The origin of this saying began with the King James translation of the Bible. It dates back to 1611 and is a fascinating expression of the Father’s love for His own. I have always loved this image, but until I studied it, I had no idea of the profound intimacy this saying conveys. Nor of the promised attributes Father God is communicating to His own through these words. When He declares we are “the apple of His eye,” He’s saying so much more than He adores us, though that truth alone baffles and humbles me. In Psalm 8:4, David asks, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, and the son of man, that you care for him?” If we’re honest, we’ve asked this same question. Why does God even care to know me, much less want a relationship with me?
This speaks nothing of what we bring to the table and 100% of the character of Almighty God. And because of that, this love relationship is 100% secure. So what does it mean to be the apple of His eye?
Deuteronomy 32:10 “He found him in a desert land, and in a howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.” Here we see this phrase coming from God regarding how he responds to the human condition. A dry, desolate condition. “A howling waste of the wilderness.” This is the condition of mankind. Apart from God, we can do nothing (John 15:5b).
We need a Savior because we cannot/are not capable of saving ourselves. The humanistic approach to life, you know, the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”? Impossible. Go outside. Fall down with a pair of boots on. Now, try to pull yourself up by your bootstraps… exactly. It can’t be done. We need a Savior. But when God finds us in this pitiful condition, how does He respond? Read further. He gives us a beautiful and undeniable picture of His response to us.
“Like an eagle that stirs up his nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them n its pinions, the Lord alone guided him, no foreign god was with him.” (Dte. 32:11-12). How does He respond to our lack and desperate state? Like an eagle! Do you hear judgment in this response? No. He knows us. He is aware of our condition, level of strength, abilities, or lack thereof. That is not what He is focused on at all. He doesn’t even try to teach us how to save ourselves. Instead, He shows us a vivid image of who He is. What He does for us. And it’s not just that He comes to our rescue. He is vicious about it.
Again, in Zechariah 2:8, He comes to our defense with full power.
“For thus said the Lord of hosts, after His glory sent me to the nations who plundered you, for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye.” Let’s read further. Because God doesn’t stop there with that powerful statement. “Behold, I will shake my hand over them, and they shall become plunder for those who served them. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts sent me.” (vs. 9) Here, God is declaring not only to His own but to their enemies that He is our God, which includes protection, vengeance, and defeat over our enemies. Keep in mind, God used these adversaries to return the hearts of His people to Him. He allowed a defeat, and then He built them back up. This is His character. It’s what He does for His cherished treasures. He is faithful, and He is all about our hearts. And God follows up this truth and this declaration with the command for us to “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and will dwell in your midst.” (vs.11) Why does He protect us? Why does He draw us near? Provide for us? Because He is great, and He values us. Not because we have earned it. But because that is who He is. With all authority, He declares us worthy. It’s His righteousness that makes us holy. (Isaiah 61:10) We are His because He said so. He made us the apple of His eye. So, what does that mean, exactly?
In Hebrew, it literally translates as “little man of the eye.” This refers to the tiny reflection of oneself that is seen in someone else’s eye. Ever seen that? You’re gazing into the eyes of your loved one, and you notice that you see your own reflection in their eye.
Think of the physical closeness that is required to see your reflection in someone’s eye. Can you count on one hand how many people you would let get that close to you physically? I don’t even need the whole hand, right? That space is reserved for the intensely intimate few. A spouse, and maybe kids. Your bestie? Maybe not that close, eh?
Can you hear the invitation for intimacy here? To see your reflection in His eye, He pulls you in, really in. Super close to Him. And that’s where He wants you. Because you’re that great? No, friend. Because He is that great.
We see this phrase in three other places in God’s Word. In Psalms 17:8, the created reminds God of His promise to us. Can we do that? Remind God of His promises. Absolutely. Because when we do that, we are proclaiming His own truth. And that reminds us. If we’re honest, He doesn’t need reminding. We do.“Keep me as the apple of your eye.” David desperately needs God to pull him intimately close. To know his heart. To save, protect, and rescue him from his enemies. What is he banking on? His goodness? No. God’s goodness. His promises to us. This is what He says He will do. Rescue. Protect. Save.
Proverbs 7:2 paints a little different image of a loving father instructing his precious son. “Keep my teachings as the apple of your eye.” Again, the call to intimately hold the father’s instruction so close you can see the “little man,” the reflection of his father, in the son’s eye. Closeness. Full access to one’s soul. Lamentations 2:18 is a plea from God’s people to “let no the apple of thine eye cease” (KJV). Once we fully grasp this intimate position God Himself desires of us, we realize we can’t live without it.
We need a Savior. He says, “I am He.” Why? Because it’s who He is. Oh, praise Him. It’s not based or rooted whatsoever in what we bring to the relationship. It’s all Him.
The next time you hear this phrase, take a second and soak in its full message to you. You are the apple of His eye!