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His Eye is on the Sparrow

Elisabeth Elliot: "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.'"

Lisa Barry: I've always loved that comparison. If you've ever taken the time to study birds or animals, they always give the impression that they're doing just what they were made to do. You never see a bird sulking over the fact that he wasn't a dog, nor do you see a woodchuck with a damaged self-esteem because of his pudgy shape. All this week on Gateway To Joy, Elisabeth Elliot is addressing a group of people in Kansas City, Missouri, about the love and care that surrounds them at every turn. If you're listening today and you feel like a sparrow who was left abandoned in a nest of twigs, then you're in the right place. Let's join Elisabeth now as she draws from the Bible and from nature the kind of nurturing and care the Heavenly Father provides for His own. That's coming up next on today's edition of Gateway To Joy.

Elisabeth Elliot: I've entitled my talk this morning, "His Eye is on the Sparrow." I had the immense privilege of having a father who loved birds. My father was a bird watcher before anybody ever thought of that term. When he was 16 years old, he used to go out into the woods near Philadelphia and just stand there very quietly with his hands behind his back. He always taught us that if you want to see things and hear things in the woods, you stand with your hands behind your back because any sudden movement of your hands will scare an animal or a bird that you might not otherwise get to see. He would just stand there and listen. When he would hear a bird, then of course he would try to see it and with his bird book identify what it was. He also imitated the calls of these birds. My father could imitate the calls of 60 different species of birds to perfection.

When he grew up, he joined the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club, which was just a group of laymen that went out looking for birds in the woods on Saturdays. My father would sometimes leave the crowd and sneak around into the woods into some thicket. He would make the call of a bird that really didn't belong in that area. He would have the whole crowd just plunging through the thorns, trying to spot this exotic bird that belonged somewhere else at that season of the year.

But my father would often give lectures in schools and churches showing slides back in those days. Nobody ever shows slides anymore, do they? But he would show the slides and talk about the habits of the birds and of course give the calls. He would always end those talks, even in public schools, with these simple lines: "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.'"

You all know that lovely song "His Eye Is on the Sparrow." House finches, all kinds of finches, are closely related to sparrows, as any of you bird watchers know. To try to tell the difference between a female finch and an English sparrow, for example, is almost impossible. The females of both the finch and sparrow families are almost all exactly alike, sort of brown and white and striped. It's very difficult. Well, one day Lars and I came home last spring from a trip that had occupied more than a week, I think. We had left the bathroom window ajar. We have the casement kind of windows that have the hinges on the side. So this window was left ajar. We came back to find the beginnings of a nest in the vortex between the window and the screen on the windowsill of our bathroom.


Well, the next day there was more nest. Finally, the nest was completed and beautifully lined with some soft stuff that the birds had found. We realized it was a house finch, a lovely little bird that's sort of purplish and brown. Then one day there was an egg and the next day there were two eggs, and up till five days and we had five eggs. We could watch literally everything that went on in that nest from 6 inches away. It was right there on the windowsill. It was a wonderful thing to watch the care of both the mother and the father. The mother did most of the sitting on the eggs, but the father was always hovering nearby and he had a special little call. We could always hear when the father was coming. His wife would also hear that call and she'd get a little bit excited and fluff up her feathers.

One day there was one hideous little critter that had come out of one of those eggs. It was wet and red and featherless and craning its skinny little neck. You can't even imagine how anything like that could have come out of an egg that size. I just studied it and studied it. I thought, "There's no way that that thing was in that egg, because the whole head alone was bigger than the egg." Anyway, we watched all of this. Then most marvelously, the way they were fed.

On one occasion, I watched that father bird, that house finch, feed all five of his babies, not missing any one of them. And he didn't go in the same order. But I kept track, and every single one of those five babies got eleven mouthfuls on this one trip. Fifty-five mouthfuls. I thought, "Now where did that all come from?" There's no way he could have had as much as five mouthfuls in his beak. Lars figured out that he was regurgitating, which of course is what many birds and some animals do sometimes to feed their young.


Who taught them how to make the nest? Who taught them how to weave it together? You and I couldn't in a million years build a nest out of straw and sticks and twigs and make it so neatly round inside and then line it so smoothly as they did. Who taught the birds that they had to sit on the eggs and feed the babies when they appeared? Of course it was our Heavenly Father. His eye is on the sparrow, but we also know that He watches us, don't we?

It's a wonderful thing to think about what Jesus said about sparrows. "Are you not of much more value than many sparrows?" It's comforting. It's one of the sweet little truths that we receive from Scripture. But then He also says, "Your Heavenly Father notes the sparrow's fall." God allows sparrows to die and to be shot and to be killed by other birds. God allows all sorts of things to happen.

There was a very unpleasant sequel to this lovely little story of our being able to watch these birds in this nest. Because after they had all flown, I came into the bathroom one day and there was what looked like black powder on the windowsill inside. Not where the birds could have been, but inside on the windowsill. I thought, "Now where did this soot come from?" I made the mistake of blowing and I got a faceful of the soot and it turned out to be lice. Bird lice, which are tinier than the smallest period on the typewriter. I thought it was dust. So that gives you an idea. So I had creepy-crawly things on my face and my hair. They got into the bed. I was sitting at my desk, which is a million miles from the bathroom, and there they were, crawling up and down. I mean, they were all over the place.

Well, when the birds left, the lice stayed and they came into the house. I've always heard that all birds have lice. My mother used to tell us, "Never pick up a dead bird on the sidewalk," which I always wanted to do. She said that they would have lice. I certainly found out that there's this lovely side of God's creation and this utterly horrible and incomprehensible side. God knew what He was doing when He created those lice. It was so impossible for us to imagine that something that tiny could actually bite you, bite your skin. We would be wakened at night with these little things biting us. You couldn't just kill one with your finger. You had to take your fingernail. So I want us to think today of the dark side as well as the light side, the side that we don't understand, the side that we would much prefer to avoid.

I'm sure that many of you heard about the little boy, I think it was here in Missouri, wasn't it, who got lost. A little four-year-old boy. The temperature was ten degrees and he was gone for three days. When they found him, he was still alive. I saw the picture of the old man who had sort of a slouch hat. It looked like a real nice farmer-type. He said, "I looked down in that creek bed and I saw this little boy there. I said, 'Oh my, he's alive.'" That little boy had been warmed by two stray dogs, so that they kept him warm. Now God obviously sent those stray dogs. They disappeared after the little boy was taken home. The man asked the little boy, "Do you want to go home?" He said, "Yes." A wonderful story of God's care. But then we know of all the other stories where a child was never found or he was found dead.

God has this mysterious way. You know the words, "Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come? Why should my heart feel lonely and long for heaven and home? If Jesus is my portion, my constant friend is He; His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me."

Lisa Barry: We'll need to break in now because the time is short that remains. But I want to take a minute to let you know how you can get a copy of today's talk. It's all a part of a new tape series entitled "His Eye Is on the Sparrow." There are 10 talks included in this collection, and you'll love each one. The series begins with today's program and focuses on God's tender care for us. Should you want to purchase your copy of this two-week series, the title to ask for is "His Eye Is on the Sparrow." The cost is $11.50 and that includes shipping and handling.

And whether or not you order any resources today, I hope you'll remember Gateway To Joy in your prayers and with your financial gifts. God has entrusted us with this program and we strive daily to show ourselves approved. We try our best to be good stewards of the gifts given to the program. So if you can show your belief in this program in a tangible way, we will be putting forth the message. For that, we thank you. Now here's our address: Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501. That's Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501. Or call toll free 1-800-759-4JOY. That's 1-800-759-4569. Gateway To Joy has been a production of Back to the Bible. Tomorrow we'll learn more about God's tender care for His own when we meet again for the next Gateway To Joy.

 
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