Seven Human Looks
Arthur Pink, 1950
We continue to write upon "Looking," for, said the prophet, "My eye affects my heart" (Lam 3:51). John Bunyan (1620-1677) wrote impressively on "Eyegate" and showed what a large part it played in admitting enemies into the city of Mansoul. The heart has no more influential gate than the eyes; and if we are wise, we shall do as the patriarch and make "a covenant" with them (Job 31:1). Guard your eye — and thereby safeguard your heart.
Blessed are they who use their eyes to noble purpose, but better to have been born blind than pervert such a gift! Observation exerts a considerable influence upon the inner man, and therefore is no small factor in molding the life. But alas, observation is not always rightly used: instead of evoking reflectiveness, drawing out sympathy, and leading to kindly deeds — only too often it excites our corruptions and issues in evil works. Whether observation affects us for good or evil, depends not only upon the objects contemplated, but also upon our reflections on and reactions to the same.
1. The look of FAITH. "And the LORD said unto Abram…Lift up now your eyes, and look from the place where you are northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which you see, to you will I give it" (Gen 13:14-15). That was in sharp contrast with the greed of his nephew, Lot, who "lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan" (verse 10), which was the look of covetousness. God here made a great promise and gift to His servant, and bade Abraham view his fair heritage, for it was a land flowing with milk and honey. As he gazed upon such an attractive portion, his heart would indeed be affected by a sense of the LORD's goodness and magnanimity.
And so should it ever be with us. As we behold the wondrous handiwork of God all around us in the realm of creation, we should admire His wisdom, be awed by His power, and adore the grace of Him who "gives us richly all things to enjoy" (1 Timothy 6:17) — to evoke thoughtfulness, regale our senses, and minister so freely to our needs. God's workmanship in nature should fill us with wonderment and gratitude.
2. The look of DISOBEDIENCE. "But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt" (Gen 19:26). Solemn indeed is that, and chronicled for our admonition. God had given express command, "Look not behind you" (verse 17), but Lot's wife disregarded His injunction. In unbelief and love to Sodom, she looked back and probably attempted to return there, for in Luke 17:31-32, we find that our Lord pointed His prohibition, "Let him likewise not return back" with the warning, "Remember Lot's wife."
This incident is recorded to show us the peril of hankering after forbidden and forsaken objects, and to make us fear and tremble, lest after having escaped the corruption which is in the world through the knowledge of Christ, we are again entangled therein, and overcome, only to find our latter end is worse than the beginning (2 Peter 2:20). Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt as a lasting monument of God's displeasure against apostates. True conversion is the renouncing of the world, the flesh, and the devil; and it is at our peril that we lust after the things we have abandoned. As Matthew Henry (1662-1714) says, "Drawing back is to perdition, and looking back is towards it."
3. The look of CURIOSITY. "And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bore unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land" (Gen 34:1). So far as Scripture informs us, she was the only daughter he had, and with so many brothers, was probably petted and spoiled. Born just before Joseph (Gen 30:21-24), she could not have been more than fifteen or sixteen; and therefore, her mother was more to blame than she was. The Hebrew for "went out to see the daughters of the land" implies "to look about with them." Probably it was some occasion of public festivity, and unrest and discontent with the tent possessed her; and a spirit of inquisitiveness moved her to mix with the ungodly and to look at the customs and fashions of the heathen. The sequel was disastrous, for not only did she lose her honor, but her conduct led to her brothers committing murder.
For young girls to get away from the eyes of their mothers and go out unchaperoned is highly dangerous, because of their inexperience of the world, their ignorance of the artifices of unscrupulous men, and their proneness to be easily deceived by flatterers. Let young women bear in mind that God has inseparably linked together "discreet, chaste — keepers at home" (Titus 2:5)!
4. The look of CONTEMPT. "And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth" (1 Samuel 17:42). Goliath could scarcely believe his eyes when he saw this stripling advancing toward him, and "looked about" for one whom he deemed more "worthy of his steel." He was expecting to be confronted with the champion of Israel's army; and thus, when he perceived that an unarmed shepherd-boy had entered the lists against him, the Philistine utterly despised him. Therein he made the fatal mistake of underestimating his enemy. David indeed had no coat of armor upon him, but, what was infinitely preferable, he was clothed with "the whole armor of God" (Eph 6:11, 13). He might be totally unacquainted with the arts of warfare, but he knew from personal experience that JEHOVAH fails no one who really trusts Him. Said he, "You come to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied" (1 Samuel 17:45); and the giant fell before him.
Learn, then, that might cannot prevail over weakness — when that weakness leans upon the Almighty!
5. The look of DISCONTENT. "Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought…and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit" (Ecc 2:11). That was the disappointing discovery made by the one man whom God permitted to obtain everything which the carnal heart craves. The force of his honest acknowledgment is the better perceived by observing what he tells us in the nine verses preceding, and then listening to his summing up: "And whatever my eyes desired, I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labor" (Ecc 2:10). But having realized his ambitions and gratified every desire, he found that so far from their affording him any real and lasting satisfaction, they still left an aching void within.
Mere things — however costly or lovely in themselves — cannot meet the real needs of the soul. The heart was made for God, and He alone can fill it. Self's enjoyment of the joys of this earth, leaves nothing but emptiness behind. The thirst of the soul, cannot be quenched by the cisterns of this world. Gold can purchase nothing, but what proves to be vanity. Christ alone "satisfies the longing soul" (Psalm 107:9).
6. The look of HUMILIATION. "Hearken to me, you that follow after righteousness, you that seek the LORD…and to the hole of the pit whence you are dug" (Isa 51:1). That is very necessary if a humble spirit is to be preserved in the child of God. It is a most beneficial exercise to look back and view our origin, and behold what we were when the hand of divine mercy was first laid upon us. "Wherefore remember," says the apostle, "that you being in time past Gentiles in the flesh…That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world" (Eph 2:11-12).
Remember it to your shame. Look to the "horrible pit and the miry clay" (Psalm 40:2), out of which the God of all grace brought you, that you may be confounded and never more open your mouth boastfully (Ezekiel 16:63). Daily ponder the question, "Who makes you to differ from another?" (1 Corinthians 4:7) — not only from those who are hastening to destruction, but from what you were yourself only a short time since! Let such a look humble you into the dust!
7. The look of HOPE. "Then I said, I am cast out of your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple" (Jon 2:4). That is, though because of my reprehensible conduct, You no longer view me with approbation and delight; nevertheless, I will not give way to despair, but cast myself upon Your mercy. Those words, "I will look again toward your holy temple," show that his faith laid hold of that statement: "If your people…shall pray unto the LORD toward the city which you have chosen, and toward the house that I have built for your name: Then hear in heaven…If they sin against thee…and pray unto you toward their land…and the house which I have built for your name: Then hear their prayer" (1 Kings 8:44-49 and compare 2 Chronicles 20:9). When a captive in Babylon, Daniel had acted on the same (Dan 6:10), and now the chastened prophet made it his confidence. Though in the whale's belly, he refused to abandon hope. He "remembered the LORD: and his prayer came in unto Him, into His holy temple" (Jon 2:7). He remembered His grace, His faithfulness, His power, His past mercies — and turned unto Him the eyes of expectation; and he was miraculously delivered! Oh, what encouragement is there here for every failing saint who is tempted to despond.