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Read Psalm 127

A song of ascents. Of Solomon.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
    and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
    for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
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.

Editor's Note

Psalms 120-134 are known as the “Psalms of Ascent” or “Pilgrim Songs.” Every year as the Jews traveled uphill towards the city of Jerusalem to participate in one of the three Jewish festivals, these are the songs they would sing. They became a staple of the pilgrimage to Jerusalem back then and now they serve as a helpful template for us as we worship today.

Go Deeper

The opening verses of this psalm are a theological statement. They tell us something about who God is: He is powerful, and He loves us. God can, and God cares. 

Solomon, the author of this psalm, is noted as the wisest man who ever lived. His words in this psalm are reminiscent of some of his writing from the book of Ecclesiastes: Labor without faith is meaningless. Working on our own leads to frustration and futility, while trusting God leads to rest. Work itself is good. We were created to work, and God is honored by our hard work when it is submitted to Him. But we have to remember who makes our work possible and profitable. Whether building a house or defending a city, we need God. As we learn dependence on Him for every task, He cares for us and gives us rest. Dr. Thomas Constable, a scholar and retired professor, says this about Psalm 127:“The godly need to recognize that people are never self-made. We owe all that we possess to God’s providence ultimately. Consequently, we should avoid the trap of depending totally on ourselves for all we need in life. Instead, we should trust God as we work and acknowledge His good gifts.”

In the New Testament, Paul writes frequently about boasting in God’s power and not our own. Ephesians 2:4-10 paints a clear picture of our need, God’s power, and His great love for us:

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

We were dead, and He made us alive! Because of God’s great love for us, He saved us and called us to a holy life. Everything we do flows from Him. He is powerful, and He loves us. God can, and God cares. 

Questions

  1. What does this psalm teach us about the character of God? What does it teach you about the nature of work?
  2. Where have you seen the Lord’s care and provision in your life?
  3. In what areas of your life are you tempted to take control rather than trust God?

A Quote

“As Christians do the jobs and tasks assigned to them in what the world calls work, we learn to pay attention to and practice what God is doing in love and justice, in helping and healing, in liberating and cheering.” Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

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3 thoughts on “Psalm 127”

  1. In vain you rise early
    and stay up late,
    toiling for food to eat—
    for he grants sleep to those he loves.

    Is that not the daily struggle we all contend with? We grind until we can not and then we grind some more. I often wonder what else there is, beyond the grind.
    But as I shift my focus and place God at the center of my being, I begin to discover while the grind is still work, the rewards of the grind are far greater.
    The service and stewardship of His kingdom is where the treasure lies. I pray daily that my approach be, His approach, that I may be a conduit of His love and serve His kingdom as He commands.
    Everyday brings a new challenge but I am learning to rest comfortably in preparation for the next.

  2. The hardest and holiest work we’ve ever done is raising our children. God blessed our quiver with 7 solid arrows to shape, guide, care for, direct and launch. They have most certainly been a reward and heritage from the Lord, but also a deeply refining process in our hearts. One that has forced us to fall on our faces and cry out to Him for wisdom to stay the course, as He alone is our ultimate source of power and strength. The lyrics of Cody Carnes & Kari Jobe’s song “The Blessing” are a prayer we offer often for our family:
    May His favor be upon you for a thousand generations, and your family and their children and their children, and their children.
    May His presence go before you, and behind you, and beside you, He is with you, He is with you.
    In the morning in the evening, in your coming and your going, in your weeping, and rejoicing, He is with you, He is with you.

  3. How I love this Psalm—especially since verse 1 is the motto for my alma mater! I’ll never forget singing these words for an anniversary celebration:

    “Except the Lord build the house, their labor is but lost who build it.”

    The school’s coat of arms reads “Nisi Dominus Frustra.” “Everything is in vain without God.”

    How central and essential God is to all that we “build” — whether it’s an institution designed to last for decades, the minds and character of the people who pass through it — or the lives each of us construct on behalf of his kingdom every day.

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