Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings. Psalm 17:8
It’s a strange expression, but we somehow we understand what it means. Keep me as the apple of your eye. This is the believer’s prayer in which he asks God to watch over him and protect him. Today we use the expression to talk about something or someone who is precious and valuable to us. A grandfather might hold up a picture of his new granddaughter and say that she is the apple of his eye. It is a term of love and endearment.
But have you ever considered where the phrase comes from? People in ancient days use to refer to the center of the eye, that is, the pupil, as the apple of the eye. Now, what happens when something comes towards our eyes? If a fly comes buzzing towards our face we are quick to cover our eyes. Our eyelids blink to protect the center of the eye from dirt and we don’t even have to think about it. Our hand comes up instinctively to protect our eye if a ball is coming our way even if we are behind a fence while watching a ball game. We protect our eyes. We are quick to do so. It is instinctive because our eyes are so precious to us.
This is what we are asking in this prayer. “Oh, Lord, protect me.” “Be quick to defend me from all that would seek to harm me.” At times we are tempted to think that God has forgotten about us; that God does not care if I get hurt or if I get sick again. God does not care if I fall into another temptation or if I give into this bad habit again. But God tells us differently. God does care. In his word he tells us that we are precious to him. He tells us that he is there to be our refuge our strength. He tells us here is there to guard and protect us from all that would harm our bodies and our souls. And so we ask him, “Keep me as the apple of your eye.” Be quick to guard and protect me from harm. Be quick to guard and protect me from temptation.
Included in this prayer from King David is another expression that brings us similar comfort. Hide me in the shadow of your wings. We ask the Lord to bring us close to himself. We ask the Lord to give us security and refuge under his loving arms. And like a mother bird who lovingly tends to her children, who gathers her hatchlings close to herself at the first sign of danger, God answers our prayers. He brings us close to himself through Word and Sacrament. Nestled closely to our Lord he gives us much needed security and peace. He, who created us, saves us. He, who sent his Son to die for us, will give us rest and comfort when we are surrounded by this world of trouble. He, who has brought us into his family through faith, will one day gather us to himself in our eternal home in heaven.
God tells us that we are precious to him. God tells us that he is our refuge and strength. And in this prayer we simply hold God to his promises. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.
Prayer: Reassure us of your love, O Lord, with the precious pictures of your word. When, the problems of this world trouble us, when sin and guilt seek to harass us, when health issues seek to rob us of our joy and lead us to doubt your love, be quick to defend us. Help us to find peace and comfort in the fact that I am the apple of your eye, and that I may find protection and shelter in the shadow of your wings.