On Being the Apple of His Eye

I grew up in the south.  We drank lots of sweet tea, cheered at men chasing after a leather ball, and talked a little funnily.  When I say that we “talked a little funnily,” I’m not just talking about the classic southern twang (think “Matthew McConaughey” if you’re not sure what I’m talking about).  It’s more than just drawing out our vowels for an extra syllable or two. It’s about the way we use words.

For example, people who are acting too proud of themselves are “getting too big for their britches.”

Then, when we make plans there is always the caveat that we’ll follow through as long as “the creek don’t rise.”  

And everyone lives “over yonder”, even if they are down the road just passed that old broken down truck that Mr. Smith still hasn’t moved out of his north field. If you get to the south field, you’ve gone too far.  That makes sense, right?

If I’ve lost you, well...bless your heart!  Let’s try to get back on track.

One other phrase I hear a lot (and maybe you’ve heard this one, too) is “apple of your eye.”  When you hear this phrase, you might as well just settle down for a spell. Because whoever uttered the phrase is about to give you an earful about a special someone in their life: boyfriend/girlfriend, father/daughter, me/coffee.  

Apple of Your Eye: Not Just a Colloquialism

For the longest time I just chalked this phrase up to bizarre colloquialisms/Southern-ness.  But then I was reading through Zechariah.  

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.  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 has sent me. (ch 2, vs 8 ESV).

And a couple of days later I was reading through Psalm and found:

I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;

incline your ear to me; hear my words.

Wondrously show your steadfast love,

O Savior of those who seek refuge

from their adversaries at your right hand.

Keep me as the apple of your eye;

hide me in the shadow of your wings.

From the wicked who do me violence,

My deadly enemies who surround me

(ch 17, vs 6-9 ESV)

Over the span of a few days I suddenly realized that the phrase “apple of your eye” didn’t come from some story about a kid plucking an apple from a tree and throwing it at a girl’s face to get her attention.

“Apple of your eye” means how much God loves us.  

Apple of Your Eye: What It Means

According to Strong’s Concordance, the original Hebrew words were ishon, meaning “the pupil of the eye” and ayin or “an eye.”  Others suggest that the Hebrew word ishon can be used to mean “apple.”  And some just think that the pupil of the eye is referred to as an apple because of its round shape.  With all of these suggestions and explanations, the whole idea of being the apple of God’s eye got a little murky for me.

It’s easy to get bogged down in interpretations and explanations and versions - I have a tendency to live in that bogged down state.  Normally when I get there, I just drop everything and run. Sifting through the origin of words is only exciting for so long. But I couldn’t let this one go.  It just didn’t make sense to me - I didn’t deserve to be the apple of God’s eye.

What it means to be the apple of His eye (via Tirzah Magazine).png

Man-ness vs. God-ness

Have you ever locked eyes with someone and just let yourselves be in that moment?  Everything around you fades away and you are completely consumed by whatever’s going on between you and him/her.  Then you look deeply into those eyes and there, in the pupils, you see a reflection of yourself. And in the pupil of your eye, that someone sees his/her reflection.

This is iysh, meaning man.  That Hebrew word, ishon, is derived from iysh.  My research suggested that “apple of the eye” could be a reference to the tiny man that appears in one’s eye as a reflection of another.

Y’all (there’s the Southern-ness peeking out), this means that God looks at us and sees himself.  

He created us to reflect his goodness.  And we screwed up - that’s called sin.  But his desire is to know us and to know us well.  So he sent his son to take away all the mess of our humanity.  He has bestowed upon us mercy and grace, love and peace.

We are the apple of his eye...when we allow that mercy, grace, love and peace to wash over us we will look more and more like him.  And when we look intently upon him, maybe, just maybe, we’ll get a glimpse of who he wants us to be.

Focusing on the God-ness

It is so easy to get bogged down in details, in semantics, or in who we are and where we’ve come from.  

But God sees us covered by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).  He sees us as a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:16-21).  He desires to pour his love out on us (1 John 3:1).  

My friends, this is serious business.  Despite all of the ways that you fail - the lies you tell, the relationships you abuse, the times you refuse to follow God’s leading - there is nothing you can do to shake off his love.  He will always have his eyes locked onto yours, desiring to know you better.  And desiring for you to know him better.

You’re the apple of his eye.  


Mary Elizabeth has been doing life in Nashville, TN for five and a half years. She currently work for a faith-based nonprofit as an after-school program coordinator...and wearer of many other hats. Outside of work, she is known for her baked goods (it's been suggested that she start a "Muffin Ministry") and her tendency to disappear into the woods at random intervals.