I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top.
MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): The title of this psalm is very observable; it is “a prayer of the afflicted.” It was composed by one that was himself afflicted, afflicted with the church and for it.
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Probably he did not refer to the cheerful sparrow of our own land, but if he did, the illustration would not be out of place, for the sparrow is happy in company, and if it were alone, the sole one of its species in the neighbourhood, there can be little doubt that it would become very miserable, and sit and pine away. He who has felt himself to be so weak and inconsiderable as to have no more power over his times than a sparrow over a city, has also, when bowed down with despondency concerning the evils of the age, sat himself down in utter wretchedness to lament the ills which he could not heal. Christians of an earnest watchful kind often find themselves among those who have no sympathy with them; even in the church they look in vain for kindred spirits; then do they persevere in their prayers and labours, but feel themselves to be as lonely as the poor bird which looks from the ridge of the roof, and meets with no friendly greeting from any of its kind.
J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): Is any reader of this paper disposed to be cast down and discouraged, because he loves Christ, and tries to serve Him, but finds himself almost entirely alone? Does your heart sometimes fail you, and your hands hang down, and your knees wax faint, because you so seldom meet any one whom you can pray with, and praise with, and read with, and talk with about Christ, and open your heart to without fear? Do you ever mourn in secret for want of company? Well, you are only drinking the cup which many have drunk before you. Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Joseph, and Moses, and Samuel, and David, and the prophets, and Paul, and John, and the Apostles were all people who stood very much alone. Do you expect to fare better than them?―Alas! there have always been many like you!
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Take a man like Jeremiah. All the false prophets were against him. There is a man who had to stand alone. Poor Jeremiah—how he hated and disliked it! He did not like being unpopular, he did not like standing on his own, and being ridiculed and laughed at, and spat upon, as it were; but he had the truth of God, and so he endured it all. He decided at times to say nothing, but the Word was like a fire in his bones, and he had to go on speaking it. Obloquy and abuse were heaped upon him, but it did not matter; he was God’s spokesman and God’s representative. Similarly Moses had to stand alone when he came down from the Mount where he had met God. To stand in isolation from one’s fellows, but with God, is the great doctrine of the Old Testament in many ways. And it is emphasized in the New Testament also.
C. H. SPURGEON: The ‘one man ministry,’ as certain wise men call it, has been far more used of the Lord than trained bands with their officers. Did all the Israelites together slay so many as Samson alone? Saul and his hosts slew their thousands, but David his ten thousands.
J. C. RYLE: When Noah built the Ark there were few with him, and many mocked him; but he was found to be in the right at last.
ARTHUR DENT (died 1607): Mark and consider what a man may do, yea, what one man may do; what an Abraham may do; what a Moses may do; what an Elijah may do; what a Daniel, what a Samuel, what a Job, what a Noah may do! Some one man, by reason of his high favour with the Eternal, is able sometimes to do more for a land by his prayers and tears, than many prudent men by their counsel, or valiant men by their swords. Yea, it doth evidently appear in the sacred volume of the Holy Ghost, that some poor preacher, being full of the spirit and power of Elijah, doth more in his study either for offence or defence, for the turning away of wrath or the procuring of mercy, than a camp-royal even four thousand strong.
C. H. SPURGEON: Why count heads? One man with God is a majority though there be a thousand on the other side―Long ago I ceased to count heads. Truth is usually in the minority in this evil world.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Was it not like that at the Protestant Reformation? What hope had that one man, Martin Luther, just an unknown monk? Who was he to stand up against all the Church, and fifteen centuries almost, or at least a good twelve to thirteen centuries, of tradition in the opposite direction? It seems a sheer impertinence for this one man to get up and say, ‘I alone am right, and you are all wrong.’ That is what would be said about him today.
C. H. SPURGEON: When Athanasius was told that everybody was denying the Deity of Christ, then―what a man was Athanasius—when standing upright and alone he said, “I know that Jesus Christ is very God, and if all the world believe the contrary, I, Athanasius, stand against the world.”*
J. C. RYLE: When bloody Mary sat on the throne, and Latimer and Ridley were burnt at the stake,** the friends of the gospel seemed very few, and their enemies were a great majority. Yet the Reformers were right, and their enemies were wrong.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: God often uses individual men, or but two or three, against the hordes and masses. Is there anything more exhilarating than the doctrine of the remnant? While the majority had gone wrong, the ones and the twos saw the truth―Since when has the doctrine of the remnant been forgotten amongst evangelicals? It is one of the glorious doctrines in the whole of the Bible…Evangelicals are not interested in numbers. We are interested in truth, and in the living God.
C. H. SPURGEON: Next, let us remember that God’s truth is still the same. It does not matter whether fifty thousand espouse its cause, or only five, or only one. Truth does not reign by the ballot box, or by the counting of heads: it abideth forever.
J. C. RYLE: Be bold and faithful witnesses for God’s truth…Stand fast, both in public and in private, even if you stand alone. But you will not stand alone.
JOHN KNOX (1514-1572): A man with God on his side is always in the majority.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: If God be for us, who can be against us? Go home and read the story of Gideon again.
*Editor’s Note: In 325 AD, Athanasius was a twenty-seven year old deacon of the church at Alexandria. During the First Nicene Council, he stood before Emperor Constantine and all the assembled church dignitaries to defend the Deity of Jesus Christ. Three years later he became the Bishop of Alexandria, and during his 45 year service as a bishop, he spent a total of 17 years in exile, banished five times by four different Roman emperors.
**Editor’s Note: Queen Mary of England was the Roman Catholic daughter of king Henry VIII. During her 5 year reign, she put almost 300 Protestants to death in her furious efforts to stamp out the Protestant Reformation, earning herself the enduring nickname of “Bloody Mary.” In 1555, when her guards led forth Hugh Latimer and Thomas Ridley to be burned at the stake, Latimer turned to Ridley and said, “Be of good comfort, master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”