25 Let your eyes look straight ahead,
And your eyelids look right before you.
24 Wisdom is in the sight of him who has understanding,
But the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.
20 Hell and Destruction are never full;
So the eyes of man are never satisfied.
Astronaut Jim Lovell began his career in the US Navy flying jet fighters from an aircraft carrier during the Korean War. In 1953, in the Sea of Japan, he was ordered to make his first nighttime carrier landing. Lovell took off on a moonless night for the difficult and dangerous maneuver. As he returned from his mission he began to search for his ship, the USS Shangri-La. It was then that disaster struck.
Both Lovell’s plane and his ship were operating without lights due to combat conditions. To assist himself he switched on a small map light to illuminate his knee board, and it accidentally short-circuited his instrument panel. Lovell was suddenly flying in total darkness and as he looked out, the ocean and night sky seemed to blend together.
Actor Tom Hanks, playing Jim Lovell in the 1995 movie “Apollo 13,” describes the true experience:
As I sat blinking I know I'm running out of fuel, so I'm thinking about about ditching in the ocean and I look down there and then in the darkness there’s this green trail, it's like a long carpet that just laid out right beneath me, and it was the algae, right. It was that phosphorescent stuff that gets turned up in the wake of a big ship and it was just leading me home. And if my cockpit lights hadn’t shorted out, there's no way I had ever been able to see that. –Jim Lovell, “Apollo 13”
Fifteen years later, on December 24, 1968, astronaut Lovell would soar high above that ocean in the darkness of space with Frank Borman, and William Anders on the Apollo 8 lunar mission. On that day, Christmas Eve, the astronauts took turns reading Genesis 1 to the millions listening below on earth, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…”
All through his life, Jim Lovell could see his path home.
Your sense of sight is something you probably think little about until you suddenly find it threatened or lost. To be suddenly plunged into darkness or to struggle with a medical condition can make you thankful for the gift of sight–or long to have it restored.
Jesus spent much of His earthy ministry concerned with the sight of those around Him. He healed the man born blind with spit and mud (John 9:1-7), and heeded the cry of Blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52). Jesus also continually warned those around Him who were blind to to their own sin and that He was the savior sent from the Father.
Here in Proverbs 4, Solomon too focuses on sight. He is instructing his son and the young people of Israel on the importance of focusing on what is right–so that they will make their way home to the heavenly Father.
In verse 23, Solomon urges you to “guard your heart” for from it issues the issues of life–the essence of who you are. He describes how all you are flows outward from your heart, by the words you say (verse 24) and now by the things that you see.
Your mouth and words can be a source of lies, gossip and simply idle talk that will harm others and ultimately define who you are. For the things you say, even if you do not believe them, have an impact:
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. (Proverbs 23:7a)
As a believer, however, you are a bearer of the most wonderful words of all, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Words that are sweet as honey (Revelation 10:8-10) can flow from your heart to give life to countless others.
It is this dichotomy upon which Solomon now speaks of how you look upon your world and what you choose to take in through your eyes:
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead,
And your eyelids look right before you.–Proverbs 4:25
This is a verse about sight and a verse about paths. Solomon continues his teaching by telling you to “keep your eyes on the prize,” for the things you look at or see can become an indelible part of you. Just as the words you speak can betray or be a blessing, so the things you view can scar, or satisfy your heart.
Have you seen things in this world that have scarred your heart? The blessing of modern technology is that you can enjoy an online devotional or podcast on theology–while on the same device view videos and photos of some of the most horrible and degrading things imaginable.
In decades past, the evening news would bring a flood of crime and misery into your living room. “If it bleeds, it leads” is a phrase supposedly coined by media mogul William Randolph Hearst–and it characterizes the desire of news and content creators across the internet hungry for clicks and ratings, even at the cost of human suffering.
But when you view these things again and again, the pain of life will seem to leach into your very soul. Soldiers in battle often experience this as the horrors of war, resulting in the numbness of the “two thousand yard stare” of battle fatigue from being surrounded by so much death.
Have you ever felt this way after a week of bad news, depressing headlines, and seemingly endless negativity? Have you felt the fatigue of media overload, but cannot seem to stop looking down at your phone?
The devil wishes nothing more than for the evil, death, and mindless destruction of this world to overtake you and he seeks to use your eyes–those precious gifts of God–against you. Commentator Bruce Waltke recalls a sincere warning by theologian Franz Delitzsch:
Purposeless, curious staring about operates upon the soul, always decentralizing and easily defiling it.– Delitzsch, “Biblical commentary on the Proverbs of Solomon”
Just as speaking ill against someone can eventually harden your heart to them, so gazing heedlessly at something can make you grow comfortable with, and even desire it. Most streaming services now have thousands of movies and TV shows in seemingly endless rows to browse. Netflix even has a feature called “surprise me” that will play a random movie or TV show if you cannot decide what to watch from the 17,000 it has to offer.
Do you ever experience a sort of ambivalence that comes from all of these options? Or notice that the titles are more and more pushing the limits of decency, morality, and virtue? It is easy to see how it grow harder and harder to discern what is good and what is not.
A warning of this comes in the form of another proverb:
20 Hell and Destruction are never full;
So the eyes of man are never satisfied.–Proverbs 27:20
Solomon is saying that wisdom comes in recognizing the vulnerability of your eyes, and the allure of desire. But it is also how your eyes can keep you from straying from that path of righteousness. Verse 25 is a call to give undivided attention to the right path so the foot does not deviate.
All of this hearkens back to the Ten Commandments. The tenth commandment is:
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”–Exodus 20:17
This final commandment is a very specific call not to sin against your neighbor. It is about desire, and more than just desiring things, but desiring things that do not belong to you. It is not about any woman, but your neighbor’s wife. It is not about any ox or donkey, but your neighbors ox or donkey–or gas grill, job, or seemingly perfect Facebook family.
This world calls you to gaze upon its myriad offerings, and desire them for yourself. These things are not all bad in and of themselves, but you can swiftly begin to measure yourself by them–and become jealous of others. Maybe you do not hate your neighbor for his new Tesla–but you may soon rationalize that you are somehow more deserving of one, or he less so because maybe he is a jerk.
The key is understanding how the devil works to use your sight against you. Commentator Bruce Waltke explains the only cure for this:
As long as people have their gaze fixed on heavenly truth, satan has no advantage over them. Eve fell only after she looked at the forbidden fruit.–Waltke
Just as David crept to the roof to gaze upon Bathsheba, so we all are tempted to look upon things that not only will numb us to sin, God is robbed of His rightful glory. Feeding our desires through what you see and desire will turn your focus from Him and to yourself. As C.S. Lewis reveals with the advice-giving demon, Uncle Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood:
“…fix his attention inward that he no longer looks beyond himself to see our Enemy or his own neighbours.”–C. S. Lewis, “The Screwtape Letters”
So what are you to do? How do you overcome this very first sin of the garden? Job took a serious step:
1 “I have made a covenant with my eyes;
Why then should I look upon a young woman?–Job 31:1
He made a covenant with his eyes to curb his actions and remind himself of the eternal implications of straying into lust. This verse has been key for many men and women seeking to overcome addiction to pornography. It is easy for the mind to rationalize that “no one is harmed” by a little glimpse of flesh–but it will shatter relationships, including with your heavenly father.
To overcome this self-focus may mean unplugging yourself from media, or it may simply be a call to re-focus on good things of Christ, as Paul calls you to do:
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.–Philippians 4:8
When you focus on Jesus and His call for you to forsake all to be with Him, the desires of this world will suddenly seem less important. When you repent and a turn your gaze from these frivolous and harmful things, you will see Jesus before you with outstretched hand, saying “come, follow me.”
Like the wonderful hymn, “He Leadeth Me” calls in its loving way:
He leadeth me, O blessed thought!
O words with heav'nly comfort fraught!
Whate'er I do, where'er I be
Still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me.
He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful foll'wer I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.–Joseph Gilmore (1834-1918)
I once drove on a winding, mountain road in Costa Rica. In the years B.C. (before children), my wife and I toured that beautiful country in a rental car, and a journey high into the cloud forest was a must-see.
Instead of the Blue Ridge Parkway, we found ourselves on a single-track, dirt road that ran along the edge of a precipice. With no guardrails, one false turn and we would plunge hundreds of feet straight down into a mountain river. To make matters worse, cars, trucks and even buses were coming down the mountain, requiring delicate passing with tires crunching the edge of the cliff.
The only way to drive was to simply focus on the road ahead, not looking up the mountain to the left, or down into the gorge to the right. By slow and steady pace we drove with our hearts in our throats–until we safely reached the mountain village at the top.
Focus your eyes on Christ. Keep looking ahead, for He will lead you home.
The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.