Missionary Sparrows

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? ~ Matthew 6:26

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? ~ Matthew 6:26

Why did Jesus point His disciples to the sparrows for comfort in the face of persecution?

Matthew chapter 10 recounts how Jesus instructed, warned, and comforted His disciples before sending them out on a disciple-making mission. He did not hide or soften the reality. He told them plainly what things they could expect on mission.

He told them to be careful with rulers and those in power. They were to expect trouble with the worldly authorities, including persecution and imprisonment. He warned them about the treachery and disloyalty they would encounter, even among family members. He prepared them to expect to be hated by those whom they tried to reach. They were to expect persecution and even being run out of town. He warned them about the slander they would face. He also told them that some would be killed for the testimony of Christ and His Gospel.

Jesus was always very open about the costs for following Him. It caused many to rethink and depart. This is quite a contrast from the message from so many corners today: “God loves you just the way you are and has a wonderful plan for your life, if you will only just accept Him.” That was not Jesus’ message. It is not the message of the Bible, and it should not be our message today. But I digress. Now to the sparrows.

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.

~ Matthew 10:29-31

In the midst of these plain and terrifying warnings, Jesus directed the disciples to consider the sparrows. In fact, He did this immediately after raising the prospect of martyrdom. Why? How were the sparrows to help and comfort them in the face of such persecutions? I believe there are two primary reasons.

God’s Fatherhood
Jesus pointed out the sparrows relatively little worth: “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?” He also pointed out the care “your Father” has for them. This is an argument from the lesser to the greater as Jesus concluded, “Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.”

The lesson is plain. We go on mission in Jesus’ name and we have the care of our heavenly Father. He cares intimately about the insignificant creatures of creation. He is our Father and we are more valuable to Him than many such creatures. We should not then presume we have lost His care because we come into persecution for His name.

This is both comforting and encouraging. But Jesus had another reason for pointing His disciples to the sparrows.

God’s Sovereignty
Jesus said, “And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.” Some would understand this to say that not a sparrow dies without the notice and care of God. That doesn’t quite capture the full picture.

The Bible is clear that God is sovereign over His creation. He ordains life and death. He appoints the times, seasons, and bounds of habitation. This is true of the sparrow and the worm and the king on his throne. The Psalmist paints the manifest wisdom of God’s sovereignty over His creation this way:

These wait all upon thee;
That thou mayest give them their meat in due season.
That thou givest them they gather:
Thou openest thine hand,
They are filled with good.
Thou hidest thy face,
They are troubled:
Thou takest away their breath,
They die,
And return to their dust.
~ Psalm 104:27-29

What is the lesson? When a sparrow falls to the ground, it is ordained of God. Likewise, when we come into persecution, it is ordained of God. He has permitted it and He has purpose in it. Even Jesus said as much to Pilate when facing His own death, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.” (John 19:11)

Take comfort and find courage in the mission of the Gospel in the world. Nothing will befall us that is beyond God’s control. Whatever may come will be for our good and ultimately for God’s glory.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

~ Romans 8:28

Problem or No

And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hands. ~ 1 Samuel 17:47

And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hands. ~ 1 Samuel 17:47

Absolute sovereignty poses a problem for not a few modern minds. It is supposed that if God is ultimately in control, it would not really matter what we did. They object, more or less, that this removes all motivation man would have in doing right or what God commands to be done.

I don’t find the faithful in the Bible to suffer from such a crisis of doubt. If you were to pose this problem to David, I imagine he would respond with thoroughly furrowed brow, “That maketh no sense.” Allow me to explain.

The Philistines sought opportunity against Israel after they had anointed David king. They spread themselves in the valley of Rephaim to fight. David went down to the hold and “inquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up to the Philistines? Wilt thou deliver them into mine hand?” (2 Samuel 5:19). David did not march to battle immediately. He sought direction from the Lord.

God responded by giving David a command and a promise. “And the LORD said unto David, Go up: for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into thine hand” (2 Samuel 5:19). David had a direction to go and a sure word of victory. What did he do?

    And David came to Baal-perazim, and David smote them there, and said, The LORD hath broken forth upon mine enemies before me, as the breach of waters. Therefore he called the name of that place Baal-perazim. And there they left their images, and David and his men burned them.” ~ 2 Samuel 5:20-21

David went and fought and won the victory. He also gave the glory to God for it.

What do we learn from this?

  1. The surety of victory beforehand did not cause David to think he had no responsibility. He did not think he didn’t have to go because God had already promised the victory. The opposite was the case. David went forth with zeal and energy to do the Lord’s bidding. The sovereignty of God empowered David.
  2. The battle being won by the Lord did not mean they didn’t have to really fight. They had to plan, march, and fight with all the energy, skill, and wisdom they had.

What does this mean for us today? For one thing, if Christ says we are to go “into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) and “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me” (John 6:37), we should go and preach with all our energy. And when the victory come, we should praise Him for it.

Psalm 97:1

“The LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice;
let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.”

~ Psalm 97:1

The Psalmist begins here with the most wonderful proclamation of Divine truth, “The LORD reigneth.” This is a simple, yet profound truth that should cause the earth to “rejoice,” and the isles, or nations, to “be glad thereof.” He begins his psalm thus, and this magnificent truth is a golden thread woven throughout the whole tapestry of millennial beauty. What grander theme could he take up with? In verse five, he refers to “the Lord of the whole earth.” He declares, “For thou, LORD, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all the gods” (Psalm 97:9).

It should be the sincere desire of all His children that indeed the earth would “rejoice,” and the “multitude of isles be glad thereof,” because “the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (Revelation 19:6). His glory, indeed, is extended over all the earth, for “The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people [peoples or nations] see his glory” (Psalm 97:6). His wondrous creation witnesses to His majesty and likewise, we are constrained to “Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people” (Psalm 96:3). Are we not His creation as well as the heavens? “It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves” (Psalm 100:3). Then, should not we also “declare his glory?”

Though the different peoples of the earth have many natural things that point them to the Divine Creator, “how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14). The witness of the very heavens and earth do not relieve us of our evangelical duty. Millions do not walk now in the light of His glory or rejoice in His mighty power. They do not know God and do not seek after Him. To these, “Clouds and darkness are round about him” (Psalm 97:2). They might say, “Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud” (Lamentations 3:44).

Unknown multitudes are “scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). They wander the earth in enmity against God and what of their awful fate should they continue in this course? The Psalmist says, “A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about” (Psalm 97:3). The spiritual condition of perishing, unreached peoples should concern us, for “Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols” (Psalm 97:7).

How long shall we continue to cast our “pearls before swine?” How long shall we pray, “O God, send forth laborers, but don’t send me, don’t send my son or my husband?” The Lord said of the Pharisees, “Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte” (Matthew 23:15). However, we can hardly negotiate sidewalk and stoop to declare the glory of God. Let us be even as the prophet Isaiah who said, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

The glory of God ought to be within us “as a burning fire shut up” in our bones so that we cannot forbear speaking it. Elihu testified of old, “I am full of matter, the spirit within me constraineth me. Behold, my belly is as wine which hath no vent; it is ready to burst like new bottles. I will speak, that I may be refreshed: I will open my lips and answer” (Job 32:18-20).

This Psalm concludes very personally, “Rejoice in the LORD, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness” (Psalm 97:12). The twelfth verse might be seen as the personal application of the first verse. “Let the earth rejoice,” and “let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.” Also, let us “Rejoice in the LORD.” Praise God! “The LORD reigneth!” Let us seek to promote His glory unto all ends of the earth.