The Little Man of God's Eye
Are you important to God? You are. The Creator of heaven and earth considers you lovely in his sight. That seems a bold claim, for we’re accustomed to thinking of ourselves as a deeply sinful people. On our worst days, we might echo David’s words in Psalm 22:6, “I am a worm, not a man.”
And in a certain sense, it’s true. We know our sin and the condemnation we deserve. You’d have to be bold indeed to say that the Lord places on us a great value! Yet that is our status as God’s covenant people, redeemed in Christ. We are precious and beloved.
For example, think of how throughout Scripture God speaks so highly of his church. He says we’re the beautiful bride of Christ, the Father’s little children, the Lord’s own inheritance. These are identities that lift God’s people out of our mud and mess, rinse us off, and see us standing holy and radiant and pure.
To those wonderful expressions of God’s love can be added another: we are the apple of his eye. In Deuteronomy 32:10 Moses says about God’s care for Israel,
He kept him as the apple of his eye.
This snippet is from the Song of Moses. As far as songs go, it isn’t an exuberant hymn of praise. Rather, Deuteronomy 32 has been called a dirge, a song of bitter grief, expressing God’s disappointment with his people. For Israel has been stubbornly inclined to forget him. Like verse 5 says, “They have corrupted themselves; they are not his children because of their blemish, a perverse and crooked generation.”
So the glorious God looked down on all nations and could’ve chosen any of them for Himself. Yet He chose Israel. And God cared intensely for his elect: “He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of his eye” (v. 10).
The original Hebrew of this verse says literally, “God guarded them as ‘the little man of his eye.’” In the original there’s no apple, but there is a little man!
What does that mean? In God’s eye, who is the “little man” that He’s guarding? Maybe you’ve looked deeply into someone else’s eyes—your wife maybe, or your child—and peered very closely.
And if you looked intently into someone’s eyes, you might’ve noticed a tiny reflection of yourself. That reflection is seen in the black centre of the eye, the pupil. So the Israelites referred to the pupil as “the little man of the eye.” That’s what they saw there: a little man. Our word “pupil,” by the way, means the same thing. It’s from Latin, and it means “little boy” or “little girl.”
English translations have replaced that Hebrew expression with one more familiar, “the apple of the eye.” But the basic point is the same: To God, we are the pupils of his eyes, like their very centre and core.
So how does your average person treat his eyes? We’re protective of them, for what is more precious than the gift of sight? And what is more essential to our vision than those little black circles called the pupils? The pupil is also the most sensitive part of our body. If we’re ever in sudden physical danger, we shield our eyes. Or maybe we close them up tight. If a piece of debris or a bug flies close to our face, we can’t help but blink. It’s an unstoppable instinct.
This is how God guards his people. He shields us as precious and valuable, even as a person would defend his own two eyes. We’re right at the centre of God’s attention—we are the “little man,” reflected constantly in the eyes of the LORD.
Israel’s whole history was the record of this care. God brought them out Egypt and carried them every step of the way. God never let them out of his sight, for they had to be helped and protected at all costs. To God, they were too important to be destroyed by the Egyptians; too important to be destroyed by their own sinfulness. This certainly wasn’t because of their intrinsic value.
Moses recounts how rotten “these apples” could be.
And it’s not as if God needed his people. He could’ve closed his eyes to Israel and not be bothered. Yet God looked upon them in love.
Isn’t that likewise the whole story of our salvation? We are the beloved of the Lord, dearly cherished by the Maker of heaven and earth. God has made us the very apple of his eye, lovely and precious and irreplaceable.
We know this truth so certainly through what God did for us in Christ. When we were completely lost and helpless, God found us and saved us.
And God said, “These are my people, the ones I want for myself. I want to lift them up and set them at the centre of my attention. I’ll care for them. I’ll guard them, even like a man would guard his own eyes. I’ll do everything for them. I’ll even offer up for them the true ‘apple of my eye,’ sacrificing my well-beloved Son.” For us Jesus shed his precious blood, so that we might be precious to God—too precious to ever let go.
Being the apple of his eye means that we can bask every day in the shining light of God’s love. When danger approaches, God will keep us safe. When illness comes, or a crisis looms, God shields us. When temptation strikes, we just need to ask, and God will help us—in the blink of an eye. And when we sin, and we plead for mercy, God will quickly grant it.
In God’s view, we’ve become his prized possession. Through Christ’s own blood, we’re too precious to be separated from God’s love by any foe or trouble. So do not fear. And enjoy your place in the Father’s eyes!