And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12
I am sure you recognize the verse and perhaps can picture a baby wrapped securely, swaddled lovingly, and lying peacefully in a manger bed, hovered over by the watchful eye of Mary and Joseph, and providentially by God the Father. He was not only swaddled in cloths, His whole existence was swaddled in the Sovereignty of God, and would be from that day forward until his death on the cross. But even then, He would be swaddled in that same sovereignty,although despised and rejected by men.
Sometime ago, I read an interesting verse during my devotional time. I was reading from the gospel of Matthew from the NIV and I read Matthew 10:29.Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of the will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. (Matthew 10:29 NIV)
That verse hit me rather hard! I know you see nothing unusual about it. Nor had I, up until that day. I had to look at it twice to make sure it said what it said. I knew that the Bible said that God knows whenever a sparrow falls to the ground! That part didn’t surprise me. But what did is what the verse so obviously said that I had never seen!
It says…”not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.
Now, what does that mean? Does it mean that when a sparrow falls that God wills it to be so? No. It means that even though a sparrow falls in an apparent accident, it does not fall outside of the Father’s will. So what’s the difference?
Let me say here that the difference will mean the world to you if you have suffered through this year of 2020. It will mean the world to you if you lost someone you loved or if you are facing sickness or disability or if things have just taken a bad turn for you during this past year.
What this verse means is that what appears suddenly, or tragically, or that brings disappointment, has not happened apart from God’s sovereignty. He remains in control. The fallen sparrow is under His jurisdiction. Even a baby bird that falls from its nest is swaddled in His sovereignty.
That the Father knows this is one thing. You can know something and feel no responsibility for it. This verse says that not one sparrow falls apart from His will. What that means is this: It is His business. It calls for His attention. It is a matter of His concern.
I remember a time when I saw a that illustrated. I was driving down a rural road in Alabama with a friend. As we were traveling slowly down the road, we noticed a tiny bird sitting right in the middle of the road. It was the oddest sight. Here was this tiny bird, facing a two-thousand pound automobile, sitting helpless in the middle of that road. It had obviously fallen out ot its nest. That little bird’s head was turned straight up, in the posture it would assume in the nest, waiting to be fed by its mother. It was as if that tiny bird, in its absolute helplessness, was lifting its head toward heaven to say, “God, here I am.”
Now based on the Scripture I referenced earlier, what did God know about that bird? First, He knew it had fallen. He knew where it was. He knew what it needed. But did God bear any responsibility for that bird? Did He make it fall? Was He allowing it to suffer? Had He forgotten about the plight of this little bird?
Are those silly questions? Well, not in light of what Jesus said. I assume that Jesus knows the heart and mind of God, and He said that not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from the will of the Father.
We stopped the car. My friend got out, scooped up the baby bird, looked around a minute, spotted its nest, and returned it safely to where it belonged. Now, was that a miracle? It was for that baby bird! That little bird had not fallen to the ground apart from God’s sovereignty. Just as the baby Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes and lay in a nest of straw swaddled by God’s sovereignty, this little bird in its nest of straw was also somehow swaddled by God’s sovereignty.
I share that story, raising those questions, because as you listen, some of you are in some desperate place. You are sitting in the middle of some set of circumstances. Your head is turned upward toward heaven. You are wondering if God knows where you are and what you need, and If He sees that giant problem rolling your way that will surely be the end of you.
Does God know? Does God see? Does He care? Do you and your problems matter to God? Have the sorrows and struggles of 2020 happened to you apart from His will? Lets go back and look at the verse in its context.
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31 NIV)
I have to tell you that I am amazed at God. I looked at these verses, that I thought I knew so well, and I saw things I had never seen before. The more I looked, the more I knew that God was showing me these things so that you could see them. I knew that God wanted to speak to your circumstances—to the unsettling of your nest—to the anxiety in your heart.
What message was it that Jesus was delivering at this moment? He was speaking to those who would find themselves in threatening circumstances—perhaps even life-threatening circumstances. He wanted them to know that nothing could come into their lives that would fall outside the Father’s jurisdiction. He wanted them to know that they would also be swaddled in His sovereignty!
What does God know? Well, He knows when one sparrow falls. And not one of them falls apart from His will. You are worth more than many sparrows. So God must also know about you. What does He know? He knows everything. He knows the intimate details of your situation. He knows the minutia, the microscopic, the things that no one else would even bother knowing. Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Those who know you and love you most here on earth don’t know that, and you don’t know it about yourself! Affirming this to be so, Jesus said: So don’t be afraid! What is news to you is not news to the Father. He is saying to you, “I know this. I have it.”
In baseball, the person playing in the outfield has a zone of responsibility. A ball hit into certerfield is not the responsibility of the shortstop or of the second baseman. It is the responsibility of the centerfielder. Out there in that grassy area, is zone of responsibility that is his alone. Sometimes players cross itno another players zone of responsibility, as they both attempt to catch a fly ball. W:hen that occurs, a collision can result, and the ball may be dropped. Tht is why the outfielder will often wave the others away and call out, “Mine!”. The incoming ball is falling into his field of play. It is his responsibility. He knows it is coming, but he also indicates that he isn’t standing still. He has hs eye on the ball. He knows what to do. As that ball falls into his jurisdiction, he closes his glove around it. That ball is swaddled in His sovereignty.
What is God saying to you as you fearfully survey your circumstances? You feel as helpless as a little bird in the path of an automobile. Yet God is saying, “This has not happened apart from my will. Don’t be afraid. I have this. It is mine!”
When I read those verses and I remembered that little bird sitting in the middle of that road—head turned upward as if to say, “God, I am crying out to you. Do you hear me? Do you care? Do you know where I am? Do you know what I face?” All the while, there was a God in heaven who had already said, “Not one of your kind falls to the ground apart from my will—outside of my jurisdiction—apart from my sovereignty.
But right now it is not a bird is it. It is you. You don’t know what to do! You are the one with the questions! What about your circumstances? What about your need? What about your sickness? What about your sorrow?
How would we know an answer to that if Jesus had not come down from heaven to lie in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes? He was helpless, weak, and needy, but He was also swaddled in God’s sovereignty. He came so that He might remind us that we are also swaddled in His sovereignty. Nothing will ever come into your life apart from His will, outside of His jurisdiction—outside of His sovereignty.
The message to the shepherds was don’t be afraid. Go look for the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. When you find Him, go tell the world there is a loving God who wants to swaddle all people in the loving embrace of His sovereignty. Tell them not to be afraid. God has this.
As another Christmas season nears, and 2020 comes to a close, I pray that you will have a special sense of the Lord’s intimate concern for you. I pray that He will rescue you from your circumstances, just as He rescued a little bird from the middle of the road. But if He should choose to allow those circumstances to remain, I pray that you will have the confidence that you are, nonetheless, swaddled in His sovereignty!