YPS Magazine

ISSUE: 2021, Volume 18, Issue 2

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An Upward Look

by Jim Elliott, Huyton, Liverpool, England

In these difficult days of the Covid 19 pandemic, it is good for the child of God to be encouraged in the Lord.

There are countless occasions in the word of God when we are encouraged to ‘lift up our eyes’. Some of the most prominent characters in the scriptures do just this, and we can learn profitable spiritual lessons from them.

When we ‘look up’ there are at least three important lessons to be learned:

  1. We take our eyes off the things of earth.
  2. We acknowledge our own insufficiency.
  3. We recognize that God is all-sufficient to meet our every need.

We are now going to consider a few biblical characters who ‘lifted up their eyes’.

Abraham

We know from Acts chapter 7 verse 2 that ‘the God of glory appeared unto our father, Abraham’. In Genesis chapter 15 verse 6 it says that ‘he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness’. 

So, we learn the following lessons:

  1. God is the object of his faith.
  2. The word of God is the ground of his faith. 
  3. Righteousness is the result of his faith.  

Three times Abraham is called ‘the friend of God’ and Romans chapter 4 verse 11 says that ‘he is the father of all of them that believe’.

In Genesis chapter 11, at the tower of Babel, man, in his pride and defiance, acts independently of God.  However, in the next chapter, God introduces us to a man who is dependent upon Him, Abraham.

Abraham ‘lifted up his eyes’ on more than one occasion. In Genesis chapter 13 verse 14, the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Lift up now thine eyes’.  The background to this was that Abraham’s nephew, Lot, made a bad choice of the land offered to him.  So that there would be no strife between the respective herdsmen of Abraham and Lot, he was given a choice of land. Therefore, in Genesis chapter 13 verse 10, we see that Lot ‘lifted up his eyes’ and chose all the plain of Jordan, eventually pitching his tent towards Sodom. Genesis chapter 13 verse 5 is interesting. It says that ‘Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents’. As a result, he had the possibility to be a worshipper, as he had flocks and herds, which could have been sacrificed on the altar of worship. He also had tents, showing he could have been a pilgrim moving in the will of God, but, sadly, his tent was pitched toward Sodom.

The Lord told Abraham ‘to lift up’ his eyes in chapter 13 verses 14 to 18 when He offered him all the land, northward, southward, eastward and westward. Lot only had a limited vision, whereas Abraham had an unlimited vista because of God’s generosity.  Ephesians chapter 1 verse 3 reminds us ‘that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ’.

In chapter 18 verse 2, Abraham again ‘lift up his eyes’ when three men appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre as he sat in the tent door. We know two of the men were angels who visited Lot in Sodom in chapter 19. The ‘other’, I believe, was the Lord Himself (Abraham said, 'my Lord', v. 3) gracing Abraham and Sarah with His presence. In verse 22, it says, ‘but Abraham stood yet before the Lord’. On this visit, the Lord promised a son to Sarah and revealed that judgement was to fall on Sodom.

One of the great chapters of the Bible is Genesis chapter 22. In this chapter, Abraham was told by God to take Isaac, his son, to the land of Moriah and offer him there for a burnt offering. In verse 4, it says, ‘on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off’.

In verse 13, Abraham ‘lifted up his eyes’ and behold a ram was caught in a thicket by his horns behind him. Here we see a lovely picture of Calvary; Christ, the obedient Lamb of God, accomplishing the Father’s will. Isaac was to be received back from the dead, in a picture of the Lord Jesus as the mighty conqueror over death.

We can learn many spiritual lessons from the life of Abraham, such as his faith and obedience, and that his every resource was to be found in the God of heaven.

Isaac

Abraham is associated with the altar and worship, but Isaac is linked with the unblocking of wells. Earth had filled the wells up, so there was no refreshing water available.

This is a picture of sin in our lives which could be stopping or hindering our blessing and progress. In Genesis chapter 24, when Abraham’s servant goes to find a bride for Isaac, God directs him to Rebekah. We read, Rebekah ‘lifted up her eyes’, v. 64, and beheld Isaac, but it also tells us that Isaac ‘lifted up his eyes’ and saw Rebekah approach. Here is another lovely picture of the bride and bridegroom. The Lord is the heavenly Bridegroom who will come to the clouds to claim His bride, the church, 1 Thess. 4. 13-18.

His promise is sure - He will return. The question is – are we looking for His coming?

Jacob

While Jacob had to learn many lessons in the ‘school of God’, we must never forget that he was a man who valued that which was spiritual. He valued the birthright and the blessing which his brother Esau rejected, Heb. 12. 16, 17.

The outstanding chapters in Jacob’s life are described in Genesis chapter 28, Bethel; chapter 32, Peniel; and chapter 49, Jacob’s last words to his sons, plus his demise.

Three times it is recorded that he lifts up his eyes, 31. 10, 12; 33. 1. We shall deal with chapter 33. Here we see that Jacob dreaded a meeting with his brother Esau. However, the Lord brought about reconciliation, which means to make friends after estrangement, see Rom. 5. 10, 11.

Some lessons can be learned from Genesis 28, Bethel, and Genesis 32, Peniel. In chapter 28, Jacob placed his head at night on a stone pillow and closed his eyes to the things of the earth. While he was asleep, God showed him heavenly things: a ladder, the house of God, etc. The ladder linked heaven and earth; the cross is now that link – through the death of Christ. Bethel means ‘The house of God’; we do not see here, in chapter 28, the existence of a building, but we do see the presence of God. So the house of God is where God dwells, i.e., the place of the divine presence. We can link this with 1 Timothy chapter 3 verse 15 where ‘the house of God’ is in view and the local assembly is seen as the pillar and ground of the truth.

In the life of Jacob, we see one who raised up a number of pillars that speak of testimony.  How lovely to see at the end of his life that ‘Jacob worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff’, Heb. 11. 21.

Joshua

The book of Joshua opens with the words of the Lord to Joshua, ‘Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel’, Josh. 1. 2.

Joshua was to take on the mantle to lead Israel over Jordan and to conquer the Promised Land. He was to face many obstacles, not least conquering the mighty city of Jericho. And so, in chapter 5, ‘he lifted up his eyes’ and met up with ‘the captain of the host of the Lord’, vv. 13-15. Joshua had to learn of the holiness, supremacy, and encouragement of the Lord. Sometimes we call these appearances of the Lord prior to His incarnation a theophany or Christophany.

Joshua may well have thought he was the leader of Israel’s hosts, but God was to reassure him that he was not alone in earth’s battles. God would lead the way and direct his paths.

The Lord Jesus Christ

So far, we have looked at various characters from the Old Testament who have ‘lifted up their eyes’. There are many more, such as David, Daniel, Zechariah, etc. However, we now want to consider the Saviour, who does not compare with other men but contrasts with all others. For when we consider the Saviour, we look at One who came down from heaven, took flesh, became man but never ceased to be who He ever was, the eternal Son of the eternal God. Colossians chapter 2 verse 9 says, ‘for in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily’.

On quite a number of occasions, the Gospels record that the Lord Jesus Christ ‘lifted up His eyes’. In John chapter 6, the Lord ‘lifted up his eyes’ at the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. Here we see His wonderful provision turning hunger into fullness.

In John chapter 11, Lazarus dies, and the power of the Lord is demonstrated when He raises him from the dead.

In John chapter 17, we read the priestly prayer of the Saviour. He, and He alone, could say ‘I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do’, v. 4.

Also, in John chapter 4 verse 35, the Lord Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest’. When the risen Lord instructed His disciples to ‘go’ to all nations He assured them of His presence, ‘and, lo, I am with you alway’, Matt. 28. 19, 20.

In closing, we are exhorted to ‘run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus’, Heb. 12. 2.

In Colossians chapter 3 verses 1 and 2, we are taught ‘if ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth’.

The chorus says quite beautifully: 

‘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’.

 

 

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An Upward Look

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