What Seest Thou?

One of the most miraculous organs that God gave humans is the eye. But just like any organ of the body, it can be abused through misuse or mistreatment—more commonly by the former rather than the latter.

God’s word gives us much guidance regarding use of our eyes and provides many examples of the results of their misuse. In Isaiah, the prophet was moved to write one of the clearest statements regarding the importance of guarding what we behold:

“The sinners in Zion are afraid; Fearfulness has seized the hypocrites:

‘Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?

Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?’

He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly,

He who despises the gain of oppressions,

Who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes,

Who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed,

And shuts his eyes from seeing evil:

He will dwell on high;

His place of defense will be the fortress of rocks;

Bread will be given him,

His water will be sure.”

Isaiah 33:14–16

[Emphasis supplied.]

The pen of inspiration noted the importance of Isaiah’s counsel in the following passage:

“Clad in the armor of Christ’s righteousness, the church is to enter upon her final conflict. ‘Fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners’ (Song of Solomon 6:10), she is to go forth into all the world, conquering and to conquer.

“The darkest hour of the church’s struggle with the powers of evil is that which immediately precedes the day of her final deliverance. But none who trust in God need fear; for ‘when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall,’ God will be to His church ‘a refuge from the storm’ (Isaiah 25:4).

“In that day only the righteous are promised deliverance. ‘The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; he shall dwell on high: his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure’ (Isaiah 33:14–16).”

“The word of the Lord to His faithful ones is: ‘Come, My people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity’ (Isaiah 26:20, 21).” Prophets and Kings, 725, 726.

It is comforting to recognize that through Isaiah the Lord has promised the faithful that if they abide by His counsel, if, among other forms of obedience, they shut their eyes from seeing evil, they will be fed and sheltered during the time of trouble.

Some of the counsel that inspiration provides concerns not only our physical vision, but our imagination—our mental vision—as well.

“We want the transforming grace of God to take right hold of our thinking powers. We may think evil, we may continue to keep our minds upon objectionable things, but what does this do for us? It conforms our entire experience to that which we are looking upon. But by beholding Jesus we become changed into His likeness. The servant of the living God sees to some purpose. The eyes are sanctified, and the ears are sanctified, and those who will close their eyes and ears to evil will become changed.” Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, 670.

This passage makes reference to a text that needs to be understood in its fullest meaning by those who are serious about overcoming: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). We commonly understand this text to mean that we become changed into what we spend our time beholding. If we regularly view activity that transgresses the commandments, statutes, testimonies, and words of counsel that the Lord in His mercy has given us, how can we hope to be overcomers? Eventually we will become changed into what we are beholding.

“Everything that can be done should be done to place ourselves and our children where we shall not see the iniquity that is practised [sic] in the world. We should carefully guard the sight of our eyes and the hearing of our ears, so that these awful things shall not enter our minds. When the daily newspaper comes into the house, I feel as if I wanted to hide it, that the ridiculous, sensational things in it may not be seen. It seems as if the enemy is at the foundation of the publishing of many things that appear in newspapers. Every sinful thing that can be found is uncovered and laid bare before the world.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 211.

When this was written, there was no television or Internet, but if we understand the principle of this counsel, we must recognize that it is obvious that the same danger that inspiration recorded as existing from reading the newspaper exists to an even greater degree when those dangers are presented in living color.

The psalmist also provided wise counsel to us when he recorded one of the enlightened rules by which he guided his own life:

“I will set nothing wicked before my eyes;

I hate the work of those who fall away;

It shall not cling to me”

(Psalm 101:3).

“The vows of David recorded in Psalm 101 should be the vows of all upon whom rest the responsibilities of guarding the influences of the home. David declared: ‘I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. … I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes’ (Psalm 101:2, 3 KJV).


“The enemy of souls will invent many things to lead the minds of our youth from firm faith in God to the idolatrous practices of the world. Let the cautions given to ancient Israel be carefully studied. Satan’s efforts to spoil the thoughts and confuse the judgment are unceasing, and we must be on our guard. We must be careful to maintain our allegiance to God as His peculiar people.” In Heavenly Places, 215.

“Say firmly: ‘I will not spend precious moments in reading that which will be of no profit to me, and which only unfits me to be of service to others. I will devote my time and my thoughts to acquiring a fitness for God’s service. I will close my eyes to frivolous and sinful things.’ ” Maranatha, 145.

Psalm 119, the psalm that makes the necessity of obedience to God’s laws, precepts, and testimonies so inarguably evident, also addresses the importance of the appropriate use of our eyes in this appeal to Omnipotence:

“Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,

And revive me in Your way” (Psalm 119:37).

Inspiration makes a clear reference to this prayer of the psalmist in the following passage:

“Watchfulness and vigilance are needed now as never before in the history of the race. The eye must be turned off from beholding vanity.” That I May Know Him, 267.

One well-known example of the consequences of misuse of the eyes is contained in the sad story of Achan.

“And Achan answered Joshua and said, ‘Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I have done: When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it’ (Joshua 7:20, 21).”

“Achan’s covetousness was excited by the sight of that costly robe of Shinar; even when it had brought him face to face with death he called it ‘a goodly Babylonish garment.’ ” Patriarchs and Prophets, 496.

The story of Achan clearly demonstrates that we must not allow our eyes to linger in areas or on things that God in His mercy has forbidden us to behold—either physically or mentally. Note that Achan “saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels” (Joshua 7:21). His error was in letting his vision linger on the spoils and coveting them as his own. He failed to recognize these objects as what in reality they were—an allurement used by Satan to lead him into sin.

Another well-known example of the dangers of allowing our vision to linger on things that we should not is provided in the following Scripture:

“Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, ‘Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite’ (2 Samuel 11:2, 3)?”

Perhaps at this point in time he had not yet written the following:

“My eyes are ever toward the Lord,

For He shall pluck my feet out of the net” (Psalm 25:15).

If David had had his eyes “ever toward the Lord,” he would have averted his vision away from the sensuous scene before him. The many griefs that followed in his life may well have been avoided.

Often in the course of our daily Christian walk, we are confronted with images that, as Christians, we should consciously and conscientiously turn from. Tabloids in the grocery check-out line, billboards, inappropriately dressed worldlings—life is full of these kinds of allurements.

It is imperative that we recognize that Satan is the prince of this world and is absolutely determined to lead as many people astray as possible. It is also important that we recognize that those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus are his special targets.

“As the people of God approach the perils of the last days, Satan holds earnest consultation with his angels as to the most successful plan of overthrowing their faith. He sees that the popular churches are already lulled to sleep by his deceptive power. By pleasing sophistry [dishonesty or fraudulence] and lying wonders he can continue to hold them under his control. Therefore he directs his angels to lay their snares especially for those who are looking for the second advent of Christ and endeavoring to keep all the commandments of God.” Maranatha, 208.

Adventists are the very ones “who are looking for the second advent of Christ and endeavoring to keep all the commandments of God” and are therefore subject to these special efforts of Satan and his evil agents. It matters not to them how they succeed in their efforts—whether they lead the professed people of God to transgress in thought, word, or deed. Thus it is absolutely imperative that those who are expecting to cross the Jordan in triumphant victory guard their vision, whether they are seeing with their eyes or with their imagination. Christ made that clear in the Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27, 28).

The apostle John also warned about feasting visually in forbidden areas:

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (I John 2:15–17).

Well, what’s a person to do? We have an enemy who knows us better than we know ourselves. Is there a safe harbor for us?

In the world of business, there is an area of practice that involves personnel management called “human resources.” One of the things that profession dwells on is compliance with the rules and regulations developed over time by the government to protect the rights of workers. The intent of these regulations is to ensure that all employees are treated equally. To accomplish that task, there are what are called “safe harbors.” If you do this one particular thing with respect to some rule or regulation, you are assured that you are in compliance enough to avoid penalty.

Wikipedia puts it this way: “A safe harbor is a provision of a statute or a regulation that specifies that certain conduct will be deemed not to violate a given rule. It is usually found in connection with a vaguer, overall standard.”

Let’s look at an example for clarity. There is a law against reckless driving. What constitutes reckless driving is sometimes—even often—a matter of personal opinion. However, driving at 25 miles per hour is considered a safe harbor against reckless driving in most situations. On the other hand, driving at 90 miles per hour is considered an unsafe harbor under just about any situation.

So, what’s the safe harbor for those striving to be among the 144,000? God’s word provides the answer in many places, but we will look at Psalm 19:8:

“The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;

The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm 19:8).

As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness” (Matthew 6:22, 23)!

This is a text that is worth much study. What does Christ mean when He says “if your eye is bad”? What does He mean by “your whole body will be full of darkness”? And especially intriguing is His statement that “if therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” Clearly, we have some introspection to do! Having bad eyes, eyes that linger on forbidden things, has perhaps greater consequences than we might initially realize. Remember our initial text from Isaiah: he who shuts his eyes from seeing evil will dwell on high.

By keeping our eyes—especially our mind’s eye—turned upon the word of God in all of its manifestations, we indeed find a safe harbor for our conduct. The psalmist made note of that in Psalm 26:2, 3:

“Examine me, O Lord, and prove me;

Try my mind and my heart.

For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes,

And I have walked in Your truth” (Psalm 26:2, 3).

If we keep the lovingkindness, the blessings, of our Lord constantly in our mind’s eye, what is the result? The psalmist tells us: we walk in His truth.

Paul wrote some simple words in his letter to the Colossians that deserve much thought:

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1–3).

On initial reading, one might simply think that the meaning of Paul’s counsel expressed in these texts is obvious. However, spending some time meditating on this passage brings to mind a wealth of wise instruction.

First of all, we recognize that to be raised with Christ is to be baptized—to make a public statement of our intent to be overcomers, to concede that we need the grace of Christ as we accept the challenge of the battle and the march that is the Christian’s life.

Next, we are instructed to “seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.”

Inspiration alludes to this text in the following passage:

“We need to have more distinct views of Jesus and a fuller comprehension of the value of eternal realities. The beauty of holiness is to fill the hearts of God’s children; and that this may be accomplished, we should seek for divine disclosures of heavenly things.” Steps to Christ, 99.

Colossians 3:2 contains an extremely valuable jewel of counsel: “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” How many of our trials and temptations would vanish if we heeded this advice. Every temptation that faces us, every effort of Satan to lead us astray would fall helplessly to the ground if we heeded this counsel. “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Even taken literally, the truth of this counsel is evident.

By virtue of man’s choice to obey the serpent rather than the Creator and eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, this earth is the realm of Satan. Scripture makes that abundantly clear. See John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11, and Ephesians 2:2, as well as many other texts that make it too plain to be misunderstood that Satan holds sway over mankind.

So, what are we to do? How can we succeed in keeping our vision on things above and not on things on the earth? The apostle John adds to the advice toward that end that Paul has given us in his first epistle:

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (I John 2:15–17).

We are back where we started—noting the importance of keeping our eyes focused on appropriate things and avoiding looking at anything that takes the mind away from “things which are above.”

How thorough and clear is God’s word of warning to His faithful children about the dangers of beholding “things in the world.” Reference after reference, text after text can be cited that addresses this issue.

“Let your eyes look straight ahead,

And your eyelids look right before you” (Proverbs 4:25).

May God help us as we strive to “shut our eyes from beholding evil” so that we might “dwell on high.”

All quotes NKJV unless otherwise noted.

John Pearson is the office manager and a board member of Steps to Life. After retiring as chief financial officer for the Grand Canyon Association, Grand Canyon, Arizona, he moved to Wichita, Kansas, to join the Steps team. He may be contacted by email at: johnpearson@stepstolife.org.