Read Psalm 127
1 Unless the LORD builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
3 Children are a heritage from the LORD,
offspring a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their opponents in court.
How have your relationships with others been affected by your faith in God?
How did the Solomon remind us that all of life’s blessings come from God and not people’s own achievements? (Psalm 127:1-5)
In what specific ways should God’s people depend on Him? (Psalm 127:1-2)
What should motivate us to depend on the Lord for help in times of need?
In what specific area of your life could you depend more on the Lord and less on confidence in your own abilities?
“Psalm 127. In vain?
One of the most telling features of this short poem is that it singles out three of our most universal preoccupations—building, security, raising a family—and makes us ask what they all amount to, and to whom we owe them. The psalm is ascribed to Solomon, and has perhaps a concealed signature in the expression his beloved (2), which is the word from which Jedidiah, his personal name from God, was formed (2 Samuel 12:25). Yet, like much of Solomon’s wisdom, the lessons of this psalm, relevant as they were to his situation, were mostly lost on him. His building, both literal and figurative, became reckless (1 Kings 9:10ff., 1 Kings 9:19), his kingdom a ruin (1 Kings 11:11ff.) and his marriages a disastrous denial of God (1 Kings 11:1ff.). The two parts of the psalm are so well marked that some have thought them to be separate poems. But both parts proclaim that only what is from God is truly strong; and further, the two senses of the word ‘house’ (a dwelling or a family) make a well-known wordplay in the Old Testament,71 all the more ready to hand for the similarity of the Hebrew words bōnîm, ‘builders’ (1), and bānîm, ‘sons’ (3).
127:1, 2. Fruitless efforts?
The two human activities of verse 1 are samples of a great area of life: its enterprises and its conflicts, the work of creating and of conserving. For each of them this verse sees only two possibilities: either it will be the Lord’s doing or it will be pointless; there is no third option.
In vain is not the same word as the ‘vanity’ which dominates Ecclesiastes to take the relish out of worldly success; but it is no less sweeping. Verse 2 underlines the fact that to work still harder is no answer to it: it can be a fresh enslavement. It is not simply that our projects will fail—there is at least ‘bread’ to show for them—but that they lead nowhere. In terms of verse 1, the house and city may survive, but were they worth building? For he gives to his beloved sleep: from this point on, the psalm presents the alternative (already hinted at in the phrase ‘Unless the Lord …’) to our elaborate failures.
127:3–5. Living assets
God’s gifts are as unpretentious as they are miraculous. The two halves of the psalm are neatly illustrated by the first and last paragraphs of Genesis 11, where man builds for glory and security, to achieve only a fiasco, whereas God quietly gives to the obscure Terah a son whose blessings have proliferated ever since. The picture in these verses is not to the scale of the Genesis events, but the values are similar. Nothing is said of monetary wealth or of position: an upstanding family is wealth enough and honor enough. And it is not untypical of God’s gifts that first they are liabilities, or at least responsibilities, before they become obvious assets. The greater their promise, the more likely that these sons will be a handful before they are a quiverful.”
Kidner, Derek. Psalms 73–150: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 16. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1975. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries.
Heavenly Father, Give us such faith in You that we will step forth boldly into the uncertainties of life, knowing that you will be there to help us build our homes and communities on the sure and eternal security of Your Word, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.