A song of ascents. Of Solomon.
Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Psalm 127:1-2)
Building Toward Your Future
My wife and I had three of our young grandsons come and stay with us a couple of weekends ago. We had a great time together—playing games, running around the house aimlessly, roasting marshmallows—we even took a hike to a beaver dam! But the thing these guys really get into most is building stuff! They are fascinated with their dad’s tools, they can play for hours with Legos and on this visit, they decided to construct a lean-to fort in the woods behind our house. Maybe they were inspired by the beavers! Truth be told, they did surprisingly well, with just a few helpful pointers from their Pops (that’s me).
Psalm 127 is another one of the “songs of ascents” (Psalms 120-134), written to celebrate Israel’s ancient Temple life, the pilgrimage feasts, the Holy City, and the all-powerful God that created them and called them together. It is also a song about building. Using the metaphors of houses and cities and even arrows in a quiver, the songwriter (identified as Solomon) reflects on what it takes to build a place for God–and a people of God–that will stand the test of time. It’s a song about building toward the future. How can we be sure the life and legacy we are building will last?
Find the Right Builder
The psalmist begins by declaring, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” This was certainly true of Solomon’s Temple. Solomon knew that this house of worship would only be as magnificent as it’s occupant. If God wasn’t in it, it wouldn’t be worth the effort. If the Lord didn’t build it, it wouldn’t last. It’s not that we can’t build without our Master Builder, it’s just not worth the effort. If we try to build our churches, or our families or our lives without God, the psalmist warns, “the builders labor in vain.” As Jesus illustrated in his Sermon on the Mount, it’s the difference between building our life on the rock or building it on the sand (Matthew 7:24-27).
Find the Right Security System
Once we have built something that’s worth building, something that will last, we need to consider how we can protect it. Like the builders in Jesus’ parable, we’d better be aware that the storms will come…the winds and waves will test the foundations. But there are other threats on the horizon. We need to be constantly watchful and diligent for our families and marriages and lives. Peter reminds us to, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) It’s a dangerous world; we need help! We need our Master Builder to be our Chief Watchman as well, as we face down our enemies from within as well as our enemies without.
Find the Right Focus
Finally, if we want to build a life worth living, the song encourages us focus on the Lord for everything we need and every move we make. Otherwise, “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.” (vs. 2). We need to depend less our own abilities and objectives and trust in Christ, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). We don’t have to worry about “making it” in this life; instead, if we focus on Christ and “make it about” his kingdom (not ours), we can trust that he will care for all our needs (Matthew 6:31,33), and will give us the rest we seek (Matthew 11:28).
If the life you’re living feels more like a temporary lean-to than a magnificent temple, consider who’s building your “house.” Who’s the occupant…who’s up on the walls watching for danger…who’s in charge of all the provisions and the rest you’ll need? If you want to build a life and legacy that will last forever, you can’t possibly do it alone. You’re going to need some serious help! So get serious; set your heart and mind on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1-2). Jesus Christ is your Master Builder, your Eternal Security, your Perfect Focus. He is the Living Water…stay thirsty, my friends!