Psalm 127 A song of ascents. Of Solomon. (1) Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. (2) In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat- for he grants sleep to those he loves. (3) Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. (4) Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth. (5) Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court. NIV
Psalm 127 is one of fifteen psalms commonly called the Song of Ascents. These psalms are also referred to as Song of Degrees, Pilgrims Psalms, Song of Steps or Gradual Psalms. Jewish tradition tells us these psalms were sung as pilgrims made their way to the city of Jerusalem for the three annual festivals as required by God in the Old Testament:
Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles. No one should appear before the LORD empty-handed. Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you. Deuteronomy 16:16-17 NIV
Psalm 127 is titled A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. A psalm of Solomon. (NLT); Unless the LORD Builds the House. A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon. (ESV); All Good Things Come from God. A song for going up to worship. Of Solomon. (ICB); A Song of degrees for Solomon. (KJV); among others.
Pastor David Guzik in his blog (www.enduringword.com) titles Psalm 127: God’s Work in Building Houses, Cities, and Families. I love that.
Some translations say of Solomon, some say for Solomon. Either Solomon wrote this psalm about himself, or David wrote it for his son looking toward the future. Either way, the message is clear and important still today.
Unless the LORD builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the LORD protects the city, guarding it with sentries will do no good. It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones. Psalm 127:1-2 NLT 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. 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. Psalm 127:1-2 NKJV
Psalm 127 can be summarized as this: our homes, families, cities, and nations are strong when the Lord is the head of them. Simple.
We are taught here that builders of houses and cities, systems and fortunes, empires and churches all labor in vain without the Lord; but under the divine favor they enjoy perfect rest.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
God’s word clearly teaches us in the Old and the New Testament that the foundation of life, marriage, parenting, governments, etc. must be the Lord. He is the Rock upon which we must build our lives. If we don’t, when bad things happen, the foundation of our lives and our homes and our marriages will crumble.
An interesting point here is that God always requires human effort. “The watchman must also stay awake.” “The builder needs to labor.” “The sentry must guard.”
The French say c’est la vie, “oh, well,” “that’s just life.” Some Christians may also say the same, “whatever is going to happen is up God and out of my hands.” But God clearly tells us to build our lives upon Him. To build is a verb and requires action. God calls us to build, then to stand ready.
God gives rest to His loved ones. We can sleep knowing that God watches over us, IF we build the foundation of our lives and our homes and marriages and cities upon Him. If God is the Master, His eyes are upon us even as we sleep.
Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior's hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates. Psalm 127:2-5 NLT Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. 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. Psalm 127:3-5 NKJV
Maybe we see David’s hand upon these verses- a wish for his son. A thankfulness for his children. But by either hand (father or son), the message is this: build your marriage and your home upon God, then your children will be secure and blessed by the Lord.
The Bible is clear that children are always a blessing. Whether wanted or not. Born healthy or sick. Whether easy to raise or hard. Children are a blessing from God, like “arrows in the hand of a warrior.”
This points to another mode of building up a house, namely, by leaving descendants to keep our name and family alive upon the earth. Without this what is a man’s purpose in accumulating wealth! To what purpose does he build a house if he has none in his household to hold the house after him.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Again, we are dependent upon God’s blessing for children. Likewise, children are a blessing given to us by God Himself.
Sadly, the Bible tells us that Solomon lost his way. Despite gathering women like sheep, history only records the story of one of his sons (two daughters are mentioned but only due to their marriages). He probably had hundreds of children, but we know very little of them and Solomon doesn’t speak of them in his writings.
Solomon’s first son and successor, Rehoboam, saw the separation of Israel into two nations- the north and south- Israel and Judah. And things did not go well for Rehoboam, King of Judah (1 Kings 14:21-31).
However, God did not forsake Israel when she was broken in two- the north and the south. He did not leave her when evil kings rose and fell.
Children are blessings, like arrows in the hands of a warrior. Always.
God sees us this way. When we are lost in our sin and sadness, He is there. God never leaves us, ever. He loved us so much that He sent His Son to be sacrificed on our behalf. We remember this great blessing during the Christmas season.
Interestingly, Psalm 127 speaks of a quiver of arrows not of sticks. Arrows are fashioned and cared for, sharpened and straightened. They can be used for good or for evil. But the one who has many of them has cared for them and stands ready with purpose and strength and might. The psalmist draws a picture between a quiver of arrows and one’s children when brought in the Lord.
How do we do this in a world such as ours?
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6: 5-9 NIV
Father in heaven, thank you for your faithfulness and for your promises. Thank you for being a rock and a foundation upon which we can build our lives. Thank you that you are rock that never moves. You are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Give us strength and direction as we try to build our lives and our relationships upon you. We love you. Amen.