Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Psalm 127:1a

Pastor John read part of Psalm 127 in the service Sunday as part of Phoebe Kettler's dedication. Afterward I spent some time reflecting on this psalm with Stephanie and found that it has much to teach us and can be easily applied to the leading of our families. So over the next several blog entries, I want to really dive into this psalm and see what we can learn together from it. Here's the text of Psalm 127 from the ESV:

A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.
127:1 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.
2 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.

3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one's youth.
5 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.

Today, we'll just start out by looking at the very beginning of the psalm.

"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain."

This psalm was apparently written by Solomon or for Solomon possibly by his father David. Regardless, it is important to note that Solomon was the one in Israel's history who God instructed to build Him the temple. And a great and beautiful temple it was! It apparently was incomparable to any other later attempt at duplicating it. So Solomon knew a thing or two about building construction.

And with this knowledge in hand, the psalmist writes that building any sort of structure is totally vain unless God is behind one's work. Charles Spurgeon has commented on this passage saying, "Without God we are nothing. Great houses have been erected by ambitious men; but like the baseless fabric of a vision, they have passed away, and scarce a stone remains to tell where once they stood" (The Treasury of David). My mind, as someone living today, immediately goes to The Burj Dubai, a recently completed skyscraper that is the tallest building in the world--at 2625 feet and 160 stories! Work began on this tower in January of 2004, taking nearly six years to complete. Six years.

But the reality is that someday, if Jesus has not returned, this building will be surpassed in height by another, and it will come down. As beautiful and as eye popping as it might be, it really doesn't amount to much in the whole scheme of things. Buildings crumble and fall apart and deteriorate over time. They lose their luster. Tall buildings don't bring security or happiness or life or peace. God does--God alone.

How does this apply to our families? A few thoughts come to mind:

1. Don't spend your life laboring on things that God is not behind. The psalmist says that building a "house" is vain unless the Lord is behind it. The same is true for any work of ours that is without His approval. As a new father, I can already feel the temptation to have wrong priorities. I can work and work and work--and truly work hard and seek to honor God in my work--and still totally be off track. Sometimes we work so hard at building our "house"--whatever that might be (our savings account, our big project at work, our overall career track, our reputation, etc.). And sometimes those are good things in and of themselves. But if God is not behind us in our work, we are working in vain. We are building sand castles that are going to crumble and fall. Instead we should be aligning our work with the "Master Builder" as Spurgeon called Him. As mothers and fathers, this means that we should be pouring our lives out for our spouse and our children (if He has blessed us with them). And I'm not talking about giving them toys or money or college tuition or new shoes. I'm talking about giving them lessons in character, teaching them the gospel, reading with them, playing with them, sharing your love for Jesus with them, etc.

If you step back and evaluate your "work" or "labor," is it really the type of work that God is behind and part of?

2. Realize that in building up your children, you need to do it God's way. As parents, we can get this ideal in our mind of what our children need to be like. Well-rounded. Well-educated. Socially savvy. Physically fit. Responsible. Financially set. Popular. So we arrange our lives trying to meet those goals for them. We put them on all sorts of sports teams. We get them focusing on college choices as middle schoolers. We make sure they're part of clubs. We get them tutors. We make them go out and get a job when they turn 16. We push them to get a boyfriend or girlfriend as they get older instead of staying at home. We make all sorts of choices for them.

But do we stop to consider how God would build them up? Or do we just assume that our goals are the same as His? What about them having a love for their church family? What about them being knowledgeable of God's Word? What about them making family a priority and really treasuring their time with their parents and siblings? What about their skill set for being a good mother or father someday? There are a lot of things that seem to be priorities in God's eyes but that we sometimes ignore or overlook.

So as parents, let's make sure that when we are building up our families, we are building in a manner that is supported by God. Let's make sure that our family's goals and direction are His. Otherwise, we might end up building a family that is responsible, popular, funny, smart, and wealthy...but far from our Savior.

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