The Book of Psalms

Wednesday: God’s Blessing on the City


Theme: God’s Work in Families
In these lessons, we learn to look to God for life’s purpose.
Scripture: Psalm 127:1-5
I have spoken of two lessons in the psalm: 1) that work without God is useless; and 2) that work for and with God is meaningful. The statement of the negative attitude is in stanza one. The change from that wrong attitude to the right, positive attitude occurs in the last line of the stanza, which says, “He grants sleep to those he loves” (v. 2). This statement suggests that having worked for God and at God’s direction, the psalmist now rightly lies down to sleep and sleeps well since he is able to leave the results of his work in God’s hands. God, who was building the house, watching over the city and doing whatever this writer may have been working at personally, also works now to give his worker rest.
But notice that this valuable boon comes after the toil. God works, and we must work. But after we have worked, we can lie down to rest and leave the outcome in God’s hands. Eugene Peterson says that the difference between Christians and others is not that we do not work and they do but that in our work, as in all things, “we take God seriously and they do not.” He adds that one of the reasons Christians read the Bible repeatedly and carefully is to find out how God works in us and in the world so that we can work in the name of Jesus Christ.”1
In contrast to the frantic, self-absorbed and self-sufficient work ethic described in the first stanza (vv. 1, 2), the second stanza (vv. 3-5) unfolds the quiet blessing of God on a family through the gift of children. This stanza seems so different from the first, both in its subject matter and its tone, that quite a few scholars believe that it must have been an entirely different psalm originally. This shows how far they are from thinking like an ancient Jewish person for whom the well-being of his family was never far removed from every other concern or endeavor. Most of us think of work and our families in nearly separate categories. We live highly compartmentalized lives. But the Jew would ask, “Why is the house being built if it is not for the family? And why are the watchmen protecting the city if not for the families that live in it?” Then, as now, the family was the basic unit and most important element of society. The only difference is that the ancient Jew knew it, and we generally do not. 
There are a number of important truths that need to be recognized and appropriated personally at this point. They come from these verses and from the position they occupy in the psalm. 
1. The growth of a family is God’s work. The second stanza begins by confessing that children are a gift of God, a heritage and a reward: “Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him” (v. 3). This fits the psalm. For can we suppose that God builds the house and does not build the family to live in it? Or that he guards the city but does not raise up the families that will be protected by its walls? Of course not! It is just this connection the psalmist sees and that causes him to write as he does. Families are God’s idea. It was God who gave the first woman to the first man in Eden and told them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). It follows from this that we must thank God for our families and look to him for wisdom to raise them rightly.
1Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1980), p. 104.
Study Questions: 

What does God give to his workers? 
According to Eugene Peterson, what is a difference between Christians and non-Christians concerning work? 
What blessing does stanza 2 refer to? How does this connect with the first stanza? 

Reflection: Do you keep work and family separate? How does this psalm challenge your thinking? 
Key Point: We must thank God for our families and look to him for wisdom to raise them rightly.

Study Questions
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