Sparrows

Eric Bégin / Nature Photos / CC BY-NC-ND

Sometimes, I read Scripture and don’t even pay attention. This happens a lot when I assume, “Oh, I’ve heard this story before, yadayadayada.” For example, a lot of what Jesus said and did in the Gospels has been preached and quoted a lot, and sometimes I breeze past it because I think, “Yeah, I got it, bless those who persecute you,” or “Check, fishers of men, heard that before.”

I have been trying to push through this by reading the book fo Luke with my friend Alison. We are reading verse by verse, and we can keep each other in check when we try to skip past stories because we think we’ve heard them before. I can’t tell you how many times our conversations have turned to: “You know, I’ve heard this preached a thousand times, but…”

It’s so wonderful to discover Jesus anew again, to give Him the room to speak instead of relying on sermons and Sunday school lessons to tell me what He said. Yesterday, when reading Luke 12 on my own, I had one of those moments:

Jesus starts off by talking about how we should not fear those who can kill the body and then do no more, but we should fear God, who after killing the body can throw us into hell. I don’t think this is supposed to be scary, I think it is supposed to be encouraging: God alone is in charge, and we are more than our body.

I think this is supposed to be an encouragement because right afterwards, he says:

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs on your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; for you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7

This is the verse that made my soul swell within me. I’ve heard this thrown out in sermons a thousand times, God knows the number of hairs on your head. That is amazing. However, it is the part about the sparrows that makes me want to run to Jesus and throw myself at His feet.

You see, in essence, these sparrows are worthless to the world. You can buy five of them for two pennies, and they are so small they probably won’t offer you much sustenance anyway. I don’t do math, otherwise I would divide it up and tell you exactly how little it would cost to purchase just one sparrow. You probably wouldn’t have to, they’d probably just give it to you for free, or you could capture one in your house. Sparrows were around in abundance at the time, they were so cheap probably because there were so many of them. And yet, Jesus says, not one single sparrow is forgotten by the Creator of the universe.

I struggle a lot with feeling worthless, and I think Jesus saw that in some of the people He walked amongst. He ate with prostitutes and disgraced women, tax collectors and lost men, people who probably thought their life was worth less than two pennies, and yet He loved them. He wanted to tell them, “Even the animal you deem most worthless is cared for intimately by the Father, how much more does He care for you, dear child!”

Jesus talks about birds again in verse 24. This time it’s ravens, how the ravens don’t sow or reap and yet the Father feeds them. It’s a slightly different principle, but I have to believe He’s trying to hammer this point home when he says: “And how much more valuable are you than birds!”

Don’t believe the lie that you are worthless. I am so grateful that God knew we would struggle with this, and He wanted to tell us over and over that we are worth so much more. “Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Jesus, I can’t get enough of You. Keep it coming!

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The issue of remembrance…

First order of business, I have a correction to make: I had spoken incorrectly in my other post. The Jews had returned to their land, and they had settled, but not in Jerusalem. They left Jerusalem empty and ruined, until Nehemiah arrived on the scene and led the rebuilding of the wall. The wall was important. The wall brought boundaries. The wall kept them set apart, the wall upheld their Jewish identity. [Interestingly enough, even after they’d finished rebuilding the city’s wall, he had to resort to a lottery to repopulate the city because everyone had already settled in towns outside of it and they knew that living in a city was dangerous because the city could an easy target.]

Now on to the rest of the post!

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of remembering as I’ve been going through these Old Testament stories. A lot of them I’ve never really studied in depth before, and I never really had a clear idea of the timeline between Exodus and Malachi. So as I’m finishing up the last of the history-text in Nehemiah, I’ve been thinking, “Okay, great. I know what’s going on now. I got it, check. Moving on…”

But that’s not the point of this. If the point of these books were just so I can read them once, understand them, and move on, then they wouldn’t be here in my Bible. God put them here because He intended for them to be read over and over again. It’s hard for me to get that, and it’s hard to understand why we would need to reread something like Lamentations, poetry of grief about a moment that happened centuries and centuries before Christ. It’s beautiful poetry, and it’s a great literary and historical study, but it’s included in the Bible for more than those reasons alone. I’m not sure what the real reason is yet, but I know that God intended for us to remember these ancient moments immortalized in laments.

In Nehemiah 9 and 10, the people rededicate themselves and their nation to God in a lengthy prayer. The prayer begins with Abram and ends with the return to Jerusalem, recording the people’s continuous rebellion and God’s continuous goodness. This happens a lot in the story of the Israelites: the people have to constantly remind themselves (and God has to remind them too) that their God is the One who brought them out of Egypt and led them into the promised land of their inheritance, the God who sustained them in the desert and gave them all good things. They read and reread the Law of Moses, they retell the stories through the ages.

I am so far removed from those stories. They happened thousands of years ago in a place thousands of miles away, for a people I have no ancestral connection to. But I am connected, through the blood-relation of the Savior. I have been grafted in and become a part of this chosen people. These stories are important to remember. These sins are important to remember, just as it is important to tell and retell how God had mercy upon a fallen and stiff-necked people. Thankfully, though, God also likes to remind His people that He brought them out of slavery, and He questions why they would continue to return to it. These stories are important.

And the stories of my Savior are important to remember too. I’ve noticed that I tend to shy away from rereading the Gospels, and I don’t know why. So my next journey will begin in Luke, to explore and remember how God responded to His people after four-hundred-odd years of Scriptural silence. Here is where the promises of Isaiah, Zechariah, Malachi, and the other prophets are being fulfilled. On the side, I’ll also try to read through 1 and 2 Chronicles, the same history and the same stories I’ve finished reading retold for the returning remnant of exiles.

Because it is important to remember, and these stories are in here to be read more than once. I want to meditate and absorb the Word of God, and I can’t do that without returning to the same stories again and again. Thanks for joining me in the journey. <3