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"His Eye Is On the Sparrow" -- A Hymn Love Story

Updated on August 1, 2013

For lovers of "His Eye Is on the Sparrow"

If "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" is one of your favorite songs, this is the spot for you! Enjoy the back stories, the side stories, YouTube videos, and all the associated ramblings -- plus complete lyrics, chords and sheet music, all for FREE!

For those looking for classic recordings of "His Eye Is On the Sparrow," including that of Mahalia Jackson and Ethel Waters, we can point you to Amazon's finest listings.

My name is Deeann D. Mathews, and this is one of a large set of pages I'm doing about my favorite hymns (some of which you know, and others of which you don't -- but you will!). In one of my many other lives, I am the Creative Director of Praising Pilgrims Music, a little music publishing company that has brought the world The Free HIMbook, a directory of links to free sheet music (chords coming soon) for more than 400 hymns. Here's the secret: I am a hymn NUT, and I'd like you to share my passion with me. So, here is my little offering, a little sacrifice of doing godo toward God and toward you. Enjoy!

(the first image -- that "heavenly heart" -- was created by Paul B. Roman, and can be freely and legally accessed at commons.wikimedia.org -- search for Plismo!)

"His Eye Is on the Sparrow," YouTube - Listen to "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" right here!

This is a powerful piano solo version of this beloved hymn -- turn it on and enjoy while you read!

"His Eye Is on the Sparrow," YouTube too - Listen to "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" again!

This is a gentle gospel-themed version of this wonderful hymn, sung and played on the piano -- turn on and enjoy as you read!

Back Story and Ramblings

Excerpted from "The Singing Devotional," Vol. 1

Two Southern Grey-Headed Sparrows -- from Alan Manson and and Wikimedia Commons

Over at the Cyber Hymnal, the story of how "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" came to be is posted: the author, Mrs. Civilla Martin, was a friend to a vibrant Christian couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle. Mrs. Doolittle was bedridden; Mr. Doolittle had to get around in a wheelchair to support his wife some 75 years before the Americans for Disabilities Act was even thought of (this was 1905). Yet the Doolittles never complained, and instead of needing comfort and encouragement, they comforted and encouraged those around them. One day, while Mr. and Mrs. Martin were visiting with their friends, Mr. Martin asked Mrs. Doolittle the secret of her happiness. "His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me," Mrs. Doolittle repiled . . . and the rest is history. Mrs. Martin got busy with the poem, and Mr. Charles Gabriel soon added music . . . and thus the beloved hymn "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" comes to us.

The illustrations of the care of God to which Mrs. Doolittle referred are found in Matthew 10 and Luke 12, on occasions when the Lord Jesus Christ was explaining to and commanding His disciples to stop worrying about things and trust in God (a lesson which we all need to have repeated). In Matthew 10:30-31, the Lord Jesus says,

29. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.

30. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

31. Fear not ye therefore; ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Sparrows at Kitanomaru Park from Tomoyuki Kawashima (Sendai, Japan)

and Wikimedia Commons

A farthing is basically a penny, and if you stop and think about what a penny buys you today, you will soon realize what a single sparrow is worth in the eyes of men. Luke adds a detail that further drives home the point; actually, if you bought two sparrows for a farthing, the shopkeeper would owe you change . . .

Luke 12:6 -- Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?

Five sparrows into two farthings means you could get 2.5 sparrows for a farthing. Like I said, the shopkeeper in Matthew 10:29 would owe you change, if it was worth trying to figure out, which it wasn't.

Courtesy of the U.S. Government and Wikimedia Commons . . .

A sparrow is worth very little to mankind, either for commerce or for eating (a mouthful, maybe) . . . but in the eyes of God, the Creator of all things, each and every sparrow's life is worth His attention. It is also worth His time to number the very hairs of our head; so minute, and so intimate is God's care for us. It is too much for us to comprehend completely; this is why the Bible also says,

Isaiah 64:4 -- For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside Thee, what He hath prepared for them that wait for Him.

And, because God knew we wouldn't get it the first time He said it . . .

I Corinthians 2:9 -- But as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.

No, we can't understand it completely; God's care for us is just that profound. But the message in the words of "His Eye Is On the Sparrow" tells us we can trust Him:

Verse 1

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,

Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,

When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Verse 2

"Let not your heart be troubled," His tender word I hear,

And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;

Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Verse 3

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,

When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,

I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Hidden in the beautiful "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" lyrics is another piece of wisdom; the second and third verse hint at a truth referred to in a verse that is infinitely precious to me:

Psalm 50:23 -- Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I show the salvation of God.

It is true that God leads us by ways in which we can only see one step at a time, as says the second verse of "His Eye Is on the Sparrow," but it is also true closer that as we draw closer to Him, and get into the "Doolittle and Martin habit" of talking about the goodness and the love and the care of God, and praising Him, He will show us more of how He is working out our salvation each and every day. "From care He sets me free" -- that can be our own testimony as we draw closer to Him and become more attuned to what He is doing.

Refrain

I sing because I'm happy,

I sing because I'm free,

For His eye is on the sparrow,

And I know He watches me.

Open Heart Choir -- from Göran Jakobssen (Jun. 20, 2009) and Wikimedia Commons

I'll start . . .

I became deeply aware of the minuteness of God's care for His children by a roundabout route in 2009 . . . I did not even know Psalm 50:23 when a very dear friend of mine wrote to tell me of severe challenges. I cast around for a way to minister in such a time of great need, and the Lord revealed to me that I should send a Scripture, each and every day. It has now been many, many days and nights . . . and not long into my sending of Scripture to my friend, I began to see God working out all of His promises all around ME, as I had never been aware before. I have witnessed and been through some real situations in the past four years . . . but in everything now I sense the hand of God working all things, as He promised in Romans 8:28, out for not only my good but that of all those that love Him. And, I have great peace. Circumstances are not always agreeable, but I know now, without any shadow of a doubt, that "His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me."

Your turn . . .

What's your story about God's care? - Share your story here!

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I had a friend that used to sing this song before class when I was in Job Corps and have looked for someone who sang it with the heart and soul that she did and now I have finally found it. Thank you for singing it so beautifully it brought tears to my eyes

    • cwkerns lm profile image

      cwkerns lm 6 years ago

      I really enjoyed this. I have been saved since 1979 and have witnessed in my life God watching over me. I have had Bacterial Spinal Meningitis, 2 heart attacks, a stroke and 11 stents but through it all, God has been good.

    "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" meets . . . - "The Love of God" in a devotional!

    His Eye Is On The Sparrow: Celebrating the Love of God
    His Eye Is On The Sparrow: Celebrating the Love of God

    This devotional combines three of my favorite things -- the ideas in two of my favorite hymns, and solid (and concise) Biblical exposition, 365 days of the year (and you might want to go through it twice). Is it enough to get you into that Psalm 50:23 mindset by itself? No. But it is an excellent start!

     

    "His Eye Is on the Sparrrow," the book - Ethel Waters' autobiography

    His Eye Is On The Sparrow: An Autobiography (Quality Paperbacks Series)
    His Eye Is On The Sparrow: An Autobiography (Quality Paperbacks Series)

    Just how did Ethel Waters get from singing the blues in the 30s to praising the Lord with her gorgeous voice later on! I'll let her tell you -- highly recommended (it really is a quality paperback, y'all)!

     

    Related Story: Our Pride Will Be Offended

    Sparrows are cute, and flowers are pretty, but . . .

    I'm going to set us up to have our pride completely insulted, because later on in Luke 12, specifically verses 27 and 28, the Lord Jesus tells us

    27. Consider the lilies, how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these.

    28. If then God so clothe the grass, which is today in the field, and tomorrow is cast in the oven; how much more will He clothe you, O ye of little faith?

    While I was working today with one of my bosses in the garden of the middle school where I teach, I saw some outrageously beautiful irises -- it's a bit too early for the lilies. But, feast your eyes on this stunner:

    Catesby's Lily -- from Vincent P. Lucas and Wikimedia Commons

    But notice . . . the Lord Jesus does not make a direct comparison of the sparrows and lilies to us; He does not say, "Ye are as the sparrows and lilies." He knew better; after all, He formed our first father Adam out of the dust of the ground. And -- though in His kindness He does not say so directly -- the sparrows are too cute and the lilies too beautiful for us to measure up to them, for the sparrows and lilies never rebelled against their Creator. No, to find a metaphor for us in our humanity considered apart from Christ, one has to look for something more like this:

    Dry earth in the Sonoran Desert, Mexico -- from Tomas Castelazo and Wikimedia Commons

    Or, even something like this:

    Valley of the Drums, Bullitt County Kentucky, 1980

    from the U.S. Government and Wikimedia Commons

    I told you our pride was going to be offended. But, truth is truth; in our sinful state not only were we useless -- dead -- to God, but also hopelessly polluted. But, consider! Our God also is the same God Who is the answer to this question:

    Job 38:25-27

    25. Who hath divided the watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder;

    26. To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein is no man;

    27. To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?

    God even looks out for those pieces of ground that are utterly worthless and unseen or forgotten by man . . . and when we were yet sinners, surrounded by other sinners who could not do anything to save us and most of whom would not have cared enough to try, God sent His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, Whose precious blood cleansed us from our sin, and made our hearts fruitful toward Him. Indeed, in God's sight, we are worth more than many sparrows, and many lilies . . . He has chosen to count us so, not by our own merit, but by His grace and love. This is the God Who watches over the sparrows, adorns the lilies, and waters and cleanses worthless ground . . . our God, Who loves and cares for us past our ability to comprehend, and because of Whom we joyfully sing, "His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me."

    Two House Sparrows Feeding from Hand -- from Richard 001and and Wikimedia Commons

    But maybe you're scratching your head . . . - "I'm not sure God is watching over me!"

    God takes good care of His children . . . but what if you're not sure you're one of them?

    Peace with God: The Secret Happiness
    Peace with God: The Secret Happiness

    C'mon -- it's Billy Graham, after all. You can do with this book what you do when the Billy Graham Crusades come on television -- you can turn it off (or at least close the book). But if you have even a little desire to have peace with God and know for certain that He is watching over you with love, compassion, care, and grace, don't miss this. It will be worth the read.

     

    Still scratching your head? - "I am a Christian, but!"

    "I just don't feel like God is watching over me -- look at all the mess that is going on around me, and look at all this stuff I have to deal with! If only I had a better job -- or a job! If only my relationships were better! If only . . . "

    We've all been there, and that's why I gotta offend our pride again. God says He is watching over us -- if we don't realize it and enjoy it, the problem is not with God. The problem is not even in our circumstances. The problem is with us -- we all need to change our thinking, every now and then . . .

    Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind
    Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind

    This bestseller -- two million copies sold and counting -- was a big help in reminding me to get my mind back on the goodness of the Lord and the promises in His word rather than my problems. I suggest that you read it and look up the Scriptures in your Bible at the same time -- it will be a blessing to you if you do!

     

    "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" lyrics

    Get it all right here (with full attribution)!

    "His Eye Is on the Sparrow," by Civilla Martin, Charles Gabriel, and Mrs. Doolittle, 1905

    Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,

    Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,

    When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:

    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

    Refrain

    I sing because I'm happy,

    I sing because I'm free,

    For His eye is on the sparrow,

    And I know He watches me.

    "Let not your heart be troubled," His tender word I hear,

    And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;

    Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;

    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

    Refrain

    Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,

    When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,

    I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;

    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

    His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

    Refrain

    "His Eye Is On the Sparrow," classics

    Three classic takes on this beloved hymn!

    In case you loved the above . . . - . . . you can get more here!

    16 Most Requested Songs
    16 Most Requested Songs

    These songs for me bring back a lot of wonderful memories of listening with the family to these beautiful songs, and of trolling vinyl shops looking for Mahalia Jackson records that nobody knew to price properly . . . very, very highly recommended!

     
    The Best Of Mahalia Jackson
    The Best Of Mahalia Jackson

    This is an MP3 album (but you can still get to some hard copies from Amazon's associates), which may be a good thing, since there is some overlap in the songs between this album and "16 Most Requested Songs" above -- so you might want to just download the ones you don't have. You can't go wrong with Mahalia Jackson, after all!

     
    Wilhelmenia Fernandez Sings Favorite Spirituals
    Wilhelmenia Fernandez Sings Favorite Spirituals

    Ms. Fernandez doesn't get the press of Leontyne Price or Jessye Norman, but this collection of hymns and spirituals is GORGEOUS. If you liked her version of "His Eye is on the Sparrow," you'll also enjoy this entire album, which contains "Ride On, King Jesus," "Witness," and "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child."

     

    Talk to me, people! - Drop your thoughts about this page here!

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      • scrapperkare profile image

        scrapperkare 3 years ago

        What a great hymn . . . thanks for your work on this lens! Am going to add it to my featured lenses of other GOSPEL MUSIC . . .