Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows! (Luke 12:2)
There is an obvious point here: as we grow older, there are not as many hairs on our head to count. This misses the point, of course. The metaphor of the hairs on my head refers to the countless ways that God is watching over me. Two other metaphors that show the expanse of God’s knowledge and wisdom are “as numerous as the stars” or “as uncountable as the sand of the sea.” Likewise, the metaphor of the sparrows refers to the way God can oversee and supervise the smallest detail in my life. If he is conscious of little birds like sparrows, he is surely aware of me.
How many stars are there? “The Milky Way’s estimated 100 billion stars results in a large number indeed: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars, or a “1” with 24 zeros after it.” (From an article by Elizabeth Howell on the Internet, dated May 18, 2017.) And the Milky Way is only one of an estimated 100 billion galaxies. Tired of counting yet?
Some time ago a young bird fell from a tree into our back yard, apparently trying to learn to fly, and hurt its wing or leg. It kept trying to fly away but it could not. Perched in the tree above was its mother, screaming and squawking, encouraging its little one to come to her. It was pitiful to watch: the youngster would flop about and fly a few feet into the air, then crash to the ground. It would not let me near it, and when I did manage to catch it and hold it in my hands, it trembled and I could feel its fear.
Perhaps, like the mother bird, God sees and “feels” it when we are in distress or agony. A great God, yet still interested in the details of my life.
The bird could hear its mother—perhaps even see her—but it couldn’t get to her. Sometimes we may feel that way about God—we are not getting through to him. But, like the mother who is watching and encouraging her hurt offspring, God is watching and encouraging us.
Encouragement from God comes to me most frequently through reading the Bible, his Word. The stories and characters in the Bible become alive as the Spirit of God reveals their truths to me. I understand the story and I interact with the characters. I can also talk to God, even like the little bird trying to talk to its mother.
The mother bird, unlike God, does not have a spirit of herself to send and help its young. It could only watch and squawk and finally it gave up. The little bird was left alone, and it died. I wanted to rescue it, knowing it would die without food and drink. I even tried to give it water, dipping its beak into the bowl, but it was no use. The bird was too frightened to drink or remain still. It wanted to fly away, but it could not.
Sometimes we are too frightened to remain still and let God feed us. We want to get away, to be “free” from the care that God is trying to give us, or from our current problems.
Taking the little bird into my hands was an act of compassion, even though it did not seem so or do any good for the bird in the long run. During the night a predator, probably a feral cat, killed the bird. All I found in the morning was a pile of feathers. The bird had become cat food.
I thought quite a bit about the little event, certainly not an “earth-shaking” one, but still something to ponder.
It was one “sparrow” that no one could save, although a bird veterinarian and sanctuary would probably have tried. They would know how to help, and they would have the means to do so. I didn’t. I too was once like a little sparrow and could not save myself. God alone knows—ultimately—how to rescue us. He sees our difficulty and troubles—our sins—and he has sent Jesus to save us from death.
Of course I will die. Not like the little bird, eaten by a predator, but human bodies, after death, are eaten by the worms. However, my spirit will be set free from the dead body.
I don’t know if a bird has a “spirit,” but I rather doubt it. Nevertheless, there are probably sparrows and all kinds of birds in heaven. Why? Because they are creatures that were part of God’s original creation and, with Adam and Eve in heaven, why not birds and animals?
A new bird appeared to give us joy and hope. We put a hanging basket of flowers near our front door and a Carolina wren decided to make a home in the basket. It carried tiny twigs to the basket and it was fun watching this mother bird prepare a nest where it laid its eggs. In time new birds were born and the cycle started again.
What could be more assuring and joyful than a mother bird preparing a home for its future offspring? The analogy is there: God has prepared a home for us and will be there to meet us—with our newly hatched bodies.
We may even be “winging” it. Who knows exactly what the new body will be like?
Karl and Joice Franklin
Learning from the birds