The Family God Blesses
Psalm 127: 1 Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 2 It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep. 3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. 5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
One common theme runs throughout both Psalm 127 and 128. It is the blessings of the home or family. It speaks of the great role played by the father, mother, and the children and grandchildren. Yet without God as a central part of each family, all is futile. Today’s need for these psalms is great.
God Blesses the Family With His Help, 127:1-2
- Vanity of Working Without God
In the first two verses the term “in vain” is used three times to describe five empty quests: building, guarding, raising up early, staying up late, and eating of the harvest. Solomon knew about vain pursuits. He wrote, “‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher; ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity’”(Eccl. 1:2).
To build a house could refer to a literal building, the Temple or a family. Although all three could be applicable, the context supports the idea of a young man starting a family. No matter how smart he is the husband/father must make God a central part of his effort. When building his home he must start with God as the foundation. When making plans to build he must use the blueprints revealed in God’s Word. Without God all his labor if futile, fruitless, worthless, etc.
- Vanity of Watching Without God
Only God can provide a blueprint for building the family. To guard the city only God’s security system will work. Man’s wisdom and effort is no substitute for God’s. When Nehemiah and the Jews were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem they needed to pray and set a watch (Neh. 4:9). Their effort was not in vain. They were able to finish the wall in a mere fifty-two days. All saints in every endeavor every day must watch and pray to God. Parents will have sleepless nights. But if God is watching over their home, they will be able to sleep much easier.
- Vanity of Waking Early Without God
Getting up early to go to work for our family, without starting your day with God the father’s efforts are useless. They have been warned against having a self-reliant overconfidence. Now, the admonition concerns being workaholics to become self-sufficient apart from the provisions of God. Solomon’s experiment on the meaning of life supports the veracity of this idea. Jesus told His disciples, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
- Vanity of Working Late Without God
In order to provide for one’s family fathers and mothers will work long, hard hours. They will come home exhausted with no time for each other, for their children or even God. Working harder is not working smarter. Wise parents will work for the Lord not mammon (Mt. 6:19,10). Providing a happy home for one’s family is not providing the family with things to make them happy. Money cannot replace the Master. Having fortune cannot take the place of the heavenly Father. There is nothing wrong with working hard, just working hard without God. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23-24).
- Vanity of Wealth Without God
Perhaps the parents do provide an abundance of wealth for their family to enjoy. Without God can they really find enjoyment in even the good food they eat? Paul wrote to Timothy, “command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). Eating the harvest of one’s hard work is far better than working hard in vain. Solomon spoke of the value of enjoying the fruit of one’s labor in Ecclesiastes (2;24; 8:15; 11:9,10). Yet he was well aware of vain pursuits robbing man of this enjoyment.
- God Gives Rest
First, notice the phrase “his beloved.” God’s beloved in this case may be a reference to Solomon. He was called Jedidiah by God (2 Sam. 12:25) which means “Beloved of Jehovah.”
It is only by their recognizing their dependence upon God, they find real rest and enjoyment of their wealth. The watchman of verse one stays awake in vain. In verse two the father wakes early to go to work in vain and works late resulting in less rest and more sorrow. Worry is a sleep-robber.
The good life with God includes times of rest and relaxation. The “rest” is what comes as a reward for a long day of work. This is especially true when God is left out of our lives and our efforts. The saint can sleep and sleep well knowing God is in control of the results and reward of his labors for the day. Jesus could work hard all day for the Lord in the harvest fields of the world of men and sleep in a boat during a storm at night. Peter could preaching by day and sleep in Herod’s prison at night.
In his “Speech to the convention Forming a Constitution for the United States” presented in 1787 at Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin said, “I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that ‘except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel” (Boice 1118).
God Blesses the Family with Children, 127:3-5
Some scholars have been tempted to divide this psalm into two separate parts seeing no connection between the two. However, the author uses a pun or paronomasia which exist between “builders” (bonayw] in verse one and “sons” or “children” (banim) in verse three.
The term for “children” is masculine meaning “sons” although daughters would be a blessing. Sons would work to generate produce and protection. Men were required to go up to Jerusalem during these festivals. Daughters are honored for the fruit of their womb rewarding the family.
- God’s Gift
Solomon tells fathers to pay attention or listen up by using the term “behold.” He gives three metaphors describing children and three blessings they bring to the father. First, children or sons are a “heritage” or inheritance. Inheritance normally works in the direction of father’s leaving a heritage for their children. In this verse fathers receive as an inheritance of children from their heavenly Father. Parenting represents a stewardship where the souls of children are on loan from God. A possession assigned to them to care for and shared with God.
- Womb’s Reward
A child born into the family is not just a financial tax deduction or the burden of another mouth to feed. They are a reward to the father and mother. If more children conceived in this world were viewed as such there would be less unwanted children and fewer abortions. Every time a baby is born God is expressing His hope and desire that the human race continues to grow and prosper from His blessings. Children are a blessing and not a burden. This is true even of the rebellious ones.
- Warrior’s Arrow
Children make the home a treasury and an armory. Archery is one of the most difficult sports to master. Archery requires skills which only comes by practice, practice, practice. This requires discipline. Before one can discipline his children, he must learn to discipline himself. Like an arrow needs the thrust and guidance provided by the bow, children need direction and encouragement from their parents. Arrows are unable to direct themselves toward the target. Disciple is commanded. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him” (Pr 22:15). “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Pr 29:15). “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).
- A Father’s Fortune
Modern students of these psalms would not have the same sense of values in regard to these blessings. In ages past a large family helped the family fortune especially in an agrarian society.
What is a quiver full? I use to tell my wife, Beverley, it was six. The Lord determined it was two. An archer on the battlefield needs plenty of arrows. Children are ammunition against a father’s enemies at the city gate. A hunter or warrior has a greater chance of success when he has a quiver full of arrows.
- A Dad’s Dignity
These fathers will “not be ashamed.” They will have a sense of honor and pride in their children. Having children represents to the world God has blessed this man, he is a father. Sons will grow up to take the place of their fathers in the city gate and daughters as fruitful mothers.
- A Parents Protection
The city gate was the location where court was held and where all public transactions took place. Sons were God-given weapons to protect fathers and mothers. Children provide couples with the cohesion to turn them into a family. The husband and wife become united as a father and mother.
– Daniel R. Vess