One does not much think of Solomon when pondering the writers of the Psalms. But here is a psalm of Solomon that has the sound and feel of the book of Ecclesiastes—a late-in-life reflection upon wise living.
Though Psalm 127 is only five verses in length, it talks about the big categories of all our lives: laboring for our daily needs, living in family life, and sleeping! That pretty much sums it up.
The point is this: God is nearby in everything that we do. All of life is dependent upon his blessing.
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.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t sleep well when I’m worried about something. Often it relates to church and church people and circumstances. For some reason, it will often hit me out of the blue about 3:00 in the morning that I have not seen someone in a while, and I begin to worry about them and what troubling thing might be oppressing them and taking them away from the church family. It is the dark side of being a shepherd. And I need to pause and settle myself in trusting God, because honestly there is nothing I can do about it in the wee hours of the morning.
Laboring and working in our own strength does not accomplish anything. Our need is to trust God for today and tomorrow.
There is a book called “Sleeping with Bread” by Dennis, Sheila and Matthew Linn. During the bombing raids of World War 2, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. Many were placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care. But many of these children who had lost so much could not sleep at night. They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Nothing seemed to reassure them. Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace. All through the night, the bread reminded them, “Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow. All is well.”
We have the bread of God’s Word and the promise of his presence. As we hold it in our hearts and minds, we are fed by the peace it gives that God is near in every circumstance. Our labors and worries are futile apart from God’s blessing and our daily trust in him.
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.
When I moved back East from my grad school years in Dallas (1983), my oldest son was a week short of his first birthday. We bought land within sight of the elementary school in the country township where I had grown up and began to build a house. My father-in-law and I did most of the work. It was a large house for a little family of three. My church people wondered why we wanted a place so big (2500 square feet, with four bedrooms). But then Benjamin was born the week we moved in, and 17 months later Aaron came along … three kids in 3.5 years. Two more came later – all boys, as you know. People stopped asking about the size of the house and began to ask about the size of the food budget.
Family is a blessing from God. In ancient culture, sons were a great blessing because of protection from enemies. There was the support that came along with it in civil proceedings. If I lived in those days and had a land dispute to be adjudicated at the city gate, there was an advantage I would have by showing up with five big boys surrounding me.
The point is this: God is necessary in all things of life for them to have blessing and value. Otherwise it is much in vain. The funny thing is that Solomon was something of a disaster at all of these elements of life. He depended upon riches and labor and the pleasures of a thousand wives, etc. But he had learned that all was in vain unless God was with it and blessing it.
It makes sense for us to listen to the wisest and most materially-blessed man of all time say that we need God’s blessing on anything to make it truly soul satisfying. But it is our nature to seek to hang onto it ourselves, to try to make it all work out in our own power and wisdom. It is our “family dysfunction” to attempt to make it happen ourselves, when rather we should see that trust in God, along with reasonable responsibility for the simple task immediately at hand, is what we need to find success for our labors and our lives.