A lonely, insignificant little bird without flock or even a mate is one example of what king David uses to try to express his own feelings. He is in isolation, feeling forsaken by others, a deep aching loneliness, and sadness to the point of despair. He can’t eat or sleep because he feels so attacked, alone, small, abandoned, and helpless. So David mourns. He describes himself as a rough, drab little bird exposed for all to see how pitiful and vulnerable it is. No one who will love it or protect it or care what happens to it. Imagine how David feels. Can you remember when you have felt this way? No one should have to endure being treated this way, but unless your heart is aching right now, you will gain nothing from I have to say further — nothing.
The good news is your actions, even your life, will not go unnoticed by those who see your true value — especially God.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Mat 10:29-31).
Come to think of it, God’s people are a lot like sparrows in more ways than one. In order to know what those ways are, one must view the example of a sparrow’s life. Fly on the wings of a sparrow with me.
House sparrows are plain-looking, little, gray-brown birds with plump bodies and short powerful beaks designed for eating seed. Such sparrows are not native to America. They were originally brought here, probably from England in around 1851-2. They’re immigrants, too. In fact, these little birds have become the most widely distributed bird in the world. That and the fact that there are so many of them have made them the most commonly recognized bird in the world. Nearly everybody knows what a sparrow is, but people take little notice of them. I wouldn’t say God’s people are vast in number, but they are viewed as common. There is nothing exciting about them that the average person would take notice of them compared to celebrities, executives, or other such rich popular people.
I fed a sparrow once. It chose me. It fluttered in front of me waiting for my outstretched hand. It rested on my thumb and ate crumbs from my palm. I was ecstatic that something that lives so wild could be so tame. Sparrows love wheat the best. Wheat is wholesome. It has a wonderful earthy smell during harvest that reminds me of comfort and kitchen baking. It’s like the feeling of satisfaction after a hard day’s work in the field. A blade of wheat has kernels of grain — grains of Truth — that has to be separated from the chaff before being eaten. Both human and bird alike have to have these grains pounded into flour before being able to digest it just as Truth must be fully understood in order to apply it. The sparrow has to keep grit (fine gravel) in its crop to grind every piece of food it swallows for this very purpose. If we don’t have the grit to discern right from wrong and to face the truth, we would not survive either.
Sparrows are very gregarious. That means outgoing and friendly. They try to incorporate themselves into the flocks of other species like robins and cardinals for example. They can fly as high as the observation deck of the Empire State Building to be with other birds or to seek food. But most birds don’t like the sparrow. They drive them away. Those who do not seek to rid them from their territory will try to kill and eat them. Sparrows are prey for several larger birds. And as if that wasn’t enough, cats and squirrels eat their eggs and kill their babies. Sparrows are viciously attacked by nearly every other bird in nature because they are seen as being too small and weak to defend themselves. Jesus warns us to expect such treatment. “The world hated me, therefore they will hate you also.”
The sparrow is one of the very few species of bird that mates for life like the dove. They typically lay 4-5 eggs. Here is the number four signifying “gospel” and five signifying “grace”. It also reminds me of the parable of the talents when comparing the number of babies that survive to adulthood. Birds who do not find both nest and mate often serve as helpers for mated pairs, just as God’s people are to help others in their flock who are in need. This trait to be a helper is unique to sparrows. This is to develop their maternal instinct while becoming more visible to other single birds thus increasing their chances of being chosen as a mate. Also while a single bird is seeking a nested family to become a helper for, they could even replace a lost mate
The last thing about sparrows is that they often have no set habitat — no land area of their own for nesting. Other birds drive them away. Since most birds are bigger or more aggressive than the sparrow, the sparrow usually loses out. So they have to be resourceful. They have to settle for whatever homes they can find. Sometimes sparrows will use the abandoned nest site of other species of birds. But here’s another very unique trait of this sturdy little bird: they go where their troublemakers fear to tread. Sparrows are fearless! They prefer to nest as close to human dwellings as possible. As sparrows seek to be close to humans so believers seek to be close to God. When sparrows can’t find a fortified, enclosed site like a hole in a tree, they seek the tops of drain pipes, holes in garages, and the like. They love neon signs for the warmth and shelter from attack it provides. They will do anything to provide protection for their babies. If the tabernacle of Moses had eaves, you can bet it would have been full of sparrows!
“My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God” (Psa 84:2-3).
The next time you see an ordinary little sparrow remember that you are not alone and that you are important because God cares what happens to you.
Deborah Ramos (North Houston, TX)