There are levels of seeing in the Bible. One is the seeing with the physical eyes of things which we are prepared to see and receive as real. Another is the seeing with the physical eyes of things which we may not yet be prepared to see and so miss, even though they are there before our eyes. We need a change of mind to prepare us to see them, even though nothing changes outside us at all. Third, there is the seeing with the eyes of the heart, which is a spiritual apprehension of moral and spiritual beauty. We need this third seeing in order to be saved, and we need the second in order to see solutions and be effective leaders. (Though I should add that some blind people have ways of seeing reality with their hands and ears that may be more penetrating than the seeing of many people with physical eyes.)
The experience I had on my running machine illustrates level-two seeing. I am looking into the picture on the wall in front of me and seeing something reflected in the glass. I can tell that what I am looking at is the reflection of the window behind me and the house next door. But there are some strange shapes that have points at the top, and I can't figure out what they are. Suddenly, with no change outside of me, I see. The shapes are nothing. They are the spaces between the icicles hanging from the gutters just above my study window. For ten seconds I was not "seeing" reality with my physical eyes. Then something happened in my mind; all at once I saw the icicles for what they were, and from then on, I could not help but see reality.
We all know what it is to see with our physical eyes what we are prepared to see. But the other two ways of seeing are less obvious. Let's consider the scriptures that illustrate these two levels.
Seeing with the Eyes of the Heart
Ephesians 1:18, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." Matthew 13:13, "Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand." This is what I mean when I say that there is a spiritual apprehension of moral and spiritual beauty. We may look at our hope of being with Christ and yet fail to apprehend anything that moves us with its spiritual and moral beauty. In that case we need to pray the way Paul does that the "eyes of our heart" may be enlightened to see and know our hope for what it really is - true and glorious and good and infinitely valuable.
Seeing with the Physical Eyes What We Did Not See before Our Minds Were Changed
Genesis 21:19, "Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the skin with water and gave the lad a drink." Hagar was sitting in the presence of a well, and yet despairing about her helpless situation without water. Oh how near are many of our solutions! But we don't see them. May God give us the change of mind to see what is really there.
Not quite in this same category are the realities that can be seen with the physical eyes, but which are not ordinarily available to our sight because God conceals them. 2 Kings 6:17, "Then Elisha prayed and said, 'O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.' And the LORD opened the servant's eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha."
Hagar's seeing of the well and Elisha's servant's seeing of the chariots are probably not in the same category. Hagar's seeing is like my seeing the icicles. Elisha's servant's seeing is more miraculous than that, as God opens the window onto ordinarily "unseen" reality. But the seeing still seems to be with the physical eyes. I think in the same category with Hagar's seeing the well is the men's seeing of Jesus at supper in Emmaus after the resurrection: Luke 24:31, "Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight."
Pray for the leaders of our church that God would give us sight at every level. We need to see spiritual beauty above all things. Then we need to see the obvious. Then we need to see the "wells" that are nearby - like the icicles. Pray for our eyes.