West London Alliance Church

Sparrows, Sproul, Hymns, and Providence

This morning, while on the treadmill, I read a booklet written by R. C. Sproul entitled Does God Control Everything? which is part of an excellent series authored by Sproul called “The Crucial Questions Series”. On a side note, these are perfect for reading on the treadmill. I can read them on my iPad in 45-50 minutes which is a workable amount of time for me while walking. Anyways, this booklet focused on God’s providence.

Providence, as defined by Sproul, is explained thusly, “The word providence has a prefix, pro-, which means “before” or “in front of.” The root comes from the Latin verb videre, which means “to see”; it is from this word that we get our English word video. So, the word providence literally means “to see beforehand.” The providence of God refers to His seeing something beforehand with respect to time.”

In expounding the doctrine of God’s providence, Sproul touched upon a topic that our elder Ron Standish dealt with in his sermon from this past Sunday. Ron preached from Luke 12:1-12 in which we read these words of Jesus: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” God's awareness of the fall of the sparrow speaks directly to God's providence.

Sproul continues teaching, “Providence is not the same thing as God’s foreknowledge or prescience. Foreknowledge is His ability to look down the corridors of time and know the outcome of an activity before it even begins. Nevertheless, it is appropriate to use the word providence with reference to God’s active governance of the universe, because He is indeed a God who sees. He sees everything that takes place in the universe. It is in full view of His eyes (emphasis mine).”

It is this fact of God seeing everything which raised the verse from Luke. God sees every sparrow. Every. Sparrow. The truth is, there is nothing that God doesn’t see and there is nothing that happens apart from God ordaining it. This should be a great comfort to a Christian. Apparently it was to writer of the well-known hymn “His Eye Is On The Sparrow.”

The story behind the hymn goes like this:

Civilla Martin was born in Nova Scotia in 1866. Her husband was an evangelist who traveled all over the United States. She accompanied him and they worked together on most of the musical arrangements that were sung.

In 1904 Civilla was visiting an ill, bedridden friend. Although discouraged and sick, her friend remembered that God, her Heavenly Father, was watching over each little sparrow and would certainly watch after her.

God’s providential governance of all aspects of the universe—even the death of a sparrow—should bring comfort and peace to believers. Even in difficult times, we have a God who sees everything and in his sovereign power he ordains it. He doesn’t just love us, though that is an amazing thing. He also is all-powerful and all-knowing and therefore can work all that he has ordained for our good (see Romans 8).

Civilla Martin captured this in the words to her hymn,

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

May the words of this hymn, the words of Jesus in Luke 12, and the providential governing of all things by our heavenly Father bring you comfort, joy, and courage today.



Comment

On Tuesday, December 3, 2019, said:

Birders call the sparrow -LBB - little brown birds - plain brown things and there are so many of the simple little birds to be overlooked. Thank you for the reminder that God cares for us as much as He does the simple sparrow 😉 He never overlooks us.

 

On Tuesday, December 3, 2019, said:

Hi, You're such a blessing, thank you. I smile at today's writing because of two things, one is that we have a budgie as a pet and that song is in Don's heart almost every morning, and in his senior years he not only finds it very comforting but as he 'plays' and enjoys his pet he is often reminded on this song, the overwhelming loved of God to care for us through all things and we then get to share in another conversation about love, provision, each other and life. Blessings and joy, M&D

 

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