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. John 12:40
John 12:40 is the theme verse to talk about being blinded by sin. A cursory reading of the verse makes me cringe, for the he in the verse is evidently God, though there is another verse, 2 Corinthians 4:4, which makes it clear that Satan makes people blind. It says, “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” But, in another passage, it also makes clear that men are responsible for their own blindness: “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water”.
Right away we seem to have an issue, namely the blindness of natural man in sin, named as from three different sources. It comes from God directly, also from Satan, and from the hardness of their own hearts. Again, it is one of the beauteous doctrines of scripture where the sovereignty of God and the will of man work together. (see note1) God, in the final sense, is sovereign over all, and thus responsible for the blindness of sin. Satan, who has rebelled against God, will actively encourage and teach blindness to men, having taken them captive through sin. Finally, men themselves have utterly depraved hearts, according to 2 Timothy 3:13, “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”
God sovereignly allowed the world to get into this awful condition, using the devil to tempt us, and allowing the world to be cursed by that temptation, forever damning our souls. The part I like to remember especially is that God took responsibility for that awful condition of the world by giving of himself in Christ’s sacrifice, that the wrath of God might be fully satisfied. There are those people who love to accuse God of being behind the evil, which finally he is, but they neglect to recognize that God, in his mercy, and in his justice, poured out his wrath upon his son when it should have been poured out on us. If God is the author of evil, he is also its finisher, in every sense of the word.
Naming the sources helps us to understand how sin might keep men blind, and certainly points to the grace of God in sending the Messiah, but it is hardly help in defining what that blindness is. I am reminded of R.C. Sproul’s expression, like trying to explain a rainbow to a blind man. How is it possible to define a veil on men’s lives, when the men cannot see the veil? It is indeed like trying to explain a rainbow to a blind man. Nevertheless, I shall plough forward and do my best.
Perhaps a literature example might be of help. Tolkien’s Frodo takes on the burden of bearing the Ring to its destruction. But the Ring itself, unseen, and unbidden, seems to have a will of its own. When one of the nine riders approaches, Frodo finds himself unable to stop from putting on the ring, and revealing his presence to the very ones he was running from. The Ring, as it grows closer to its source of power, becomes ever stronger, and soon Frodo confesses to seeing nothing but a giant wheel of fire before him. And at the last of the story, the Ring betrays utterly Frodo, and reveals its power as Frodo makes a choice to become like the Ring-master.
Sin is like that. We take it into our lives and play with it, disappearing from those we do not care for, and reappearing before our friends. Little by little, we play with sin, and fear not the hurt, but so gradually, it changes us into something that we had no intention of becoming. Is it not easy to see in the drug addict or the alcoholic? Not many people, I should judge, desire to grow up and become an alcoholic. Yet many end up in the clutches of sin, the giant wheel of fire burns in our minds until we can discern nothing else. It, of course, is not only the road of addiction that takes us so easily to sin. It is just that addiction is easy to point to as the example of someone being blinded by sin. It starts out with incredible feelings of ecstasy, but ends too often with loss of friendship, families, and careers, before its ultimate awful and bitter end. Too often people die as the victims of their own follies and sins, unable to see the beauty is simply a disguised death.
Whatever subtle form it takes at first, be assured that it is leading you away from the path to finding yourself. It may be the draw of power over others in job leadership. Being able to exalt or diminish others at your whim can entice you so that you forget everything except the game of advancement. It may be the whispering of wealth stealing through your bones bit by bit, until you find yourself rich beyond all dreams, but the dreams prove to be vaporous wisps of fog when death comes knocking. Whatever form sin takes, it is usually a slow poison, spreading to every cell in your body, contaminating you gradually so that you never notice it. Like the frog in the boiling pot of water dying without a whimper, so sin’s slow spread fouls the body, and dims the wits, until like Jacob Marley, you find yourself encircled with chains, the evil being that you have forged them yourselves, one link after the other, and you find the chains too strong, for the craftsmanship of sin is monumental, and you are overcome with death.
I think it so ironic that as children we start with such high aims. I teach fourth graders, having done so for many years, and I have yet to find one that stands up in class and declares that he is going to grow into a convicted felon, or a heroin addict, or a drunkard, or a wife-beater. Yet, that is the course that so many of us end in. How is it that our idealism, our bright innocency, and good intentions end in such dark paths? I am convinced it happens with one misstep at a time, with first our own path seeming so similar to the one we would tread, that we hardly see the difference, but over time that path is sundered so far from the good path we as children intuited, so far that we become strangers to ourselves.
It is our Lord who tells us quite the opposite of what we would expect. “He that loses his life shall find it.” We spend all of our lives trying to prove that saying wrong, but the stain of sin spread across our decades of life only prove the wisdom of the words. What traps us so securely if it is not that magnetic fascination with the self? The same self that we are adjured to lose. How shall we expect a good outcome when we yield so far to its magnetic pull?
The blindness of sin, then we should see as that which subtly carries one away from life itself. The blindness of sin is always sweetly cajoling the unaware, who become too willing to lend themselves to destruction. In the very old days—before my time—Christians used to turn out pamphlets by the thousands on “Demon Rum”, and other sorts of things that we sinners participate in. I wonder if they were on to something that modern Christians seem to have missed. They at least stood up and called sin a sin, which is more than we are doing oftentimes today. I remember my Lord told us that the road to hell is broad and many there are that find it. At the least, the duty of the Christian should be to put up some sort of sign, warning the people bent on the wrong road that danger lies ahead.
1. There is a fascinating place in the Old Testament where the sovereignty of God is named, yet the will of man and the purposes of Satan are folded within the same place. The story first occurs in 2 Samuel 24: 1 with the words: "Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel and he incited David against them, saying, "Go and take a census of Israel and Judah."" Notice he incited David against them. Now let us read from I Chronicles 21: 1, the parallel passage, "Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel." In the first passage in Samuel, God says he does the inciting. In the second parallel passage, we read that Satan rose against Israel. Which is it? But wait, I am not done. In the first passage of 2 Samuel, David takes the blame himself, saying, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done" (2 Sam. 24: 10). David also takes the blame in Chronicles: "I have sinned greatly by doing this" (1 Chron. 21: 8). Which is it? I believe that we have a beautiful picture of the weaving together of the tapestry of God. It is also a wonderful picture of the sovereignty of God coming in spite of the will of Satan and the will of man. But what I want to focus on is the tapestry. Satan evidently has the power to incite us to sin, sometimes without our realizing it (Did David realize it was Satan?), and we can choose to sin, yet the power of God is so great that everything folds together into his grand plan. For look in the passage further, and you will discover that God used this sin to create the site of his holy temple, a temple that figures most prominently in the future age of Christ's rule on earth. God is capable of using all of his creation, even his disobedient subjects, to bring about his good plans. What an awesome God we serve!
Davis, Patrick (2013-06-01). Beyond Philosophy (Kindle Locations 1111-1124). . Kindle Edition.