Growing up we often sang a song in Sunday school about being careful where we looked. The principle is simple: where you stare matters. When we take time to look at, consider, or observe something, that particular thing captivates our attention. Without exercising great caution, whatever it is that captivates your attention will inevitably influence your thinking and acting. Today, in part one of this two-part blog, we will examine a variety of case studies in the Bible that demonstrate how this influence works.
Biblical Case Studies that Warn Us
Eve. We go no further than Genesis 3 to find Eve in conversation with the serpent. There are trees bearing fruit all over Eden. She has permission to eat anything she desires – and as much as she desires. Imagine that! However, the text describes her as looking at, considering, and observing the fruit on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit” (Gen. 3:6).
The sons of God. Likewise, the sons of God in Genesis 6 determined to take wives for themselves from the daughters of men as they observed the women. “…that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful” (Gen. 6:2). They looked; they considered; and they acted.
Lot. Given the opportunity by Abram to determine where he wanted to live, Lot carefully observed the land before him, made assessments, and chose. “And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. Then Lot chose for himself…” (Gen. 13:10-11).
Achan. After the defeat at Ai, Joshua prays to God to figure out what happened. The LORD pointed to sin in the camp. As Joshua reviewed the tribe of Judah, he found Achan and offered him an opportunity to make confession. Achan responded, “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” (Josh. 7:20-21). The process began with observation and ended with coveting and stealing.
Samson. Traveling through Timnah, Samson met a Philistine woman. The text describes it as he “saw a woman in Timnah” (Judges 14:1). He liked the way she looked. He determined that she was right for him. He wanted her and demanded his parents get her for him. As he went down to get her, he returned to a dead carcass of a lion in order to see the carcass. He desired to go and observe it where he ultimately took some of its honey. Later while in Gaza, he “saw a harlot there” (16:1). He committed sin again. Then the story of Samson and Delilah appears in the text. Samson developed a life-long habit of not evaluating where he looked or what his eyes saw.
David. David serves as our next example of how this process develops. David stayed home instead of going out to battle with the troops. One night, he got out of bed and walked up to the top of the roof. “And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold” (2 Sam. 11:2). He continued to watch her bathe. He wanted what he saw, so he inquired about her and sent for her. David saw, inquired, sent, and committed immorality.
Asaph. Asaph was the song director of the tabernacle (1 Chron. 6:39; 16:5-7). He led the people into worship. Psalm 73 provides his personal testimony of struggle and victory. He initially reveals that despite God’s goodness to the nation in general, he almost turned back from walking with God. The stated reason for his desertion: envy. “For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Ps. 73:3). Asaph’s attention was turned toward the wicked, and he was envious at their lifestyle and possessions.
The Influence of the Eyes
Danger lies in the failure to protect your eyes. Essentially, in each of these texts, the individual took time to look, consider, and observe something (all imperfect verbal forms of the Hebrew word r’h “to see,” depicting the action as continuing in a past time frame). These were not quick looks, fast glances, or small glimpses. In each instance, the observation allowed for time to process what was seen. After considering and pondering the object of sight, the individuals made the determination to act upon what they wanted. In each instance, the enduring look encouraged further action. Furthermore, in each instance, the actions led to further wickedness.
In Part Two we will consider how to protect your eyes and live in victory.
Join the Conversation
In your opinion, what other biblical case study fits this pattern?