“For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: He had blinded their eyes … ” John 12:39-40
Many struggle with verses like this. To read God would deliberately blind the eyes of people so they couldn’t believe seems not only deeply unfair, but also incompatible with a God of love. Let’s take a closer look. The Jews didn’t bother making the distinction between those things which God initiated and those things which God allowed. The Jews believed completely in the Sovereignty of God and since he created the principle you reap what you sow, they saw God as being responsible for everything, good and evil.
So, if a person deliberately chooses not to believe, the consequence they have chosen is to be blinded. Here this consequence is blamed solely on God because the Jews saw him as being ultimately responsible. The Message gives another perspective, “First they wouldn’t believe, then they couldn’t …”. They sowed unbelief, they reaped spiritual blindness.
The Message continues a few verses later, “If anyone hears what I am saying and doesn’t take it seriously, I don’t reject him … But you need to know that whoever puts me off, refusing to take in what I’m saying, is willfully choosing rejection” (verses 47-48). Jesus doesn’t reject anyone who comes to him, but if we continually and knowingly reject him, like the Pharisees, we are choosing spiritual blindness.
Whilst I believe in the Sovereignty of God, I like to make the distinction between those things which God initiates and those things which God allows. While I don’t always understand why God allows some things to cross my path, I know I can trust in the love and justice of an all-good God.