A little bird told me
When we use this phrase it’s often with a wry smile… “Now what’s this I hear about you and a new lady love..?” we tease. “… a little bird told me you were out with so-and-so.”
In our modern usage it’s a bit of fun and a playful way of concealing our sources. But used in Ecclesiastes it sounds more ominous…
Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter. (Ecclesiastes 10:20)
This sounds more like a North Korean directive from the thought police. Yet, as with all of Ecclesiastes, it’s not meant to be wrenched from its context and pressed into service as a moral or religious pep-talk. Solomon is opening up his spiritual journal and it’s been written from a very particular viewpoint: it’s life “under the sun”. This is the perspective of someone who won’t accept an in-breaking God or a life-beyond-death. It’s restricted to life in the here and now. And from that perspective, Solomon says some very unspiritual things. Take, for example, the immediately preceding verse:
A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things. (Ecclesiastes 10:19)
There’s a verse for a Christian bumper sticker! It’s not great advice is it? But it’s precisely how we will live if “life under the sun” is all there is.
Our birds-as-spies phrase falls into the same category. This won’t yield us any pithy moral aphorisms, but it is interesting to see the categories of thought which Solomon takes for granted.
Firstly, the saying betrays a deeply ingrained hierarchy. Honour for the king is approved, (unlike the contempt in which we often hold our leaders today).
Secondly, the worst crime imaginable is to curse the king. When Solomon ascended the throne, the people shouted “God save the King!” (1 Kings 1:39) Ultimately our hope is in the Messiah – the true King – to represent His people, fight their battles and win their victories. To spurn Him is therefore to spurn all hope.
Finally, Solomon thinks of birds as messengers. This is an important biblical connection as the Spirit is represented by a dove. He who communicates our thoughts to God and His thoughts to us.
the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:10-11)
Now these truths could coalesce in a frightening and condemning way. We do not always hold King Jesus in the highest regard. Does this mean the Spirit will inform on us to the Great Stasi in the sky?
No. That’s not how Scripture speaks. Instead He communicates to the Father the best of sentiments from God’s children…
God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. (Galatians 4:6)
You see, rather than informing on us to God, He intercedes for us
he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:27)
And He brings back the best of news from the King:
The Spirit… beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God (Romans 8:16)
Allow Him to bring you this good news today.
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