by Stan Rosenthal
The phrase “apple of the eye” refers to the pupil of the eye. It is round, black and located in the center of the eye. The pupil is the opening into the eye that permits light to pass through, which in turn enables us to see. It is one of the most sensitive parts of the human anatomy. It is why God in His wisdom created man with lots of protection around the eye and especially its pupil. Just consider the socket in which it is embedded, the eyelid and eyelashes and even the eyebrows. Let’s not forget the ability the eye has to keep itself well watered to wash away potential harmful debris.
In examining the few scriptural passages where this phrase is used, it becomes obvious that the term is to be understood figuratively. It speaks to how one perceives or interprets something, rather than what one literally sees. It speaks primarily of endearment, care and protection. It conveys the concept of value and importance that one perceives concerning someone or something (cf. Deuteronomy 32:10; Proverbs 7:2; Psalms 17:8 & Zechariah 2:8).
Israel’s National Beginning
It was God in His sovereignty and wisdom that brought into existence the Jewish people from the loins of Abraham. He miraculously enabled this man of faith and his wife Sarah to give birth to Isaac (Genesis 21:2-3). It was not Ishmael, the son of Hagar, but rather Isaac the son of Abraham and Sarah that God had chosen to be the line from which the Messiah, the Redeemer, would enter the mainstream of humanity (Genesis 15:4). Once again Jehovah sovereignly intervened in establishing this unique people group. He laid His hand upon Abraham’s grandson Jacob, the son of Isaac, while he was yet still in his mother’s womb. God unmistakably identified him to be the one to bring forth this special predestined people group (Genesis 28:10-15). God’s sovereign choice was not his twin brother Esau, but rather Jacob. It was he who God renamed Israel, for he was to become the father of the nation bearing his new name. Jacob was that patriarch who fathered twelve sons who developed into the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 34:10-11). “For the LORD’S portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance…the apple of his eye” (Deuteronomy 32:9, 10b).
It wasn’t until the sovereign, omnipotent Jehovah God redeemed and delivered these sons of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob from their bondage in the land of Egypt that they entered into nationhood. Israel was created and formed by God. In the grand scheme of things He gave birth to them (Exodus 6:6-8). They have Jehovah as their father (Deuteronomy 32:6-8). From a purely human perspective, Jehovah God was both Israel’s father and mother. Not only did He create them, but nurtured and molded them into a nation belonging to Himself (Deuteronomy 32:9-11). They were indeed the “apple of His eye”.
Israel Preserved During Her Years of Apostasy
The sons of Jacob lost their way. This is stating the problem mildly. Consider the scathing description from the pen of Moses: “They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation” (Deuteronomy 32:5). A continued reading of Deuteronomy 32:15-18 provides a short but devastating list of sins that can be summed up as both sins of commission and omission. They were guilty of not doing what God commanded of them, as well as doing those things that were abhorrent in the sight of God. In any case they were guilty of abandoning their beliefs and teachings which came from God through His prophet Moses. Jehovah was disheartened and angered, to say the least, over Israel’s apostasy (see Deuteronomy 32:18-26).
This theme repeats itself throughout much of the Scriptures and is found in both the Tenach (Old Testament) as well as the B’rit Hadashah (New Testament). The prophet Daniel in his inspired writings shares with his readers his prayerful plea to God relating to the restoration of Israel from the Babylonian captivity. As he pours out his heart for his people Israel and the holy city Jerusalem, he acknowledges his brethren’s sins, transgressions and iniquities, imploring God to keep His word, as found in Jeremiah chapters 25 and 29, despite their apostasy (Daniel 9:1-16, 24a).
Approximately half a millennium later, Jesus the Messiah likewise wept over His countryman for their guilt of apostasy. He surely did not mince words with them; His rebuke was severe. He claimed that they were rejecting Him as the promised Messiah just as they had denied and rejected their prophets which God sent to them during the previous fifteen hundred years. Jesus furthermore stated that this apostate condition would remain until He comes back out of heaven to establish the Messianic Kingdom on Earth. There is, however, a “catch twenty two” provisional or conditional clause for Him to return. Israel must have a genuine repentant heart; they must be ready to embrace Him. To say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:37-39).
For The Sake of God’s Glory
God’s glory, which involves His dignity, honor and reputation, is at stake with Israel. His very attributes, character and resolve lay in the balance. For that reason He would never allow His omnipotence or His sovereignty to become questionable. He would never be found guilty of breaking His word, covenants, or promises made with Israel, or for that matter to anyone. He would never act in any way which was not harmonious with His nature, i.e. character and varied attributes, for they are His very essence.
It is precisely for this reason that God began the process of returning the Jewish people back to the land of promise in May 1948. Because God scattered the Jewish people throughout the world due to their apostasy, they became a poor testimony among the nations who in turn believed Israel’s God was impotent, non-trustworthy or fickle, and perhaps even all of the above. Hence, He thus becomes inconsequential, not worthy of interest or concern to the nations of the world. He is seen as nothing more than another god amongst the unlimited, meaningless “gods” of this world. The end result of Israel’s profaning Jehovah would be depriving Him of His honor, praise, worship and recognition as the one and only true living God. Therefore, He is acting to sanctify His holy name by evidencing to the world that He is indeed the one and only true God, not only of Israel, but the entire universe (see Ezekiel 36:16-24).
Israel’s Messianic Kingdom Age
Despite Jehovah’s indignation concerning the sons of Jacob because of their apostasy, He would never allow the ultimate destruction of His inheritance, Israel. In fact, the days are coming when Israel’s period of discipline will be utterly and totally non-existent. It will be replaced with a millennial period of time referred to as the Messianic Kingdom (cf. Isaiah 2, 9:6-7, 11, 65; Jeremiah 23:5-6, 31:31-34; Daniel 9:24; Zechariah 2, 13, 14).
Israel, the “apple of God’s eye,” will receive the blessings He has promised them. This will also be the time when Israel experiences what it will be like to be the LORD’S inheritance (Zechariah 2:8-12).
The time is coming when God’s desire, plan and program for Israel will finally be fulfilled. For the most part of the last 3,500 years (from the days of Moses until today) the majority of Jewish people have missed the opportunity to experience what can only be dreamt about or imagined from afar. What bliss and joy lies ahead for those who will be able to say we (Israel) are His (Jehovah’s) people and He is our God.
Israel’s “Catch Twenty-Two”
It was Jesus the Messiah who said to His brethren according to the flesh, you are spiritually blind and deaf for you paid no heed to the prophets God sent to you for centuries. So likewise you have rebelled and rejected the very Son of God, your Messiah and Redeemer. To make matters even worse, if possible, He further said that the Temple (house of God) in Jerusalem would be destroyed. Since they failed to embrace Jesus their Messiah, they soon would not even have the priesthood or Temple rituals to cling to. Jesus however, did hold out some hope for them when He told them that He was going away (ascending to Heaven) and that they would not see Him again until they (Israel) call out “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD” (Matthew 23:37-39).
Here is the rub or problem – the catch 22. In order for the Kingdom Age to arrive, the Messiah must first appear, for it is He that will establish and sustain it (Isaiah 9:6-7). It is Israel’s continued stubbornness, an outgrowth of their spiritual blindness, which is keeping them from embracing Jesus. Without doing so, Israel is caught between the proverbial rock and hard place – no Messiah, no Kingdom Age.
The unwavering promise of the God who can’t lie is that Israel will be prepared to have a repentant heart to embrace their Messiah. It will take seven years of horrific Tribulation period judgments, but the end result will be a nation willing to accept Jesus as their Messiah and LORD. The prophet Zechariah clearly spoke of this coming day.
“And I (Jehovah God) will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they (Israel) shall look upon me (Jehovah) whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him (Jesus their Messiah), as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn… And I (Jehovah) will bring the third part (of living Israel) through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they (Israel) shall call on my name (Jehovah/Jesus), and I will hear them: I will say, It (Israel) is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God” (Zechariah 12:10 & 13:9 – parentheses and bold added).
What a day this will be! God’s promises to Israel will be fulfilled! He will vindicate His glory and holiness!