A song of ascents. Of Solomon.
Unless Yahweh builds a house,
Its builders labor at it in vain.
Unless Yahweh guards a city,
A guard watches in vain.
It is in vain for you who rise early and sit late, Eating the bread of anxious toil,
When thus he(b) provides(c) for his beloved in his sleep.(d)
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children(g) of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them.(h)
They shall not be put to shame when they speak with enemies at the gate.
Did you know that God wants to be very active in your life? God is seeking to build, and we get to build with him. If we do not work with God, our whole life gets out of sync, or off-track, and we will fall into a life of vanity. It is as simple as this. If you don’t look to God, you will look to your self, others, or other gods. We want to be looking to God in all our lives, 24/7, and in everything.
Have you noticed the common thread the the songs of ascent? It is to trust in God. Psalm 127 keeps that theme going. What to we walk up upon? Trust in God. That is the solid ground. How do we live out life that will be enjoyable as we trust God? Through obedience to God’s words. It is a tragedy to hear and know, but not obey; which says you don’t trust. So trusting is fundamental and the in God is built upon it.
Psalm 127 has an additional heading note at the beginning, that says, “of Solomon”. I believe that whether it was written by him or not, that this Psalm has Solomon’s life in mind. Solomon is the hermetical or interpretive key to Psalm 127 (j).
Who are the two guys in the Old Testament, who were builders? Noah built the ark and Solomon built the temple, and more. Solomon was a builder and he knew something about building. Reflecting on Solomon’s life, this Psalm teaches us to trust God in the building, of all of our lives.
This Psalm is a word spoken against self-reliance, and for working with and under God. Solomon famously wrote, “vanity of vanities”, in Ecclesiastes 1:2. He knew all about a life of pleasure and every frivolity, without God. He knew all about a misspent fortune. He knew all about missed opportunity. And he warns us about that path.
The back-story, to the life of Solomon, as a builder, is one of the most profound moments in the OT, when David asked God to let him build the temple. God answered David, through Nathan the prophet, that he would not build it. But, his son Solomon would. God then said that he himself, would build David’s house into a house that would continue forever (1 Chronicles 17:1-27).
Solomon did go on to build the temple, but God went on to build something more profound, through Solomon; which is the house or dynasty that culminated in Jesus Christ and will be everlasting. So, the big idea here, in Psalm 127, is building with God, something eternal. What is God building that is of eternal significance, in your life, that you get to build with him?
That is the big idea here. Build with God, a life of lasting value. A house is built to be a home for someone, for little someones. And house in the Hebrew, means more than your home. It means your life, as in your family, or your family line. It is your heritage that God is building.
God is working in the world, and when Jesus was living his life, he modeled a life of seeing what God was doing and doing it with him (John 5:17-20). God wants to build and we work with him. If we build or work to create, without God, it is without meaning, hollow, and vain.
The reflection on the life of the builder, Solomon, is this: Labor, work, and build under God building activity in all your life. If you do not, life will be foolish, meaningless, a waste, and vain. What is God building in your life and how are your building with him?
Are you building something that God is not building? Take a prayerful inventory of everything that you are laboring in, in your life, and see if you are following God’s building, or if you are working on something that God is not building, and asking God to bless it.
A benefit of working with God is that you get to sleep well. God likes to bless your rest. Restlessness is a sign that something is wrong and you are not trusting God. Sleep is a gift that we should fully enjoy. This psalm is about trusting God, and enjoying the gifts of God.
The psalmist says next that children are something that God builds. Children in your care. Children that are built up by God around you and as your house. The greatest thing in life that you get to partner with God in building his children. Yes, they are his.
You might birth children through your womb or adopt children or have the stewardship of spiritual children. It is an opportunity and a responsibility from and towards God.
God builds, but we work with God. We don’t leave God out of the equation, and we are not passive. It is always a partnership, with God as the boss. There is stewardship involved without micromanagement. God can say both, “you do it”, and “do it with me”.
In conclusion, Psalm 127 is about the step in life, of learning to trust God to build everything, and laboring with God in building, learning to enjoy finding rest, and becoming aware of the gift of and responsibility of raising children for God.
We learn in Psalm 127 that God is the builder of homes. Our role is to let God work. He does the work. We have got it backwards and turned around, if we think that we build (a marriage, children, a home, a business, a church, a ministry) and ask God to help. The truth is that God builds and carries the burden of being the builder, while we build with him. Unless he builds, you build in vain.
Being married, having a home, and raising godly children is impossible without God building. He builds and we work. Not we build and God helps or blesses. He builds.
This is the core of the Christian life and of discipleship. Let God build. Our job is to let him build and then do our home-work on the buildings he builds. He does the hard work. This is super good news.
He provides. He makes a way where there seems to be no way. He builds Christ in each one. But he does this only when we let him or invite him in. The way it works is that we decide, we choose, we say, “yes God”, or “we welcome you”. Then we work behind what he is building.
That is the reason for this Psalm’s admonishment. It is a choice and a thousand choices to let God be God and let God into your life. The power is available, but we have to open the door again and again. The Christian life is not robotic, but is habitual choice over and over.
Children are a gift from God. That’s the true way to see kids. We want to treat God’s gifts as precious treasures. To invest in children’s lives is among the highest priorities. We as parents are called to train and make them disciples, so that they become like arrows that God can shoot.
The greatest reward from a life where we surrender to God’s building and build with God is fruitfulness to the next generation (k).
This was the eighth song or eighth step in the songs of ascent or pilgrim songs (Psalms 120-134). To review Psalms 120-126, as steps of degrees:
- We learn to call upon God and that God saves us and answers prayers.
- We learn that God is our guardian, watching over us.
- We learn to be worshipers, desiring God.
- We choose to humble ourselves as servants as we ask for mercy.
- We cultivate seeing God’s workings in our lives, then sharing the stories.
- We learn to live a life of trusting the Lord, that brings security.
- We discover that there is more or we have lost something and ask God for it and learn to release the grief of our hope differed, through tears and we persevere in our walk towards God, with weeping as we walk, and experience astonishing joy from God.
- We learn to trust God to build everything, and we labor under God in building, learning to enjoy finding rest, and becoming aware of the gift of and responsibility of raising children for God.
The painting above is by Melani Pyke
c. Psalm 127:2 Hebrew “gives”
d. Psalm 127:2 Or “so he gives sleep to his beloved”
e. Psalm 127:3 Hebrew “sons”
f. Psalm 127:3 That is, gift
g. Psalm 127:4 Hebrew “sons”
h. Psalm 127:5 Or “whose quiver he Yahweh fills with them”
j. Allen, L.C., Word Biblical Commentary, Psalms 101-150, p. 178
k. Williams, D. M., The Communicator’s Commentary, Psalms 73-150, p. 429