Verse 3. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house. He envied the sparrows which lived around the house of God, and picked up the stray crumbs in the courts thereof; he only wished that he, too, could frequent the solemn assemblies and bear away a little of the heavenly food.
And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young. He envied also the swallows whose nests were built under the eaves of the priest's houses, who there found a place for their young, as well as for themselves. We rejoice not only in our personal religious opportunities, but in the great blessing of taking our children with us to the sanctuary. The church of God is a house for us and a nest for our little ones.
Even thine altars, O Lord of hosts. To the very altars these free birds drew near, none could restrain them nor would have wished to do so, and David wished to come and go as freely as they did. Mark how he repeats the blessed name of Jehovah of Hosts; he found in it a sweetness which helped him to bear his inward hunger. Probably David himself was with the host, and, therefore, he dwelt with emphasis upon the title which taught him that the Lord was in the tented field as well as within the holy curtains.
My King and my God. Here he utters his loyalty from afar. If he may not tread the courts, yet he loves the King. If an exile, he is not a rebel. When we cannot occupy a seat in God's house, he shall have a seat in our memories and a throne in our hearts. The double "my" is very precious; he lays hold upon his God with both his hands, as one resolved not to let him go till the favour requested be at length accorded.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 3. The sparrow hath found an house, etc. The tender care of God, over the least of his creatures, is here most touchingly alluded to. The Psalmist, while an exile, envies them their privileges. He longs to be nestling, as it were, in the dwelling place of God. The believer finds a perfect home and rest in God's altars; or, rather, in the great truths which they represent. Still, his confidence in God is sweetened and strengthened by the knowledge of his minute, universal, providential care. It becomes his admiring delight. "God fails not," as one has beautifully said, "to find a house for the most worthless, and a nest for the most restless of birds." What confidence this should give us! How we should rest! What repose the soul finds that casts itself on the watchful, tender care of him who provides so fully for the need of all his creatures! We know what the expression of "nest" conveys, just as well as that of "a house." Is it not a place of security, a shelter from storm, a covert to hide oneself in, from every evil, a protection from all that can harm, "a place to rest in, to nestle in, to joy in?" But there is one thing in these highly privileged birds which strike us forcibly in our meditations -- they knew not him from whom all this kindness flowed -- they knew neither his heart nor his hand. They enjoyed the rich provisions of his tender care; he thought of everything for their need, but there was no fellowship between them and the Great Giver. From this, O my soul, thou mayest learn a useful lesson. Never rest satisfied with merely frequenting such places, or with having certain privileges there; but rise, in spirit, and seek and find and enjoy direct communion with the living God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. The heart of David turns to God himself. My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Things New and Old.
Verse 3. The swallow a nest, etc. The confidence which these birds place in the human race is not a little extraordinary. They not only put themselves, but their offspring in the power of men. I have seen their nests in situations where they were within the reach of one's hand, and where they might have been destroyed in an instant. I have observed them under a doorway, the eaves of a low cottage, against the wall of a tool shed, on the knocker of a door, and the rafter of a much frequented hay loft. Edward Jesse, in "Gleanings in Natural History." 1856.
Verse 3. Even thine altars. There were two altars; the "brazen altar," and the "golden altar;" to those, no doubt, the psalmist refers. Both were of shittim wood, which sets forth the holy humanity -- the perfect manhood, of the Lord Jesus. Incarnation lies at the foundation of all his work for us, and all our blessing in him. The one altar was overlaid with brass, the other with pure gold. The overlaying shadows forth his Godhead, but in distinct aspects. We have the same Jesus in both, but shadowed forth in different circumstances. In the one, humiliation and suffering; in the other, exaltation and glory. Things New and Old.
Verse 3. Thine altars. There is in the original a pathetical, a vehement, a broken expressing, expressed, O thine altars. It is true (says David) thou art here in the wilderness, and I may see thee here, and serve thee here, but O thine altars, O Lord of Hosts, my King and my God. John Donne.
Verse 3. Thine altars is a poetical way of saying, Thy house. It is manifestly a special term, instead of a general. Yet it has been seriously argued, that no birds could or would ever be suffered to build their nests on the altar. Surely this sort of expression, which is hardly a figure, is common enough. A parte apotiori fit denominato. We say, "There goes a sail." What should we think of a man who should argue that a sail cannot go? The altars mean the temple. There was
"no jutty frieze,
Buttress, nor coigne of vantage, but these birds
Had made their pendant bed;"
not to mention that trees grew within the sacred enclosure, where birds might have built their nests. J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Verse 3. A custom, existing among several nations of antiquity, is deemed capable of illustrating the present passage. For birds, whose nests chanced to be built on the temples, or within the limits of them, were not allowed to be driven away, much less to be killed, but found there a secure and undisturbed abode. William Keating Clay.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1-3. The Titles for God in these three verses are worth dwelling upon. Jehovah of Hosts; the living God; my King and my God.
The Eloquence of Grief. David in his banishment envies the
sparrows and the swallows that had built their nests by the
house of God, more than Absalom who had usurped his palace
and his throne.
- The Ingenuity of Prayer. Why should sparrows and swallows be
nearer to thy altars than I am, O Lord of hosts, my King and my
God! "Fear not, ye are of more value than many sparrows." G. R.