Trusting in What Is Truly Lasting: Psalm 127

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Psalm 127 (NIV)

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[a] those he loves.

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
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.

Sing this psalm with the Seedbed Psalter today! Visit the resource here.

CONSIDER THIS

This is one of only two psalms attributed to Solomon. Here is a king who amassed a great fortune, built a mighty palace, assembled armies, authored proverbs, and much more. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Solomon writes this wisdom psalm because of two major experiences in his life through which he received wisdom from God. First, as the newly installed king over a united Israel, the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream and told him that he would give him his deepest desire. Solomon asked God for wisdom. God commended Solomon for choosing wisdom over wealth, or long life, or the defeat of his enemies, and so forth (see 2 Chron. 1:7–12). This psalm is one of the fruits of the wisdom God granted to Solomon as a young man. Second, during the course of Solomon’s forty-year reign, he became very wealthy. In just his annual tribute from surrounding nations alone, he received more than twenty tons of gold each year (1 Kings 10:14). Yet, despite his wealth, he came to recognize the real limitations of wealth and this theme is reflected in this psalm.

We find our identity in many things—the work that we do, the houses that we build, the positions that we hold. While these are all good things, they are not our primary identity, nor can they be the source of our trust. Psalm 127 reminds us that to trust in these things is “in vain”—three times the psalmist uses that phrase in the first two verses. It is possible to work in vain even when we earn great amounts of money. It is possible to build in vain even if we live in a grand house. When these things become the focus of our lives, there is a vanity, or emptiness, that seeps into our lives. This psalm beckons us to trust in the Lord. The vanity of rising early or staying up late in verse 2 is a gentle reminder to us that getting our daily sleep and taking our weekly Sabbath are basic ways that we express our trust in the Lord.

Part of the rhythm of regular weekly worship (or for the psalmist, the journey up to Jerusalem) is the reorientation of identity and trust. We re-establish that the Lord is our source, that the primary identity of our life is in his presence, and that our deepest trust resides in God. He gives us rest, a deep abiding rest that is born out of deep abiding trust. The shift in the psalm is palpable—from the outer structures of house and city and endless, constant toil (vv. 1–2), to the relational beauty of family, which God instituted as a reflection of his own relational nature. The focus shifts from outer houses to relational household. We will still have challenges in the world and “enemies in the gate” (v. 5), but our identity and our trust is deeply rooted in our relationship with God, and in that we will never be shamed or be shaken.

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Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.

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