I confess – a childhood song is singing to me in memory’s ear, faintly but still clear enough to call to mind long forgotten bits and pieces of my past. Turns out they were neither forgotten nor lost, just dormant – waiting for a reawakening. And today was the day. The day for forgotten melodies to play again in my head, though they had been stored up in my heart all these years.
The song? a pre-school song of sorts. “Oh be careful little eyes what you see, oh be careful little eyes what you see, for the Father up above is looking down with love, oh be careful little eyes what you see.” It even had motions to go with the words, if I remember rightly.
I have been thinking about vision, more specifically, focus, perspective, viewpoint – they all have to do with how we see the world around us and the people in it. Worldview, some call it. Does where you look determine what you see? (I guess that seems kind of obvious now that I’ve said it)
So then, changing where I look will change what I see, which will change my perspective? Maybe that’s why Hebrews 12:2 tells me to,
“fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith.” Why? Because where I look matters. On what or on whom I fix my gaze determines the direction of my steps which ultimately determines the destination of my soul. It all starts with a look.
Maybe that’s why God told Abraham (back when he was still Abram) to look up. You see, Abram was having his doubts and his conversation with God went something like this (well, exactly like this)
“Then the word of the Lord came to him: (Abram) ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.’ He (God) took him (Abram) outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’ The He (God) said to him (Abram), ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Abram believed the Lord, and He (the Lord) credited it to him (Abram) as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:4-6)
God asked Abram to look up. God invited Abram to gaze upon the expanse of the star-studded night sky and catch just a glimpse of who He is as Creator/Sustainer of the entire universe. God knew Abram needed to look up not down, outward not inward. Abram needed to look outward to something or someone greater than himself, rather than continuing to look inward to himself for the answers that he sought.
This shift in Abram’s focus determined the steps of his journey which led him to fulfill his destiny, becoming Abraham along the way. This would not be the only time looking up would be an important part of Abraham’s story. Remember when he took his son, Isaac, up the mountain to sacrifice him as God had instructed him to do? (it was a test of Abraham’s trust and obedience)
Here’s how that story ended. “Then he (Abraham) reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham! . . . Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God because you have not withheld from Me your son, your only son..’ ”
It is at this point in the story that Abraham shifts his focus from looking down at his son to – to what? well, see for yourself,
“Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.” (Genesis 22:10-13)
Abraham looked up, he shifted his gaze which changed his focus. He saw something he had not seen before – the ram caught in the thicket. He looked up and he saw God’s provision, he looked up and he saw God’s answer. Abraham saw God’s answer to the question Isaac had asked of him just hours earlier, as they journeyed together up the mountain. This was how their conversation went . . .
” ‘The fire and wood are here,’ Isaac said, ‘but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ And the two of them went on together.” (Genesis 22:7-8)
And indeed, when Abraham looked up he was able to see God’s provision there before his very eyes. This reminds me of a verse I have always loved, Psalm 3:3, which says –
“But You are a shield around me, O Lord; You bestow glory on me and lift up my head.” Some translations say “You are the lifter of my head.”
There are times when I am too weary or too discouraged to lift up my own head. I am downcast and I feel downtrodden. But these words remind me that when I am too weak, too defeated or too despairing to lift up my own head, it is my Heavenly Father who lifts it for me, as a tender parent might do for an inconsolable child, in order to wipe away their tears.
He does this for a reason, this lifting of my head. He does this to shift my vision, my gaze upward and outward, to shift my gaze onto Him. Psalm 121:1-2 says it so beautifully with these words,
“I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
When my head is lifted up, my line of vision will be lifted up along with it. I will be able to gaze upward and outward to hills, mountains, sunsets, sunrises, starry skies, lovely lakes, soaring birds – all proclaiming the glory of God.
Where I fix my eyes matters. Hebrews 12:2 has already told me to “fix my eyes on Jesus” and there is another similar suggestion in 2 Corinthians 4:18 telling me to –
“fix my eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
There’s that word “fix” again. To gaze at steadfastly, no turning away – that sports metaphor of “don’t take your eye off the ball” or “keep your eye on the prize.” Because where I am looking matters. Just look at Lot’s wife, if that isn’t a cautionary tale?
Remember, she and her family were running for their lives to escape the coming destruction of their city. However, as it turns out, “But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:26)
I guess where we look matters. Look what it says in Colossians 3:2 to us,
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
There’s that “setting” or “fixing” again. This time with the mind and my mind will follow where I set my sights or rest my eyes. So I guess I would do well to fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith.
All of creation, in fact, is looking to its Creator. Why should I do any different?
“The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”
I started with a song in my head and now I’m ending with a different tune playing quietly in memories’ ears, it’s been keeping me company as I’ve written these words today, dear readers, so I will share this song with you in closing . . .
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace”
lift your head and look at Him . . .
sincerely, Grace Day