This past weekend, we celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada. It is a time set aside to give thanks to God for His numerous blessings. As part of the celebration, we usually gather with family and friends over food and drink. Homes are a place of joyous celebration as people gather together.
Psalm 127 is a psalm all about the home. Actually, the text begins with a broader principle of dependence on God for life’s endeavours, reminding us that all things are futile apart from Him. At the midpoint, the psalmist becomes more speciﬁc, speaking of the building of the home.
We learn from the beginning of this psalm that all successful ventures in life depend upon God. Two poetic images are introduced in the ﬁrst stanza of the poem: a house and a city. The house is under construction. Although this may appear to be a somewhat ordinary enterprise, fully within the ability of a building contractor and his crew, the psalmist reminds us that it is useless, or to no good purpose or end, if one thinks he can accomplish the undertaking without God. The second image is of a city under guard.
Again, this seems to be a routine occupation, but we are reminded that the guard will fail in his task unless the Lord, ultimately, exercises His providential care. This is not to say that human choice has no part in either endeavour. Indeed, the builder must build, and the watchman must guard. Neither is told to slack off in his activity, believing that God will act independently of human involvement.
God accomplishes His purposes using ordained means, in this case, building and watching. The Lord builds the house so that they who build it do not labour in vain. The Lord guards the city so that they who guard it do not stay awake in vain. The builder and the watchman each have a role, and in both vocations, we might be tempted to self-reliance. But the point of the text is clear: God is crucially involved, and apart from His working in the tasks of life, we will fail to achieve our intent.
Because success ultimately is a gift from God, it is futile for humans fanatically to strive to achieve. Many tend to have the belief that if we do our part then God will do the rest. He does what we cannot. The problem with that view is we generally apply that to salvation as well. A picture of that might be trying to cross a canyon that is 100 metres apart. We jump as hard as we can and God makes up the difference. The reality is, the opposite is true. We give up our vain attempts to cross and accept what Christ has done on our behalf.
In our day to day living, it is the same in that all we do, is done ultimately through the power and grace of God. It is vain to think we can get up earlier to work more or stay up late to accomplish more to achieve our goals. Now, we need to be obedient and faithful to what God has called us to, but diligence, though important, cannot take us beyond our capability in life’s ventures. We are called to trust God, who graciously provides that which we cannot do.
Secondly, the raising of children successfully requires reliance upon God. In the second stanza of the poem, the psalmist turns his attention to a practical area where God and parents work together in the kind of synergy described in the ﬁrst stanza. That is, He looks at the building and guarding of the family. His point is that successful parents must rely on God.
Firstly, parents rely on God in receiving children. Verse 3 says that children are a gift, or an inheritance, from the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward. They are never a surprise, an accident or an “Oops.” Children are from God. He is the one who ultimately controls the opening and closing of the womb. It is also important to think about this idea of inheritance. It is signiﬁcant in that it is not about our right to have children, but rather that it is a privilege granted by One who gives all life. While some gifts may seem to be inconsequential, an inheritance is something deemed valuable and precious.
Moreover, an inheritance is distributed restrictively. It is not passed out as favours at a birthday party. Like in a will, the inheritance is distributed according to the will of the writer. In the parallel, children are said to be a reward. We are not told what they are a reward for, but like the inheritance, the reward is given by God when children are granted. This way of seeing children elevates our idea of having children and leads us to place surpassing value on every child’s life. Rather than the pessimistic view that some have toward having children, this passage calls us to see God’s hand of blessing in the giving of children.
Second, parents rely on God in training their children. The psalmist uses the image of a warrior, with bow and arrow, to make this point. He likens a person’s children to arrows, which are carefully aimed and directed as they are launched from a bow. Similarly, parents carefully seek to direct the lives of their children, so that they follow a true course and achieve their intended goal in the battles of life.
Besides, the children become a means of God’s blessing to their parents, protecting them, especially in old age. The well-raised child is an ever-increasing blessing to a parent. The blessings of God may come in many forms, but verse 5 tells us that one of the greatest blessings of God is children—and many of them! While our “quivers,” that is, our families, maybe of varying sizes, we are blessed of God when we have the full complement of children that He chooses to give us.
Another thing to remember is each child is different, and each has something to contribute to the well-being of the family. And ultimately, the blessing of God and the investment in parenting is evident in children who engage their world with conﬁdence on behalf of their parents.
As a parent and now a grandparent, I have learned a great deal of what parenting requires. Of all the skills we need, the biggest is that we pray. Pray for parents. Pray for their children.
The realities in our world today indicate that many homes, even Christian homes, fall short of this biblical ideal. Children rebel against their parents, and parents neglect to spend quality time with their children. Tender spirits are wounded by cutting words, harsh reactions, and biting criticisms. These sad realities serve to remind us of the perils of our sinfulness and of the fact that parents need God if they are to succeed in the venture of home-building. This ancient psalm reminds us anew that Christian families succeed by depending on God.