Psalm 127 – Resting in God’s Blessing
“Resting in God’s Blessing” (Psalm 127)
“He grants sleep to those he loves.” (Psalm 127:2)
INTRODUCTION: We are studying the Psalms of Ascent together and our message series is called “Stepping Stones to God’s Heart.” We’ve seen how these fifteen psalms can be broken into five groups of three with each group of three following a similar pattern: a psalm of trouble followed by a psalm of trust followed by a psalm of triumph. Today’s psalm is a middle psalm in its group of three which makes it a psalm of trust. But it is not only the middle psalm in its group of three. It’s also in the third or middle group of five, which makes it the middle psalm in the whole Psalms of Ascent.
It is also the only psalm in the Psalms of Ascent attributed to King Solomon. In fact you can even find his name hidden in the psalm. You know how artists sometimes hide their names in their paintings? Well Solomon has done the same with this psalm. The word translated “those he loves” in verse two is the Hebrew word “Jedidiah,” which means “beloved.” This was the special name God gave to Solomon in 2 Samuel 12:25.
Normally we think of Solomon as a writer of proverbs rather than psalms, but the Bible tells us that he wrote over a thousand songs. (1 Kings 4:32) Perhaps his proverbs were better than his songs – we certainly have a lot more of them! But we have this song preserved for us, and you will notice that it even resembles the book of Proverbs in some ways. Like Proverbs it is full of short phrases and vivid imagery. It is categorized as a wisdom poem. Yet it is more connected than Proverbs. All the phrases work together as a unit, and therefore it is more appropriate as a song. Unlike Proverbs, Psalm 127 had a melody and would actually have been sung as a song. Today Jews recite this psalm as part of a thanksgiving service following the birth of a child.
The main idea of this psalm is that without God it’s not worth it, but when you give God the rightful place in your life, you can rest in his blessing. (Read Psalm 127:1-5 and pray.)
Without God it’s not worth it. When you leave the Lord out of your life, all that you do is in vain. The word “vain” shows up three times in this psalm. It means something that has no value or worth. It is an empty achievement.
Solomon introduces this idea through two parallel images: the building of a house and the guarding of a city. He then makes application to those who labor and toil without trusting God. And then finally he closes by speaking about God’s provision for our needs, using children as an example.
Now Solomon also wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. In a way this psalm is the flipside of the book of Ecclesiastes which is all about the emptiness or vanity of living life without God at the center. Ecclesiastes teaches us that, without God, work and life and home lose their meaning. But Psalm 127 teaches us that you can rest in God’s blessing because all that you need comes from God. The first part of the psalm deals with God’s blessing and provision in your work, and the second part deals with God’s blessing and provision in your home.
I. God’s blessing and provision in your work (1-2)
So let’s take a look at the first part about God’s blessing and provision in your work. And this section tells us two things in particular.
A. Without God your work is in vain
– Psalm 90:17; Proverbs 16:3; John 15:5; Hebrews 3:4; James 4:13-17
First of all, without God your work is in vain. Look at verse 1: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) The psalmist warns against an attitude of self-sufficiency in these verses. God wants you to find blessing and fulfillment in your work, but it is not going to happen apart from him. Without God your work will be empty, frustrating, useless, in vain.
This verse talks about two kinds of work: building and then guarding or maintaining. Let’s talk about building first. “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” This verse talks specifically about building a house, but it really applies to anything we build in our lives, whether you are building a house, a business, a church or a home. Hebrews 3:4 says: “For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.” (Hebrews 3:4)
Basically, Solomon says don’t start anything without God. Whether you are starting school or a new project or a new job or a relationship, don’t do it without God. Proverbs 16:3 says: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” (Proverbs 16:3) Whatever you attempt in life, commit it to God from the very beginning, because if God is not in it, then God’s blessing will not be on it. God may choose to frustrate your plans, or he may simply choose to frustrate you. But either way, unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.
So that’s building in vain, but then there’s guarding in vain as well. “Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” This has to do with guarding or maintaining that which you’ve already built. If you want God’s blessing and provision in your work, you must not only start with God, you must continue with God as well.
The Great Wall of China was built to defend China from outside invaders. The wall is over 4,000 miles long and over 20 feet high. Its width ranges from 12 to 40 feet in places. That’s about as secure as you can get, but the Mongols still got into China. You know how? They didn’t breach the walls. They simply bribed the guards.
You see, unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. You might think you’re invincible, that you’ve got all the bases covered. I once heard someone say, “I’ve got a million dollars in insurance, so I could lose everything and still get it all back!” It’s good to take precautions. There is wisdom in planning ahead. But it doesn’t matter how many watchmen you have. It doesn’t matter how many stocks and bonds you have. If you leave God out of it, it’s all in vain.
Thomas Manton wrote: “Labor without God cannot prosper, and labor against God will surely fail.” You need to keep God in everything you do. That’s why the book of James instructs us to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15)
Basically it comes down to this. Do you expect your work to succeed because of you or because of God? Jesus said in John 15: “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Don’t expect God to do your work for you. But don’t expect your work to succeed without God. Invite God into your work and ask his blessing on it. We need to learn to pray like Moses did in Psalm 90: “May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90:17)
God wants you to find blessing and fulfillment in your work. But it will only happen when you put him at the center. Whatever your task, whatever you do, whether you are building a house or raising a family or guarding a city, put God at the center and you will find fulfillment in what you do. That’s the first thing we need to learn if you want to know God’s provision and blessing in your work. Without God, your work is in vain.
B. God grants sleep to those he loves
– 2 Samuel 12:25; Psalm 3:5-6, 4:8, 104:19-23; Proverbs 10:22; Mark 4:38
And then secondly, God grants sleep to those he loves. Look at verse 2: “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat – for he grants sleep to those he loves.” (Psalm 127:2)
This is the third time that phrase “in vain” appears in the psalm. It is vain or useless rising early and staying up late, toiling for food to eat. Now there’s nothing wrong with working hard. In fact you’re supposed to work hard, and sometimes you need to work long. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to work. And the wrong way to work is when you leave God out of it.
When you’re burning the candle at both ends, sometimes you need to ask the Lord for more wax! But sometimes you also need to slow down and trust God to provide for you. Working harder is not always the answer. Trusting God is. As Eugene Peterson says, “Don’t work like the devil.” Work like a believer. Work like a child of God. Trust God to meet your needs. God wants you to work, and to work hard. But he also wants to give you rest. God grants sleep to those he loves.
There is no value in overworking yourself or staying up late at night worrying. God wants you to rest in his blessing. Psalm 3 says: “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.” (Psalm 3:5-6) Psalm 4 says: “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8)
Most animals have sense enough to know when to work and when to rest. They look to the Lord to meet their needs, and we should too. Psalm 104 says: “The moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down. You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl. The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens. Then man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening.” (Psalm 104:19-23) Work while it is day, and when the night comes, rest – unless you’re doing shift work, of course, and then it’s the opposite.
Jesus slept in a boat during a storm (Mark 4:38), and you can sleep at night knowing that God will take care of you. God wants you to trust him rather than worry. Remember what we learned back in Psalm 121. God never slumbers or sleeps. When you are sleeping, God is still working. God stays awake so we don’t have to!
Work your fingers to the bone, and what do you get? Bony fingers! Well God doesn’t want you to have bony fingers. He wants you to have a good night’s rest. So receive sleep as a gift from the Lord. With God in charge, you can rest. You can sleep.
Proverbs 10:22 says: “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it.” (Proverbs 10:22) Work becomes toil when you take away God’s blessing. When you trust God’s providence and care, you can rest in his blessing. You can rest in his blessing while you work. And you can rest in his blessing while you sleep.
There are two extremes we need to avoid here. Don’t try to do it all yourself. And don’t expect God to do it all for you. Don’t be a work-a-holic, and don’t be a shirk-a-holic. There is nothing wrong with building, maintaining or working hard. These things only lose their value or meaning when we remove them from trust in the Lord. “No prayer without work; no work without prayer.” Psalm 127 makes it real simple. Work hard, finish your day, trust God, and go to sleep.
II. God’s blessing and provision in your home (3-5)
Now we move from God’s blessing and provision in your work to God’s blessing and provision in your home. Look at verses 3-5: “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. 4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons 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 enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 127:3-5) There are three things we learn particularly from these verses.
A. Children are a gift from the Lord
– Genesis 33:5; 1 Samuel 1:27; James 1:17
First of all, children are a gift from the Lord. That’s what verse 3 says: “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.” (Psalm 127:3) Now if you’re a young parent you might be wondering – how does God give his loved ones both sleep and children? Somehow the two don’t seem to go together! But that’s not the point here. The point is that children are a gift from the Lord. As James 1:17 says: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father.” (James 1:17)
You are just as dependent on God for your children as you are for everything else. Jacob in the Old Testament understood this. When asked about his children, he replied: “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.” (Genesis 33:5) Hannah understood this also. She said about Samuel: “I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.” (1 Samuel 1:27)
Children are a gift from the Lord. They are also your heritage and reward. A rich man said to a poor man who had many children, “These are they which make rich men poor.” The poor man responded, “No, these are they which make a poor man rich; for there is not one of these whom we would part with for all your wealth.”
An old German proverb says: “Many children make many prayers, and many prayers bring much blessing.” Too often today children are considered a burden rather than a blessing. We need to relax; we need to trust in God; and we need to rest in God’s blessing and provision for our homes. Children are a gift from the Lord.
B. Children support and protect us in our old age
– Deuteronomy 5:16; Proverbs 23:22; 1 Timothy 5:4,8
And then secondly children support and protect us in our old age. Look at verses 4-5: “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons 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 enemies in the gate.”
In Old Testament times a large family was essential to survival. Having plenty of children provided security and protection for the whole family. Also, because parents lost a lot of children to famine, war and disease, you needed a large family up front. Some people use this verse to teach that everyone should have a large family, but it does not command that. Charles Spurgeon makes the comment: “A quiver may be small yet full … [and] many are blessed who have no quiver at all.”
At the same time, it seems people are choosing to have fewer and fewer children these days. That is a personal decision, but you need to check your motivation. Why do you want fewer children? Is it because of the cost? Someone said, “We don’t raise kids anymore – we finance them!” Don’t let finances get in your way of having children. Be wise, plan ahead, but don’t keep putting children off and off and off. I know children cost a lot of money. But they are still the best investment you will ever make. “The God who gives you mouths to feed will give you food to feed them.” We have lost trust in the God who provides for our needs. And we have lost sight of children as our inheritance and a reward.
These verses also remind us of our obligation to help our parents as they grow older. Deuteronomy 5:16 says: “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you.” (Deuteronomy 5:16) Proverbs 23:22 says: “Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” (Proverbs 23:22) 1 Timothy 5 says: “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. … If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:4,8)
Long before there was Social Security and 401K’s, children were God’s original retirement plan. Just as parents are to take care of their children when they are young, so children are to take care of their parents when they are old. What do you call a parent who doesn’t take care of their children when they are young? A bad parent. And biblically we should view children who don’t take care of their parents when they are old just as unacceptable as parents who don’t take care of their children when they are young.
C. God will provide for all your needs
– Psalm 55:22; Matthew 6:33; Philippians 4:19
Finally, we must remember that children or no children, God will provide for all your needs. Psalm 55:22 says: “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” (Psalm 55:22) Matthew 6:33 says: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) And Philippians 4:19 promises us: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
Children are one way that God provides for us, but they are not the only way. Whatever provision you have comes from the Lord. And he wants you to learn to rest in his blessing.
CONCLUSION: Psalm 127 is a beautiful psalm that teaches us to rest in God’s blessing at work and at home. All that we need comes from God: the house that brings us protection; the city that gives us security and stability; the food and daily provisions we need to sustain life; the children who support and protect us in our old age. We can bring none of this about by ourselves. We are totally dependent on God.
Psalm 127 teaches us four powerful principles for life: 1) Commit all that you begin to the Lord. 2) Submit all that you have to the Lord 3) Recognize all that you have comes from God’s hand. 4) Trust God to meet all your needs.
When we try to do things apart from God, we miss out on God’s blessing. We wear ourselves out, and the things we do will not last. This especially applies to your salvation – salvation is completely by faith in Jesus Christ and his death for you on the cross – but it also applies to every thing we do as human beings. Unless the Lord builds your family, the mother raising her children labors in vain. Unless the Lord builds your business, the entrepreneur labors in vain. Unless the Lord builds your education, the student labors in vain. Unless the Lord builds the sermon, the pastor labors in vain. We need to put God front and center in our lives and learn to rest in God’s blessing and provision in our work and in our homes.
You can rest in God’s blessing because all that you need comes from God. It doesn’t depend on you. It never did, and it never will. Will you rest in God’s blessing and provision today?
© Ray Fowler
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