Rambling for Kirwan Uniting Church Keep in Touch newsletter 31 January 2021
I’m not a very healthy eater, Leisa’s best efforts to reform me notwithstanding. Let me give you an example. You probably like apples as those crunchy, juicy round things you buy at Lamberts. While I like them as cider or, better still, Calvados. I am fond of bananas, mind you. As is Wendy Cope. But to get back to apples. My favourite form of apple is Apple, our house is teeming with them, a couple of iMacs, couple of iPads, couple of iPhones, an Apple TV, and assorted accessories.
Bible compilers, in the Old Testament specifically, speak of “The apple of” (God’s usually) “eye.” Nowadays, in English, the phrase refers to someone or something which one cherishes above all others. We have Shakespeare to thank for this evolution of meaning. In Midsummer Night’s Dream, a fairy drops juice distilled from a flower which has been hit by Cupid’s arrow, into a sleeping young man’s eye, saying “Flower of this purple dye, / Hit with Cupid's archery, / Sink in apple of his eye”. Shakespeare simply meant the young man’s pupil, as did the OT writers (I’ll come to that), but generations of high school English teachers, steeped in Regency romances, have misled their charges as to original meaning. So in Psalm 17, most famously, “Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of your wings”. The Hebrew, אישון עין, iyshown ‘ayin, means, as Shakespeare seemed to know 2,000 years later, the pupil or “dark part” of the eye.
Ah, you might say, that takes away the force of the psalmist, or you and me, being most cherished by God. Not at all, the phrase really conveys that you and I (let’s be a bit anthropomorphic here) completely obscure God’s eye. We might imagine a domestic scene in the household of the Holy and Undivided Trinity:
Son and Spirit: “There’s something in your eye”.
Father: “It’s Richard” (Substitute sinner-saved-by-grace of your choice).
You’re not insignificant. You’re not overlooked. Your history, nor even your present, doesn’t obscure you from God. You-in-Christ take up all of God’s field of vision of love.