Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard
It’s probably Paul’s quotation of Isaiah 64 that has become the best known version of this phrase:
“As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man… (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Such words can be the equivalent of a magician’s puff of smoke. When stumped for answers, the Bible teacher can stroke their chin and chant: “Ahhhh… Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard…” Ignorance is rebranded as “mystery” and we’re all ushered away from the scene of the controversy. But that’s not what Paul nor Isaiah meant.
Let me quote Isaiah 64 in a more modern translation:
Since ancient times no-one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. (Isaiah 64:4)
Here is the thing which “eye hath not seen” – a living God. In a world full of gods who claim to be God – there’s only One true God. And the mark of this true God is this: He works and His people wait.
All the other gods wait while their people work. They sit back on their thrones, distant and waiting to be impressed. Human religion has humans working and the gods waiting.
Isaiah says that the real God is the One who works while we wait. “He acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.” It’s the total reverse.
Human religion has humans working for a waiting god.
The Bible has God working for His waiting people.
Human religion has humanity centre stage doing it all while God idly watches. The gospel has God shooing us off the stage. He seats us in the audience to watch Him work salvation for us.
That’s what marks Him out as the true God, and this is what “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard.” It’s utterly unique: He acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.
Why does He do it that way? Well we all know the phrase “If you want a job done properly, do it yourself!” That’s what He’s said earlier in Isaiah:
The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation. (Isaiah 59:15-16)
If you want a job done right, do it yourself. So His own Arm works salvation for Him. We have already met “the Arm of the LORD” in Isaiah 53:1. He is the King who became the Servant who became the Lamb. Christ is God’s Arm who works salvation for Him.
Jesus comes into our world, into our humanity. He is God the Son, doing human life for us. In our place and on our behalf He lived the life we should live and then died the death that we should die. He rose again to new life and ascended to the Father as our perfect Sacrifice and Priest. As the Arm of the LORD He does it all and scoops us up into the Father’s presence.
What do we do? Well we are simply beneficiaries of His mighty acts of salvation. He works for us, we wait on Him. What a God! Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard such condescension and love!