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Topic: Poor (10/25/04)
TITLE: Poor Babes in the Woods
By Karen Treharne
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As the story goes, they spend a night in the woods and die. Later, they are found by robins who gather around and shelter them with leaves. The ending is: “And when they were dead, the Robins so red, brought strawberry leaves and over them spread. And all the night long, they sang them this song, Poor Babes in the Woods, Poor Babes in the Woods.”
Yes, I agree that this isn’t your typical bedtime story. But for me, at least, it was a lesson about the “poor”.
As you might expect, when mom first sang us this song, we cried. And we asked, how could such a thing happen. Where were their parents? Were they cold when it got dark? Were they scared? Why didn’t God save them?
Mom agreed that it was indeed very sad. But at least the children weren‘t alone she said. She pointed out to us that they were able to keep each other warm when the sun went down, and she assured us that they prayed together.
“But, why didn’t God save them?”
Her answer was, “He did. He brought them home to be with Jesus”. She went on to explain how special these children were to God. How He had sent the birds to watch over them and cover them with the delicate leaves from the wild strawberry plants that grew in the woods. And, she also told us that even though they were lost and alone, even though they missed their parents, and even though they were probably scared, God blessed them by ending their suffering and bringing them to His home for safe keeping.
Now, I won’t tell you that I understood all of what mom explained to us at that first moment. But through the years, I remember begging her to sing that song again and again. And each time, she would explain what the song was all about. I was somehow drawn to its sadness and memorized the words, which I later sang to my own children and now to my grandchildren.
For whatever reason, God spoke to me through this song about the poor in general. Those lost in the streets of our cities, those without food or warm beds or clothing. And when I sang to and taught my loved ones about this song, it was an opportunity for me to talk to them about the many blessings we had received from God. How lucky we were to have parents who cared for and protected us; how fortunate we were to live in a home with heat; how God had provided us with food and clothing…and loving relationships. How Jesus gave us the greatest gift we’ll ever receive…His life. And how it is because of His love and sacrifice that we will live with Him in heaven for eternity…just like the three poor ones in the song. It was a blessing for all of us to discuss how God cares for His children.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus speaks of the “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3, NIV) who have little help and little hope except to call on God and to trust in His goodness. Psalm 91:4 (LASB-NLT**) says “He will shield you with his wings. He will shelter you with his feathers.” And in Psalm 91: 15, we are told that “When they [the poor] call on me, I will answer;” (LASB-NLT**)
He answered the prayers of the babes in the woods by rescuing them from their earthly suffering and giving them His eternal protection. He blessed them when He shielded them from further pain with the help of the robins who represented His wings and His feathers. And He took them to the safest place possible…cradled in the warmth of His arms in heaven.
I still cry when I sing this song…and I still feel richly blessed by it.
*By Charles Wayne Barnum for his wife
**Life Application Study Bible-New Living Translation