Question: "What does it mean that the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous (1 Peter 3:12)?"
Answer: Peter described several graces that reflect the love of Christ in the life of believers, including like-mindedness, sympathy, brotherly love, compassion, and humility (1 Peter 3:8). Christians who emulate these characteristics enjoy spiritual blessings and favor from the Lord: “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:12).
Peter was quoting from Psalm 34 to describe the blessed life to which Christians are called: “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth” (Psalm 34:15–16).
Other passages of Scripture affirm Peter’s thought that God looks with favor on the righteous (Genesis 6:8). The psalmist says, “Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield” (Psalm 5:12).
The “righteous” Peter referred to are born-again Christians who live out their new lives in Christ, practicing unity, love, compassion, sympathy, and humility. They “don’t repay evil for evil” and “don’t retaliate with insults” when they are insulted. Instead, they “pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing” (1 Peter 3:9, NLT).
The phrase eyes of the Lord is an anthropomorphic expression that ascribes humanlike qualities to God. The initial encouragement we receive from knowing that the Lord’s eyes are upon the righteous is that God is omniscient and sovereign over all creation. God knows everything (1 John 3:20) and sees all people, both the evil and the righteous. His eyes “are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). Nothing escapes the Lord’s purview.
If the eyes of the Lord are everywhere and always upon us, then we can count on His presence to always be with us: “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you” (Psalm 139:11–12).
We can rest knowing that God will never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8; Joshua 1:5; Hebrews 13:5). We are never alone, “never abandoned by God” (2 Corinthians 4:9, NLT) or separated from His love (Romans 8:38). God is omnipresent or present everywhere. His eyes “range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).
The eyes of the Lord also refers to His individualized care. God sees every step His children take (Job 34:21). “He gives them security, and they are supported, and his eyes are upon their ways,” assures Job 24:23 (ESV). Just as God cared for Israel “as the apple of his eye” (Deuteronomy 32:10), He continues to keep watch over “those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love” (Psalm 33:18).
Knowing the eyes of the Lord are always on the righteous, we can be confident of His constant protection. Our heavenly Father “will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:3–4).
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous like those of a loving shepherd tending the sheep of his flock (Psalm 23:1; Revelation 7:17). God’s blessings of favor extend to eternal life (John 3:16; 17:3; 1 John 2:25) yet also fill our days on earth with good things: “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow” (James 1:17, NLT; see also Psalm 85:12; 107:9).