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…
The man prevented from sharing in the public worship of the temple thinks enviously of the very sparrows and swallows that flit through its courts and build their nests under its eaves. Sparrows are very abundant in the East. Swallows make their nests, not only in the verandahs, but even in the rooms, within the mosques, and in the sacred tombs. Josephus tells us that the outer courts of the temple were planted with trees. "It is a singularly natural and beautiful conception which makes the psalmist think of the birds haunting there, as seeking the protection of God's altar for their young, and so enjoying a privilege which as yet he has not." Evidently what is chiefly in his mind is the sense of peace and security which the birds have who make their homes within the precincts of God's temple. No one disturbs them. There are too many people about for birds of prey to venture near. In the temple courts the poet thinks of them as away from all the "stress and strain" of life. Compare "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."
I. THE PSALMIST ENVIES THE BIRDS THEIR SECURITY. Probably he wrote when the land was in a disturbed state, and there was no restfulness or safety for any one anywhere. And he must have felt this even more in the open and exposed districts beyond the Jordan. Illustrate from the idea of "sanctuary," which was, in old times, attached to the temples. Once within them, no foe could assail. Dr. Turner tells us that in Samoa, the manslayer flies to the house of the chief of the village; and in nine cases out of ten he is perfectly safe, if only he remains there. See how jealously Jews guarded their temple from the intrusion of strangers. In London of the olden time, Whitefriars, Westminster, and the Savoy were sanctuaries for all criminals except traitors. This feeling of security the Christian gains out of his daily apprehension of the Divine presence and defence. Round about him are the everlasting arms. He lives within the overshadowing spiritual temple. "What can harm us, if we be followers of that which is good," and have God upon our side?
II. THE PSALMIST ENVIES THE BIRDS THEIR PEACE. Illustrate by dwelling fully on that strange, yet delightful quietness, restfulness, solemnity, which come upon us when we enter a cathedral. We feel as we feel nowhere else in the world. Our feeling answers to that of the Jew when entering his temple. Show how nourishing to all the finest elements of soul life that atmosphere of peace is. - R.T.
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.