enough to make it acceptable for God's kingdom.  To approach this action blinded to God's presence, suddenly turned it from obedience to evil in the eyes of the Lord.

This story teaches us that it isn't enough to allow God to set us on a journey.  In order to please Him, we must walk continuously hand-in-hand with Him.  Before his slip, Balaam said, “...I could not go against the command of the Lord my God to do anything, small or great.” (Numbers 22:18)  Yet, how soon he was dazzled by fame and fortune to the point that an angel could not get his attention.

If we want to be a good servant to the Lord, it is important that we maintain our focus on Him.  It isn't enough that we head down a path that looked good when we started.  If we allow the things of the world to take our attention away from the Lord, we can rapidly slide into a state of disobedience, even as we we keep doing the actions we thought would please the Lord. 

The world is full of things that want to pull our eyes away from Jesus.  We are reminded, “Set your minds on what is above, not what is on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2) and “So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen; for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18).  It is essential that we keep our attention on the Lord, even as we do His work.  When we allow the things of this world to draw our attention away from the Lord, then we become blinded to what He has for us.

The world we live in is overflowing with tempting things that would gladly blind us to the things of the Lord.  Yet, we must rely on His strength to stay focused on what is really important.  The Bible describes a process like what Balaam experienced, “Each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires.” (James 1:14).  This switch from goodness to evil can happen just as easily in our lives as it did with Balaam.  In our life, this can happen just as quickly and unexpectedly as it did in his life.

We can go from seeing the Lord to being blind to the Lord, just as suddenly as Balaam experienced it.  We diligently protect our physical eyes from hazards that might damage our physical vision.  We wonder how we would move about and do the things that need done if we lost the use of our eyes.  Yet, even more so, we should protect our spiritual vision.  If we become spiritually blinded and are no longer able to see the guidance of God's hand, how will we ever be able to move about and do the things that need done, the eternally important things?

Jesus pointed out which of our visions is the most important when He said, “And if your eye causes your downfall, gouge it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.” (Mark 9:47)  He clearly recognizes that our spiritual vision, which can keep us out of trouble, is of greater significance that our physical vision, which frequently gets us into trouble.  So, as much as we protect our physical vision, we should take greater care to protect our spiritual vision.

We avoid looking directly at the sun, because we know that this action can damage our eyes.  How, then, can we protect our spiritual vision?  Our physical vision can't bear being focused on the sun, but to protect our spiritual vision we must remain focused on The Son.  As long as we keep our attention on the Lord and the Kingdom of God, then our spiritual vision will remain intact.  However, when our focus strays off onto the things of the world, like money, power, sex and self-gratification, then spiritual blindness occurs.

Unbelievers do not see God because they aren't looking for Him.  By the same token, we can stop seeing Him if we stop looking for Him.

Do you want to see God?  Keep looking for him.  Do not allow the temptations of this world to blind you.  He will reveal Himself to you. Don't miss it.

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Lexington, Ky