Thursday, January 14, 2010

Psalm 127:1b--Who's Protecting Your Family?

"Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain." -Psalm 127:1b

In my last post we started a series of thoughts/meditations on Psalm 127. So I wanted to continue in this process of thinking about what this psalm can teach us about our family life.

So what can we learn from this verse?

Solomon (who I'll assume is writing this) is restating the first two lines about the building but using a different metaphor--this time of an entire city and its defenses. Cities, throughout most of history, have been protected by walls. Enemies were real, and threats could come at any time. There were no intelligence operatives spying on the enemy. There were no telephones to warn of attacks. There were no planes to fly over enemy territory and spy on them. There were no Air Forces and no missiles to shoot long range at potential enemies. Neighboring nations and peoples could build up armies or smaller bands of fighters and come to attack at any time. And the people of the city would never know it--unless their watchmen spotted them on the horizon and warned the people, readying them as fast as possible to defend themselves.

So the watchman's role was absolutely vital. Since attacks could be more surprising and effective at night, it was particularly important for watchmen to be alert and stay awake throughout their night shift. As anybody knows, this can be hard work to get our bodies to turn against our internal clocks and fight off sleep.

Solomon is saying that even if a watchman stays awake and does his job perfectly, spotting the enemies and warning the city, this does not guarantee safety or victory. Cities were still destroyed even when watchmen served their purpose. Why? Because God is the one who ultimately determines victory and defeat, failure and success. Superpowers can fall. Supposedly weak nations and cities can be victorious--if God is on their side.

So parents, let us not fool ourselves into thinking that it is entirely up to us to protect our children. It is not as if we can be constantly scanning the horizon for enemies of our children, micromanaging their lives, protecting them from temptation--and guarantee their safety and their morality. We can do our jobs perfectly well and do our best to shield them and still have them fall victim to those very enemies. Just as cities with watchmen can be defeated, children with watchful parents can be "defeated." The spiritual health, success, and protection of your children is ultimately up to God--not you.

That being said, it is important to note that this does not mean we should just turn caution to the wind and let the guards down for our family. Hear what Charles Spurgeon says:

"Note that the Psalmist does not bid the builder cease from laboring, nor suggest that watchmen should neglect their duty, nor that men should show their trust in God by doing nothing: nay, he supposes that they will do all that they can do, and then he forbids their fixing their trust in what they have done, and assures them that all creature effort will be in vain unless the Creator puts forth his power, to render second causes effectual" (Treasury of David).

So, in your families, take responsibility for the protection of your children. Parents (and particularly fathers) have this God-given duty. There are endless enemies of our children to be mindful of and to shield them from (whether it be in certain forms of music or television, friends' choices, cultural assumptions they adopt, selfishness, anger, lust, you name it). Let's keep our eyes peeled and our voices ready to call out warning to them--just like good watchmen. Let's work hard at that task. But let us also be humble and remember that God must work in our children; He must take our warnings and our efforts and produce the fruit. Our work as parents is important and vital, but God's work is supreme.

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