How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God. Psalm 84:1,3
What a curious and remarkable sight it must have been for ancient worshipers as they made their way up to the House of the Lord to worship! There within the inner sanctuary, on the temple platform, at the great and holy altar, they would see birds nesting, undisturbed.
Out of deep respect for all of life and procreation, the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 22:6) prohibited ever moving a nest. No holy priest or Levite could tidy up after the messy little creatures in the house of God. They were right where they belonged. They were at home there.
Within the high and holy precincts of the magnificent temple one could see the sparrow’s weaving of grass and string trash, or the swallow’s little house of mud and spit plastered against the altar. Mothers must have smiled and nodded as they pointed out the nests to their children. See the little heads poking out with their beaks open wide? Right here in Yahweh’s house!
But one day, in a moment of inspiration, the psalmist gazes at this scene and sees deeper. He sees in the chattering birds a wondrous truth for us and birds alike.
For the psalmist and Hebrew people the sparrow was symbolic of that person the world regarded as worthless and insignificant. And the swallow that was always on the roam represented the restless soul that never seemed to fit in or find her place in the world. But on this day the psalmist sees the sparrow and swallow and knows that truly all are welcomed in Yahweh’s house!
Sometimes we can feel worthless and restless. We fear that we don’t measure up. We’re sure we have failed the Lord one too many times. Then we remember the little sparrow and the restless swallow and in our hearts we come home again to God.
“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!” Amen.
Grace and Peace,
WEEKLY CLASSES WITH TIM SMITH:
EVERY WEDNESDAY THROUGH THE SUMMER
AT THE FRANCISCAN RENEWAL CENTER
(GARCES ROOM OF PIPER HALL)
Wednesday Noon – 1:00 P.M.
Songs for Life’s Journey: the Psalms of Ascent
Wednesday Evening 7:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M.
Profiles of Spiritual Maturity: The Letter of James