“How lovely are Your dwelling places, O Lord of hosts! My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. The bird also has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.” (Psalm 84:1-3)
Imagine the altar of the Lord in the dwelling place of the King of kings – a place of unutterable holiness, reverence, and awe. Then imagine a swallow: she is bringing mud pellets from the banks of the River of Life … and is sticking them to the golden altar of God.
Perhaps the angels pause in their singing, and shoot a questioning glance at Adonai. “Should we dissuade her, Lord?” they ask. After all, mud on the bright altar seems rather out of place, to put it mildly.
But Yahweh smiles. He leaves his throne and approaches the altar. “No, let her be,” he says. He holds out a hand, and the swallow alights on his finger, her beak dripping with another offering of mud. “Is there any better place in all of Heaven for her to build her nest and raise her young? She has chosen well.” He blesses her, and the swallow flits to the altar and puts another gob of mud carefully in place.
This is the tenderness of our God.