Skip to content ↓

Have You Poked God in the Eye?

Poking God in the Eye

Have you ever been poked in the eye? Or have you ever gotten a speck of dust in your eye and learned how it takes just the tiniest piece of grit to cause the severest amount of pain? The smallest particle of dirt has the ability to incapacitate the biggest and strongest of men when it lodges in his eyeball. The eye is fragile and precious and we rightly guard it from harm.

There are a number of places in Scripture where God refers to his people as “the apple of his eye”—a delightful phrase that has been translated and adopted by the English language. The apple of the eye is the dark circle, the pupil, the tenderest and most important part. It is the part we protect with the greatest of care.

In Deuteronomy 32 Israel is referred to in this way. “[God] encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.” In Psalm 17 David is desperate for protection and asks God, “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” The phrase appears again in Proverbs and in Lamentations, and these repeated uses demonstrate the love God has for his people. Just as we protect the pupil as a particularly weak and vulnerable part of the body, God protects his weak and vulnerable people. God’s people plead with him to protect them in the way they so earnestly protect their own eyes.

There is one further reference that comes in the closing chapters of the Old Testament. There Zechariah prophesies and proclaims, “For thus said the Lord of hosts, after his glory sent me to the nations who plundered you, for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye…” Here God is warning the nations that if they harm Israel they will effectively be harming God—they will be poking him in the eye. And just as any human being will swat away the finger that attempts to jab itself into the pupil, God will swat away the enemy that attempts to harm his chosen ones. God so identifies with Israel, he so loves them and cares for them, that they are like that most precious and tender part of his body.

We do not need to look hard or look far today to find people who mean to do damage to God’s people—no longer ethnic Israel, but the church God has called from all nations, tribes, and tongues. The laws of many countries, and increasingly those in the West, are turning against God’s people. Those who pass such laws and those who enforce them should be warned—they are reaching out a finger toward the eye of God. And even where the laws have not been militarized against God’s people, many individuals, many organizations, and many corporate policies have been. Here too people ought to know and consider—they are poking God in the eye.

We need to know that when we turn on our fellow Christians, when we hurt or harm them, when we belittle or insult them, we are poking God in the eye.

But I think there is another application that ought to concern you and me. We need to know that when we turn on our fellow Christians, when we hurt or harm them, when we belittle or insult them, we are poking God in the eye. When we exaggerate their faults or diminish their graces, we are reaching out a finger toward his pupil. When we treat them poorly instead of well, when we tear them down instead of build them up, when we curse them instead of bless them, we are like a piece of grit in the eye of God.

And we should not expect that God will stand idly by while we do damage to what he regards as most precious. We should not expect that God will sanction such violence or that he will long tolerate such sin. We should not expect that he will shrug his shoulders in apathy as a finger repeatedly gouges his eye.

God loves his people—the people he called and justified, the people he sanctified and glorified, the people who belong to him. He loves them and will protect them. So be warned. Be warned when you are tempted to mistreat them, be warned when you are tempted to do or say what would harm them—he will protect his very own people in the way you protect your very own pupil. For they, for we, are the apple of his eye.

Note: My understanding of the original Hebrew phrase is that it translates most naturally to something like “the dark part of the eye” and the “apple” is an especially evocative English translation.


  • Tear Down Build Up

    It’s Easier to Tear Down than Build Up

    In my travels, I encountered a man whose work is demolition. When buildings are old and decrepit, or even when they just need to be removed to make way for others, his job is to destroy them and haul them away. New or old, big or small, plain or fancy—it makes no difference to him.…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 12)

    A La Carte: Does Bach’s music prove the existence of God? / Living from approval, not for approval / A surprising test of true faith / Do you have the support you need to grow? / Who was the “black Spurgeon?” / and more.

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 11)

    A La Carte: The blessing of constant curiosity / Church discipline in the digital age / Don’t be too easy to join / Body matters in Genesis / The local church is a sandbox / Seasons in a pastor’s life / and more.

  • Trusting Jesus in The Public Square 

    This week the blog is sponsored by Moody Publishers. Parents have a biblical responsibility to protect their children not only from physical harm but also from spiritual harm. It is entirely appropriate and right for a parent to wrestle with whether they want to allow their child to continue to have a friendship with a…

  • that First Sports Bet

    Young Man, Don’t Even Make that First Sports Bet

    It’s impossible to avoid the advertising and impossible to miss the claims. Sports are great, they say, but do you know what makes them even better? Adding a little wager. Sports are exciting, they say, but even more exciting when you’ve got a bit of money riding on them. So why not enjoy them all…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    A La Carte (June 10)

    A La Carte: Feminism’s patriarchs / Thank you, parents, for your Sunday faithfulness / Godly sorrow vs worldly sorrow / Being transformed from the inside out / What if everyone at your church was like you? / The gift and skill of praise in lament / Kindle deals / and more.