Sovereign Sparrows and Fantastic Fish
We’ve been spending the last few weeks considering the doctrine of the sovereignty of God and what a functional, day-to-day belief in this doctrine produces in the Christian life.
It’s impossible not to include Matthew 10:29–31 in a biblical review of this subject: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (ESV)
Out of curiosity, I Googled how many birds die each day. The statistics are astounding. In America alone, 13.7 million birds fall to the ground each day. That’s five billion dead birds a year in just one country.1
It’s a morbid number, but Jesus—the Author of life—declares that not a single bird falls without God’s involvement. What a picture of the detailed intensity of God’s sovereign governance over his creation.
What I find even more impressive is that God has such an intimate involvement with everything that happens in your life that he keeps an accurate accounting of the number of hairs on your head … or, in some cases, lack thereof!
But there’s something more significant that you just can’t miss in this passage. Jesus identifies this sovereign one as “your Father.” This obliterates a distant, cold, impersonal view of God’s sovereignty. Instead, he rules with the wisdom and protective care of a father for his children, with love and grace in his heart, and he will take no rest.
Another story that captures the sovereignty of God and animals in his creation is in the book of Jonah. We’ll just casually skip over the fact that the Lord literally picks up wind and hurls it like a baseball! “The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah” (Jonah 1:17), and later, “God appointed a worm that attacked the plant” (4:7).
Could you get a more significant contrast between these two creatures? A massive sea creature, large enough to swallow and house a human being, compared to the smallest, crawling worm. God can appoint animals (and nature) to do his bidding.
But God is not simply flexing, showing off his power for his own glory. Yes, he is entitled to do that as Creator, but in the story of Jonah, he is unleashing his power as a tool of rescuing grace. The storm is a tool of his grace, the fish is a tool of his grace, and the worm is a tool of his grace.
There are other stories like this in the Bible, from the plague of locusts to Balaam’s donkey. I find such comfort and joy in Scripture’s detailed depiction of God’s sovereignty. God will employ his sovereign rule and unfathomable power over creation to redeem his own, and that’s some of the best news you and I could ever have.
Paul David Tripp
1. Besides the lifespan of billions and billions of birds worldwide, what other details of creation does the Lord know, care for, and pay close attention to? Think of something that’s of meaning to you. Have you considered all the ways in which God is sovereign over this aspect of his world? How can this give your soul confidence and lead your heart to worship?
2. Besides the hairs on your head, what other details of your life does the Lord know, care for, and pay close attention to? Think of something of profound significance for you, particularly difficulty, pain, or suffering. Have you considered all the ways in which God is sovereign over this aspect of his life? How can this give your soul confidence and lead your heart to worship?
3. Meditate on Hebrews 4:14-16. Does your functional, day-to-day belief in the sovereignty of God trust how personal his love and care for you is? “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
4. Identify several other stories of God’s sovereignty over creation or creatures in Scripture. What lessons can you draw from these narratives? Specifically, how did God employ his sovereign rule and unfathomable power over creation to rescue and redeem his children?
1 Kaufman, Leslie. 2011. “Conspiracies Don’t Kill Birds. People, However, Do.” NYTimes.com. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/18/science/18birds.html