Blind Spots

2 Chronicles 18:29 - The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "I will disguise myself and enter the battle, but you put on your royal robes." So the king of Israel disguised himself, and they went into battle.

Luke 11:34 - Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness.

Read 2 Chronicles 17-20.

How is it that Christians can often get themselves messed up and entangled in unrighteous situations--situations which they never ever expected or envisioned? We're not talking here about Christians who deliberately and willfully turn away from the Lord and run after sin. No, we're thinking of Christians who really believe they are following the Lord and are, in some cases, even models for other Christians to follow! What goes wrong when these Christians find themselves enmeshed or ensnared in wrongful activity or compromised positions, with shifted priorities, and no power or desire to change and do what's right? Do you know any Christians like this? Is it possible that you yourself are struggling in such a situation? How does the Bible diagnose these cases and what is the cure for such confusing and often complicated predicaments?

Good king Jehoshaphat of the Old Testament is an excellent example of this problem. First let's look at the positive side. Jehoshaphat is known as one of only eight good kings in the history of the southern kingdom of Judah. 2 Chronicles 17-20 says that the Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he sought after God and took pride in the ways of the Lord (17:3-6). He was actively involved in making sure his people turned away from idols and were properly taught the Word of God (17:6-9). Through his leadership many were "brought back to the Lord, the God of their fathers" (19:4). In no uncertain terms, Jehoshaphat charged the leaders throughout the land to fear the Lord and judge righteously (19:5-11).

Chapter 20 gives us an account of Jehoshaphat's great faith in the Lord and the resulting great victory that the Lord gave him over the combined enemy forces of Ammon, Moab and Edom. Jehoshaphat knew that "right makes might", and not the size of one's army. His public prayer before going out against this enemy coalition was an outstanding model of a prayer of faith under pressure (20:5-13). Would to God that we could pray the same under pressure: "We don't know what to do, but our eyes are on Thee" (20:13).

No wonder that the summary of the life of Jehoshaphat says: "He walked in the way of his father Asa and did not depart from it, doing right in the sight of the Lord" (20:32). Overall, throughout his days, Jehoshaphat was characterized by a right heart attitude and a righteous walk before the Lord.

It is with some surprise then that we read of the events in 2 Chronicles 18. Why was good King Jehoshaphat making a military pact with wicked King Ahab (18:3)? Why was Jehoshaphat going into a battle that the Lord had plainly told him was a losing cause (18:16)? And, even harder to figure out, why was Jehoshaphat willing to submit to Ahab's crafty counsel, and ride into this losing battle as a sitting duck while Ahab protected himself with a disguise (18:29)? Can you believe it?!

What is going on here? Is this the same good King Jehoshaphat that we were speaking of in the last paragraph? Yes, this is the same king Jehoshaphat, and this unfortunately is the sad side of his story. How was it possible that Jehoshaphat could get himself so incredibly messed up in his thinking and actions? What led to the blind spots in his decision-making process? Why was he so helpless to do what he knew was right? Where did Jehoshaphat go wrong?

The biblical answers to the questions above become warnings to growing Christians. So that we don't make the same mistakes, let's trace the path that led to Jehoshaphat's lapse in faith and godliness, and precipitated his foolish decisions. It appears that the basis of Jehoshaphat's problems was simply that the Lord was no longer his number one priority, far and above all others. In chapter 18 Jehoshaphat took his eyes off the Lord as his primary reason for living and his only source of strength and security.

There's an indication of this in the first verse of the chapter. Jehoshaphat took the riches and honor which the Lord had given him (17:15) and used them to establish an unholy alliance with King Ahab. He arranged a marriage between his son, Jehoram, and Athaliah, the daughter of King Ahab and wicked Queen Jezebel. Why? "Better relations" with Ahab's northern kingdom of Israel meant more security, power, trade and wealth, for Jehoshaphat's southern kingdom of Judah! The fact that the northern kingdom of Israel was already full of idolatry and King Ahab was more evil than any king before him was conveniently overlooked by Jehoshaphat. (See 1 Kings 16.33).

This blind spot in Jehoshaphat's outlook not only led to long-range problems for Judah, but brought immediate troubles upon his nation as well. Queen Athaliah, who turned out to be as wicked as her parents, brought sorrow and unrest to Judah in the years following Jehoshaphat's death. (Read 2 Chronicles 22-23.) And look at Jehoshaphat's dilemma here in Chapter 18. He now felt obligated to make a military alliance at Ahab's request. Could good king Jehoshaphat be any more blind than when he sealed the ill-advised agreement with wicked king Ahab? Think of the implications of his statement, "I am as you are" (18:3).

How tragic for the many men in Judah who were drafted under the clause, "My people are as your people," and who then lost their lives in the ensuing battle because of Jehoshaphat's blind spots.

The fact that a shift in Jehoshaphat's priorities brought blind spots in the area of moral judgment and discrimination should not be surprising. It is a law that God has built into His moral universe. In Luke 11:34, the Lord Jesus said that when you have clear or good eyes your body is full of light, but when your eyes are diseased or damaged, your body is full of darkness! In a moral sense the Lord meant that if our spiritual eyesight is good, with our focus on Him far and above everything else, then we will see moral issues clearly and be able to make right moral judgments. As we make God's will, as revealed in His Word, the top priority in our lives, we will increasingly view our lives and make our decisions with God's perspective.

But if our spiritual eye is no longer clear and the Lord's will and interests are no longer our primary will and interest, then our spiritual eyesight is bad. Moral issues are out of focus and distorted in one way or another. Without clear spiritual vision, our blind spots will accumulate. One wrong moral judgment will lead to another--even though we are convinced we have our act together! For example, if we shift our focus away from the Lord to "my happiness", or "mymaterial security", or "strong>my advancement", our moral decisions and choices will be seriously affected. We will think in terms of "What's in it for me?" And when we are explicitly told or made painfully aware of what is morally right, if our thinking is out of focus we find ourselves unwilling (desire-wise) or unable (strength-wise) to do what is right. Obviously this is because the Lord is no longer at thecenter of our lives to give us the desire and the strength we so desperately need.

It goes without saying that in the area of our financial security it is easy to take our eyes off the Lord. Our natural desire for more can lead to questionable business decisions such as binding alliances with non-Christians. Before long our blind spots may even permit us to make shady deals or crooked transactions, scarcely realizing any longer that there is something very wrong going on!

Another area where we are prone to blind spots is the area of our physical and emotional needs. Here we are particularly vulnerable to the possibility of transferring our focus of attention from Christ to someone else. Not looking to the Lord for fellowship can lead to unhealthy friendships. Blind spots in this area may even result in marriage to an unbeliever or unholy sexual relationships outside of marriage, and here again our desensitized consciences may rationalize away any qualms we might have had about such a decision.

Oh yes, we send up token prayers along the way as, little by little, we transfer our focus and shift our priorities. In fact, these prayers may be very sincere as we look for God's blessing and guidance on (of all things!) our own course of action! Because of our blind spots we may even be convinced that we are following the Lord! Again let's consider Jehoshaphat. He sincerely wanted to know what the Lord had to say about the battle (18:4). And, unlike Ahab, he did not want to be deceived by the false prophets. Notice, however, that Jehoshaphat inquired of the Lord after he had already decided what course of action he was going to take, even though he thought he was "first" going to inquire of the Lord (18:34). It sounds crazy, but that's typical of blind spot thinking. Little wonder then that Jehoshaphat did not have the desire or the moral strength to change his already set course of action, even after the Lord explicitly spoke through the prophet Micaiah.

Although we do not like to acknowledge our blind spots, they are surely present to one degree or another if the Lord is not exclusively number one--far and above anyone or anything else in our lives. If winning an argument with a Christian brother or sister is more important than loving the arguer with Christ's love, there are blind spots. If doing only "my fair share" of the work in the church missions project becomes more important than going the extra mile in Christ's strength, then there are blind spots. If climbing the ladder of success in some ministry becomes more important than serving the people with whom I'm working, then there are blind spots. If playing favorites in the fellowship becomes more important than playing fair, then there are blind spots. If gaining supporters for my "Christian" pet peeve becomes more important than making peace, then there are blind spots. If getting for me becomes more important than giving for God, then there are blind spots. Is there any one of us who can claim immunity to blind spots? Is there any Christian fellowship or ministry that does not have some blind spots?

Blind spots get increasingly worse. Wrong moral decisions lead to further blind spots and worse moral judgments. If this cycle is not stopped, it continues until ultimately the "whole body is full of darkness" -just as our Lord stated. Our problem is not that we deliberately or willfully take our eyes off the Lord any more than Jehoshaphat did. We don't push the Lord to the back seat - we just gradually move Him out of the driver's seat.

As we are governed more and more by mixed motives and priorities, blind spots continue to creep in. The Lord is no longer consulted about decisions, such as what college to attend, or what job to take, or what close friends to have, or what to do with "spare" time and money. Without the Lord's input, the decisions we make (with mostly our own best interests in view) bring further spiritual loss in the future. There is only one solution to the problem of diseased and damaged spiritual eyes. The cure is simple to state, but not easy to follow in this attractive and alluring world: At all times keep your eyes focused on the Lord Jesus Christ!

Keeping our eyes on the Lord continuously is hard! And even when we've been forced to learn the hard way (perhaps more than once, too!), there is no guarantee that we will not fail miserably in the future. Once more let us look at the life of Jehoshaphat. After God had graciously intervened for Jehoshaphat (18:31), and after the Lord had returned Jehoshaphat safely to Jerusalem (19:1), and after Jehoshaphat had again made the Lord number one (note the word "again" in verse 4), and after Jehoshaphat had shown such outstanding faith in the battle of chapter 20, we are almost shocked to read of another unholy alliance that Jehoshaphat made with King Ahaziah, the wicked son of Ahab and Jezebel (20:35-37). 1 Kings 22:48 tells us that Jehoshaphat's motive in this deal was the gold of Ophir!

Again we see that blind spots and sad results come when we shift our focus from God to other gods--like gold. As Jehoshaphat's merchant marine ships met with disaster, so many Christians have suffered through the experience of "broken ships" - because of unholy alliances. Is it possible that your present plans and goals are in the ship-breaking stage right now because of some blind spot moral decisions in the past? What about your career or your marriage? Bring the eyes of your life back to the Lord Jesus alone so that blind spots will not continue to cause you to make distorted, wrong or even wicked moral decisions.

It's hard to believe, but 2 Kings 3 records how Jehoshaphat once again took his eyes off the Lord and made another unholy alliance with Jehoram, the wicked king of northern Israel who followed Ahaziah. Painful lesson after painful lesson will not take away blind spots if we do not learn to keep our spiritual eyes fastened on the One who alone can bring "light to our whole body".

What should be encouraging to us concerning the life of Jehoshaphat is the inspired summary statement in verse 32 of chapter 20. In spite of Jehoshaphat's several lapses in faith, God still looked at the overall godly character of his life. What a blessing it is to know our God is gracious in the way He keeps our records! What greater blessing and joy there is, however, when we keep our eyesalways on the Lord and live a life full of light, with no blind spots.
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