I admire eagles, for the fact that they take on their prey with practicalness, precision and pragmatism. More so, there is a family of eagles that are specialized in hunting snakes. Both the venomous and non-venomous snakes are on their main course. It is enthralling to see one of the most dreaded reptiles shredded by a sharp eagle’s beak.
The snake eagle is a genius serpent hunter. It specializes in hunting snakes for breakfast, lunch and still supper. The serpent, on the other hand, does not go down without a fuss. This combat unmistakably brings an end to the slithering, sneaky, spooky and snarly reptile. Soon it finds itself on the Raptor’s dinner table.
The animal kingdom is one hell of a monarchy where ferocious battles are waged right, left, and centre. In this kingdom, it is good when you are in a position of offensive. It is even better when one can defend themselves. The best is achieved when one cannot just defend but offend too. This is not always the case as many factors go into play in determining the position an animal hold. Some of these factors are beyond the animals themselves. Apex predators such as eagles, lions and tigers sit at the top of the food chain and enjoy the tranquillity that comes with the fact that no one is furtively watching them with an ulterior intention. It is a kingdom where you either eat or you are eaten.
On August 15, 2017, Columbia Broadcasting Services (CBS) ran a story on their website about a nestling of a sparrow that was rescued by a couple in California and taken care of until it was able to fly. The couple had moved to a new house and noticed nestlings that kept falling from their nest. They chose to rescue one that was remaining lest eaten by a cat or another predator. The nestling was nicknamed Sandy. Amazingly the bird grew up and would stake out to fly with other sparrows and then come back in the evening. However, they still got anxious that the bird could be preyed upon by either other birds or snakes and cats. The couple said that they were prepared to take in new nestlings facing similar vulnerabilities.
There is a sharp contrast between the eagle and the sparrow. One of the two can fend for itself, defend itself and offend when necessary. The other bird is hapless, hopeless and helpless.
More than a sparrow
A sparrow may be one of the smallest birds. It does not have a colourful résumé like an eagle’s. It does not boast of acclaims, accolades and conquests. It is just a plain little bird. It is disadvantaged in all respects. However, this does not mean it is of no use. It has a role to play in the ecological niche.
The Gospels tell us that sparrows were monetarily of little value in the times of Jesus – Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God (Luke 12:6). Despite their presumed worthlessness, they played a significant function in Judaism. They were the choice for the poor who could not afford an offering of a sheep or a goat. Nowhere do we read in the Bible that God rejected them as an offering. Also, we find Jesus emphasising their value before God – Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? and not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father (Matthew 10:29).
Sparrows lead a communal life. But there are times when they are alone on the rooftops. Still, God takes note of the lonely sparrow – I watch and am as a sparrow alone upon the housetop (Psalm 102:7). A sparrow is as close to God as we can never imagine or grasp – Yea, the sparrow hath found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God (Psalm 84:3). It may be a tiny bird, but it knows where to build her nest – in the Sanctuary of the Lord.
Our value is not premised on physical credits. Our seemingly physical flatness and irrelevance do not mean we are of no worth in God’s sight, for these are human standards that are founded on pride, meanness and selfishness. We are all regarded as important before the eyes of God – rich and poor, black and white, big and small, educated and uneducated, short and tall. If God had to put a price sticker on each one of us then it would probably indicate something like this, ‘The Life of God’s Son’.
God in His eternal and infinite wisdom has our lives in unimpaired. This means that He knows when we fall from a tree, stumbles upon a serpent, sold worthlessly by demagogues and perched alone on rooftops. The pain of diseases, the agony of loss and the dejection of life we go through are not lost to Him.
He looks at our lives from an eternal point of view and He helps us understand that there is life beyond the shore of shortness and shoddiness.
In the presence of God
Since the times of Jesus, humans have had a momentous opportunity to nurture their relationship with God. We can choose to either build our nest at the altar/sanctuary or in the wild. The smart sparrows and swallows go for the altar. We can learn from them. We are safe at the altar. We can lay our eggs and hatch at the altar. Our dreams can be birthed and fed at the altar. We can raise our young ones at the altar.
Building a nest at the altar means remaining in His presence. Every day of our lives can be a worship experience. It is a level at which our praises and prayers stop being just sessions and become a seamless service. It is living our lives while fully aware of God’s closeness. He watches over us day and night. He has numbered all the hair on our heads. Worry and fear melt when we put our faith in Him. It is not only the feeling that God is right where we are and in our situations but also the knowledge that He is omnipresent. When the feeling of His presence disappears and our faith appears to dissipate, then our knowledge of His promises sustains us.
It is high time we learnt to depend on Him not only for provisions but for Providence too. Living in His Presence should be the ultimate goal of each one of us.