Theme: Of Sparrows and Swallows
In this week’s lessons we are reminded of the need to long after God, who delights in his people as they trust in him.
Scripture: Psalm 84:1-12
There are probably some poetic overtones to the mention of the sparrows and swallows in this psalm, and they are not inappropriate to the writer’s message. This is only to say that the imagery supports the writer’s message, as it should.
1. Sparrows. In the Bible sparrows are a symbol for something that is almost worthless. In Jerusalem the boys that caught sparrows to get a little bit of spending money sold two for a farthing and five for two farthings (Matt. 10:29; Luke 12:6). A farthing (assarion) was the smallest and least valuable copper coin. Yet the sparrow found a home near God’s altar (Ps. 84:3). Will God not also provide a home for you who are worth much more than sparrows? When he was referring to a sparrow’s value Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father…So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:29, 31).
Donald Grey Barnhouse wrote about sparrows thoughtfully, comparing them to the people of God: “I look down some little street and see a humble chapel where a group of simple people worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, despised and rejected of men, even as was their Lord, and I know that this is the rich reality of spiritual truth. Here are the sparrows who find their nest at the cross of Jesus Christ. Here is worthlessness that finds its worth because the Savior died.”1
2. Swallows. Just as the sparrow is a symbol of worthlessness, so is a swallow the Bible’s symbol of restlessness. It is a bird that is always in the air, winging its way from point to point from the earliest glimmer of dawn to after sunset. It wearies the watcher who is trying to keep it in view. But then the time comes for it to mate and raise young, and the swallow builds a nest and settles down upon it to rest peacefully. This is a picture of the soul apart from God and then in God, when at last it comes to rest in him. Alexander Maclaren said, “There is only one being in this world that does not fit the world that he is in, and that is man, chief and foremost of all. Other beings perfectly correspond to what we now call their ‘environment.’”2 He meant what Saint Augustine meant when he wrote in words much better known, “Our hearts are restless till they rest in thee.”3
Have you found rest in God, or are you still wandering and restless, as so many persons are? God offers you peace. Even the swallow found “a nest for herself where she may have her young—a place near your altar.”
1Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Remedy: Exposition of Bible Doctrines, Taking the Epistle to the Romans as a Point of Departure, Vol. 3, Romans 3:21-4:25 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954), p. 239.
2Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Vol. 3, The Psalms, Isaiah 1-48 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), pp. 124, 125.
3Augustine, The Confessions, book 1, par. 1, in Basic Writings of Saint Augustine, ed. Whitney J. Oates (New York: Random House, 1948), Vol. 1, p. 3.
Study Questions:

What are sparrows generally a symbol for in the Bible?
How are sparrows viewed in Matthew 10:29-31? What does this teach about God’s concern for us?
For what are swallows a symbol? What does this symbol convey about people?

Application: Ask the Lord to make those who do not know him restless until they come to a saving knowledge of him, and experience the rest that only he can give.

Study Questions
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