“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain; Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to stay up late, and to eat the bread of hard toil, for He gives sleep to His beloved. Behold, children are a gift from the LORD, and the fruit of the womb is a reward. As arrows in the hand of a mighty warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; he shall not be ashamed when he speaks with the enemies at the gate.” Psalm 127
Human effort is never enough, in fact it will fail us. But the Divine unseen Builder, Protector and Giver of Blessings is the sure foundation in life upon which we can stand. When the inspired Psalmist wrote Psalm 127, many of Israel’s people tended farms, or had family plots of ground which provided food for them throughout multiple harvests of grain, grapes and other produce.
They would have known a planting time, a tending time and a harvesting time. This Psalm follows that pattern. The pattern could also be looked at as beginnings, stewardship, and life’s true rewards. For we see first in the Psalm someone building a house (beginning of responsibility), then looking after the protection of a city and laboring (providing for a family and people) then the “harvest” first of a child “arrows in the hand of the warrior”, then the legacy of a “quiver full” of grown children strong and valiant enough to protect a parent and a city from enemies at the gate.
As I read this Psalm I was drawn to Genesis 2:2-3. Here we learn that on the 7th day of Creation God rested. He blessed that day and made it holy. God did not need rest. But He took in the beauty of the universe He made and set it as a pattern for us to rest from our labor. It’s something that sets us apart from animals. Celebration of life, of beauty, of art, of relationship, of the work of our hands. Here in this Psalm, we are taught again that for every ounce of sweat we drop, it will never be enough to realize our plans. If we use the phrase “Unless the Lord…” and plug in various projects we’re in the midst of, we begin to feel the power behind this.
‘Unless the Lord bless this deployment…we’re in trouble.’ ‘Unless the Lord protect my family…my own vigilance and plans won’t be enough.’ Unless the Lord is “in” my upcoming orders, PCS, I won’t have what it takes to truly succeed with that new team. Unless the Lord bless my relationship with this woman or man I want to marry, it won’t last. Unless the Lord give us children, we won’t experience that most incredible blessing on earth. Unless the Lord fill me with wisdom and strength as a leader, I’ll fail my mission and those who trust me.
There’s something confusing about this Psalm. It has a hard-to-follow proposal. For many of us grew up believing, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” And in life we almost instinctively want to trust our vigilance, our preparedness, our weaponry for success in war abroad and security at home. So often we even come to God with decisions made, and as an afterthought hope that God will bless actions that may have been miles away from considering His leading and His commands. Yes, Psalm 127 is deeply challenging but it’s also freeing.
It’s message is REST. Trust God. It asks, “have I given wide room for God to come through on my behalf?” For only He can make the endeavors that matter most secure and successful. Psalm 127 teaches us to embrace a humble and founded hope that God will deliver to us what we could never win for ourselves. A child. Restorative Sleep. Secure, thriving cities. And homes filled with the laughter of children grown to be powerful, righteous, and loyal sons and daughters.
Consider today what stage you are at. Just building that home, love, and career upon which to begin a life and a family…or perhaps you’re right in the middle of it: rearing children, up-keeping your property, impacting your community. Maybe you’re contemplating retirement, legacy, and now mentoring adult children. I believe God has a simple message for you. “Trust in me for success in the aspects of life nearest your heart. I won’t fail you. When I build something, you get to rest, and you’ll see it last for always.” I can’t help but think of a Carpenter who knew how to craft homes in Israel, and who came to be called the Cornerstone. When His hands get involved in the projects of our lives, Eternity, with all its joy and perspective, steps in.
“Lord, would you build my life, my family, my home? I want to rest. I trust You. In Christ’s Name, Amen.”
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