Yes, the sparrow has found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even your altars, O LORD of hosts…
I. A BITTER AND SIGNIFICANT CONTRAST. "The sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself," while I! We do not know what the circumstances were, but if we accept the conjecture that he may have accompanied David in his flight during Absalom's rebellion, we may fancy him as wandering on the uplands across Jordan and sharing the agitations, fears and sorrows of those dark hours, and in the midst of all, as the little company hurried hither and thither for safety, thinking, with a touch of bitter envy, of the calm restfulness and serene services of the peaceful tabernacle. But, pathetic as is the complaint, when regarded as the sigh of a minister of the sanctuary exiled from the shrine which was as his home, and from the worship which was his occupation and delight, it sounds a deeper note and one which awakens echoes in our hearts, when we hear in it, as we may, the complaint of humanity contrasting its unrest with the happier lot of lower creatures. Be true to the unrest, and do not mistake its meaning, nor seek to still it, until it drives you to God.
II. A PLEA WHICH WE MAY USE, AND A PLEDGE ON WHICH WE MAY REST. "Thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God." The psalmist pleads with God, and lays hold for his own confidence upon, the fact that creatures who do not understand what the altar means may build beside it, and who have no notion of who the God is to whom the house is sacred, are yet cared for by Him. And he thinks to himself, "If I can say, 'My King and my God,' surely He that takes care of them will not leave me uncared for." The unrest of the soul that is capable of appropriating God is an unrest which has in it, if we understand it aright, the assurance that it shall be stilled and satisfied. These words not only may hearten us with confidence that our desires will be satisfied if they are set upon Him, but they point us to the one way by which they come. Say "My King and my God" in the deepest recesses of a spirit conscious of His presence, of a will submitting to His authority, of emptiness expectant of His fulness; say that, and you are in the house of the Lord. For it is not a question of place, it is a question of disposition and desire.
III. A WARNING. Sparrows and swallows have very small brains. They build their nests, and they do not know whose altars they are flitting around. There are plenty of people who live like that. We are all tempted to build our nests where we may lay our young, or dispose of ourselves or our treasures in the very sanctuary of God, with blind, crass indifference to the Presence in which we move. The Father's house has many mansions, and where. ever we go we are in God's temple. Alas! some of us have no more sense of the sanctities around us, and no more consciousness of the Divine eye that looks down upon us than if we were so many feathered sparrows flitting about the altar. Let us take care that we give our hearts to be influenced, and awed, and ennobled, and tranquillized by the sense of evermore being in the house of the Lord. Let us see to it that we keep in that house by continual aspiration, cherishing in our hearts the ways that lead to it; and so making all life worship, and every place what the pilgrim found the stone of Bethel to be, a house of God and a gate of heaven.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Yea, the sparrow hath found an 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.