SEEING THE UNSEEN
T. Pierce Brown
Paul says in 2 Corinthians4:18, “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” As I meditated on some implications of that for us, my thoughts turned to the story in 2 Kings 6 in which the King of Syria had sent his army to capture and destroy the prophet because Elisha knew and exposed his plans. It is interesting to note the strange and inconsistent reasoning of those who rejected God. They admitted that Elisha and his God knew of their other plans and could outwit them, but for some reason they assumed that the same pair would be helpless in this situation.
First, let us note the ease and danger of seeing only the visible. All men, both believers and unbelievers, can see the visible and are without excuse for rejecting the evidence that is clearly before them. “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psa. 19:1). Because they so clearly show Divine power and glory, Paul says in Romans 1:20, “For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even His everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse: because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened.” Notice that one should be able to see the invisible things clearly because some visible things are so plain. That is, the everlasting power and divinity of God can not be missed by an honest person who looks carefully at the things that are made and can be seen by the natural eye.
We can see, therefore, that those who see only the visible with the natural eye are both impoverished and endangered. They are impoverished because most of the world, even the natural world, is made up of unseen things. Not only can we not see the atoms and molecules with our natural eyes, every invention resulted from seeing the unseen.Edisondid not see the electric light with his natural eyes until he first saw it with his mental ones. No doubt Howe saw the sewing machine and Ford saw the car when it was yet unseen.
There is something profound and wonderful in the fact that even the things we think we see are in their most real and significant sense unseen. For example, I may take my compass and draw what I call a circle on a piece of paper. It is not really a circle, for by definition “a circle is a line, a closed plane curve, every point of which is equidistant from another point called the center.” The line which I draw, although it be but 1/100 of an inch thick, does not have EVERY point on it equidistant from the center, for some points will be 1/100 of an inch more distant than another. The real circle must be unseen, for I can only draw a representation of it. If you do not understand that, do not be too concerned. However, it will help you to be aware that the most real or basic things in the world are the unseen ones. We only see a representation of them. You cannot see love, but you can see a manifestation of it.
I can think of nothing good or great that has ever been accomplished without a vision of the unseen beckoning the one who could see it. So “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Pro. 29:18) is especially relevant if we apply it to a vision of the unseen. If you do not see the unseen, you will be impoverished even to the point of extinction.
Thus, we will be both impoverished and endangered, because the things that are most valuable in terms of safety, both physical and spiritual are made up of unseen things. In the physical area, all the elements that make growth and health possible are unseen. All the spiritual values, such as love, faith, hope and any other, are unseen. They are seen intellectually or spiritually, and this is a part of what Paul means in 2 Cor. 4:18 when he speaks of looking on the things are not seen.