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The apple of my eye

January 2012 | by Timothy Cross

The apple of my eye

The expression ‘You are the apple of my eye’ has entered popular poetry and song. The term is used to describe someone very dear and special to us.

Think, for instance, of a couple on their wedding day, making their marriage vows. There are millions of women in the world, but out of them all, this one woman is uniquely special to this one man. He has chosen just her to be his special, life-long companion, and has pledged marital faithfulness to her alone. She is ‘the apple of his eye’.
    
Ancient pedigree

The expression has an ancient pedigree. It goes back to the time of Moses, some 1600 years before Christ. Amazingly, it refers there not to the love and affection which occurs between human beings, but to the love and tender care which almighty God has burning in his heart for his people.
    In Deuteronomy 32:9-10, Moses wrote: ‘For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the place of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land and in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; he encircled him. He instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye’.
    Then, many centuries later, after the exile of God’s people to Babylon and their subsequent return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, and in spite of their sin bringing upon them God’s righteous chastisement, the covenant love of God for his people was still the same.
    They were his special people, for we read in Zechariah 2:8, ‘For thus says the Lord of hosts: he sent me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye’.
    In Old Testament times, therefore, out of all the peoples and nations of the world, God had his special people, whom he had chosen and redeemed for himself. They were ‘the apple of his eye’. This special relationship was not due to any merit in themselves, but solely to God’s electing love and sovereign grace.
    God himself reminded them: ‘For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.
    ‘The Lord did not set his love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you…’ (Deuteronomy 7:6-8).
    
God’s love

The love of God for his people is the greatest and most unfathomable mystery of all. That a holy God, all-sufficient in and of himself, should love sinners and enter into a special relationship with them is beyond belief — but the Bible tells us it is so.
    A literal translation of the Hebrew expression ‘apple of my eye’ would read ‘little man of my eye’. It is a reference to the pupil — the delicate and sensitive part of the eye, essential for sight and protected by the eyelid.
    Clearly, the expression is figurative, since, even though the God of the Bible is all-seeing, he has no physical eyes. ‘God is Spirit’ (John 4:24), that is body-less. The term though speaks volumes about the reality of God’s sensitivity towards the people he loves.
    The eye is one of the most sensitive parts of the body. A tiny grain of sand produces an irritation out of all proportion to its size. But, in the age to come, the Bible reveals that ‘God will wipe away every tear from their [his redeemed peoples’] eyes’ (Revelation 7:17).
    ‘He who touches you touches the apple of his eye’. We are dealing here with a term of endearment — with the love of God for his children. The Christian’s salvation is due solely to the love of God.
    The initiative in salvation is always with God and not with us. Our love for him is always a response to his love for us. ‘In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins … We love him because he first loved us’ (1 John 4:10,19).
    Salvation is the result of the love of God. If we rejoice in God’s salvation, it is because, in love, God the Father chose us to be saved before the foundation of the world, and in his love sent his Son to die to procure our salvation. ‘Christ also has loved us and given himself for us’ (Ephesians 5:2).
    Then, in God’s providential timing, he sent his Holy Spirit upon us to apply the work of Christ’s salvation to our hearts, bestowing on us saving faith in the crucified Saviour. ‘The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who was given to us’ (Romans 5:5).
    
God’s care

Christians therefore are most certainly ‘the apple of God’s eye’, because they are the recipients and beneficiaries of the triune love of the triune God — ‘elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 1:2).
    Amidst the turmoil of his life, David prayed to God, ‘Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings’ (Psalm 17:8). Such is a good prayer for us, when we are aware of our weakness and vulnerability in this difficult and dangerous world.
    If we belong to Jesus, we may be reassured that we are not mere pawns at the mercy of ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’; we are loved by God. We are safe under his providential care.
    He says, ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love’ (Jeremiah 31:2). On the authority of the Bible: ‘He cares for you’ (1 Peter 5:7).
Loved with everlasting love,
Led by grace that love to know
Spirit, breathing from above,
Thou hast taught me it is so.
O this full and perfect peace!
O this transport all divine!
In a love that cannot cease,
I am His and He is mine.

George Wade Robinson
(1838-77)

Timothy Cross