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Moses begins his eleventh speech in Deut. 29:2, saying,
2 … You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all his servants and all his land; 3 and the great trials which your eyes have seen, those great signs and wonders. 4 Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.
This introduction must have gotten the attention of the people. Those who are spiritually blind and deaf are generally unaware of their blindness and deafness, so one can only imagine their reaction. The same was true in the New Testament, when Jesus accused the Pharisees of blindness. John 9:39-41 says,
39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see; and that those who see may become blind.” 40 Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things, and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”
Blindness here is not physical but spiritual. Men are blind to the knowledge of God, His character, and His plan for creation. Moses attributes men’s blindness to God, for only He can reveal Himself to mankind. Every time Jesus healed the blind He showed Himself to be the source of true revelation, the One who heals spiritual blindness. If He does not intervene in our lives, we remain blind, even in the midst of learning.
In Exodus 4:10, when God called Moses to be His spokesman, Moses objected on the grounds that He was “slow of speech and slow of tongue.” God’s answer is in verse 11,
11 And the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?”
Therefore, if God makes men blind or makes them to see, it follows that God had blinded the eyes of Israel during their entire forty year sojourn in the wilderness. If they had not been blind, they would have known that the first covenant (at Horeb) was impossible for them to keep, given the fact that they were all affected by Adam’s sin. Their deafness was seen in the fact that they reacted in fear when they heard the Ten Commandments spoken from the Mount.
Some may attribute blindness and deafness to the result of man hardening his own heart. Indeed, blindness and deafness is a direct result of rejecting the word of God. I too have experienced this in my own life, and it was only by the mercy of God that it lifted. Yet the causes of spiritual blindness have deep roots that form a long chain of events.
Suppose I were to reject some genuine revelatory word of God and am judged by blindness. I become culpable on that level. But digging deeper, we must ask what caused me to reject that word. Was it not my own spiritual immaturity, or perhaps an idol in my heart? Spiritual immaturity takes time to overcome. Idols in the heart usually are instilled while we are yet immature. While we are minors, our parents are most responsibility for our actions.
Most idols of the heart are instilled by our parents and teachers. They are the cause, even though they do so in blindness. How did they become blind? Was it not because of their own parents and teachers?
We can trace this chain of causes and effects from generation to generation all the way back to Adam. At that point we reach the original cause. Eve was deceived into sinning, but Adam knew what he was doing (1 Tim. 2:14). This is why Paul says, “in Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22), rather than “in Eve all die.” Adam was held accountable, rather than Eve, and therefore the curse upon Adam is passed down through the fathers in every generation.
Even so, there was a deeper blindness at work here, set up by God Himself. God knew that Adam would be blinded by his love for Eve and would follow her into that first transgression. In fact, this was the divine plan from the beginning, for God is not taken by surprise by anything that happens on earth. Men may argue the finer points of this issue, but in the end, for God to be God, He must know all things from the beginning, and He must be powerful enough to prevent anything that He pleases.
The fact that God “allowed” Adam to sin makes Him responsible to rectify the situation. The fact that Adam’s sin affected the entire creation means that God is ultimately responsible to reconcile all of creation. One cannot simply blame Adam, because God created Adam and is therefore the Owner of all He creates. Ownership automatically brings responsibility for all that is owned, as the law shows (Exodus 21:32-36; 22:6).
God, then, has the ability, the power, and the wisdom to remove blindness from any man. He proved this with Saul on the road to Damascus, when He revealed Himself to a man who was totally blind to the point of religious fanaticism. Later, after his name was changed to Paul to reflect his new identity and character, he confessed in Gal. 1:13-16,
13 For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure, and tried to destroy it; 14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when He who had set me apart, even from my mother’s womb, and called me through his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles [ethnos, “nations”], I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood.
Where was Paul’s will in all of this? Certainly, Paul accepted the revelation of Christ as an act of will. But above Paul’s will stood the all-powerful will of God. That same power will convert men at the Great White Throne, where every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Him as Lord (Phil. 2:10, 11). In other words, when the will of God asserts itself by opening eyes and ears to the revelation of truth, the will of man is no match and has no power to resist the majesty and glory of God.
And so Moses tells Israel that after forty years of wandering in the wilderness, God still had not given them “a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.” In our immaturity, we see only divine injustice at work. But as we mature—as God opens our eyes—we see the world and history itself through His eyes. We begin to flow with the divine plan and come into agreement with Him. We no longer see Him as unjust but as One who is exercising His rights as the Creator and Owner of all things.
As we experience His love, we also come to see that the evil and injustice in the world often hides His love from most people, but it can never extinguish it. While men only see God allowing the world going to hell, those whose eyes are opened to know the divine plan can understand that the love of God itself is the motivation for the exercise of His power by which He is “the Savior of all men” (1 Tim. 4:10).
While many doubt the wisdom of His plan, we know that He is wise enough to devise a plan to save all men, even if the situation appears to be hopeless.
Israel was blind, even though they were “the church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38). Likewise, the New Testament church has been blind and deaf during its forty-Jubilee sojourn in its own wilderness. A simple study of church history easily proves this. Israel’s condition under Moses prophesied of the church, for it established a prophetic pattern that was to be repeated later.
Moses brought up this question of blindness and deafness in the context of the second covenant and the commissioning of Joshua the Ephraimite. This shows that God intended to deal with that problem through the second coming of Jesus Christ, the antitype of Joshua. In fact, it is necessary for God to eradicate the blindness and to reveal Himself to the world as He did to the Apostle Paul himself, if we are to see the Kingdom of God grow until it fills the whole earth.
To know that we are blind is the first step toward healing. Those who are convinced that they have no blindness will remain in their sin, as Jesus said in John 9:41. Only the Holy Spirit can reveal our blindness to us, and thereby spark repentance. Only Jesus can heal.
The church thinks that because it is the church, it cannot be blind or deaf. Because the people have been justified by faith, this has removed all blindness, they think. But Israel too was justified by faith in the blood of the lamb when they kept Passover in Egypt. This did not remove all blindness. It did remove a portion of their blindness, of course—enough to be justified by faith. But Moses assured them that they still remained blind and deaf throughout their wilderness journey. So it is with the New Testament church.
The main difference is that whereas under Moses the church rejected Pentecost by refusing to hear the rest of the law (Exodus 20:19), the New Testament church accepted Pentecost in Acts 2. Under Moses, Passover was the only feast that the church as a whole was able to accept. Under Christ, the church was able to accept both Passover and Pentecost.
Yet the feast of Tabernacles has been largely hidden from the church, for God has blinded them to this revelation. It is, therefore, a key revelation and perhaps the main barometer of blindness and deafness. Tabernacles has always been known to some degree, but its prophetic message has been almost totally unknown until the past century. It was one of the main revelations that came out of the Latter Rain movement (1948-1952). George Warnock’s 1952 book, The Feast of Tabernacles, signaled the beginning of the end of long-term blindness in the church. Others have received further revelation since then.
I believe that one of the key revelations that will heal the blindness in the church is a proper understanding of the feast of Tabernacles. This feast prophesies of the second coming of Christ and the manifestation of the Sons of God. In association with Trumpets and the Day of Atonement, the sequence of events is set forth, beginning with the resurrection of the dead, then the great time of repentance, the birth of the Sons of God, and their presentation to the Father on the eighth day, the last great day of the Feast.