Unless the Lord builds the house, Psalm 127

At a time in my life when I was overwhelmed with anxiety and had difficulty sleeping, I memorized Psalm 127. I’d lie awake at night, trying to remain calm through waves of panic, repeating, “He grants sleep to those he loves” (verse 2, NIV 1984). He always did.

That precious phrase is only one of the gems in this Psalm that reminds us of our need to rely completely on the Lord.

Unless the LORD builds the house,
   those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
   the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
   and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
   for he gives to his beloved sleep (1-2, ESV).

Unless our efforts center on Christ and are done to God’s glory, all our striving to build comfortable houses, establish godly families, protect secure communities, and complete industrious work is in vain. On our own, we can accomplish nothing. It is God who enables us to our tasks and blesses our efforts. After a long day of our hard work to his glory, he ties up our loose ends into the soft blanket of sleep.

The rest of the psalm describes the blessings experienced within God’s covenant. Believers receive children who continue the good fight. 

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
   are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
   who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
   when he speaks with his enemies in the gate (3-5, ESV).

Children are, indeed, a heritage from the Lord and a great reward! But not merely for their own sakes (although their personal value is priceless). Covenant children are antithesis ammunition.

In the great battle between good and evil, children who love and serve the Lord fly like arrows loosed from the believing parent’s bow-string and strike deep into the heart of evil.

God blesses the parent who loves him and seeks his will, rather than personal convenience, in raising children. That believing parent will not be put to shame when he or she contends with enemies.

May the Lord bless your efforts to serve him. May he grant you the refreshment of a good night’s rest. May he make your arrows fly straight. And may he protect you from shame when you contend with your enemies in the gate!

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