The Fifth Sparrow

“Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?” Luke 12:6

It was a beautiful winter day. I was sitting on the veranda of a southern hotel enjoying the sunshine and sky. Suddenly I became conscious of the swift flight of some small object before my eyes. Then came a dull thud as of something falling. There before my eyes, not ten feet away, lay the crumpled body of a sparrow. He turned upon his back. His little claws stretched appealingly toward the sky. There was a convulsive shiver as though he was in pain. Then the tiny eyelids closed over the death-dimmed eyes. A quick, short gasp and all was over. A tell-tale spot of crimson on the little gray breast gave the story of the tragedy. His swift flight through the air had evidently brought him into a death collision with a pole or buttress and his sparrow life had been the price. It was only a passing incident, this death of a tiny sparrow. Seemingly no one but myself, sitting there alone, had noticed it. But like a flash came to mind a wondrous text, with its marvelous truth.” Not a sparrow falleth without your Father.

I was overwhelmed with the thought of how far we failed to believe in, and realize, the tender care of the God of the universe over the tiniest and most insignificant objects of His creation, and much more over the most trivial and passing affairs in the lives of His own dear children.

Sparrow Mathematics

“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?” (Matt. 10:29).

“Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings?” (Luke 12:6).

Have you ever noted the Master’s mathematics in these two sparrow texts? The sparrow was sold as an article of food in the Palestine markets. So cheap was the little bird that two of them were sold for the paltry pittance of a farthing. Naturally four of them would be sold for two farthings. But so insignificant were they in the sight of the vendor that, when a buyer came along with two farthings, the seller threw in an extra one, giving five for two, instead of four. Yet of this extra sparrow — almost worthless in the sight of the vendor, the Lord utters this wonderful word: “Not one of them is forgotten before God.”

Have we been missing a wondrous truth? It is this: the God of the universe is also the God of the tiny sparrow. As that sparrow is ever before the face of God, and in His tender care, so the most trivial details of our lives are cared for before the face of our Father in heaven. He wants us to bring every such detail, however insignificant, in the happy confidence that He is watching and waiting to meet our every need, however humble. The God who has wrought for us the miracle of salvation is the God who would work for us every day and hour of our lives the ever-recurring miracle of the tender minute care of our care-filled lives, and would make them to be as carefree and restful in Himself, as that of a sunny-faced, artless, happy child. Let us run through His blessed Book and note how many little things are, like the sparrow, unforgotten before the face of God.

The Unforgotten Coin

“Go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money; that take and give unto them for me and thee” (Matt. 17:27).

Peter was in financial straits. He had a tax to pay. But there was no money wherewith to pay it. That seemed a small matter for God to be interested in. Yet the God of the fifth sparrow was there. His face was turned toward His troubled child and He wrought a wondrous miracle to meet his money need.

I have a beloved friend who was rushed to a hospital for a critical operation. He had lived for thirty years upon a salary and never expected to be supported in any other way. But it happened that he had just resigned his position to accept another. He was therefore caught between two salaries. That is, his first salary had ceased, and his second had not yet begun. Naturally he faced the crisis with some trepidation, for his hospital bills would be great. How he could meet these and other needs, with no salary, was indeed a perplexing problem. Mark what occurred. There came to him first a gift of several hundred dollars from a group of friends. A second gift followed from another friend. Then another, and still others. By the end of his stay in the hospital he had received, from various sources, fifteen hundred dollars, sufficient for all his needs. All this with not a word of appeal to human help; no knowledge of his precise need among the separate givers; nor any concord of action among them. Someone may say it was all an accident. But if it was, why did the same accident never once occur in thirty years previous? And why did it occur a dozen times within a period of a few months? And why did it cease at once when the necessity ceased? There is only one answer to the believer. The God of the fifth sparrow was watching over His child, meeting all his needs in the very nick of time, and with a marvelous, loving precision that knew no such thing as accident.

The Unforgotten Room

“And he will show you a large upper room furnished and prepared: and there make ready for us. And His disciples went forth, came into the city, and found as He had said unto them . . .” (Mark 14:15-16).

Most of us do not think of God as interested in His children’s house renting and room hunting, with their perplexities and difficulties. But He is. And here we see Him, in the most beautiful way, directing and guiding the disciples. They needed a room for the Passover feast. He sends the “man with the pitcher” as the token of His guidance. They follow him, and find a “large upper room furnished and ready” even “as He had said unto them.” It was the God of the fifth sparrow again. His face was turned in watchful and loving care even toward so small a need in their lives as a room.

Years ago, utterly broken in body, I landed one summer at early dawn in a Canadian fishing village. Staggering down the sidewalk, I stopped at the little hotel to inquire for a room. Every room was taken. It was a keen disappointment for a sick man. Sitting down on a great rock outside the hotel, I began to pray. I reminded the Lord of my weakness and helpless dependence upon Him to supply my urgent need for a place to rest during the summer. I asked Him to show me a room that would meet that need. Rising, I started down the sidewalk toward the village. I had gone only a few yards when I came upon a white-haired, benign-faced, old fisherman, standing in front of his modest little home. “Would you tell me where I could find a room, sir?” I asked. Motioning me to follow him, the old man led the way upstairs to a modest little bedroom where I settled down for the summer. Day after day he would take me in his little boat and sail me about the bay until life and health began to return. For fifteen summers I came back to that same little room, finding in it a haven of rest and quiet. To me my white-haired old fisherman friend was literally God’s “man with the pitcher,” and the little upper room was as really sent to me by the God of the fifth sparrow as was the room to which He had so clearly led His own disciples.

The Unforgotten Danger

“And there arose a great storm . . . Master, carest Thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:37-38).

Christ and His disciples were crossing the lake. A great storm arose. The waves rolled in over the sides. The boat began to swamp. The disciples were panic-stricken. In their fear, they awoke the Lord and cried, “Master, carest Thou not that we perish?” He arose and rebuked the wind and stilled the sea. Immediately there was a great calm. Then He put His finger on the sore spot in their hearts. It is the spot at which we all wince when He touches it in gentle rebuke — the spot of disbelief? “How is it that ye have no faith?” They trusted Him for great things but they did not realize that He was the God of the fifth sparrow and could be trusted in all things. They did not know that He was carefully guarding their lives in danger, even as He was safeguarding their souls.

I was journeying northward after a winter’s teaching in the South. As the day went on, our train came upon a wreck. We were held behind it for many hours until night fell. Finally the line was cleared. As our train ran by the burning wreckage, the passengers from our sleeper flocked to the rear platform to watch. Under the same impulse, I sought the rear of the car. The platform was crowded with spectators, so I stepped across toward the front platform of the car adjoining ours. I laid my hands upon the iron rods at the side. Lifting my foot, I was about to step out upon the platform. There came at that moment a sort of gentle arrest to my spirit which stopped my step for a moment. The next instant I was conscious of a cold breath of air upon my cheek, which should not have been there if the car door were closed. In another instant I realized that someone had left the door wide open, and the platform lifted, and I was about to step out through the darkness from a fast express train to what would have seemingly been certain death. I walked forward, sat down in my berth, pulled my hat over my eyes, and had a quiet season of thanksgiving with the Lord who had stopped my erring step and safe-guarded my life. Before my very eyes I had seen the God of the fifth sparrow in action.

And who of His children has not? Doubtless there is not one who reads these lines who has not had like narrow escapes from instant death. By sea, flood, fire, and deadly peril of all sorts, our lives have been in jeopardy again and again. From childhood days until this hour we have more than once felt the chill breath of death in our faces and realized how close had come the summons to the other world. But the God of the fifth sparrow was there. He beset us before and behind, at our right hand and at our left. And we have come to realize that the angels of His care are sent forth to minister unto the heirs of glory, and that in every passing moment of our lives His unseen messengers guard with tender care the footsteps of those who are “of more value than many sparrows.”

The Unforgotten Bread

“As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread” (John 21:9).

All night long the disciples had toiled and taken nothing. The gray dawn of the morning found them tired, hungry, and disheartened. The last thing in the world they would have expected would be to find the Lord of glory preparing breakfast for them. Yet when they came to shore, they found a fire of coals there, with fish and bread ready to refresh and strengthen their hungry, weary bodies — fish they had not caught, and bread they had not baked. It was the same precious story. The God of the fifth sparrow was there again. Their need of food was not forgotten before the face of the Lord. Just then the thing of first importance to Him was a meal for His own hungry ones. What a picture of His care!

I had reached a crisis in my business and Christian life. God was calling me to step out and follow Him in the teaching of His Word. There was no society or organization behind me. Therefore I knew that it meant I must trust Him to supply my needs through the voluntary offerings of the work. This I decided to do. I foresaw that it meant a testing of faith, nor was it long in coming. The first town I went to teach in was a small one. After the service, the free-will offering was handed me. It amounted to the munificent sum of sixteen cents. Can you imagine how Satan assailed me? He beset me with all sorts of sinister suggestions — I would fail; I would starve; I would be deemed a fanatic, and the like. Finally, I found arising in my soul a spirit of intense indignation that he should dare to try to break my faith in the living God. I started to climb the mountain. When I reached the top, I sat down under a tree to pray. I laid the sixteen cents on the ground and dedicated it to God for missions. It was very little — but it was all I had received. Then I told the Lord I believed He had called me to teach His Word and I would follow Him at any cost. For two hours the heavens seemed to open, and the Lord who had called me to teach in His name was present with me in marvelous power and blessing. That was thirty years ago. From that time, God has cared for me in the most beautiful way, meeting all my needs to the uttermost as they arose. It was the same God of the fifth sparrow who had the bread and the fish ready for His disciples when they landed, hungry and weary, upon the seashore.

The Sparrow’s Reproof

Said the Robin to the Sparrow,
“I should really like to know,
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so?”
Said the Sparrow to the Robin,
“Friend, I think that it must be,
That they have no Heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me.”
– Elisabeth Cheney

The sparrow’s indictment is worth heeding. We believe unto salvation, but we live as though we had no Father! That is, we trust God for the great things of life, but fail to trust Him for the little ones. “If God so clothe the grass of the field which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, oh ye of little faith!”

He rebukes them for their little faith, but note the context. He was speaking of food and raiment when he said, “Oh, ye of little faith!” That is, one form of little faith is the failure to trust God about little things. So with us. We have looked unto Him in faith and have been saved. We have come to Him in some critical hour and have known His great deliverance, answering our implicit faith. We have walked in the darkness of unknown pathways, and trusted Him for guidance. But when it comes to the fifth sparrow, when it means trust in Him for things so trifling we scarcely like to mention them, then we fail. There is a vast area of peace for our lives which is unexplored and unpossessed because we have failed to grasp and embody in practice this great truth concerning the God of the fifth sparrow. The God who upheaved the mountains, hollowed out the seas, and guides the stars in their courses is the same God who paints the pansy, perfumes the rose, and chisels the tiny crystal. The God who holds the universe in His omnipotent grasp is the same God who prepared breakfast for His tired and disheartened disciples. We have been dropping too many stitches from the web of our prayer life. Let us weave in not only the thick cords of our great burdens and anxieties, but also the tiny threads of the trifling and seemingly insignificant. The pattern will be much more beautiful. And the peace — oh, how much more wonderful!