Guard me as the apple of the eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings,”
I own a pair of protective goggles and use them faithfully. I wear them when I’m cutting branches with my chainsaw or attacking weeds with my weed whacker. My goggles serve a crucial purpose: they protect my eyes. Once, I forgot to wear my goggles while sawing a branch and ended up with a spec of wood in my eye. I had to make an emergency trip to the eye doctor. From then on, I became more careful about wearing goggles because my eyes are precious to me.
Psalm 17:8 doesn’t mention goggles explicitly. But this verse does reflect an understanding of the value of eyes and the need for their careful protection. The NRSV translates the first part of this verse: “Guard me as the apple of the eye.” The original Hebrew speaks of guarding “the little one of the daughter of the eye.” Traditional English translations, along with the NRSV, use “the apple of the eye” (KJV). These peculiar expressions, in both Hebrew and English, refer to the pupil of the eye, that which is essential for vision and most in need of protection.
In context, David is praying for protection from his enemies (17:7), from the “wicked who despoil” him (17:9). “They are like a lion eager to tear,” he laments (17:12). So he asks the Lord to guard him as people guard their own eyes and to hide him like a mother bird hides her hatchlings under her wings (17:8).
Notice what is implied in the way David asks for protection. He knows that people are vigilant in guarding their eyes because they value their eyesight so much. By implication, David believes that God values him exceedingly. The mother bird guards her chicks because she feels a deep, instinctual care for them. Similarly, David assumes that God cares for him in this way. He bases this assumption not only on his experience of God’s love but also on the revelation of God’s love to his people (see Deut 32:10-12). David’s belief that he matters so much to God isn’t wishful thinking; rather, it’s a conviction based on how God has made himself known to his people, including David.
When we model our prayers on Psalm 17, we remember that Jesus taught in word and deed that we are inestimably valuable to God (Luke 12:7, for example). Most of all, in his death, Jesus revealed and embodied God’s love for us. Thus, we can have confidence that God treasures us, even as we treasure our own eyes. God will be, we might almost say, our heavenly goggles.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Do you believe that you are precious to God, even as your eyes are precious to you? If you really believed this, how might it impact that way you feel, think, and live?
Gracious God, thank you for the implicit truth in Psalm 17:8. Thank you for how much you value me, even as I value my own eyesight. Thank you for the ways you protect me, as a mother bird shelters her young under her wings.
Help me, dear Lord, to live today as if I were of inestimable worth to you. May I have confidence in your presence and protection. Amen.
P.S. This reflection is based on an earlier version that appeared at The High Calling. It is used with permission through a Creative Commons license.