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Words: Maria Straub (b. ___, 1838; d. ___, 1898)
Music: Providence, by Solomon W. Straub (b. ___, 1842; d. Sept. 2, 1899)
Note: The two Straubs were brother and sister, born in Indiana. Maria seems best known for her temperance songs. Solomon wrote mainly tunes, and the publishing company the Straub’s founded, S. W. Straub and Company, put out a monthly musical periodical called The Song Friend, as well as other music.
An example of Miss Straub’s temperance songs is Fight the Battle at the Polls. We may smile indulgently at the quaintness of this sentiment, but in a day before women even had a vote, it took great courage to stand against the male-dominated liquor industry. In the nineteenth century, preaching moderation or outright abstinence, the temperance movement had some success in lessening the destructive effects of alcohol abuse on the lives of individuals and families.
Sparrows. They are the commonest of birds, around both winter and summer. Species of these small, brown and gray creatures are found in many countries of the world. They’re primarily seed-eaters, and it’s not unusual for my wife and I to see dozens of them fluttering around our feeder in the yard.
Because they’re so familiar and seemingly ordinary, sparrows have become a symbol of that which is of relatively little value. In Bible times, they were the food of the poor. (Not much meat on a sparrow!) You could buy two sparrows for a small copper coin called an assarion (Matt. 10:29), perhaps like a nickel in modern terms. And if you bought a dime’s worth, the seller would throw in an extra one (Lk. 12:6).
The Lord Jesus used this common commodity to assure His hearers of His heavenly Father’s care. Sparrows may be insignificant on earth, but “not one of them is forgotten before God” (Lk. 12:6).
“Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin?,” Jesus asked. “And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Matt. 10:29-31).
Shakespeare was fully aware of these passages and their meaning, as he shows in his plays. He has Hamlet comment, “There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow.” And a character in As You Like It says, “He that doth the ravens feed, yea providentially caters for the sparrow, be comfort to my age.”
The providence of God (literally, His before-seeing) marks the ability of the Almighty to foresee what lies ahead, and work sovereignly through all events and circumstances to fulfil His purpose, meeting the needs of human beings, and of all His creation. It’s with that confidence that Christians can say, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
In 1878, Maria Straub wrote this lovely children’s hymn about the tender care of God. She wrote over two hundred hymns, but only this one remains in common use. Taking her theme from the words of the Lord Jesus, the author reasons from the lesser to the greater–called, in logic, an a fortiori argument. If it is true that our Creator cares for little insignificant sparrows, it can surely be argued with even greater certainty that He will care for human beings, His special creation, made “a little lower than the angels, and…crowned…with glory and honour” (Ps. 8:5).
That is a lesson we can learn from the lowly sparrow, couched in simple terms so that a child can understand it. We all surely need its assurance.
CH-1) God sees the little sparrow fall,
It meets His tender view;
If God so loves the little birds,
I know He loves me, too.
He loves me, too, He loves me, too,
I know He loves me, too;
Because He loves the little things,
I know He loves me, too.
In her second stanza, Staub borrows a thought from the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:28-33), “Consider the lilies of the field” (vs. 28).
CH-2) He paints the lily of the field,
Perfumes each lily bell;
If He so loves the little flow’rs,
I know He loves me well.
CH-3) God made the little birds and flow’rs,
And all things large and small;
He’ll not forget His little ones,
I know He loves them all.
1) What evidence do you see in nature of the wise and sufficient care of God?
2) What does it mean to you that God knows the number of hairs on your head (Matt. 10:30)?