“Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: ‘Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ For this reason they could not believe, because as Isaiah says elsewhere: ‘He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.’ Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him. Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise from men more than praise from God.”
John 12:37-43 NIV
It’s hard for us to understand how the Pharisees and Jewish leaders were not able to understand who Jesus was given all the signs and wonders he performed in their presence. It’s even harder for us to understand the concept of God “blinding their eyes” to this truth, but that’s what Scripture says. We often treat faith in God as something everyone should understand because the evidence of the existence of God is right there for all to see in the natural world around us, and after all, we have the Bible. Why is it that they do not understand? We fail to realize the treasured gift that faith in God is to us.
I don’t pretend to understand why God turns the light of the understanding of the gospel on for some and not for others, but in His grace and mercy He does extend that understanding to some. It’s certainly not because we deserve it. In our Wednesday night study in Daniel, we studied how the prophet understood something about the mercy of God in his incredibly humble prayer in Dan. 9.
Daniel had been a part of the group taken captive to Babylon when Jerusalem was overthrown, and had not lived in Babylon for nearly 70 years. He had been studying the prophet Jeremiah’s writings, and read where it was written that after 70 years, Israel would be restored. In his prayer Daniel pleaded with God for the forgiveness for his own sin, and that of the nation of Israel. In verses 17-18 he pleads, “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.”
Now, on this side of the cross, still few understand very much about God. Many don’t believe in Him at all. Some claim to believe, but in reality know very little about what they claim to believe. As we approach this Christmas season, let’s pray that the light of God’s Holy Spirit will shine in the hearts and minds of those who do not yet have an authentic faith relationship with God, believing Him to be exactly who the Bible says He is, and not something that we make Him to be. Pray that they will come to Him and seek Him, not based in a righteousness they feel they already possess, but because of His great mercy.
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen