Sermon #8 Zechariah Series
Title: The Apple of His Eye
Text: Zechariah 2:8
Subject: The Safety and Security of God’s People
Date: Sunday Morning — July 24, 2005
Reading: Psalm 62 or Psalm 142
Tape # Zechariah #8
In Zechariah 2:5, the Lord Jesus declares, with regard to his church, — “I will be the glory in the midst of her.” The church and kingdom of God, that includes this assembly, is provided for and protected by the Lord Jesus Christ himself, and she does not lack for glory. Her glory does not lie in her numbers, nor in the provision made for them, but in the presence of Christ. — “I will be the glory in the midst of her.” He dwells in our midst as the Shekinah did in the temple. Let us never cease to pray for this thing that he has promised. Let us ever distinctly and consciously recognize that the Christ’s presence is our glory.
“Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove,
With all Thy quickening powers,
Come, shed abroad our Savior’s love,
And that shall quicken ours!”
Our prayer ought to be, “Thou that dwellest between the cherubim, shine forth! Stir up thy strength and come and save us.” — “Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered.” — “O God, when thou wentest forth before thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness: the earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel.” As Moses prayed, when he was commissioned to lead Israel through the wilderness, let us ever pray, “If thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence.”
Then, in verses 6 and 7, our Savior calls his people to himself. He calls his own out of every nation into which he has scattered them. He calls sinners, chosen in everlasting love and redeemed by his own precious blood, by the gospel.
(Zechariah 2:6-7) "Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the LORD: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the LORD. (7) Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon."
Today, I want us to look at the promise our Savior gives in verse 8. — “For thus saith the Lord of hosts.” He who is the God of glory, the sovereign Lord of hosts, he who has power over all flesh, the Son of God, our all-glorious Savior, is about to declare a word, by the mouth of his servant, to which he attaches the honor of his own great name. It is as though Zechariah is saying, “I have a special word from God for you, a word that you need to hear, a word that demands your attention.” — He says, “After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you.” That is to say, “That the Lord Jesus may be the Glory in the midst of you, he has sent me to preach the gospel to you whom he has scattered among the nations.” I am sure that is the meaning of these words because he so explains them in verse 9.
(Zechariah 2:9) "For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me."
Then, at the end of verse 8, the prophet declares, with regard to all his elect, “for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.”
Proposition: What a great word of grace this is! It is a blanket promise made to all who come to Christ, — “He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.”
That is my text and my subject — “The Apple of His Eye.” You who trust Christ are “the apple of his eye;” and “he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.”
Divisions: There are four things that I want to show you from this text.
1st, The Utter Weakness of God’s People
2nd, The Lord’s High Esteem of His People
3rd, The Great Danger They are in Who Oppose and Persecute the Lord’s People
4th, The Assured Safety of God’s Elect
First, this statement tells me that we, saved sinners, who are “the apple of his eye,” are a terribly weak people who need our Lord’s constant protection.
The pupil of the eye is a very weak, tender part, and sensitive part of our bodies. It is easily hurt with the least thing. It vividly displays the feeble state of God’s people in this world. How soon and easily we are be disturbed, distressed, and hurt by our enemies!
I am weak, but Thou art mighty!
Hold me with Thy powerful hand!
Second, we see in this passage how highly esteemed God’s people are by him. He guards and cherishes his own as a man does his eyes, the very pupil of his eyes. He protects us as “the apple of his eye.” Whose eye is this? It is the eye of Christ, our God and Savior, who led his people through the wilderness, ever keeping them as “the apple of his eye” (Deut. 32:10).
(Deuteronomy 32:7-14) "Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will show thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee. (8) When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. (9) For the LORD'S portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. (10) He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. (11) As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: (12) So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him. (13) He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock; (14) Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape."
As the pupil is a vital part of the eye, and a part of a man’s self, highly honored and tenderly protected; so are the Lord’s people parts, as it were, of himself. We are members of his body, closely united to him; and whatever injury is done to us he reckons as done to himself. To one persecutor he spoke from heaven, saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" (Acts 9:5).
Being highly esteemed by him, and having the strongest affection for us, he personally resents every affront of our foes and will punish all seek to injure us. He so assuredly keeps us, as the very apple of his eye that it is written, “There shall no evil happen to the just.”
(Psalms 17:8) "Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings."
The pupil of the eye is the most tender part of the most tender organ of our bodies. When our Savior says by his prophet, “He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye,” he asserts that we are truly one with him, one with him in the truest, fullest, most real manner imaginable! As truly one with the Son of God as the pupil of your eye is one with your body!
No doubt this is a special reason why God is jealous over his people. He who touches you touches Christ himself. You and I are in the closest possible union with Christ, the glorious head of the body. And it will be at the cost of eternal hazard that anyone touches Christ’s mystical body. If you hurt his people wilfully, the Son of man will say, “Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,” and the recompense shall follow.
This word from our Savior, “He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye,” also sets forth the inexpressible tenderness of God’s love for us. As Calvin states…
“There is nothing more delicate or more tender than the eye in the body of a man; for were one to bite my finger or prick my arm or my legs, or even severely to wound me, I should feel no such pain as by having the pupil of my eye injured.”
Here is the lovingkindness and tender affection of God our Savior for us. — The Lord our God, who sits upon the circle of the earth, before whom the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers and the nations are as a drop of water in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance declares, “He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye!”
How marvellous! His everlasting love is fixed upon such worthless worms as we are! It is amazing that God should even notice us, that the infinite should even acknowledge our existence! But that the triune God should love such utterly worthless, insignificant, and sinful creatures as we are is utterly astounding! Even the heavens are not pure in his sight, and he charged his angels with folly. And how abominable is man, “who drinketh iniquity like water!” Yet, he condescends to love us!
O great and glorious God! How is it that you could chose such debased, depraved, rebellious, hard-hearted creatures? Why should you look upon such-an-one and bring him into your favor? “What is man, that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that thou visitest him?” This question we can never answer, except in the Words of our Savior himself, “for so it seemed good in thy sight!” It was of his grace, of his own will and good pleasure, that the Lord God has lifted us up from the dunghill and made us to sit among princes!
“It is not for us to know wherefore the Lord hath his people so highly in estimation, for we cannot search to the bottom of this divine mystery; but, brethren, God’s love, which at first came to us freely, has so ennobled us in Christ, that God’s present esteem of us in Jesus is not without reason and justification. Love without cause has now imparted and imputed such loveliness to its objects, that in Christ they are fitting subjects for love’s embrace.”
We are the masterpieces of his workmanship. God has shown his wisdom in balancing the clouds, and guiding the stars in their orbits. Infinite wisdom is seen in every flower and in every living thing. But the wisdom and the skill of God are far more clearly to be seen in the believer, than in any other work of his hand. Man, as a creature of God, born the first time, is fearfully and wonderfully made. But when born again, created new in Christ, and regenerated, he is far more fearfully and wonderfully made!
(2 Corinthians 5:17) "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
(Colossians 1:12) "Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:"
(2 Peter 1:4) "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."
(1 John 3:1) "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not."
(1 John 3:9) "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God."
When we realize that our great God has made his people the objects of his eternal thoughts, the trophies of his noblest skill, vessels of honor fit even for the Master’s use, it is but little wonder that he should guard them with a jealous care, even as men do the apple of their eye.
More than that, all God’s elect have been dearly purchased. We are the objects of the dearest purchase that was ever known, “redeemed not with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.”
(1 Peter 1:18-20) "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; (19) But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (20) Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,"
(1 Peter 3:18) "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:"
Come, my brother, my sister, stand with me again at the foot of Calvary, and let the groans of Christ pierce your heart. Behold his head crowned with thorns. See his hands and his feet streaming like fountains of blood. Think for a moment of the awful anguish which his spirit suffered, of the unknown pangs he bore, when he was made sin for you, when he redeemed our souls unto God. Behold the indescribable anguish of his holy soul, when, forsaken of the Father, he cried, “My God, my God, Why hast thou forsaken me?” Now, tell me, — Can you ever imagine that love so amazing, love that paid a price so infinitely stupendous, could ever loose its hold on that which it has thus purchased unto itself?
We think little of ourselves, when we value ourselves at any thing less than the price which the Son of God paid to redeem us. We dishonor the Lord who bought us, if we think ourselves only fit to live unto the flesh and this poor, temporal ball of clay we call “earth.”
He who loved us and redeemed us with his own blood has fitted us for another world. He has made us worthy to stand before him by the righteousness of Christ imputed to us in justification, and by the righteousness of Christ imparted to us in the new birth. Therefore he esteems us so very highly that he says, “He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye!”
Let me add this. To God the Father, we are Christ’s most tender memorial, the monuments of his most glorious accomplishment. Our names are written, in the precious blood of his darling Son, upon the very heart of God from eternity! We are the living trophies of his conquest!
If you or I had erected a costly and lasting memorial to some beloved child, we would consider it a grievous insult and a serious injury if anyone were to deliberately defile it. So the Lord looks upon us! He counts it an offense against himself for any of his adversaries to touch his anointed, or do harm to his chosen.
Yet there is more. Remember we are God’s own children. Though we are but wicked men and women, we will not tolerate any injury done to our own children. You may strike me, and I might not return the blow. You might even spit in my face, and get by with the insult. But if you touch my child, I will not tolerate it. I will be in your face immediately. Mistreat any woman’s child, or speak a word of false accusation against her darling, and you will pay dear.
How much more protective our heavenly Father is of us! The God of heaven and earth will not have his children injured. He will not tolerate it. He will smash to pieces every horn that rises against his own!
(Zechariah 1:13-15) "And the LORD answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words. (14) So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. (15) And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction."
(Zechariah 2:9-13) "For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me. (10) Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD. (11) And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee. (12) And the LORD shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again. (13) Be silent, O all flesh, before the LORD: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation."
God will avenge our every quarrel in the end. Just as surely as the world will look on Christ, whom they have pierced, and mourn, so they shall look on the injured and persecuted Church, and mourn because they despised the excellent of the earth, and threw God’s jewels into the mire. They are his children, I say; and therefore he loves them.
(Leviticus 26:7) "And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword."
(Deuteronomy 20:4) "For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you."
(2 Kings 17:39) "But the LORD your God ye shall fear; and he shall deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies."
(Romans 16:20) "And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."
“Why,” you may ask, and reasonably so, “are God’s people the objects of constant opposition and persecution?” That they are is an indisputable fact of history, confirmed by the experience of every person who confesses the faith of the gospel and worships Christ as his Savior. Why did Cain hate his brother, Abel, and murder him? The Holy Spirit tells us, “Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12). What works? There can be one one answer found. Cain believed he was righteous in himself and sought acceptance with God upon the basis of his own works. Abel knew his utter sinfulness and sought acceptance with God upon the basis of Christ one great sacrifice for sin. By coming to God with the blood sacrifice that typified Christ’s sin-atoning sacrifice as the Lamb of God, Abel…
· Confessed his sin, and made Cain aware of his own.
· Looked to Christ alone as his acceptance with the holy Lord God, and made Cain aware that his righteousnesses were just filthy rages before the holy God.
Nothing has changed. The offense of the cross has not ceased.
The Persecutor’s Danger
I have already hinted at it; but the third thing I see in our text is the great danger those people are in who oppose and persecute God’s people. — “He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye.” I am told by Dr. Gill that these words might be translated, “Whosoever touches you, touches the apple of his own eye.” In this sense we understand the passage as declaring that God causes the enemies of his church to work their own ruin. They pull out their own eyes by their own fingers.
I am not one of those who look upon everything that happens in this world as being a judgment from God. If an airplane crashes today, I will not immediately presume that it is a sign of God’s judgment upon those who were in it, any more than I would if a plane crashes on Monday.
Often when a person drops dead suddenly, people immediately declare that his death is a sign of divine judgment. But there have been many preachers who dropped dead as they were preaching the glorious gospel of Christ. Should that happen to me today, I would count it a great honor to be taken from this pulpit to the Palace of my great King. The fact is, Providence smites faithful men and wicked men, too. When the tornado sweeps through an area, or the hurricane howls across the shore, or an earthquake splits the ground, or a volcano erupts, both the righteous and the wicked are affected.
But there are some clear, unmistakable displays of the fact that God Almighty destroys those who oppose his people in severe judgment.
This judgment is in the world to come. Yet there have been some special cases. Look at Antiochus Epiphanes. — The record of Antiochus’ death is detailed in both Jewish and pagan sources. When this ruler was returning from Persia, he heard of the defeats of his armies in Palestine by the Maccabeans. Hastening toward Canaan, he vowed destruction for all Jews. En route however, he was seized with severe internal pains. In addition, he suffered a violent fall from his chariot, which aggravated his already desperate condition. And so he was forced to halt his journey. His body broke out with ulcers, the stench of which was said to be intolerable. He became delirious. Finally rotting away, he died a miserable death.
You remember Herod the Great. He did not appear very great when God killed him. Josephus tells us, — “The disease of which Herod the Great died, and the misery which he suffered under it, plainly showed that the hand of God was then in a signal manner upon him. Not long after the murders at Bethlehem, his distemper daily increased in an unheard-of manner. He had a lingering and wasting fever, and grievous ulcers in his entrails and bowels; a violent colic, and insatiable appetite; a venomous swelling in his feet; convulsions in his nerves; a perpetual asthma, and offensive breath; rottenness in his joints and other members; accompanied with prodigious itchings, crawling worms, and intolerable smell: so that he was a perfect hospital of incurable distempers.”
The Roman emperor, Julian, a determined enemy of Christianity, was mortally wounded in a war with the Persians. In this condition, we are told that he filled his hand with blood, and casting it into the air, said, “O Galilean! thou hast conquered.” History gives us many such cases. God has seemed to say to his providence, as David said to Solomon concerning Joab, “Let not his hoar head go down to the grave in peace.”
But, far more often, the penalty comes in spiritual things. God leaves men to wax worse and worse, till they have become utterly hardened in sin.
· No sermon moves them.
· No providential warning alarms them.
· No believer has any ability to pray for them.
· God has given them up!
I will say no more about that which I find difficult to think about. But I warn all who set themselves against God’s preachers and his people. — “They shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices” (Pro. 1:31).
The last thing, the thing that I want you to carry home, is this — God’s people are perfectly and always safe. He declares, “He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye!” We are sometimes told, and sometimes tend to think that the church and kingdom of our God is in danger. But that is not now, never has been, and never can be true. God’s Church is perfectly and always safe. No one and nothing shall ever touch “the apple of his eye!”
The dragon’s attempts to drown the woman with the floods always fail. The gates of hell shall not prevail against the Zion. Far from it. Zion shall yet spoil her enemies!
(Zechariah 2:9) "For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me."
The church of the living God has special security guaranteed by covenant, by promise, and by oath. God is our pledged Preserver. He says, “I the LORD do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.”
So far from hurting us, “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose!” When we shall see the end from the beginning, we shall be in amazement as to how it was that everything turned upon the axle of God’s predestination and sovereign purpose for the everlasting good of his elect.
Once in Christ, in Christ for ever,
Nothing from His love can sever.
I know that safe with Him remains,
Protected by His power,
What I’ve committed to His hands,
Till the decisive hour.”
The apple of God’s eye shall not be touched. Until God himself is blinded not one of his people shall perish. Take courage, my brother! Take courage my sister! “He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye!”
My final word is to you who are yet without Christ. I call upon you, as I am in this passage bidden to do, to come to Christ, to believe on the Son of God, with this assurance. — As surely as you come to Christ, trusting him alone as your Savior, the Lord God says, “He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye!” Oh, come then to Christ and find everlasting salvation and sure in him! God help you, now, to trust his dear Son.