The Apple of God's Eye

Psalm 17

Most of us have been hurt about what people say to us or what they say about us to others.
There are times that we've been distressed because we have been misunderstood,
misinterpreted, and misused.
It really hurts when the opinions of others go against us.

Then there are times that we can't explain ourselves, and gain affirmation of our values or actions.
We have all felt defensive when we have been attacked.
It hurts when we have been maliciously criticized or destructively, gossiped about.

Those times can happen in a marriage.
Those times can happen among people who work with us or for whom we work or those who work for us.
People can be cruel in what they say, even people who are considered to be our friends.
Sometimes those who hurt us are people in opposing political parties or people
who hold different convictions from ours.

There are those who question our theology and maybe even cast suspicions on our relationship with God.
What do you do when someone becomes a self-appointed, reformer with the purpose
of straightening you out?
It really hurts, doesn't it?

Our inner emotions can reverberate for days after encounters with people like that.
Many times that hurt will last for months.
When our integrity is challenged, the memory of the cutting criticism lingers on for months,
and maybe even for years.
You don't want to become an unfeeling person, but often repeated hurts build layers of scar tissue.
We get to the place that we don't want to be hurt anymore, so we say we don't care what people think.
But we do!

What can we do?
How can we be open to learn from what people say without getting caught in the whirling,
downward spiraling of the tornado of discouragement?
Is there a creative way of sorting out truth in what people may say?
How do we separate their confused motives from what we may need to hear?

We may have committed the treason of saying the right thing for the wrong reason
with the wrong thing for the right reason.
Some people can be written off with a "consider the source" self-justification.
Others are significant, admired people in our lives, and we cannot easily dismiss what they say.
The hurt is no less severe when our personalities or character are challenged.

It would be good if we could have a sense of humor when we are maligned by unthinking people.
Such as the story of a man who received a letter.
On the stationary only one word was printed in bold, black letters: "Stupid!"
The man's immediate response was to say, "I receive many letters where the sender forgot to sign.
This is the first one that was signed, and the writer forgot to write the message

But what about letters of demeaning criticism that are signed?
It forces us to evaluate what is written, and who signed them.
Lots of energy can be expanded reacting to what people write or say,
and often hurts from our past intensify what is said to or about us.

We overact because of unsolved memories.
Dealing with the matter is difficult whether the present or the past hurt inflames us.
We become so defensive that we may explode with indignation and miss something we may need to hear.
Someone may say, "Why are you so upset?
I just made a suggestion, and you act as if I've declared war on you

What about our negative criticism of people?
The amazing thing about us as people is that even though we know how much debilitating words hurt us,
we often hurt others..
In fact, people who have been hurt are often the most destructive in their words.
Strange, isn't it?

You would think that our own smarting emotions with make us determine never to hurt anyone
as we have been hurt.
Not so – we often repeat the cycle.

Alexander Whyte, the great Scottish preacher of years ago, asked three questions
when tempted to level cutting criticism on someone else.
The questions are:
Is it true?
Is it necessary?
Is it helpful?

The same questions can be asked when we are hurt by what people say.
Often all three questions can be answered, "yes," and we can learn and grow
through what is said to us.

But such an attitude is dependent on a daily communion with our great God in prayer,
in which we gain perspective and stability.
God wants to help us sort out what He may be saying to us through other people,
regardless of their personal natures, which may be combative for competitive.
God desires to make us so secure in His love that we are able to allow Him to give us
the courage to change if the criticism is true and the fortitude and determination
to endure when it is false.

Now let us look at the setting of the Psalm.

David had been greatly criticized and under the gun, when he wrote the seventeenth psalm.
Many biblical expositors suggest that this song was written when he was forced to flee
because of the neurotic jealousy that Saul had of him.

Remember how the slaying of Goliath gained David recognition and adulation.
He became one of Saul's most gallant warriors.
When he rose to power as a leader of the armies of Saul and had distinguished himself in battle,
the people foolishly compared him to the king.
They chanted, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands!"
(1 Samuel 18:7)

The king grew suspicious and jealous, and became gripped with panic over David's popularity.
Though David remained faithful to Saul, the king's jealousy made him an enemy.
A price was placed on David head, and David had to flee for safety.

Probably during one of the long nights in flight, his exile heart turn to the Lord for strength
and encouragement in the midst of hostile accusations and charges of treason against the king
and blaspheming against God.
The psalm that David prayed has become a source of guidance for us on how and what to pray
when we ache inside over false criticism and unfair judgments.

When we need the Lord's perspective and power in conflict, the psalm helps us regain an assurance
of His love, and a desire to open our hurting hearts to His healing.
When we answer, "yes," to the question of the old gospel hymn, "
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?"
David's words show us how to "take it to the Lord in prayer."

Before we make any response to what people may say to or about us we need to look to God.
That is what David did.
And what he saw, I want to share in this sermon.

The Psalm begins with how we must start.
David presents his case to the highest court of appeal.

Psalm 17:1-2 says, "Hear a just cause, O Lord.
Attend to my cry;
Give ear to my prayer that is not from deceitful lips.
Let my vindication come from Your presence;
Let Your eyes look on the things that are upright

The first thing we should do when we are hurt by people, before we make any response,
is to take the whole matter to the Lord.
We must allow His eyes to look at all the issues, the mixed motives, and the deeper reasons
behind what has hurt us.
We can ask, "Lord, is there anything You are seeking to teach me in what has been said about me?
Is there any truth in it?
Your evaluation and judgment are all that is ultimately important

That is what David did.
He examined himself under the penetrating eyes of the Lord and exonerated himself of the charge of treason.
Then he sought His vindication.
He did not try to justify himself, but asked for the Lord's affirmation.

Inside of all of us is a dynamic center where the Lord looks.
We know what we have done and we have been.
We do not need to hide from the Lord or ourselves.

In His presence, we do not need to defend ourselves or wilt under the pressure of other people's opinions.
That kind of honesty with God enables us to say what Cromwell said,
"I know that God is above all reports; and that He will in His own time vindicate me."

But even if that retribution doesn't happen in a way that satisfies our sense of justice,
the Lord's vindication is all we need.
We know that He does not wink at our sins when He looks at us.
When people's words about us lead us to God for His judgment, we can be sure
that He will help us change whatever needs to be changed, and refortify us
when people's opinions are wrong.

So many of us live with unresolved guilt over past failures.
When we are criticized, the new accusation touches the raw nerve that is attached
to that old, unhealed memory.
Unresolved guilt makes us vulnerable to respond with self-incrimination even when we're not guilty.
Too often we buckle under, saying,
"You are probably right, I'm wrong, wrong, wrong!" even when we may not be.

We must not assume that we have made a mistake until we are sure that we have.
This can also be said about much of our reaction to criticism.
The Lord helps us to deal with past failures so we can be honest with ourselves in the present.
What a wonderful comfort this is!
We can own our true guilt and be forgiven, and we can disown false guilt and live with assurance.

The source of lasting integrity is only in God.
David experienced the comfort of that.
He went inward to the living center of his soul to investigate the possibility of wrong.

He found no just reason for the accusations.
He was not defensive, but he was honestly analytical.
Self-vindication was not enough.
He had to experience the exoneration of the Lord.

We also made that exoneration when general guilt feelings become so pervasive
that we feel guilty every time we are criticized.
God wants to free us from that syndrome.
Only His grace can release us from that kind of soul sickness.

David presented his case before the Lord, and felt His lovingkindness.
He continued his prayer in quest for that above all else.
"You have tested my heart; You have visited me in the night;
You have tried me and found nothing
…" (Verse 3)

Having felt the painful slashes of cutting accusations, David committed himself not to return evil for evil.
We see this in verses 3-5: "… I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.
Concerning the works of men,
By the word of Your lips,
I have kept myself from the paths of the destroyer.
Uphold my steps in Your paths
That my footsteps may not slip

David open himself up to the eye of the Lord.
He wanted the Lord to see him as he really was.
Then he was prepared to look God in the eye.
He prayed, "Keep me as the apple of Your eye;
Hide me under the shadow of Your wings
." (Verse 8)

The idiom "apple of Your eye," is used repeatedly in the Scripture.
The Hebrew actually means "the little man of your eye" or "the daughter of the eye,"
based on what we see when we look at a person in the eye at a very close range.

We see the image of ourselves.
If we stand close to a person, we see the reflection of ourselves.
Apply that to an intimate relationship with God, and it means that He is looking at us;
we are the focus of His attention; and that we can see ourselves as we are
only when we see ourselves in His eyes.

Another interpretation of "apple of Your eye" is that God cherishes
and values us as we do our own eyesight.
The apple of the eye could mean the pupil of the eye.

This is how Charles H. Spurgeon interprets the verse:
"No part of the body is more precious, more tender and more carefully guarded than the eye;
and of the eye, no portion more peculiarly to be protected them the central apple, the pupil,
or as the "daughter of the eye."
The all wise Creator has placed the eye in a well protected position; it stands surrounded
by projecting bones like Jerusalem encircled by mountains.

Moreover, it's great Author has surrounded it with many tunics of inward covering,
besides the hedge of the eyebrows, the curtain of the eyelashes and the fence of the eyelids,
and in addition to this, he has given to every man so high a value to his eyes,
and so quick an apprehension of danger, that no member of the body is more faithfully cared for
than the organ of sight."

So, as we value the pupils of our eyes and the wonder of sight, so, too, the Lord cherishes each of us.

The most significant implication of this for our message of dealing with the hurts of life
is that the delight of the Lord hovers over us is the antidote for the discouragement
caused by the words of people.
He sees us, knows and cares, and will not forsake us.
That unqualified love heals our hurts.

We feel unlimited grace when we feel that we are the apple of God's eye.
We see ourselves reflected in His eye not as the person we have been,
but as the miracle we can become.

Near the end of his life, Moses looked back and called the Israelites to praise the Lord
for His constant care.
We see this in Deuteronomy 32:9-10:
"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."

That must have been what David had on his mind when he claimed again the Lord choosing
and calling him to be His anointed.
He could take anything as long as he knew he was being kept by the Lord.
This ancient benediction became real to him.

It is found in Numbers 6:24-26:
"The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace

And that's exactly what happened as David felt the Lord's acceptance and affirmation of him
as the apple of His eye.
In a profound and renewed sense, Jesus Christ is the manifestation of the apple of God's eye.
In Christ we experience healing love and forgiveness, but we also behold what we can become
when He fills us with His Spirit.

God's love is protecting us and sustaining us.
He took all our hurts upon Himself at Calvary, and He rose and returned to be our never-forsaking Friend.

He says to us, "Give Me your hurts.
Allow Me to love you.
Deeper than your hurt is your need to trust Me.
Then I will love through you the very people who have hurt you.
I will give you the freedom to forgive them and depend less on their opinions
and more on My faithfulness

That's it!
We are liberated from nursing our bruised feelings as soon as we tell the Lord about them,
and receive the courage to forgive.
We awake to His likeness.
Suddenly, we understand that people who put us down to boost themselves up can't change
what they say until the Lord changes what they are.

Melville, and Moby Dick, says it like this:
"On the starboard hand of every woe, there is a pure delight and higher the top of that delight,
than the bottom of the woe is deep.
… Delight is to Him who strong-arms yet support him, when the ship of this based treacherous world
has gone down beneath him… Delight – top-gallant delight – is to him
who acknowledges no law or Lord,
but the Lord his God, and is only patriot to heaven.
Delight is to him, whom all the waves and billows of the seas of the boisterous mob can never shake
from the sure keel of the ages

When we listen to the Lord for what He says to us about what people have said to us,
we will depend less on them and more on Him for our self-esteem.
His approval releases us from clutching to people's opinions.
More than longing to be like Him, we will be liberated to love.

Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L White