If a bird’s nest should chance to be before you in the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the mother bird is sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother bird with the young. You shall surely let the mother bird go, and take only the young, that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days. (Deuteronomy 22:6-7 AMP)
If a bird’s nest chance to be before thee in the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young: thou shalt in any wise let the dam go, but the young thou mayest take to thyself; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days.—Deu_22:6-7.
You think of the children of Israel, don’t you, as having lived far back in the dark ages? But here is one of the commandments which God gave to them—a little one about a bird’s nest—and the words of it make us feel that those wanderers were just big boys and girls with the same inclinations as we ourselves have today.
We learn from the words that the birds that flew about the Israelites as they journeyed were, in many cases, birds such as those we have now. The people must have been robbing their nests too, else we should not have had this verse at all. Naturally enough, in their wanderings they often came upon a nest by the wayside.
It may be that the Israelitish boys knew the little bird nests which are found in a hollow by the side of a marsh. Perhaps they thoughtlessly scattered the eggs, or perhaps Mr. Lapwing—artful little bird that he is!—lured them away from it with the wonderful antics with which he and his ancestors, generation after generation, have protected their nests. For Mr. Lapwing is the real defender of his nest. The mother bird is generally so frightened that she flies away. But when an enemy approaches the male lapwing practices the tricks his father taught him. Gradually moving farther and farther away from where the precious eggs are, he turns a number of somersaults, or he does other equally extraordinary things. The onlooker becomes so interested that the nest is forgotten.
You remember Noah’s clever scout bird, the dove? She, too, would be known to the Israelites. The dove has a very mournful note. No wonder! Her family has ancient legends of how large numbers of them used to be trapped and taken captive to Jerusalem and then killed. Sacrifice had no meaning to them. It was all a mystery, and they just mourned.
What made me think of the text this morning? Why, just the fact that it is May! And May is the great month for birds’ nests. It is the birds’ busy time.
In trees, in bushes, on house-tops, or on the ground, they have built their little homes. What wonderful architects many of them are. One bird has woven twigs together into a building like an old Gothic church; another has built his house in the shape of a bottle; while one we all love lives in a dear little house made of mud. They were very patient while they gathered their building materials; and when they selected a site for their nest, by some strange instinct they chose it as far out of the reach of boys and girls as possible. But in spite of all their wonderful wisdom, somehow—and I feel ashamed to say it—there are always boys ready to climb up and destroy the little houses on which so much thoughtful care has been bestowed.
Now I am to give you three reasons why I want you not to disturb a bird’s nest while it’s being used.
1. Because it is cruel and cowardly.—What would you think if anyone were to break open the door of your home and run away with your bed? Think of your mother going out one day and coming home to find that someone had been there and stolen you away! Yet, how often does the poor mother bird come home to find all her children taken from her? If you rob a nest, it is a case of the strong taking advantage of the weak —a cowardly action under any circumstances—you know it is.
2. Because the birds have rights.—Any creature that suffers has rights. Theodore Parker, the great American preacher, when a lad, saw a turtle on a log, and, with stone in hand, he crept up and was about to throw it, when he heard a voice within which made him desist. He asked his mother about it. She told him that it was the protest of the doctrine of rights— the voice of God. Killing an animal for food or clothing is a part of life. But killing an animal for “fun” or “sport” is wrong.
3. Because we ought to love the birds, and love never willfully hurts what it loves. Love was Christ’s great commandment—love in little as well as in big things. God is great, yet He cares for the birds. “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.”
What has the song of birds’ not done for many a man and woman? It has cheered them, it has inspired them, it has given them new courage. It has even led them to God.
Here are some beautiful verses, by the poet George Macdonald, which tell what the song of a bird did for the heart of a man.
A brown bird sang on a blossomy tree,
Sang in the moonshine, merrily,
Three little songs, one, two, and three,
A song for his wife, for himself, and me.
He sang for his wife, sang low, sang high,
Filling the moonlight that filled the sky;
“Thee, thee, I love thee, heart alive!
Thee, thee, thee, and thy round eggs five!”
He sang to himself, “What shall I do
With this life that thrills me through and through!
Glad is so glad that it turns to ache!
Out with it, song, or my heart will break!”
He sang to me, “Man, do not fear
Though the moon goes down and the dark is near
Listen my song and rest thine eyes;
Let the moon go down that the sun may rise!”
I folded me up in the heart of his tune,
And fell asleep with the sinking moon;
I woke with the day’s first golden gleam,
And, lo, I had dreamed a precious dream!
By James Hastings’ Children’s Great Texts of the Bible
(I normally do a Birds of the Bible here and adapt it for the Birds of the Bible For Kids website. This time I am sharing one I posted on their site first.)
Birds of the Bible – Here