16 For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received [have all had a share and we were all supplied with] one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped] upon gift.
17 For while the Law was given through Moses, grace ([a]unearned, undeserved favor and spiritual blessing) and truth came through Jesus Christ.
18 No man has ever seen God at any time; the only unique Son, or the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom [in the intimate presence] of the Father, He has declared Him [revealed Him and brought Him out where He can be seen; Jesus Christ has interpreted God and has made God known].
July 3, 2016
Across the country this July 4th holiday weekend, there are many traditions that families will celebrate with one another. It is a quintessentially American holiday….as American as baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie. It is a holiday feast for the eyes, too. Firework displays, red/white/blue banners, parades, flags, food-laden picnic tables. Tomorrow at a local parade we will see the delight on the faces and in the eyes of children as they line the road and watch the floats, costumed people, vintage cars, and more. One piece of national history you may recall is the Uncle Sam posters that were printed during WWI and made famous a red/ white/ and blue bedecked grey haired man pointing out from the picture and the text, “Uncle Sam wants you!” Uncle Sam from the initials U.S., is a common national personification of America that actually came into use during the War of 1812. According to legend, Samuel Wilson, a meat packer in New York, supplied rations for the soldiers and stamped the letters U.S. on the boxes, which stood for United States but was jokingly said to be the initials of Uncle Sam. The Uncle Sam military recruiting poster produced in 1917 was said to have eyes that seemed to stare and follow a person as they moved away from it. Such a direct and piercing look into one’s eyes can draw others in, leave a haunting memory. It can also sparkle with joy and express many other emotions.
A piercing or persistent gaze can bring a realization that can delight us or make us squirm self-consciously. Even amazingly small deviations of the eyes can be detected. The eyes truly give much information about us, if one knows how to read them.
There is a phrase that many of you may have heard, or perhaps even used, to indicate special favor shown to a person or preference for another person. It is a simple phrase: to be “The apple of my eye”. It is a phrase used to imply favor and delight in another person. Have you ever been called the apple of someone’s eye? How did that feel for you to be that loved and cherished by someone? Or have you looked upon someone special in your life and called them the apple of your eye? Perhaps a spouse or a child or a grandchild….This is a very biblical phrase. It is used in several places.
In Psalm 17:8 we find the Psalmist beseeching God with these words:
“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.”
In Proverbs 7:2 we read “Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.” In this verse the Lord is instructing his people through King Solomon’s wisdom.
In Deut 32:10 we read “In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye.” Here we see the Lord’s behavior toward his people represented by Jacob, seeking, protecting, and guarding.
In Zechariah 2:8 we read “For this is what the Lord Almighty says: “After he has honored me and has sent me against the nations that have plundered you–for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye.”
Ancient people called the pupil of the eye the “apple” of the eye. When two people stand together closely, eye to eye with adequate light shining around and down on them, the pupil of the eye of each person reflects the image of the other. We can see ourselves reflected in the eye of another person with whom we are in close proximity and intentionally focused in an attentive gaze. Our eyes are extremely adept at looking for the perfect roundness in another person’s eyes, which if we connect with such a gaze, it means that the other person is looking at us.
When we are close to God and focused on Him, and searching for ourselves in Him (or He is searching for himself in us!) we are the apple of His eye and He is the apple of ours.
A few years ago a friend gave me this framed picture of an apple branch with the phrase “You are the apple of God’s eye.” I value it because it reminds me that I am someone special to God. This phrase is a wonderful word picture in scripture of being cherished by God….of being the apple of His eye.
As I have meditated on these scriptures, it seems to me that there are three aspects of this metaphor that commend themselves to us for study, things that we would be well served to be remember.
The first thing about being the apple of someone’s eye is the requirement for us to be very close. Close proximity is necessary. One has to be pretty close to another person to see the pupil of that person’s eye. The pupil is actually a circular hole in the center of the iris, a central aperture through which light enters the eye. The muscular iris is the colored ring in the eye and controls the amount of light that can enter the eye by adjusting the size of the opening, of the pupil. If bright light shines on the eye, the iris will respond by reducing the size of the pupil. If a person is in dim light or sees an item or person of interest, something to which he or she wishes to pay closer attention, the iris will cause the pupil to become larger, allowing more of the image of the preferred object to be seen with the eye! Scientists can use the fact that people’s pupils widen when they see something they’re interested in as a measurement, tracking the changing size of the pupil as a way to measure what they are interested in, attracted to, or focusing on.
Have you ever seen your own image in the dark pool of the pupil of another’s eye, very close to one another in a firm and intent stare? The proximity that is required is quite close. About a forearm’s length, about 18-24 inches from one another, is what required to get close enough to see one’s reflection in another person’s pupil. So if I am to be the apple of God’s eye or of another person’s eye, or if God or another person is to be the apple of my eye, I have to be close to God or that person. Now God is not a body, so we have to understand this in physical terms with another human being so that we can gain spiritual perspective on how it works with God, who is Spirit. The thing to recognize is that God desires us to be close to Him, as if we were looking at Him eye to eye. It is my observation that God has provided for us in the natural, physical realm, a number of examples that represent spiritual realities. The closeness which is required physically to see ourselves in one another’s pupils gives us a physical picture of the kind of spiritual closeness that is required for God to see his image in us and for us to experience ourselves as being the apple of God’s eye.
Secondly, if we are to be the apple of God’s eye, we must be focused on His eye. For the image to be reflected dedicated focus is required. You can’t just glance at one another or give a nod from a distance and see this remarkable image of yourself in another person’s eye.
Thirdly, if we are that close and that focused on one’s eye to be able to see ourselves in the pupil of that person’s eye, there is a sense in which we will need to feel secure. We will not draw that close to another being and remain still and focused on the eyes with a person with whom we do not feel safe. The very act of looking deeply into another person’s eyes, engaged in voluntarily, says, “I am comfortable with you. I feel safe this close to you.”
The eyes have been called the window of the soul. To look directly and intently into someone’s eyes risks seeing and being seen for who we really are. And, in fact, when we see our own reflection in another person’s pupil, we are seeing ourselves as we really are and they, too, are seeing us as we really are. And we are seeing them as they really are. There is no hiding from one another at that close distance and with that intent visual focus.
If we stay in that posture- close in proximity, focused in our gaze with attention on one another’s eyes, and secure in this intimate posture – spiritually speaking, near to God’s heart, so much so that we could see His eyes if he were a physical body, we will be safe, accountable, and obedient to the Lord. And even when we glance away for a moment, God does not ever blink or look away. He keeps His eye upon us. He watches us day and night……we are under His watchful care and protection all the time. Even when our eyes are wandering……when our focus is lost, when we wander away from his close presence, He is still focused on us!
What a wonderful, loving, good, Father God we have! He loves us! He wants to look into the depth of our eyes – closely, attentively, and intimately – and see in us His own image. That is how he saw Jesus- as the one who perfectly reflected God’s own image. Jesus has provided the means through His death and resurrection for each of us to be seen by the Father the same way, as if He were looking at Jesus each time He looks at us, too. Like Jesus, each of us who believes in Jesus is the apple of God’s eye……his cherished and favorite sons and daughters! That makes me feel very special, to know that I am loved that much by the Almighty God of the Universe.
It is easy to believe, when we can imagine ourselves that close and loved that much by God that we must be more special than others. The fact is, God loves and desires each person to draw into that close, focused, and intimate relationship with him, no matter where they live, no matter the culture in which they have been raised, no matter what conduct might have separated them from God in the past.
God is not partial. There is no nation more favored, no color more beautiful, no language more preferred, no sacrifice or service done in his name more valued. God stands before each of us, close, focused, and searching for his own image in us. How comfortable are we standing still for that kind of searching scrutiny by God? Are we desiring that God would be that present to us in a loving, intent gaze into our souls through the window of our eyes? If we have professed faith in Christ, we can stand up under that close, focused, gaze….. because what God sees when he looks at us is the righteousness of Jesus Christ, who died to give us that inheritance. And what we will see of ourselves when we look into the loving eyes of the Father will be the image of Christ! That is whose image we bear in our salvation…Jesus Christ’s!
I pray that you know that special relationship with God, that you have believed in Jesus Christ and that you know how very cherished you are by God! He keeps us as the apple of his eye. Let us return the gaze and seek to keep God and his perfect will as the apple of our eye, as well!
The way to keep our eye focused on God…..is by reading and meditating on His Word, by praying, by worshipping together, by expressing our gratitude for God’s provision, by giving generously for the continued growth of God’s kingdom, and by serving one another as if we were serving Christ himself! Those are the ways we keep our eyes on God. And we can know without a doubt that, since we are even more special than the sparrows, that His eye is on us continually! His favor is revealed in the close, protective, and loving way in which God keeps us as the apple of his eye.