I work with really smart guys who can read passages in Greek and Hebrew; they can be intimidating when they start discussing the bible!
But I’ve discovered that with a good study bible, combined with a desire to learn and a dependency on the Holy Spirit for help, even folks like us without those skills can enjoy more of the riches that God has provided to us in his word.
I have a couple of study bibles I use, with the ESV Study Bible being primary. But my old MacArthur Study Bible still gets used as well. And I pulled out both for this passage:
In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see (Isaiah 29:18).
The MacArthur Study Bible includes this helpful note on Isaiah 29:18:
The spiritual blindness of Israel will no longer exist. (emphasis mine) Jesus gives the words an additional meaning, applying it to his ministry of physical healing for the deaf and blind. Macarther Study Bible: New American Standard Bible, p. 977
So, the ‘deaf’ and the ‘blind’ in this case is everyone of the people of Israel who do not know God for who he is. Their spiritual blindness will be addressed by God himself!
Which indicate the physical healing Jesus provided is a sign pointing to something much greater – God addressing spiritual blindness. As a sign, the physical healing is secondary and of lesser importance, though clearly a very good gift that Jesus is offering. And we are told it is coming through God.
Both study bibles then point to Matthew 11:5 where Jesus uses his healing authority as evidence of something greater for John the Baptist, who has asked ‘are you the one’:
And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them (Matthew 11:4-5).”
Again, the healing is a sign of something greater – the arrival of the Messiah who will “save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).” Why would the Lord emphasize that to Joseph before Jesus was born except that it was of primary importance?
Even logically we know that physical healing is a lesser gift than spiritual healing because eventually everyone will die. And after we die, we will face God who judges rightly.
Which brought to mind Matthew 5:29:
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.
“For it is better” for us to disable ourselves than to let sin rule our lives and lead us to eternal destruction. This is another example of spiritual sight being a great deal more important than physical wholeness.
And we know that spiritual sight is not linked to physical sight:
. . . that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. . . (Ephesian 1:17-18)
This is the sight we should long for and ask for and pursue: Spirit-enlightened heart eyes!
So if you are struggling for a gift for someone this Christmas season, consider a good study bible. And point people to the free resources of Desiring God where they can read, listen to or watch what Pastor John has to say and learn even more (he also can read Greek and Hebrew!).