Have you ever had the sensation that you were being watched but you could not substantiate that that was actually the case? I had that sensation for much of my elementary school life. Why? What do I mean by that?
One day, probably around second grade, I came home to find out I was in trouble. Somehow my mom knew what I had done wrong in school that day in terms of my behavior. When I walked through the door my mom replayed for me in frightening detail, the particulars of my misbehavior. I was flabbergasted. How in the world did my mom know what had transpired?
I had made such a binary distinction between “home” and “school” that I could not conceive of them ever intersecting. When my mother was finished disciplining me for my miss deeds, I asked her as only a second grader might, “How did you know what I did at school today?” Now, my mom could have said what had really happened; that the teacher had called her during the day to inform mom of my behavior. Somehow, it had never occurred to me that my mom would ever have occasion or opportunity to converse with my teacher. Obviously, the technology called a “telephone” did not cross my mind. But my mom did not tell me that. Rather, she said, “I have a pair of invisible eyes that follow you around all day long. That is how I know what you are doing at all times.”
Now, that scared the bejabbers out of me. Not only was it disconcerting that my mom knew everything I did and everywhere I went while I was at school (this had disturbing implications in terms of rest room breaks) but it was “freaky” to think of a pair of invisible, floating eyeballs following me around. Often, I would look around me and behind me in the hopes that I would “catch” the eyeballs looking at me before they went into “invisible mode”. Obviously, I outgrew the fear and realized that this was my mom’s effort to mitigate wrong doing even when no one was watching. I think I was a sophomore in high school when I finally figured it out.
Now, as believers we understand the doctrine of the omniscience and omnipresence of God. Many times the Bible uses “anthropomorphic language” (i.e. human language meant to convey some spiritual truth to us that would otherwise be difficult for us to understand). So, the Bible talks about the “arms” of God, or his “nostrils”, or his “mouth”. Well, we know God has none of those physical attributes because he is pure spirit. But in order for us to understand some concept about God, this kind of language familiar to humans is used.
So it is with the “eyes of God”. Usually this speaks to us that God sees everything we do which is correct (Ps. 139). But in 2 Chronicle 16:9 the term the “eyes of the Lord” is used in a little different way. King Asa of Judah was generally a “good King”. But when Baasha, King of Israel, threatened invasion, Asa hired the King of Syria, Ben-Hadad to come and protect him instead of trusting in the Lord as he had previously done with the Ethiopian and Libyan threats. Thus, Hanani the prophet, rebuked him saying when he relied on the Lord he gave those nations into Asa’s hand (vv. 7-9). And then Hanani says, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.”
The thought here is not just that “God sees everything”; of course he does. This verse indicates that God is in an “active search” for ways to show himself strong toward those who wholeheartedly trust him. Now, does God literally have to “search” for anything. No, of course not. But here is that anthropomorphical language again. It is meant to convey that God is longing to prove himself strong to us if we will but trust in him. God strongly desires that in times of uncertainty, danger, confusion, and indecision as to what to do, we would rely on him and not the Ben-hadads of the world. God’s eyes are searching for ways to do that for us.
My mom’s construct of invisible eyes following me around all day as an elementary kid was daunting, disturbing, and scary. But the idea of God’s eyes out there searching for ways he can show himself strong on my behalf is comforting, encouraging, and uplifting.
Sadly, Asa was offended at Hanani’s rebuke and he did not end his days well, although, as we have said, he was generally a good king. Let’s not make the same mistake. Let us receive the rebuke that too often we preoccupy ourselves with how we are going to extricate ourselves from tough situations rather than trust that God himself is “searching” for a way to help us. This is not necessarily a call to inactivity in the midst of our trials. It is an encouragement to trust the one who is striving to show himself strong to us in the midst of the hardships.