New Series 11. Lifting up the Eyes.

We usually prefer to have dealings with a man who looks us straight between the eyes, for we assume he is a man of candour, of honesty and of courage. And generally speaking, a man's clear and steady eyes and his habit of using them may be taken as reliable indications of his character. It was said of old, "A wise man's eyes are in his head," and, "The eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth." — Eccl.2:14.; Prov. 17:24.

The wise man invariably sees what is immediately before him, and gives it his immediate and undivided attention. But the foolish person allows his thoughts to wander aimlessly in all directions, and, as a consequence, misses "the one thing needful." Hence we have in another place the following exhortation. "Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee." Prov. 4:25.

But while a man may have a wise and brave look to give his fellows, and a prudent and discerning outlook into the future, what are these in value as compared with the power and privilege of looking upward? Herein lies a fundamental distinction between humanity and the beasts that perish. It is possible for man because he is a man to look above to God, his Creator and Preserver, his Father and Friend. To the upturned eye heaven lies about us, and in this attitude we realize that God is not far off but near at hand.

No time to look up

It is lamentable, however, that some men do not care to look up. The day's routine of duties, the newspaper, the reading and writing of letters, relaxation, amusements, friendly chats, fill up the hours in quick succession. In result no opportunity is found for turning the thoughts heavenward, or, if found, is not welcomed and used. Minor occupations are allowed to crowd God out of the life.

These are the men whose type Bunyan shows us in his dream, when he depicts a man with a muck-rake in his hand, who could look no way but downward. There stood one over him, proffering him a celestial crown for his muck-rake. Yet he did not look up nor regard, but raked to himself the straws, the small sticks, and the dust of the floor. In this fruitless occupation he truly resembles those who count heaven a fable, and who to their infinite loss believe that present things alone have real substance and are "worth while."

Afraid to look up

Another class of men do not dare to look upward. The Lord in a parable spoke of such an one who went into the temple to pray. There, being convicted of sins, he durst not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

The tears of his penitence filled his eves, and he dreaded to look upon Him against whom he had sinned. But the truth he had not grasped was that God, to whom he was answerable as a sinner, was ready to pardon, and that a Divine invitation was addressed to him, and to every other guilty one: "Look to Me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else." — Isa. 45:22. Ezra, the priest, confessing his own sin and the sins of his people, acted on this invitation and lifted up his eyes to God in spite of his sense of guilt. He said, "O my God; I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God, for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up into the heavens." — Ezra 9:6.

The habit of the upturned eye

The Christian is entitled to look up to God as a continual daily habit for help and for protection. Countless dangers surround and threaten us, but there is ever a Faithful and Omnipotent Guardian to whom we may confidently appeal before as well as in the hour of peril.

In this connection it is useful to remember Bishop Hannington's "Travelling Psalm," — Psalm 121, a portion which he was accustomed to read or repeat every morning at sunrise during his perilous journeys in the African wilds.

The opening stanza of the Psalmist is "I will lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence comes my help." To the singer of Israel the holy hill of Zion was the dwelling-place of Jehovah and the source of his deliverance. — Ps. 3:4; Ps. 14:7. There was the same unseen, unslumbering, vigilant Presence that enfolded the feeble exiles in His everlasting wings whether they were in Mesopotamia or in Africa.

There is a power of comfort in these pious aspirations which multitudes have adopted and proved. David Livingstone on leaving his Scottish home in 1840 to start on his missionary tour to the unknown African deserts read this Psalm in the early morning to his parents and prayed with them. There were forty years of peril before him, but he learned at the outset to lift up his eyes.

William Edwards, a resident magistrate, had a marvellous escape from the rebels in the Indian Mutiny. He and his party were in flight from June 1st to August 27th, 1857. Often in the most imminent peril, the Bible was their unfailing source of comfort. On the day they reached safety with Havelock at Cawnpore, Edwards wrote in his diary, "Today's Psalms are most consoling, and wonderfully suited to our case, especially the 121st." They lifted up their eyes, and help and deliverance came to them that very day.

Read also Psalm 123 which expresses the look of servants to their master.

The look for help

Sometimes you may be uncertain what to do next. Then also you should lift up your eyes; for irrevocable errors are easily made. It is better in every emergency to cry out like the prophet, "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walks to direct his steps." —  Jer. 10:23, and continuing, say further like the Psalmist, "My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer to thee, and will look up. And the divine response to this upward gaze will be, "I will guide thee with Mine eye. — Ps. 5:3; Ps. 32:8; Ps. 33:18.

The look of the watcher

Again, we ought to lift our eyes in continuous expectation of the coming Christ. The watcher who looks up out of the present murky gloom will see by faith Him who said, I am the bright and morning Star. He is the Harbinger of the coming day of peace and glory for the whole world during the thousand  years of His happy reign.

Nineteen centuries ago before the Lord departed from this world to go to the Father, He made a definite promise to His disciples, saying, If I go away, I will come again and receive you to Myself." This promise He must and will redeem sooner or later, and His return cannot now be far off, nor can this return surely be a matter of indifference to His loyal followers.

If we love and serve Him it behoves us to remember His promise, and to lift up our eyes to heaven, "from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ," for "the coming of the Lord draws nigh," and "to them that look for Him will He appear the second time without sin to salvation."

The Lord's final message to His waiting church is, "Behold, I come quickly." May our answer be, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."  — Rev. 22:20.

Let not, therefore your heads be bowed down like bulrushes, but be sure to cultivate the upward look, so that having the fear of God before your eyes you know no other fear. Seek to sing truthfully to the Lord the following lines:

"I look to Him till sight endear
The Saviour to my heart;
To Him I look who calms my fear,
Nor from Himself depart.

I look until His precious love
My every thought control,
Its vast constraining influence prove
O'er spirit, body, soul.

To Him I look, while still I run,
My never-failing Friend;
Finish He will the work begun,
And grace in glory end."