The house-martins are back. These engaging little black and white birds have returned from their winter season in Africa and are settling into their old nest under the eaves of our house before repairing it, laying their eggs and starting a new family.
Psalm 84 was written by the ‘Sons of Korah’, men who worked in the Jerusalem Temple and must have often watched the sparrows feeding their young. And they were struck by the fact that sparrows and swallows (or whatever the birds were – nobody’s quite sure how to translate the Hebrew) should come and live ‘near God’s altar’. It seems that they took great pleasure in seeing the birds nesting there. And I’m sure that God did, too. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without him knowing; and just read Psalm 104 or Job 39 to see what delight God takes in the animals and birds he’s made!
This tells me that God welcomes what is, to us, so ordinary. There’s nothing out of the ordinary about sparrows and swallows. That these birds should nest close to the holy Temple altar delighted Him. And when we want to make our ‘nest’ – our home, our family, the place we always come back to – in His presence, what joy it gives our Father. It doesn’t matter how ‘ordinary’ we feel ourselves to be, if we’re His children, how He wants us to be settled in His presence!
This Psalm expresses someone’s longing to be with God. But He wants us to know that He longs to be with us even more than we do to be with Him. Sometimes, we’ve been away, like the swallows and the house-martins, in a ‘far country’, having lost almost all contact with our Father. In the Temple, the birds were nesting close to the altar. The altar speaks of sacrifice and points to the Cross. It’s to the Cross that we must come when we’ve ‘been away’; and it’s at the Cross that we must stay if we are to enjoy ongoing forgiveness, healing and restoration. We should not just remind ourselves daily of the Cross and all that was achieved there ‘for our sakes and for our salvation’, but, come to the Cross and stay there, because that’s where we are truly safe.
Prayer: Father, thank You so much that You delight in my coming to You. Thank You for all that Jesus did for me at the Cross. As I come to the Cross now, I receive all the cleansing, healing and restoration that Jesus died to give me. Help me to stay close to the Cross that I may continue to be set free for anything that would hinder my walk with You. Amen.
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