the God who sees

I once had a friend who asked me, “If you were to lose one of your senses which one would you not want to lose?” At first I thought the question was quite strange, but the more I thought about it I realized how important all my senses are to me. To be blind to beauty, deaf to music, mute to saying simple words, or numb to touch would be an unpleasant transition.

I suppose if I could do without a sense it would be smell, but still I would for a lifetime miss the fragrance of spring flowers, my wife’s cooking, the forest after the rain, and countless other aromas. The sense I would least like to lose would be my sight.  I suppose I wouldn’t realize how valuable the eye organ is until I didn’t have it.

I have senses because God has senses. God hears, speaks, touches, enjoys sweet smelling aromas, and even sees (Ps. 94:9). Since He is an omnipresent God, He sees everything all the time. Nothing slips by His sight. And just knowing He watches over me can be a most fearful and wonderful thing all together.

God is Always Watching

There was a popular song iby Bet Milter in the 1990’s with the chorus, “God is watching us, from a distance.” I might contest the truth that God is not at watching us from a distance looking as if He were looking upon us through binoculars. But the truth that God is watching can bring an immense amount of safety and security especially in the midst of a world of ruin. His watchful eye reminds us He cares.

God sees all the earth.His eyes rove through the earth (2 Chr. 16:9; Zech. 4:10). He looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything (Job 28:24). There is no place on earth that is forgotten. His eye is on the desert and the jungle mountaintop, as it is on the rural village and densely populated metropolis. His eye is on all the earth at all times.

God sees all people. Job said, “you watcher of men.” (7:20). God’s eyes keep watch on the nations (Ps. 66:7), sees all a man’s steps (Job 34:21); and His eyes are on all their ways (Job 24:23). In Genesis 16, God promises Abraham’s servant Hagar will have a son. She responds by saying, “You are a God of seeing, truly here I have seen Him who looks after me.” She acknowledges He is the God who sees (El-Roi). She is shocked to have seen God and live, and is thankful and amazed that God cares for people in the most unexpected situations (cf. Ps. 139:1–12).

God doesn’t watch His people like an ogre or oppressive supervisor or parent waiting for His child to slip up, “I’m watching you!” When Isaiah was commissioned to speak on behalf of God the people of Judah were under the threat of attack. Within a matter of years Isaiah saw God’s people taken captive by the godless empire Babylon. While in captivity Isaiah encouraged the people to remember that God never relaxes; He is always watching them (40:27). God’s people should never think He has forgotten them even in uncomfortable or insufferable circumstance.

The Eye of God is upon you

An eye can often tell what someone is thinking or feeling. In other words, eyes speak. Eyes can smile, show tears of sorrow, and even glisten with deep concern or love. God’s eye(s) is often an image of His providential care over His people. He guides with His eye (Psalm 32:8) and gives counsel to those under His watch care.

The eyes of the Lord are inescapable. Proverbs 5:21 says, “a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and He ponders all his paths.” God sees all your wanderings. Some think they can run from God. Whatever you do or wherever you go you cannot escape His sight. Even when you feel as if He were far away His eye is still upon you.

The eyes of the Lord are focused towards His own. While God sees everything that happens on your street or the world at the same time, He pays special attention to His children. 1 Peter 3:12a says, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their prayer.” If you are His child, He is all eyes and ears. He can pick out of the crowd. He never loses track of His children.

The eyes of the Lord are seeking what is right and good. Deuteronomy 6:18 says, “And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may go well with you.” When you read about the kings of Israel they are immediately labeled “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD,” or “did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD.” The eyes of the Lord are constantly gazing on you and prodding you to move in the direction of what is good.

What about all the evil that God’s sees in the world? The eyes of the Lord do see the evil, wicked, and suffering. Nothing is hidden from God’s sight. He is the only one who can see through to a person’s heart. He has x-ray vision. All are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:13). And as Proverbs 15:3 says, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”

The eyes of the Lord are gracious towards the righteous person. 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him.” An example is given in Genesis 6:8 when “Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” This is both a great challenge and promise to live as though you know He’s watching. His watchful eye keeps you on mission.

Most people say they can’t imagine running for President, being a pastor, or holding a position of public leadership because of the kind of scrutiny you and your family receive from critical eyes of the public. And yet, all will face the most perfect, most thorough, most expert scrutiny of all time from God (Hebrews 9:27). We will have to account for every careless word we speak (Matthew 12:36). We may have habits hidden from our fellow man, but not from God.

God sees everything. He will lay everything bare. You will be laid bare.

God’s Son Sees too

What kind of eyes does God have? How does He see? Well, the answer is to simply look at His Son. He was 100% God and 100% man. Jesus, God’s Son, had human eyes. To better understand how God sees look at Jesus.

Jesus saw each of His disciples before they followed Him. He turned and looked at Peter (Luke 22:61; Matt. 4:18); Jesus looked at Simon Peter (John 1:42); He saw Nathanael coming to Him (John 1:47-48). His eyes were upon His own, even before they were upon Him. His eyes passionately pursue followers.

Jesus sees the heart. Jesus saw a man who had been disabled for 38-years and healed him (John 5:6). Often Jesus sees it is their faith that ultimately healed them. He sees the motives of our hearts. He not only sees open hearts, but also sees hard hearts (Mark 3:5).

Jesus saw the crowds and had compassion on them (Matt. 9:36) because they were like wandering sheep without a shepherd. When Jesus saw Jerusalem he wept over it (Luke 19:41) because of its impending destruction and its blindness to His purposes.

Jesus gives a hopeful promise to His followers. Though He would leave, they would see Him again, “You have sorrow now but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice.” (John 16:22) This is hope for all who put their faith in Christ. In response, we are to wait with watchful eyes for His return.

In His redeem act for mankind, Jesus had His eyes fixed upon the will of His Father. Nothing could thwart His vision and eternal focus. And, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

faithful deception: Judah & Tamar

It is easy to be confused by the events in this world. You can wonder until you are dizzy-in-the-head if there really is a God who controls this mixed-up world where natural disasters, broken and battered families, rape and child molestation, and murder are common chaos’ that make the news. It can be difficult to see how God is still in control. If only God would spell out the meaning to the mixed-up events of our lives and add clarity to the confusion when He seems absent. Can you fully trust God among the chaos? Has He forgotten His plan and purpose to save? Can you prove to me that He is really at work in this wicked world?

Just as the story of Joseph gets under way [cf. Genesis 37] it is stopped by a short story of his brother Judah. At first it appears to be an unnecessary and untactful interruption. However when you take into account the remaining chapters of Genesis are about the sons of Jacob [mostly Joseph] it fits. The redneck soap opera of Jacob’s family takes a Jerry Springer Show twist in Genesis 38 with the sinfulness of Judah following in his father’s footsteps. In God’s grace He will transform Judah as He did his father Jacob from a godless goober to a godly man fit to be a patriarch carrying the covenant promises of God to future generations.

You would think Jacob would learn from his father and grandfather, Abraham and Isaac, who dreaded the thought of their sons intermarrying with Canaanite women because they knew it would cause them to wander from God [24:3, 28:1; cf. Proverbs 1:10-19, 5:1-23]. Judah did not heed the advice. He fathered three sons [Er, Onan, and Shelah] with a Canaanite woman and then he arranged his eldest son Er to marry Tamar, who was also a Canaanite woman. We do not know much about Er other than he was a wicked man that God simply killed. This left Tamar a widow.

According to the customs of the day a widow would normally marry her husbands brother. He would care for her, protect her, and give her sons to keep the family inheritance alive. Since the ancients did not have elderly living facilities their children would naturally care for their aging parents [Deuteronomy 25:5-6]. Onan happened to be the lucky guy to get Tamar as a wife. He was happy to have sex with her, but misused her and refused to care for her much less see that she bore children. He disobeyed God by not fulfilling his obligation to care or provide for Tamar. Like his brother Er, God killed Onan too. Again Tamar was left a widow.

So Tamar moved into her father-in-law, Judah’s house [cf. Exodus 21:7-11]. He promised to take care of her and give her his youngest son, Shelah. He was too young to marry and he asked her to wait until he grew up. He was afraid to lose yet another son. However, years later when Shelah had grown up, Judah did not keep his promise to give Tamar to him as a wife. So, like Eve who ruled over Adam [3:16], Sarah who gave Abraham her maidservant Hagar to sleep with [16:1-16], and Rachel who gave Jacob her maidservant Bilhah to sleep with [30:1-8], Tamar also took matters into her own hands rather than trusting God by faith.

Timid Tamar transitioned into bold Tamar. While Judah was weak after the death of his wife, Tamar dressed up like a prostitute [cf. Deuteronomy 22:23-24] and stood on the street corner where she knew Judah would pass by and see her winking eyes. Judah took the bait not knowing it was his daughter-in-law because she veiled her face. Judah had sex with her, but did not have the cash on hand to pay for the trick so as collateral he gave her the equivalent of his credit card and drivers’ license. She accepted. After the deal was done Tamar snuck into her widow clothes as if nothing ever happened, but she couldn’t hide for long. God was growing a baby in her belly and conviction in her soul.

As soon as Judah round up some cash to pay for his one-night-stand he sent a servant to find her but she could not be found. In fact, when he asked the other men in town they did not know of any prostitutes in the area. Judah seemed to think he’d been swindled. As time passed, it was revealed that Tamar was being immoral. So Judah [mister morality himself]] following customs of the day sent for her to be burned. To save her life she confessed to being pregnant and had the proof that the daddy was Judah. No DNA results were needed, she had his property in her hands.

Judah was caught red handed. While blushing he also confessed, “ She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” [38:26] And he stayed pure from her the rest of his life. Tamar later gave birth to twin boys [cf.25:19-28, Psalm 127:3] naming them Perez and Zerah. The two boys possibly replace the two sons Judah lost. Ironically Jacob—the trickster—had been tricked into believing his son Joseph was dead [instead sold into slavery] by his son Judah who was also trickster like his father who was then tricked by Tamar into becoming the father of his daughter-in-law’s children.

What is the point of Judah and Tamar’s immoral interruption included within the story of Joseph? Like a chaotic commercial break at the beginning of Joseph’s story, it is there to teach you many things about God and man [as is the point of all Scripture]. What do you learn about man and God from the story of Judah and Tamar?

First, you cannot escape the sight of God. God sees everything. He even sees what you think you can keep secret. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place.” [Proverbs 15:3] You might be able to keep your life tucked away and tidy from those around you, but there is nothing you can keep covered from the eyes of God.

Second, what you cover God uncovers, but what you uncover God covers in His mercy [Proverbs 28:13]. God has His ways of uncovering your dirt and exposing your sin—as He did with Judah and Tamar. This can lead to serious embarrassment, shame, and guilt. There are no secret sins. God sees them all and He will bring them out into the open, if necessary, to call you to repent. “Be sure your sin will find you out” [Numbers 32:23].It is better to shed light on your sin before He does. If you do, He will cover you with His mammoth mercy. In the midst of misery God’s mercy is marvelous.

Third, God can even use your sinful messes for your good and His glory. Like father like son, both Jacob and Judah are sinners. And Tamar who takes matters into her own hands like other leading ladies before her is a sinner. God has to intervene for this story to be straightened out and make sense. And God in His grace and glory will prepare Judah to become a covenant patriarch as He did with his father, Jacob. Sin does have consequences—sometimes immediate, other times eternal—but God works them out for His good and yours too [Romans 8:28-29].

In God’s providence, faithfully uses the deception of Judah and Tamar to keep Jacob’s family line alive through their scarlet threaded twin Perez. And Perez paves the way to the lineage of king David [Ruth 4:18-22; 1 Chronicles 2:5, 9-15] and ultimately the King of King—Jesus Christ [Matthew 1:1-6]. The Messiah was to be “the Lion…from the tribe of Judah” [Revelation 5:5]. It was God’s plan that the Savior of the world would come through the family line of sinful Judah and his Canaanite daughter-in-law. And as part of God’s plan He would also be deceived before His death by a close companion [Matthew 26:4, 57-66; 27:24-26]. As Kurt Strassner says in his commentary on Genesis 38,

“Do you see? God is in control; and Jesus is the goal of all human history! God was determined that his Son should be glorified as king! And God was determined that we should have a Savior. Nothing and no one was going to thwart his plan! Not Judah’s sin; not anyone’s sin against us; not even our own sin. God will work all things for the good of his people and the glory of his Son!”[1]

[1] Kurt Strassner, Opening Up Genesis (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2009), 146.