“Keep Me as the Apple of the Eye!”

“Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings from the wicked who despoil me, my deadly enemies who surround me” (Psalm 17:8-9).

David uses the Hebrew idiom – The apple of the eye” ; also translated, “the pupil of the eye,” in Deuteronomy 32:10, where Moses says that in respect to Jacob (as representative of the Children of Israel), God “encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye.”

The OT scholar Delitzsch comments on the meaning of the phrase: “The apple of the eye, which is surrounded by the iris, is called . . . the little man of the eye, because a picture in miniature of one’s self is seen, as if in a glass, when looking into another person’s eye.” The idea is that, “The saint knows himself to be so near to God, that, as it were, his image in miniature is mirrored in the great eye of God” (Keil and Delitzsch, Psalms, p. 148). David is praying that God will be so close to him, and he to God, that he might, were it possible, see his own reflection in God’s eyes.

Elsewhere, in Psalm 34 he expresses his confident trust that God does indeed see all that goes on in our lives as those who belong to Him, and that He is continuously acting on our behalf.  Assisted by the Holy Spirit, it’s one of many psalms that counters Satan’s attempts to undermine our assurance of God’s provision and protection. I encourage you to read all of it when you can, especially when, as the hymn writer put it, “The howling storms of doubt and fear assail.” [see, “Standing on the Promises,” p 271].  Here, I simply cite verses 15-17:

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
And His ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
To cut off the memory of them from the earth.
The righteous cry, and the Lord hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.

Back in Psalm 17:8-9, David prays for God’s ultimate protection from wicked men and women, who, with their hidden agendas and their deadly schemes, are plotting the destruction of God’s people. The threats are real and keenly felt to such an extent that he says, “They have now surrounded us in our steps; they set their eyes to cast us down to the ground” (v 11).

Incidentally, David’s statements in verses 1-5 should not lead us to think that his approach to God, anymore than ours, is based on some measure of his own personal righteousness. This would be to misread his words. While he clearly trusts that God sees his heart in the particular matter at hand, and that He will act justly on his behalf, it’s evident from what David says elsewhere in Psalm 143:1, 2, & 11 that his consistent approach to God and his experience and understanding of righteousness is grounded in the righteousness of God and not some merit of his own:

Hear my prayer, O LORD,
Give ear to my supplications!
Answer me in Your faithful
ness, in Your righteousness!

And do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
For in Your sight no man living is righteous.

For the sake of Your name, O Lord, revive me. In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble.

Again, back in Psalm 17:7, David demonstrates where his confidence genuinely resides, namely in God’s steadfast love. “Wondrously show Your lovingkindness, O Savior of those who take refuge at Your right hand from those who rise up against them.”

As New Testament believers, “taking refuge at God’s right hand” carries for us an even deeper meaning than David may have fully understood when he penned the words, “those who take refuge at Your right hand.” As the writer of Hebrews exclaims: “We have … a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens (Heb 8:1).  He both sympathizes with our weakness (Heb 4:15); and, “He is able also to save forever [‘to the uttermost’; ESV] those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25).

These are just some of the many promises and assurances that are ours in Christ as God’s own possession(1 Peter 2:9; Titus 2:14).

One last thought in relation to David’s prayer that God would keep him as the apple of His eye. Prior to making the request, in verse 4, David says, “As for the deeds of men, by the word of Your lips I have kept from the paths of the violent. In a similar vein the writer of Psalm 119 exclaims in verse 104, “From Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way”; and then in 110, “The wicked have laid a snare for me, yet I have not gone astray from Your precepts.”  David and the fellow psalmist understood, as have so many of God’s children down through the ages, that if we are to remain in fellowship with God and walk in the paths of righteousness, then His word must have priority in our lives.

So Job exclaimed, “I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).

Interestingly, Solomon enjoins our abiding need for God’s Word in a way that brings us full circle – back to the idiom “the Apple of the Eye.”  Expressive of God’s own desire for each of us in respect to His Word, is Solomon’s counsel to his own son in Proverbs 7:1-2:

My son, keep my words
            And treasure my commandments within you.

Keep my commandments and live,
            And my teaching as the apple of your eye.

I ask myself, “Is God’s Word so much a part of my daily routine that at some point every day (or, at least on a regular basis) it is literally reflected in the pupils of my eyes?”  Perhaps, remembering James’ admonition (1:19-25), it’s even more important to ask, “Is Christ’s Word reflected in my attitude and actions day by day?”

PRAYER: Father, grant us much grace that we may abide in Christ and His Word in us!

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly!”

(Colossians 3:16a)

[Unless otherwise noted, All Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible, Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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