We have heard it many times that one’s perception is reality. This is not the case, however. At least, it is not the case all the time. The word perceived means to attain awareness or understanding. When people look at an event in life there is an interpretation of that event that brings about a perceived understanding. For instance, I see two people fussing over something; I interpret that which I see, and then gain understanding with regard to the situation. My understanding may be complete or incomplete, but that is what I perceived in what I saw. If there is no correction to what understanding I gained, then that perception (awareness, understanding) becomes, to a degree, reality.
Moses and Aaron went to Egypt’s king, but as they went, they were met by the elders of Israel who were returning from having seen the king. When they met, they heard these words from their brethren, “The LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us” (Exodus 5:21, ESV). The elders of Israel perceived a situation with which they had direct experience, and they interpreted it as something that needed to be laid at the feet of Moses and Aaron. Moses and Aaron, having heard these words, also interpreted (perceived) the situation and wondered aloud to the Lord.
This goes to point out that perception is not always reality. In other words, that with which one may come away may not actually be how the situation really is. The elders misperceived the situation. The Lord knew full-well the “whys” and “wherefores.”
It is a difficult thing for us to judge as we ought to; it is not that we can’t judge correctly, only that we are apt to judge or conclude before we actually know the relevant information needed to judge properly. The Lord called upon the people of His day to judge righteously (John 7:24); this means that before a person can rightly interpret he needs all the relevant information, for without it his judgment will be incomplete.
There is another example in Scripture, this time pertaining to the apostles when they were with Jesus (Matthew 16:1-12). Jesus had recently interacted with the religious leaders and called into question the correctness of their interpretation; in fact, He said they were quite capable of judging the atmospheric weather about them, but because of their lack of true understanding in scriptural matters, they could not judge properly those things that surround Him (16:1-4). After this brief interaction, Jesus is with His disciples when He called upon them to understand that leaven can be a dangerous thing. The disciples did not catch on; they were thinking about physical food when the Lord meant for them to understand His remark metaphorically (or spiritually). It was not that long ago that the Lord fed thousands, but the disciples had their minds on one thing, and forgot the other. In other words, they allowed the word leaven to throw them off in their understanding.
This is, often times, why it is that we fail to interpret (perceive) accurately. We have our minds on one thing and the “car that drove within five feet of us” was not even seen! What makes this matter unfortunate for Christians is not only the failure to understand something in the immediate, but also that one might very well fail to understand something the Lord wants His saints to perceive (understand) accurately—and knows that one can if desired and focused. RT