Psalm 127

Title: Unless the Lord…

Text: Psalm 127

Introduction: An incredible athlete. All-state football, basketball, and track. Mike played racquetball with a friend, a lineman. He first lost 21-1; then, 21-3; last game he lost 21-7. Mike said: Well, I’m getting better. His friend said: Sorry, that last game, I played you left handed. Don’t’ you hate when you find out you are not doing as well as you thought you were.

Today’s message is hard in that way: you find out that you’re not doing as well at this family thing as you thought. But that’s ok because, in the end, you learn it isn’t even about you. It’s all about God.

Read:

127 A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.

        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.

        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.

        Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

        Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.

        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.

I’d like to point out a couple of what I’ll call highlights this morning as we begin. I say highlights because there are words or phrases we’ll want to note in the text as we begin.

Psalm 127; A Psalm of Ascent; Of Solomon; So who wrote this? Solomon, and there is some very strong evidence to point to this… I just want to point them out to you now, but we’ll talk more about them when we get to those verses:

  1. Building the house (1a): 2 Samuel 7; David wanted to build God a house, but God said no. Instead, God built David a house;
  2. Vanity: 3x’s in v 1a, 1b, 2; Vanity, Vanity, all is vanity.
  3. His beloved (v2): Song of Solomon; 2 Sam 12.24-5: 24 Then David comforted his wife, Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her, and she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. And the Lord loved him 25 and sent a message by Nathan the prophet. So he called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord. There is a footnote there at the name Jedidiah which says that Jedidah means: beloved of the Lord.
  4. Wisdom Literature: this Ps. has characteristics of a Wisdom passage; a simile in v 4, Blessed is the man… in v 5;

I just want you to note these highlights and we’ll come back to them at the end of the message.

2nd, the author’s main idea for Psalm 127 is: God is sovereign over all affairs in one’s life. I think that is where he’s going. And, I hope you’ll feel the same way by the time I’m finished this morning. Let me show you what I mean:

  1. 1st he mentions building “the house” – not “a house”, not your house; also, in keeping with the context of the Psalms of Ascent, these folks were going up to God’s House: the Temple. So this gives it a religious context.
    1. House could mean a house, but I don’t think he’s talking about architecture.
    2. House could mean Israel. That doesn’t fit the flow of the passage, though.
    3. House could mean lineage. He could be talking about the messianic promise of the one to come. Hold on to that. Or family.
    4. Or, House could mean Seeing that this is in the POA, I think this is his focus.
    5. Caveat: Sometimes a passage has more than one meaning. And, I think this has multiple meanings, especially for those of us who live in the age of the Church.
  2. 2nd, he mentions watching over the city. The city is Jerusalem. This is where the house is Mt. Zion or the Temple and the city is Jerusalem. There is the idea of protection. Think about two weeks ago and the passage of the peaks that surround her.
  3. 3rd, he mentions work and rest. You work too hard and you don’t get the rest you need.
  4. 4th, he mentions the family. To be more specific, Solomon references Sons. (v3, 4, 5, them, being the relative pronoun of the antecedent, Sons).

So, let me go back to the main idea: God is sovereign over every aspect of one’s life. And, there are four areas Solomon mentions: Religious, Community, Vocational, and Family. Solomon is basically charging his people to Trust God in every aspect or every facet of their lives.

One last highlight: 3rd, I want you to see the flow of the Psalms around this particular Psalm in the POA.

  • In 125: We find that we can place our trust completely in the Lord because he is forever faithful. He alone brings stability and protection.
  • In 126: The Psalmist is calling upon God’s people to (1) sincerely pray for Yahweh to act once again as he has in the past and to (2) work through those prayers with labor and tears with the hope that God will restore their fortunes.
  • Here in 127: God alone is sovereign over Man’s affairs (religion; community; vocation; family). All else is ‘vanity’. Unless the Lord does this work, it will all be in vain.
  • In 128: This Ps. continues with the theme of the family. A man who walks in the fear and way of the Lord is blessed in the grandest of ways (his family, his work, his faith).
  • 129: Just the opposite – a man who doesn’t walk in the fear of the Lord will not be blessed.

So, what we see is this natural progression for the Israelites as they give themselves fully to trusting the Lord.

  • 125: God alone brings stability and protection to those who trust completely in God.
    • 126: Then, there is a call to do just that and to pray like it all depends on God and work like it all depends on them.
      • 127: God alone is sovereign over every aspect of Israel’s existence (religious, community, vocation, and family).
        • 128: This Psalm continues with the theme of the family and a declaration that the man who walks in the fear and way of the Lord is blessed in the grandest of ways.
          • 129: Presents just the opposite – the person who doesn’t fear God and walk in his ways will not be blessed.

Let’s zoom in closer to 127 and make our way through these four aspects of a person’s life and see what Solomon is saying to his readers and what it means for us. Let’s look at the 1st aspect: Religious aspect.

I.     Religious (1a)

exp.: rd 1a: Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

ill.: The story of David wanting to build a house for God… 2 Samuel 7;

app.: now, for those readers, yes, they were thinking about the rebuilding of the Temple and the need to trust Yahweh in that endeavor. But for you and me… this is a definite reference to the Messiah and his lineage in 2 Samuel. With this in mind, the Church exists because of the Messiah. 2 Samuel isn’t about a Temple for God so much as it is about the Messiah. God’s Temple is the body of Christ. If you’re a Christian, that’s you and me.

ill.: last week a man was wearing a shirt that said: I don’t go to church. I wasn’t offended exactly but thought he was using his T-shirt to tell those of us who are Christians to leave him alone. That is until I saw the back of his shirt, which read: I am the church. That’s a good point. The church isn’t a building of wood, screws, and drywall. The church is the people. And that’s what we’re ‘building’… we’re building people.

ill.: there is something really interesting here beyond those two highlights, the building and the builder. 3rd, there is a play on those words that you’ll miss in the English but is evident in the Hebrew. In v 1, you see the word build? It is bonim in Hebrew. Do you see v 3, the word Sons (or maybe children)? It is the word banim. The writer is intentionally drawing the reader’s attention to his play on words… they kind of rhyme or sound very close to the same.

That is why I think there is this multiple meaning here. The Temple, The Messiah, this is the religious aspect of a person’s life. For us, that connection (building and sons) creates a thread that weaves its way through this song – it connects the beginning and the end to say that we’re building a building that isn’t a building!

t.s.: Ok, so Solomon goes from that broad aspect and narrows it down to community. And, that’s our 2nd aspect here…

II.    Community (1b)

exp.: rd 1b; Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. This Psalm was chosen because of its connection to the Temple and the City of Jerusalem. Those topics are found throughout other Psalms of Ascent. The city, Jerusalem, is not only where the Temple of God is, but it is also where the people of God are. The People of God are being challenged to trust God for their protection. Remember Ps. 125 where the Psalmist painted a picture of security with the mountains surrounding Jerusalem. And, how the Psalmist declared that those who Trust in Yahweh are like those mountains? He is saying here, once again, don’t trust in the people as much as you trust in the Lord to protect you. Because, if the Lord isn’t watching over you, then putting a man on the wall won’t do you any good!

ill.: There is something truly wonderful about community. Community – a place where you belong, a place where you feel safe, a place where you feel loved.

app.: Does that not describe the church? Again, I don’t mean this building or these facilities. I mean you and me, coming together and creating a safe place, a safe space for believers. A place to grow, a place to invest yourself.

t.s.: Religious Aspect, Community aspect, and 3rd, Solomon narrows this focus down to the individual – and keeping it within context, he’s talking to every single man.

III.   Vocational (2)

exp.: For men, this one hits so close to home. We define ourselves by what we do and who we are. I imagine it was the same for those men. Think about it. When men meet each other, what do they ask? What do you do for a living? Look at what Solomon is saying to these men: rd v 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.

It is vanity for the one who builds the Lord’s house without the Lord. It is vanity for the one who watches over his community without the Lord. It is vanity that a man works restlessly – long, hard hours to provide bread for his family. A man should work hard, but only while trusting in the Lord – not in what is produced by the work of his own hands. He needs to find time to rest. Resting is trusting.

ill.: do you know where we first read about rest? Gen 2 – when God rested. The 4th commandment is about rest. But, think about this for a moment. This rest isn’t about you. Maybe that’s why most men don’t obey that commandment. I don’t need to rest. That’s because you’re being selfish. You’re thinking about you. The commandment is: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it … holy. The passage continues: the 7th day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Resting isn’t so much about you.

app.: he blessed the 7th day. He made it holy. He rested on it as an example for you to follow. Then he commanded you to not work 7 days a week. Work is good. Hard work is good, but it isn’t everything. And for sure, it doesn’t define who you are – at least it shouldn’t. Think about this: if you’re working 7 days a week, then you’re not trusting God – you’re trusting yourself. And the whole point of v2 is about bringing glory to God through your work.

t.s.: your religion, your community, your work, and finally, your family.

IV.    Familial (3-5)

exp.: Obviously, the largest part of this passage focuses in on the family. I would say this about that: if you’re looking at building a house – that is, a line, a heritage (v1), then you’d start with the family. The family is the backbone from which these other aspects find meaning and purpose. If you’re wanting each of these other areas to be strong and healthy, consider the family first.

  • Dad, what are you without your family? Take me for instance: would you want me to still be your pastor if I abandoned my wife? If I abandoned my family? If I abandoned my work and ministry. If I abandoned the community?
  • What kind of employee are you if your family is falling apart? Boss, what kind of employee do you have if his family is falling apart? Don’t men focus in on their work better when the home fires are burning as they should?
  • Isn’t our community better and stronger when our families are better, healthier, and stronger? Show me a community where the average household is missing a father and I’ll show you a community with lots of crime and poverty. I’m not meaning to berate families missing fathers or be hateful or spiteful toward communities or demographic groups who have a higher percentage of single-parent homes. That’s not what I’m saying here. But, I am asking you to compare those communities with other communities where fathers are involved in the life of their family and in the life of their community. And, in the life of their church.

app.: Consider Solomon’s words: rd v3-5; Families are truly blessings upon every other aspect of our society. And can I be bold enough to add here – that it starts with dads, husbands?

t.s.: Do you remember the title, who wrote this Psalm? Yeah, Solomon.

Conclusion: Of Solomon. If you read his story though, He didn’t heed his own counsel. His lineage didn’t follow the Lord. More of his descendant kings rejected God than followed God. His marriages were not what God had designed and purposed for him. His foreign wives and concubines led his heart astray to chase after foreign gods. Here you have the wisest, richest man who ever lived and he didn’t follow his own teaching.

Do you know what is the difference between Wisdom and Foolishness? It is simply this: what one does with the information they have.

Application: This can be disappointing. You work hard at family, only to find out that life has been beating you and he’s been playing with his left hand! So, what would I have you take away with you today?

  1. Your family dynamic doesn’t mean so much as your family devotion. God is sovereign over every aspect of your life – even your failures. So don’t feel sorry for yourself for past mistakes or experiences. Don’t use yesterday as an excuse to not follow God today. Single parent, Single adult?
    1. Single parent. That’s ok, you still can teach your children to trust God.
    2. Single adult. Practice now what you know to be right and don’t surrender your principles and standards. And that goes for male or female.
  2. Vanity, Vanity, Vanity. Solomon is giving this warning so that we’ll work hard to do what is right. Listen, it can be so hard to begin trusting the Lord. But, it really does get easier the more you do it. Start today.
    1. It starts when you give your life to him.
    2. It continues as you trust and follow him.
    3. It grows as you repent of times you fail.
  3. Consider ways that you can bless your community. HOA? Community party/Block party;
  4. Are you getting the rest you need? Sure your business and your work are important. But take an honest assessment of yourself and your life. Remember, no one lays on their deathbed and wishes they had spent more time working.
  5. This should lead us to worship. We need the Lord. The understanding of our desperate need for God and our utter dependence on him should lead us to Worship.
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1 Comment

Filed under 2 Samuel, Family, Psalms, Psalms of Ascent, Scripture, Sermon

One response to “Psalm 127

  1. Fred Obrecht

    I accidentally put your message in my family box before reading it. So thankful that we serve a risen Savior. Enjoyed your message I do want to continue to live showing my community my family and myself that I want to live for the Lord. That I need Him each and every day. Praying for Mom especially now. Love ya. Your big brother.

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