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SPLENDOUR of the SWALLOW
and the WINSOMENESS OF GOD
It is of course perfectly true, that I like swallow tails. It is not at all that they tend to resemble those latter-day World War II aircraft, with twin tails and a hollow middle. Swallows do NOT have a hollow middle. Yet there is something kin, for all that. The two spiky tails shafts look adroit in conception, and they are aesthetic in appearance, with the lithe lines of the flitting bird gracing the end as its forward looking breast broaches the beginning, in its flight.
It is a thing of beauty. It is ... in its flight and manner, at least it was as one watched it circling in graceful artistries and accompaniments to one's walk on a very large oval - flitting with acumen, flirting with disaster, contemptuous of trouble, a ballerina without toe-contact (always the bringing back to earth in that profession), deft in weaving, the one with the other, as if in some most elaborate square dance. Daring in darting, it is prudent in performing at the exact distance needed to avoid all trouble, whether with the author or the ground, whether with other birds of its own, or different kinds. Hasting but not hustling, sweet and not intrusive, an accompaniment as from the best for some singer, it has grace with gusto, a grandeur in its sheer multiplicity of swirling agents - there may have been dozens engaged in their artful enterprise, about the feet as one walked.
They were a sort of ceremonial troupe, a guard of honour, trapeze artists with air as the bars, exuberant but not boastful, diligent but not daft, continual but not oppressive, an entrancing assemblage of intrigue, purpose unknown, but most companionable. Where'er you walk, not cool breezes but a program of impresario proportions, this was to be found. Lowly, they were from one to three feet above ground, their arcs abundant, woven together, disparate yet designed.
Of course the morbid reader may say at once, They were simply moving you away from their nests. It is possible, one cannot deny it: it is the 'at once' part to which one objects, however.
has one met such a phenomenon. Certainly magpies have attacked like smart
bombs, and hard-nosed (or beaked) miners, if such they were, have
made one a target to be missed by a micron, and despatched like a missile,
on behalf of some site unknown, but not too far distant. Yet this squadron
of swallows : the sheer grace of it, the tenderness of the suggestion if
it was one, the circles so visible, diameters perhaps 10 t0 15 metres,
or more; and there was not a persistence in the intrusive sense, but a
consistency in their interweaving artistries which was more a display than
Such wonders remind one of the case, before mentioned, of hundreds of large pink birds visible in the distance, against the hills, performing the most abstruse seeming ballerina of the air manoeuvres, rising like a fountain, with waters moving to the side as the central spire ascends, the spray being some of the birds, the centre the soaring splendour of the upthrust of the leaders. How they continued their aesthetics in the air, in designs that seemed incomparable, original, with splendour insurgent, a spectacle of grace without apparent labour, of joy without limit, a pageant in the sky, on and on, as if energy were not a consideration, and air were an envelope, they the voluminous letter.
Birds are so fascinating, their speed often such that merely to follow in thought the path they have taken, flitting through intricate shrubberies and small apertures with a dazzling brio and effortless seeming expedition, flashing about with a highly non-reckless lack of abandon, which nevertheless for sheer speed, would suggest it if one did not know them better.
comes their fascination from this alone, but as also noted earlier, it
is not least from their migratory magnificence and munificence. They do
not merely move a little, meet feeding deadlines, move to some determinate
spot. They have style: they can move far further than required for this
mere purpose, an illustration of the wisdom of God, whose works declare
His greatness; indeed they may even vary in terms of changing needs, and
yet maintain accuracy in far flung seas, to tiny roosting places, their
frequent rendez-vous quest.
Studies have continued construing such things as reference to stars, to sun, to moon, to magnetic field, with putative magnetic maps inbuilt and the like. The complexity of the navigational equipment, as with so much other ability in living objects, from the single cell upward, is intimidating to engineering, astonishing to mathematics and in fact, is the sheer brilliance that KNOWS, compared with man who must find out - often with the utmost difficulty, what was done even when the very example is sitting there for research. It moves, it looks, it proceeds. Man watches and wonders.
How often do enemy nations want an aeroplane or some such trophy, so that they may copy or adapt the work of another nation for their own ends. Just have it in front of their scientists, and the work is wonderful. Yet when it comes to the Creator, the work IS all about us; and for once, it almost seems, a small measure of moderation or even modesty creeps into man, who is so far off even when given the secret thing to look at! (cf. Isaiah 2:19, Zephaniah 2:3, Psalm 111:2-3).
it is a marvel. Research proceeds even with the example working away happily
in front of astonished eyes... THAT, it is precisely what one would expect
in the dual definition of the actual situation: the all wise Creator on
the one hand, with man His product on the other. The likeness in capacity
to relate (made in His image) gives meaning to all enterprise in such things,
to any endeavour to comprehend, while the derivative aspect remains a limiting
feature for man. It is the child with the father, when the Father is the
very Creator, one of whose facilities was to make man a product, who is
also a person, and so to formulate him, that trilogy of mind, matter and
spirit, that he could begin to follow the flush of creation, the methods
of working, and yet be abashed at their magnificence, intricacy and power.
let us return to the birds in particular.
sheer capacity of such little creatures to go where their parents have
gone, vast distances away, sometimes without accompaniment; and to return
to the same garden from perhaps thousands of miles away, is arresting.
Without the ease of a chair and a steering wheel, but with the ardour of
programs and instincts, settling and stored, created and contrived, they
may even relate to a vastly changing environment with that capacity to
adapt which is the mark of genius in the most complex cases, such as this.
it does seem irreverent to call the divine facilities 'genius' since this
term more usually indicates merely a tower among somewhat less lofty buildings,
a matter of mere degree. With God, it is sheer inexhaustible exuberance
of energy, knowledge and wisdom. He sees the end from the beginning (Isaiah
46:10), and knowing all things, has them woven with such a wonder of wisdom
that it is far beyond awe: it is worship which it evokes.
Worship is so silly: when it is of lesser things. They are mere matters of margins. Worship is singular for the sovereign, a response to the inordinate, a heart cry to the Father of the infinite BECAUSE infinitude has no bounds, but it is HE who made all things to be bounded by Himself, leaving only the conception of infinity, the attestation of His singularity. The unbounded is personal; the personal is glorious, not the prototype but the propounder of man. The glory of man is the God who made him; the glory of God is the Being He is. Man has NO glory without God, and when he is with God, it is the glory of God which is his background, his entreaty and his beckoner.
is a witness to the Father of spirits, the King of eternity, for whom all
matters of time and design are INPUTS, and CONSTRAINTS, from Him whom nothing
constrains, since He is as He would be, without beginning or end, His character
His desire, His desire His character, immovable, unimprovable, unchangeable,
holy and good. So we have seen (SMR). So we have found, we who know Him
(perhaps millions at the present time), from His word, the Bible, from
His ONLY SON Jesus Christ: that exponent of truth and definitive image
of His Father, that expression of the unseen God and gift of the Almighty
to man, from His eternal abode. From Him, It is not a mere exhortation
to taste and see that the Lord is good; it is advice. It works. It is true
and so cannot do anything else.
things about God work. He is never frustrated. It could not be otherwise,
for no outside thing can contain the One who makes all things, nor can
any inside thing contain or constrain Him who has no dower, whose power
It is good to think on these things when we consider the swallow. It knows! So do those wonderful migratory birds. Wisdom no more 'arises' than anything else in this world. You need to have what it takes even to UNDERSTAND it. You need the hardware; in your mind, you knead to intimate software: you heed the channels of vitality and the facility of personal function. You place your trust in the Maker of both, and so escape containment, except in this, that HE is your containment, and since HE is perfect, personal and loving, good and true, this is the ideal containment. It liberates because it enables, consummates and provides meaning to and for function!
design in all made things - atoms, electrons, nerve cells, synapses; DNA,
and that amazingly versatile bundle of marvels, man; in beauty and in wonder,
in select syntheses of delicious forms and features about the earth, which
painters strive to capture, and love delights to watch: this is not mocked
by the intrusion of darkness (Amos 3-4). This can come as the justifiable
presence of divinely moulded curse, the dynamic of discipline or that tedium
of patience required as a drastic world disobeys with impudent face, like
a bold harlot bracing to display her wares, not ignorant yet conscientiously
oblivious of truth and righteousness as she goes (II Timothy 3, II Peter
2, Jeremiah 5:25,31, 6:16, 7:28, 8:5,8-9, 13:15-17). .
goes this world. It asks for what it gets, and gets far less in evil than
it seeks; it complains at the consequences and blights the name of God
in its pain, anguish and trouble. Malachi is full of the agnosticism of
irrelevance, in which would complain to God and then act as if He were
not there, provocative in their speech, slung heedless to Him who listens,
who knows (Psalm 11), grieved in their spirits, evocative of ruin in their
presumption, inconsistent in their premises. Malachi 2:14,17, 3:13-14 bubbles
with this effervescence of spirit.
this world, it is indeed cursed (Malachi 2:2, Romans 8:20, Galatians 3:17-19
cf. Beyond the Curse, Biblical Blessings
Ch. 7). Yet there is still a swallow-like artistry, a beauty of grace,
an accompaniment to one's footsteps which moves like ballerinas of the
chase away this pageant and all such. They want neither the invisible source
nor the visible emblems of it (cf. It Bubbles, It Howls, He Calls
… Ch. 9). They desire not at all these propositions,
and despise the program which goes with it. The swallows - some shot at
them, and to return to reality from figure, they crucified Christ. Many
go on doing it, as Hebrews indicates in Chs. 6 and 10, in their hearts.
They are never satisfied. They play with fire. They grieve with ire. Their
hearts are self-sufficient in their own eyes, though they neither did nor
could create them or anything remotely like them (cf. Romans 1:17ff.).
Vanity oppresses them and it is as if judgment slobbers over them, as they
entice it with daring and provoke it without remorse (Romans 1:32, Amos
FACING THE FACE OF THE TRUTH
God shows a face in incarnate form, and they mash it and smash it, they tear at it, and long for its departure, which did ONLY good! (Isaiah 52;12ff.). God leaves His book, and they assault it (Isaiah 34:16, II Kings 36:20ff.) like Zedekiah, who first burnt the words of Jeremiah in his fire, and then in fear sought counsel from the prophet (II Kings 38:14ff.). They assail it, they lunge at it, they make incredibly irrational charges and surges at it: in a figure, it is like the one responsible for the World Trade Centre enormity, driving living beings into a death parlour, a ruin which is created BY so driving! But what is it like ? So they act, then they complain at the wreckage and continue in their ways, building another and awaiting its doom; and so it is history.
The Centre was a disaster, but these things feature on the grand scale, restless in spirit, proud in heart.
The Son rose physically from the dead; the Book continues unbeaten after millenia, assaults on it so trivial, so illogical, so ridiculous, that this author for one has found the CHIEF problem understanding how anyone could be so uncomprehending, so darkened in perception, so immune to the text which they come to rend and to tear. However, the Bible has its own answer for that: they are, says Paul in Ephesians, ALIENATED FROM THE LIFE OF GOD (Ephesians 4:17ff.).
It is just so. This is precisely what one finds. It is
an alienation from it, a desire to be without it. It is not so expressed;
yet it is so impressed.
What does Jeremiah say ? This:
can you say, 'We are wise,
And the law of the LORD is with us ?'
Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood.
The wise men are ashamed,
They are dismayed and taken.
Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD:
so what wisdom do they have..." (Jeremiah 8:7-9).
Right at the beginning we see account from God (who alone knows how He did it), of the Spirit of God hovering, brooding, fluttering, moving with concerned coverage over the waters. This is a beautiful expression of solicitude, embrace, involvement. See Genesis 1:2.
Since then, we have moved in history from the seas of Genesis to the seediness of Revelation's disclosures. It is like some plane moving fast up an estuary, revealing at every turn, more action, more events, till it reaches the end of the inlet. What scenes have been revealed since those first times! Many of them are so horrid as to be justly unrepeatable, many so glorious as to be virtually inimitable! Of the former case there is one which would give the bird to beauty, but in the end, it is the bird which has the last chirrup.
God is splendid, and the majesty of His kingdom is a delight. How different is it in the case of Assyria, with such as Sennacherib, that non-God who acted as if he were one, a prototype for millions! Although indeed God employed this arrant acme of arrogance to afflict His disobedient people (and how LONG He waited before He moved to this extent, hundreds of years, with however many a warning first*1: yet He also DEALT with him, whom He used.
This too He did with Napoleon, Hitler, Mao and the like. Their views are more breached than broached in the performance. Their thoughts lie dead like their carcasses, they who posed as if mighty, brought to nothing.
With Assyria of old, the nation allowed to bring an end to the northern part of Israel, but not so to afflict Judah and Jerusalem in the south (they were given over a century longer, but were adamantine in ardours for other things, like our own civilisation increasingly): they received their own devastation. How mighty the wicked consider themselves to be, and how often; but they are being used, the reflex of their own corruption, awaiting the judgment that comes! God gives to many peoples opportunities; they flourish; the consider themselves superb, or wise, or rich, or mighty and they go (Acts 17:26-28). They become history lessons, who did not receive the Lord, that they might become people of eternity. You have to take time in time if you are going to inhabit eternity: the present time presents itself so that beyond time you might find timely aid (II Corinthians 4:16-5:2, 6:1-3).
With what inspiring perspective the LORD rebuked this arrogant Assyria (and does not its contemporary fulfilment continue in scoldings and scornings! cf. Isaiah 30:31-33). It is all known, contained and prepared. It happens with that glorious permission for a measure of liberty that nevertheless neither prejudices the operation of the programs, the instincts, the commands that enable existence at all in this trilogy of magnificence: the human being, with the mind, spirit and body in an assemblage gloriously conceived, astringently protected, productive of personality, responsible for its use, known to the end from the first in each case.
Assyria, allowed to become great with various disciplines for others in
mind, before it received its own, to Assyria, glorying in its cruel strength
(Nahum 1:1-3, and 3:1-19), there came from Isaiah this word (10:5ff. -
I have done to Samaria and her idols,
Shall it not do also to Jerusalem and her idols ?
it shall come to pass, when the LORD has performed all His work on Mount
Zion and on Jerusalem, that He will say,
"By the strength of my hand I have done it,
And by my wisdom, for I am prudent:
Also I have removed the boundaries of the people.
And have robbed their treasures...
My hand has found like a nest the riches of the people,
And as one gathers eggs that are left,
I have gathered all the earth;
And there was no one who moved his wing,
Nor opened his mouth with even a peep." '
Not a peep! Not an opened wing! such was his boast of conquest. The divisions of Assyria's power gloried; but not in God. Yet they did perform the divinely drafted discipline on the northern part of Israel, and challenged the South, which however with the godly King Hezekiah, was calling on the name of the Lord. As it was a theocratic kingdom and sought the covenant, it was delivered (see Isaiah 36-38), and great was the wonder of that deliverance (II Kings 19:35ff.), just as it shall be wonderful in a relatively short time, when God again delivers that nation, Israel, when they call in truth once more upon Him.
is this which shall be as in Zechariah 12, where they are seen from a vantage
point in the vicinity of 500 B.C., to be repenting
the crucifixion not at that time even done, but to come some 5 centuries
later! a repentance that may come some 2500 years later than the precise
vision of the prophet, who having foretold the preliminary, furnishes likewise
the end! So does history seem but hills in the distance, line on line,
each to be taken, with no great marvel that the Lord without flight, can
move over each hill, and announce its contents with a supreme certainty.
ASSYRIAN ASININITY and DIVINE WISDOM
What was then to befall this aggressive Assyrian ? This:
"Shall the axe boast itself against him who chops with it ?It has come, will come and then be consummated. So is it for the little Sennacheribs who consult their god/gods, and imagine their own power, only to be humbled by the one whose greatness is not in mimes and crimes, but in reality. Is bin Laden to add his name to the great for whom morality is a trifle, and indeed can be built on the premises provided by a false prophet. He will pass. What will take a little longer is the machinery of unity which is so quickly arising to oppose him and his ilk, as symbolically, some NATO planes of importance are now coming to roost in the USA, to help in its defence!
Or shall the saw exalt itself against him who saws with it ?
As if a rod could wield itself against those who lift it up,
Or as if a staff could lift up, as if it were not wood!
"Therefore the Lord, the LORD of hosts,
Will send leanness among his fat ones,
And under his glory
He will kindle a burning
Like the burning of a fire.
So the Light of Israel will be for a fire,
And his Holy One for a flame:
It will burn and devour..
And it will come to pass in that day
That the remnant of Israel,
And such as have escaped of the house of Jacob,
Will never again depend on him who defeated them
But will depend on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.
The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob
To the mighty God"
(from Isaiah 10:15-21).
Unique in history! this, proclaimed Bush. It is only then that the final outcome of diabolical menace, with or without gods, but at variance with the Lord God Almighty, and ultimately with the man of sin AS if God, proclaiming himself to be such: it is only in that, or such a pulped and polluted unity that the end comes*2.
Not a bird peeped or chirruped, none of them, eh Sennacherib ? That was the boast of the conqueror of that day.
As for the birds, they continue; but evil has its day coming.
It is red alert time for migration from the marshes of spiritual squalor to the Arctic beauty of purity in Christ. Even the birds know their seasons, says Jeremiah. In this they outdo much of the human race.
Birds, they fly, and in that flying there is a mobility, a capacity for manoeuvre which makes even the smartest airplanes of man seem cumbrous, cumbersome, unwieldly or inept.
When God creates, there is splendour; when He curses there is woe. When He saves there is joy; and that, it is a part of the total program. It is necessary to look well past the beginning, and to discern the end. God did not run out of plans because man ran out of humility, realism and worship. He has His own ways, and these, they do not change: grace and mercy, peace and truth are with Him; but when His means are despised, it is not really the incomprehensible or the meaningless which results, merely the experience of it. Sophisticated sin gets sophisticated rebuke. Toe the pure He shows Himself pure, to the cunning, shrewd (Psalm 18:26-28). To eat the fruit of your own thoughts (Proverbs 1*3) is perhaps the worst of all possible judgments! To get PRECISELY your due is the most intolerable, for when truth so adjudicates, there is no protest, only the experience of utter justice.
From such things there is plan, artistic, wonderful and deft, moving about the feet of straying man like swallows circling (Proverbs 1:33-35, 8: 34-36). One has to stoop to see it, cast down the eyes to seek, not upward to boast, and to realise that this wisdom of God is indeed wonderful, and embrace it. Christ crucified, yes rather risen has been placarded before man, it has swooped with artistry, been given with grace, surrounded him in his walk and flitted about his steps (Romans 8:34, Galatians 1, 3). He cannot ignore it; for it is a thing of beauty. It represents duty, for if the very birds can so act, what of him ?
Is man, then, to ignore this pageant prophesied, this flitting of events coming in precision movements, the word of the God who delivers and has delivered millions! Is he to despise the Rock (Deuteronomy 32:15, Isaiah 51:1-2,7-8), in order to keep faith with wind, and to embrace the storm which follows!
he is, then the birds are better than he, and their end than his will be.
Birds ? You may want to visit Little Things Ch. 5 or SMR pp. 143, 780-781.
Cf. II Chronicles 36, II Kings 17; and likewise the case of our contemporary world in the light of II Peter 3:9, for this is OUR time and OUR clime, the second run, Israel being the first one in the Old Covenant.
Cf.The Other News 5, Biblical Blessings Ch. 2, SMR pp. 750Bff..
*3 From Proverbs 1:
"Wisdom calls aloud outside;See however the next verse together with Proverbs 8:32-36
She raises her voice in the open squares.
She cries out in the chief concourses,
At the openings of the gates in the city
She speaks her words:“How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?
For scorners delight in their scorning,
And fools hate knowledge.
Turn at my rebuke;
Surely I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you.
"Because I have called and you refused,
I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded,
Because you disdained all my counsel,
And would have none of my rebuke,
I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your terror comes,
When your terror comes like a storm,
And your destruction comes like a whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you.
“Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.
Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the Lord,
They would have none of my counsel
And despised my every rebuke.
"Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way,
And be filled to the full with their own fancies.
For the turning away of the simple will slay them,
And the complacency of fools will destroy them..."