It is a very obscure verse and seldom preached on but it gives a unique insight into the gracious care of the creator.
How lovely are your dwellings, Jehovah of Hosts! My soul longs, and even faints for the courts of Jehovah. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Yes, the sparrow has found a home, And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young, Near your altars, Jehovah of Hosts, my King, and my God. Psa 84:1–3 WEB.
What would a sparrow be doing in the Tabernacle? Imagine the bustle, the priests moving to and fro, the bleating of the sheep, the flames on the altar spitting and flaring. And yet the psalmist has noticed something and it has touched his heart. In the midst of all this activity, sweat, and blood a sparrow has found a place where she can settle. A home in the holy place.
Sparrows aren’t swallows. They don’t soar in graceful arcs above the storms of life. They struggle to get a few crumbs to keep their poor bodies alive. In the last few months I have experienced the sudden loss of two of God’s sparrows. They were both elderly women whose lives had been completely disrupted by events that were far beyond their control.
The first had sustained serious injuries in a car accident when she was a child. She never regained her full cognitive abilities. She lived alone and had few, if any, real friends. Her relatives had moved abroad years previously. I don’t know how she came to attend our meetings but she found a spot near the radiator and nestled. Slowly she was drawn into the family of the church and revealed extraordinary skill in knitting. She knitted dozens of beautiful little coats for the Unuit children. She had found her own place in our church family. The sparrow had found a home. A few months ago she flew the nest into the loving arms of One who always noticed the sparrows.
The second was an elderly women whose life seemed to have been dogged by tragedy. She lost all her children in their early years, one by one, through a degenerative hereditary condition. Later her husband died in an accident with a gas leak. She was crushed. Her emotions and thinking processes were just overwhelmed with the enormity of the tragedies that had broken, wave upon wave, upon her life. She was taken into a local mental hospital and well cared for but her life was a routine of pointless events. Why would she take the trouble to make the effort to live? What would the next wave bring?
A young woman from the church came into contact with her and in spite of the disparity of ages they became friends. She began to come to the meetings and was taken into the heart of several families. Slowly she emerged from the shell of her existence. Her sense of humour surfaced. She spent many hours with the saints and was regularly in the meetings. She began to enjoy the hymns and developed some personal favourites. She managed to find a place in a care home just a hundred yards or so from the meeting hall. She was often early to the meetings and greeted her friends with a broad smile of welcome. She had found her own place in our church family. The sparrow had found a home. She flew the nest early this month and we attended a sweet little thanksgiving and burial service just this week.
It is easy to develop a picture of ‘church’ that is straight from the glossy advertising folder. Lots of bustle and activity. Our sparrows would have struggled to make it in the mega churches. They never aspired to ministry. They wouldn’t have understood the concept. They never became burden bearers or prayer warriors. They never evangelised the neighbourhood . But they found a home prepared for them by God, a corner where they knew they were loved and safe and where they could nestle. Whatever your vision and mission statements, be sure you keep a place in your heart for the sparrows. God does.