June 17, 2010
The Scriptures speak of God in human terms. In a figurative way, they attribute to God our human feelings and bodily characteristics. One of the strongest statements of human emotion attributed to God comes at the time of Noah and the Flood. Genesis says, “When the Lord saw how great was man's wickedness on earth, and how no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil, the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was grieved” (Gen 6: 5-6; cf. 6:12).
But, even in the midst of this dark vision of creation, there is hope. God looked at Noah and was pleased. Noah trusted in God and obeyed his commands. Therefore, “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen 6:8). Here, in the story of Noah, the anthropomorphic image of “the eyes of God” appears for the first time in Scripture. This expression appears no less than 81 times in Scripture. The different uses of this expression can open our eyes to see many truths about the mystery of God in his dealings with us.
God sees. But he has no body. God is pure spirit. He has no eyes, but he sees. When the psalmist raises the question, “He who formed the eye, does He not see?” (Ps 94:9), he expects from us this resounding affirmative: “Yes, God sees!” The psalmist rightly understands that what is good in creation comes from the Creator. If God created the eye that his creatures might see, this good must also be present in God. Since we see, God must also see, but always in a different way and far exceeding our limited vision. God is omnipotent.
The omnipotence of God is the only attribute of God explicitly mentioned in the Creed. God is the Creator of all things. As the Apostles’ Creed states, he is the “Creator of heaven and earth” and, as the Nicene Creed says, he is the Creator of all things, “seen and unseen.” God has established the entire universe which remains always subject to him. His power knows no limits.
But God's almighty power is not whimsical or arbitrary. St. Thomas teaches that “In God, power, essence, will, intellect, wisdom, and justice are all identical. Nothing therefore can be in God's power which could not be in his just will or his wise intellect” (
STh I, 25, 5, ad 1). In fact, Scripture attests to the fact that God has revealed his omnipotence by showing to us his face as the Father Almighty. His omnipotence is his love at work in caring for our needs. God created the world to show forth his glory. And, the glory of God is man fully redeemed.
When pilgrims in ancient Israel would make their way up to Jerusalem to worship God, they would sing the Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120-134) along the steep incline from Jericho to Jerusalem. In one such song, the psalmist encourages those who face danger as they travel. He says, “He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you. The Lord will keep you from all harm...the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore” (Ps 121: 4-8). God is always watching out for his people. God looks and watches over us because he cares for us.
The Book of Proverbs affirms, “The eyes of the Lord in every place behold the good and the evil” (15:3). God sees all things. Psalm 139 poetically expands on this thought by examining the human desire at times not to be seen by God. In verses 7-12, the psalmist lists all the possible places where we can hide from God. But neither the heights of heaven nor the depths of Sheol, neither the farthest point East nor the farthest point West are outside his sight. Every place, even the most secret, is open to God’s eyes. In every moment of time, whether dark as night or bright as day, God is present. God is everywhere to see everything (cf. Jer 23:24). Even when we are just beginning our life in our mother’s womb, God’s eyes see us (Ps 139:16).
Sacred Scripture uses this very anthropomorphic image of God’s eyes to express both the omnipotence and the omnipresence of God. It does so to inspire us to trust in God at all times. There is never a moment when God does not see, when God does not care for us, when God is not present with his power to love.
As Pope Benedict XVI has said, “Even in the darkest nights of our lives, he does not abandon us… even in the last night, in the last loneliness in which no one can accompany us, the night of death, the Lord does not abandon us. He is with us even in this final solitude of the night of death. And we Christians can therefore be confident: we are never left on our own. God's goodness is always with us” (General Audience, December 14, 2005). We can always trust in a God who keeps his eyes always upon us.
(This is the second of three articles on the image of the eyes of the Lord.)