‘Not … apart from your Father’
This phrase in Matthew 10:29 — ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’ — teaches that the Lord is closely involved in all of our lives.
He is active, as Jesus says, even in the seemingly meaningless death of a sparrow, probably alluding to Amos 3:5 — ‘Will a bird fall on the earth without a fowler?’ But the context here is the awesome one of God’s judgement on Israel and the fear of God.
Providence should indeed fill us with awe, as we consider how great God is. It is beyond our understanding how God can be involved in upholding and directing everything. Yet we should not try to squeeze God into our own understanding, but be struck with reverent fear.
Deists see him as remote and detached from creation, believing that this view glorifies God, but, in fact, it strips him of the glory which the working of providence alone displays.
Others, again ostensibly to preserve the Lord’s honour, make him subject to the whims of man or the randomness of the universe. They do not want God to be responsible for evil, but instead make him responsible to something other than himself.
However, the biblical teaching, though uncomfortable, reminds us that nothing happens apart from God. He is not remote. He is over all, and reverent fear is the only proper response.
Take away providence and you have good reason to fear the vagaries of blind chance, the uncertainty each day may bring. Yet if you fear God, you need not fear others, especially those who persecute Christians.
We aren’t promised that we will have no possible reason to fear. Jesus told his disciples the world would hate us because it hated him first. The promise is not that we will escape harm or death — the sparrows fall — but that these things do not happen ‘apart from the Father’.
If you are under persecution God may deliver you, as he delivered Daniel, or you may die, as Stephen died, but you will not die ‘apart from the Father’.
This fear and lack of fear teaches us to try to see the big picture: ‘that in all things God works for the good of those who love him’ (Romans 8:28).
At any moment, something definitely bad may be happening to us, and this may be all we can see for a time, but if we could see the bigger picture the present troubles would fade. God is preserving and governing for a purpose.
Knowing this, should encourage us to obedience. In particular, we should be courageous to obey God, regardless of the consequences from men. Jesus had already said, ‘Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light: and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops’ (Matthew 10:27).
It is possible to worry too much about life’s ‘what ifs’, about the consequences of our actions. Philosophers, authors and scriptwriters love such situations. But whilst the decisions we have to make as Christians are by no means easy, when presented with a clear choice of obedience we should choose obedience regardless of the consequences.
The disciples were to ‘speak in the light’ and ‘preach on the housetops’, to do so because, even if death were the outcome, they would not be ‘apart from the Father’.
It is possible to rationalise disobedience, claiming that a greater good will come out of it. But, when we do this, we are saying the future is in our hands not his. Rather, because we believe in the providence of God, we should always be concerned to do what is right.
Adapted from Cross†Way Spring 2010