“And They Lifted Up Their Eyes…”

Throughout the time I have been studying Genesis, I have been interested in the choice words that Moses uses in his writing. One of the phrases first appears when Lot and Abraham decide to separate. “And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (That was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)” Genesis 13:10. 

I wondered why Moses used those specific words. Why “lift up his eyes”? But Moses doesn’t stop there. In Genesis alone the phrase is used ten times. It appears in other books of the Bible an additional seventeen times. 

Lot lifting his eyes to see how beautiful the Jordan Valley was led him down a path that would result in residing in a city that God would eventually destroy. What was desirable to him was actually evil in God’s sight. But there are times when the phrase is used to describe seeing something amazing and good. When three visitors come to visit Abraham (Gen. 18:2), when God sends a ram during the sacrifice of Isaac (Gen. 22:13), when Isaac first lays eyes on Rebekah (Gen 24:63), and when Rebekah first sees Isaac (Gen. 24:64). But as I was looking up each verse and looking into the context of which these verses fall, I found this one in Matthew 17. It is during the Transfiguration. Jesus is on a high mountain with Peter, James, and John. There Jesus is transfigured before them, and Moses and Elijah appear. Peter does what Peter often does and suggests putting up three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. But a bright cloud overshadows them and then God speaks from heaven, which frightens the disciples. But Jesus comforts them, telling them to get up and to not be afraid. Then Matthew writes, “And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.” (Matthew 17:8) 

I thought that this was such a beautiful verse. I know that in context, the verse is saying that it’s just Jesus now on the mountain with them. That Elijah and Moses are gone. But I haven’t been able to get this verse out of my head. 

During this time when social media and the news are all we are consuming, I find myself a lot like Lot. On Instagram I see perfect moms making perfect crafts with their perfect children, thriving in quarantine. I see kitchens that I long to have as my own. Clothes, shoes, makeup. I think those things will make me happy, so I take up residence there and then wonder why I’m so discontent. Or there’s the other end of the spectrum. The first week of quarantine, I obsessively checked the numbers of positive virus cases every twenty minutes. Then when I realized how anxious it was making me, I turned to facebook. I scrolled through articles, opinions, and memes. Instead of feeling empowered and knowledgable on what was going on, I still felt depressed and even more anxious. We are constantly lifting our eyes to things. But what if we lifted our eyes and saw no one but Jesus? 

I think this is such a beautiful prayer to pray. During a time when everyone is hurting, when hope seems bleak, when people are sick, losing jobs, or unable to be with loved ones- what if our prayer was to look up and only see Jesus? How different would our lives look?

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