Bible Studies in Israel’s Wilderness Wanderings
Balaam and the opening of your eyes to spiritual sight
By Fraser Gordon
We have been going through Israel's journey from Egypt to Canaan and last time we looked at a character Israel came into contact with which was Balaam... whom the New Testament doesn't portray in a very good light! He was a bit of a rat bag prophet who really was intent on getting riches and used his gift to make money. He was rebuked by a donkey, which was a good contrast because he was supposedly the wisest man of the time. We know this because two kings sought him out to pronounce a curse, but he was rebuked by his donkey and a dumb animal put him in his place. Then we looked at how the angel of the Lord came out against him as an adversary and then Balaam’s eyes were opened. Now I wanted to explore this whole theme of having your eyes opened because, as we shall see, it is a very important theme from the start of scripture right until the end! So, when is the first instance of someone having their eyes opened in scripture?
Opening the eyes to your fallen nature...
Gen 3:1-8 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" (2) The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; (3) but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'" (4) The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! (5) "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (6) When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. (7) Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. (8) They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
The first time we read about this in is in Genesis when Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened. The first result of this was 'self-focus'. Before this happened man had lived in innocence and in complete fellowship with the Father but then the serpent deceived them and said 'you are going to get something by eating this fruit’. ‘You are going to get the knowledge of good and evil'. But they didn't gain any new knowledge of God, what they got was knowledge of the wretchedness of their self; of a life that is lived in separation from God. So the first result of this was that they became aware that they were naked and they set about to remedy this by sewing fig leaves together to clothe themselves. The next result of eating of the tree of good and evil was an inward sense of knowing within themselves which became a conscience. Man had never had a conscience before because he was in a state of innocence but now that they were aware of good and evil, conscience was formed and it told them that something was really wrong. Something drastic had happened. God is now no longer near to them as He was before; God with whom they had walked and talked was now estranged from them. This would have been a horrendous eye opening. From walking in innocence and fellowship with the Father to then having this inward focus where 'we are naked, we need to cover ourselves' and not only that, they no longer had the confidence to come anywhere near God. Now they wanted to flee and hide from Him. So the first instance in scripture of ‘eyes being opened’ was not a nice one. It showed the wretchedness and state that they found themselves in. But this state of wretchedness however is actually needed once man became sinful. The conscience is really a gift from God in part because man needs to see his need of a Savior. Before you can reach out to the Savior to cover you for what you have done, you need to first see that something is actually wrong. For Adam and Eve this was a tragic realization.
As we go through the Bible we see that each instance is really God reaching out to man to show him something of Himself. First is man's realization of his wretchedness but we then see that God is reaching out toward man in His love revealing who He is so that there will not be a self-focus, but a God-focus.
Opening the eyes for provision
Gen 21:9-12 Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking. (10) Therefore she said to Abraham, "Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac." (11) The matter distressed Abraham greatly because of his son. (12) But God said to Abraham, "Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named.
Here we see that there is conflict between Ishmael and Isaac. You all know the story that God had promised a son to Abraham who tried to help God out by taking Sara's maid- servant Hagar who bore him Ishmael. As far as Abraham was concerned all of the promises of God were contained in Ishmael. He didn't realize God's plan was contained in Sarah’s’ son Isaac who was yet to be born. So when you get to verse 9, Ishmael is probably a lad of around 14 or 15 years' old and he is mocking Isaac, who has finally arrived on the scene.
We see here that even though Ishmael wasn't the son of the promise, he was actually loved by Abraham because he was still his son. And for Abraham to put him aside was a very hard thing for a father to do.
Gen 21:12-16 But God said to Abraham, "Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named. (13) "And of the son of the maid I will make a nation also, because he is your descendant." (14) So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar, putting them on her shoulder, and gave her the boy, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered about in the wilderness of Beersheba. (15) When the water in the skin was used up, she left the boy under one of the bushes. (16) Then she went and sat down opposite him, about a bowshot away, for she said, "Do not let me see the boy die." And she sat opposite him, and lifted up her voice and wept.
This is a tragic scene and it must have meant incredible anguish for Hagar, who was now sent out into the wilderness with her son Ishmael. So here they are, they have used up all of the water they were given and eaten all of the bread as well. Hagar realized that her son was going to die, but for some reason she can't bear to watch this happen. So this is a crisis point for them both, and quite often it is at a crisis point that God comes and meets his people and opens their eyes.
Gen 21:17-20 God heard the lad crying; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, "What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. (18) "Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him." (19) Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the skin with water and gave the lad a drink. (20) God was with the lad, and he grew; and he lived in the wilderness and became an archer.
So in this instance you have this beautiful picture of two people absolutely desperate, out in the wilderness, at the point of death, and God opens Hagar’s eyes and shows her a provision of a well of water that is actually already there. This speaks volumes really of the love and compassion of God and His care of those whom He has called. Remember he had promised Abraham “I am going to make something of this boy for your sake. Because of you I am going to make a great nation of him'. So it really speaks that God's promises toward us are absolutely certain. That He is always near; He is always present and He will always provide what is needed for us. Hagar had no idea that the water they so desperately needed was close by. She needed her eyes to be opened to something that was right in front of her. And if we go back over our lives you will see that God has always provided for our needs too. God has made provision for me in lots and lots of ways that only He could actually do. You can go throughout your life and there will be different things that God has done for you that only God could do. At times, in a crisis point, when you have needed it, He has come through, whether He has used someone else, or a circumstance, or He has opened your eyes to a provision that is right in front of you. We need the Holy Spirit, always, to open our eyes so that we can see that there is a gift of life or a well of life, or a well of water that is actually right before us.
Back to Balaam – Opening the eyes concerning disobedience
Num 22:24-32 Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path of the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side. (25) When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pressed herself to the wall and pressed Balaam's foot against the wall, so he struck her again. (26) The angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn to the right hand or the left. (27) When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam was angry and struck the donkey with his stick. (28) And the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?" (29) Then Balaam said to the donkey, "Because you have made a mockery of me! If there had been a sword in my hand, I would have killed you by now." (30) The donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?" And he said, "No." (31) Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed all the way to the ground. (32) The angel of the LORD said to him, "Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was contrary to me.
Back to Balaam; in this instance why did God open Balaam's eyes? What was it that God was trying to show about Himself here? Balaam was going his own way not God's way. So in this context He has opened Balaam's eyes to show that he has walked in the wrong path and God has actually come out against him as an adversary because his way was perverse. Now, I don't know about you, but I have never had a donkey talk to me, and I have never had my eyes opened to see an angel of the Lord with a sword in his hand, but I have strayed. I know that I need my eyes opened when I walk off the path that God has determined for me. God can use many ways to actually open our eyes to this; sometimes He will use circumstances to buffet us, but you have to be careful with this, because they are not always a sign that you are on the wrong road because in this world we will suffer tribulation. When Jonah wasn't going to walk in the way that the Lord had called him to, certain circumstances started to happen to him. When he was on the boat running from God, he came to the conclusion that he was the cause of the great storm at sea and so he said 'throw me over, it is because of me.' So we do need quite a lot of discernment, but circumstances are one sign that the Lord can use. Sometimes God can use people. They will actually come to you and call you to task, and tell you that you are walking down the wrong road. We need our eyes opened to all of these things. Sometimes the Holy Spirit can give you a scripture and a sense that the way you are walking is not right. God is saying here that His children need their eyes open not only to the love, care and provision of God but also the fact that we stray and we err and we walk down paths that we shouldn't walk down. Then our eyes must be opened to enable us to repent and get back on the right path.
Open eyes concerning protection!
Let’s look at another example. It is a great story concerning Elisha. The background to the story is that the King of Syria is warring with the king of Israel and what is happening is that Elisha is revealing to the king of Israel all of the plans of the king of Syria. God is showing him what the Syrian king is going to do in his battle plans and this is really frustrating the king of Syria! Elisha’s eyes were opened to all that was going on. So the king od Syria comes against Elisha surrounding the whole city that Elisha and his servant were in. So let’s read what happens:
2Ki 6:15-17 Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?" (16) So he answered, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." (17) Then Elisha prayed and said, "O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see." And the LORD opened the servant's eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
Here you have another instance of the eyes being opened. This time Elisha’s servant is in a panic. He goes outside and all he can see is an army surrounding the city that they are in. So again it is another crisis point because he was really petrified. He called out “Alas my master, what shall we do?” Elisha's response was “do not fear”, and he prayed to God that He would open the servant’s eyes to the heavenly host around them. God s opened his eyes to the fact that there is a spiritual realm happening alongside our realm that we actually know very little about. I know of people who have had some experiences and some people write books about what they perceive to be going on but we actually don't know a lot, but we know that it exists. What it is showing here is that for those who are called according to God's purpose, (which Elisha was), there was nothing that the invading army could do because God had an army of angels protecting him. We know also that the scriptures say that angels are God's servants sent to minister to those who are to inherit salvation. It is interesting that this takes place at Dothan. Dothan is only mentioned twice in scripture but both are connected with a battle going on. One is seen and the other is unseen. The other place that Dothan is talked about is back in Genesis where you have a fresh eyed, dreamy, 17 year old boy and he is going out to see his brothers. You know the story of Joseph –how his brothers said ‘here comes that dreamer, let's kill him’. So they were going to do this, but one of the brothers said “no, we are not having that. You cannot kill him”. So in behind the scenes do you think there was a battle going on here for God's will and purposes? I believe there was; this is Dothan. First you have Elisha’s servant whose eyes were opened so that he could see the battle array, and at the same place-Dothan- there is another battle going on regarding God’s will and purposes concerning Joseph. His brothers wanted to kill him because their eyes were closed to the truth of what their brother had seen. Joseph’s brothers are a picture of how the Jews would in the future treat the Lord Jesus, and it is the same in our lives. There are things going on all the time that we actually know little about, but God knows.
So we are going to leave the Old Testament and go into the New Testament and have a look at a couple of instances there. Can anyone think of anywhere in the New Testament where it is said that someone’s’ eyes were opened? Paul – he was blind for three days, until Ananias prayed for him and God opened his eyes. There was the man who was born blind whose eyes Jesus opened, and Mark chapter 8 shows us that Jesus performed a miracle which was done in two stages for another blind person.
Opening the eyes for those with foggy (spiritual) vision
Mar 8:22-26 And they *came to Bethsaida. And they *brought a blind man to Jesus and *implored Him to touch him. (23) Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, "Do you see anything?" (24) And he looked up and said, "I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around." (25) Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. (26) And He sent him to his home, saying, "Do not even enter the village."
This is the only recorded instance of a healing that takes place where Christ actually touched the man twice. The context is Bethsaida and He had already pronounced a judgment on this town and that is why He took the man outside of the town to heal him. Jesus never did the same thing twice. He is either making clay, spitting or touching someone but you could never box Him in to one method. He asked this guy if he could see anything and the man looked up and replied “I see men like trees walking.” So he had some sort of sight. You couldn't really say that he could see and you couldn't say that he couldn't. This is a picture of the disciples, because as you follow their story through, Jesus is doing these miracles, and He is asking them saying “do you understand?” but “no” they don't. They didn't have a clear vision of who He was as the Messiah. And so I think that this is one of the things this miracle is actually teaching. t Jesus had to touch this man twice for him to see. He had a certain amount of vision but it was not until He touched him again and told him to look up that his vision became clear. As Christians we are very much like this as well. We come into a relationship with Christ and we know that something has changed; we know that God has done something in our lives but everything is still muddled. Things just don't quite fit in their place. We don't have a clear vision of God or of His calling and what His purposes for us are... we need another touch of Christ to fully see who Christ really is in His resurrection.
Opening the eyes to know Jesus (when all hope seems lost)
The road to Emmaus is one of the most radical passages in the Bible, and what happens here is I believe is a crisis point. These two friends have just been through a really traumatic weekend. Jesus, whom they have set all their hopes on, has been crucified. They had a small amount of vision, but everything was still clouded. They didn't see clearly the purposes of God in this Man, Christ Jesus. They thought that he was going to rule and reign and that He was going to take the Kingdom, so what is this? He has been crucified...we don’t understand! So here they are, traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus. As they journey Jesus comes alongside of them but He doesn't reveal who He is to them. But he is walking along with them and He is talking with them and they are explaining to Him what has gone on in Jerusalem.
Luk 24:15-17 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. (16) But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. (17) And He said to them, "What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?" And they stood still, looking sad.
When I read the bible there are certain places that I would really have liked to be present at. This is one of them. It would have been the greatest Bible study ever given, because from Genesis to the end of the Old Testament it all speaks about a person; the Lord Jesus Christ. It is all about Him. And he gave them this radical Bible study starting at Moses, the prophets and in all the scriptures, revealing everything concerning Him! I would have loved to have been there to hear that.
When they arrived at Emmaus, He indicated that He would have gone further, so he was going to go on, but they pleaded with Him to stay, so He went with them. And here you get the picture again which is that Christ will never impose Himself upon us, but He loves to be desired by us, and wanted.
Luk 24:29-32 But they urged Him, saying, "Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over." So He went in to stay with them. (30) When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. (31) Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. (32) They said to one another, "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?"
So here you have another opening. The eyes were opened to know Him. What is the context in which their eyes were opened? It is actually communion. It wasn't until He blessed the bread and broke it that their eyes were opened. After a traumatic weekend everything is now quiet and still and the breaking of bread takes place. This is a wonderful picture of that real close communion that is needed between the saints and their Savior. Communion is a picture really of our union with Him. Not only did He die for our sins, but we died with Him. So you have got this union of what it really means to be with Him in death and resurrection.
Luk 24:44 Now He said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled."
The subject of the Bible is a person. It is Christ. Everything from Genesis to Revelation is about this person.
Luk 24:44 Now He said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled."
This speaks of another opening here; the opening of their understanding, which is the same as the eyes of their understanding. These two these people had a certain amount of vision of who Christ was, but just like the man who needed to be healed and touched twice so also did these disciples here, they had a certain amount of vision but it wasn't clear. They needed Christ to actually open their eyes that they might comprehend who He really is in His resurrection.
Opening the eyes to see the riches and hope of our calling
You have this same theme in Ephesians:
Eph 1:15-19 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, (16) do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; (17) that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. (18) I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, (19) and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might.
Pauls’ prayer for this church was that the eyes of their heart would actually be opened, that they would again be touched and they would be enabled to see the truth of the Word; the inheritance that God has given to us that we may know the hope of His calling; His plans and purposes toward us--- which is also His inheritance in the saints. In every one of us He has got a vehicle by which He can show Himself to the world as He did for 33 years on earth. This is a wonderful, wonderful truth; that we would see and realize the power that Christ actually has within us to accomplish His purposes.
The final opening of our eyes... When we see Him as He really is!
1Jn 3:1-2 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. (2) Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.
To conclude, the first instance in the Bible of ‘eyes being opened’ was in Genesis with Adam and Eve which was the wretchedness self. The last opening is completely opposite...it is in fact the most wondrous and magnificent of all: we will be taken up with the wonder of God in the person of Christ and His resurrection and glory. We shall see Him as He really is! And never again will our eyes have to look at our wretched condition for the wonderful truth is that in this one event of seeing Him, we shall be like Him and all fear, worry, unbelief, sinful temptation, doubt and self focus will be gone... forever. This is the final opening of our eyes that we should long for. The first ‘opening’ of the eyes showed Adam and Eve all that they had now become through their act of sin and disobedience. This last opening of the eyes will show the redeemed sons and daughters of Adam and Eve all that they had now become through faith in a Saviour who paid the price of death for them. Selah.