I love to talk to birds, which I recognize is strange. Whether they are the ubiquitous little brown fellas that hang out on the outside porch at Panera awaiting stray crumbs or the feisty little hummingbirds that nearly take my head off whizzing to their sweet water, I find myself saying hello to them. I did not realize that I did so until my youngest son began to do the same.
This morning while I was studying Psalm 84, I was relieved that think that perhaps one of the sons of Korah who wrote many of the Psalms also talked to birds. Strongly expressing his desire to be in the house of God because his deep longing was the presence of God, he mentions a little bird who has built her nest there. While he, it seems, is far away from the place where he is supposed to meet with God, he imagines a little bird getting to live there. You can almost hear his jealously that the bird gets to build her little nest right there!
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul long, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise. Psalm 84:1-4.
As I was ruminating over these verses this morning, I thought about the strange juxtaposition of the little bird comfortably building the nest in which she would raise her young in the house of the Lord of hosts. The Lord of hosts is a strong, military type name for the Lord, conjuring images of the captain of a strong, unseen angelic army. The Lord of hosts is the one who is in control, who commands and protects fiercely. Yet, here we find a soft, dainty little songbird building her nest in the equivalent of his military tents.
After all, the image of a nest which represents life and safety and provision in an altar which represents death and sacrifice is unsettling.
As strange as it seemed at first, I began to feel comforted by the fact that the Lord calls us to nest, to make our dwelling, not just near him or with but in him. He is both the strong, militaristic captain of the universe and also the comforting Father and provider. There is no better place to place our little chicks than in His presence which, as C.S. Lewis famously said of Aslan who represented the Lord, is not safe but is certainly good.
I imagined what it might look like for me to raise my children as one who consistently nestles them down into His strong and sometimes unnerving presence and plans. There is no safer place to raise our children then on the altar of Christ, under the rafters of His grace.
Raised in His Rafters
An altar seems a strange place
To nest and raise your young.
Yet, here she flits and flaps,
Flying up wrung by wrung.
Hovering in the House of God,
Fetching twigs, returning home.
She’s drawn as if by a magnet
Whenever too far she’s flown.
The presence of the Lord of hosts-
Could there a better protection be?
’Tis far better to be raised right here
Than in the most majestic tree.
This momma sparrow tutors me
With her humble habitation.
Compelling me to nestle down,
To have God as our gravitation.
To raise them in His rafters,
Under the Eaves of His grace,
To nest here in your presence
Until we see Him face to face.