Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
After leaving school, I spent two years at Polytech where I studied Architectural Draughting. And a big part of that course was becoming familiar with NZS 3604. And I see a flicker of recognition on some faces out there or is it, perhaps, an inward groan? J NZS 3604 is the building code for timber-framed buildings in NZ. If you present your building plans to the council building consent department and the plans don’t match up to the requirements of NZS 3604, you can expect to get your plans back with a big red DENIED stamp on each page.
Well, Psalm 127 is the believer’s NZS 3604. Psalm 127 tells us how to build, successfully. And what we are going to see is that the building in view here really has to do with families. Today it has been our joy and privilege to witness the public reaffirmation of faith of ___________ and the baptism of their son, ____. We have heard them make solemn vows, including a promise to “do all in [their] power to instruct ____ in the truth of the Christian faith and to lead him by [their] example to follow Jesus Christ.” And we, as a congregation, have been charged to “pray for ____, help care for his instruction in the faith, and encourage and sustain him in the fellowship of believers.” And as we shall see, these sorts of things are what Psalm 127 is about.
With this Psalm then, Our Covenant God Provides His People with a Building Code. And we see this under four headings as we take note of the Result of Faithless Building, the Remedy for Faithless Building, the Requirement to Build, and the Rewards for Faithful Builders.
- So we begin with the result of faithless building. And this is seen in the word repeated three times in vv1-2, which is “vain.”
- Now this Psalm, as we see in the ascription or title, is one of the Songs of Ascent, which are Psalms 120-134. And these were a group of Psalms sung by the Jewish people as they made the pilgrimage up to Jerusalem, three times a year, for the national feasts. And it is a Psalm “of Solomon.” And Solomon was a King of Israel. And it was he who was told by God to build a temple. And he did. You can read about this in 1 Kings 5-8. So we can see why Solomon was well qualified to write about building and watching over a city and working hard.
- But the mention of Solomon’s name and the three-times repeated use of the word vain should be reminding you all of the Book of Ecclesiastes, right? After all, it was just a few months ago that we finished studying that book in our Fellowship Groups.
- Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon. And the words “vain” or “vanity” are found 37 times in the Book, including the twice-repeated verse, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”
- So the Book of Ecclesiastes simply says in more detail what we read here in Psalm 127:1-2 – faithless anything is vain. You can build, you can keep watch, you can pursue pleasure, you can work hard every day, you can study all there is to study, but unless the Lord is at the centre of these things, they are in vain.
- So, what does this word “vain” mean? Well, in relation to actual building, we have a perfect illustration of vain building in one of the most well-known building projects described in the Bible. Can you guess what it is, Boys and Girls? It is the building of the Tower of Babel. Why did the people want to build this tower? Genesis 11 tells us: They said, “Let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves.” But the Lord confused the language of the people and we read, “They left off building the city.” What had been designed to have its top in the heavens, ended up being an unfinished, half-built, crumbling ruin – the very picture of vanity.
- But synonyms for vain are useless, empty, worthless, pointless, hollow, futile or meaningless. Vain basically means all your hard work counts for nothing.
Boys and girls, brothers and sisters, have you ever had some work you did or something you made described as useless? It is really discouraging and probably quite hurtful isn’t it. I think it is fair to see that no one likes to be told that their work is useless, right?
So Rudi and Jacoba, people of God, heed the warning of Scripture from Psalm 127:1-2. It is possible to be very busy and active, even with things that are good and right in themselves, in vain. The result of faithless building is useless, empty, worthless, pointless, hollow, futile, and meaningless.
But our emphasis on the word faithless points us immediately to the Remedy for faithless building.
- And the remedy is found in the person whose name is repeated twice in v1 – “the Lord.”
- I said earlier that this Psalm is one of the group of Psalms entitled Songs of Ascent, which the people of God sung on their way up to Jerusalem. And I want you to listen to phrases from the opening verses of these Psalms and hear where the people’s attention is focused:
120 – “Deliver me, O Lord.”
121 – “My help comes from the LORD.”
122 – “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
123 – “Our eyes look to the LORD.”
124 – “If it had not been the LORD who was on our side.”
125 – “Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion.”
126 – “When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion.”
And then after our Psalm, 128 – “Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD.”
129 – “The LORD is righteous.”
130 – “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.”
131 – “O LORD, my heart is not lifted up.”
132 – “Remember, O LORD, in David’s favour.”
133 – “There the LORD has commanded His blessing.”
And we can include all of the last Song of Ascent, Psalm 134 – “Come, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD, who stand by night in the house of the LORD! Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the LORD! May the LORD bless you from Zion, He who made heaven and earth!”
- Can you almost hear the voices of the people singing as they climbed towards Jerusalem? And what is heard again and again and again? The Lord! The LORD! The Lord!
- So what is the key to faithful building? The knowledge of, belief in, love for, and obedience to, the LORD. And in Israel’s case, this was the one God of Israel who revealed Himself to His people with by His covenant name – the LORD. But you and me, as NT believers, know that God is one God in three persons; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And perhaps you remember the words of Philippians 2:8-9? There we are told that because Jesus humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross, “God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and confess that Jesus Christ is (?) Lord.” The key to faithful building for you and me is the knowledge of, belief in, love for, and obedience to, the Lord Jesus.
- And Hebrews 12:2 spells this out for us very plainly: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” Who founded or began or established your faith? Who is perfecting or building or completing your faith? Jesus. Who is the one in whom you must believe in order to be saved? Jesus.
- Earlier we read from Ephesians 2. There we read that the church is the “household of God, built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone … In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Holy Spirit.”
- So Jesus is the master builder. The only buildings that will not be built in vain are the ones built by the Lord Jesus.
- Now, to see what this means for us today, we need to step back for a minute and see that we are not talking here about bricks and mortar, and why it is that this Psalm seems to switch from a focus on building and city-life and working to a focus on children. You see, the way that the Hebrew language works is that from one root word of two consonants, you get a whole family of verbs and nouns and adjectives, etc. Well, banah, which means to build, is related to ben, which means Son, and baht, which means Daughter, and bayit, which means House. They are all part of a ‘family’ of words. You might even remember from the Bible that often times the sons and daughters in a family are called the house of Jacob or the household of Achan, for example. So when we read here of the Lord building a house, we need to be thinking Family – a house was where a family lived and a city was where families lived in houses, and work was done to provide for a family.
- So first and foremost, congregation, Psalm 127 is a call to prayer. Because God is sovereign in salvation, because only the Lord Jesus can build faith, you must pray for your family and for each other’s families. __________, pray for ______. Parents, pray for your children. People of God, pray for all the children in our congregation. Pray that the Lord Jesus would make Himself known to them and bring them to faith and repentance. Pray that He would build them up in faith and perfect their faith. And pray this also for each other. Faith will only be found among us and grow among us if we pray to the Lord who is the one who builds faith in His people. The Remedy for faithless building is belief in the Lord Jesus.
- Now, we must quickly go on to note that alongside the remedy for faithless building there is also the requirement to build.
- It is the Lord who builds the house, as we see in v1; it is the Lord Jesus who founds and perfects faith. But note that faithful builders are not sitting in their Laz-Y-Boys, and watching the Football or smelling the roses while the Lord does whatever He has in mind to do! What we have said about the Lord Jesus being the one who builds faith in His people does not excuse us from ‘building activity.’ The people described in v1 are building a house. The people described in v2 are watching over the city to guard against invaders and they are toiling long and hard at their labours.
- I have mentioned before what Oliver Cromwell once said to his soldiers, “Trust in God and keep your gunpowder dry.” And Cromwell’s point was that the man who took no care over the state of his gunpowder could hardly blame God when he pressed the trigger and nothing happened. God is a God who has chosen to cause guns to fire only when dry gunpowder is used.
- And it is the same with building faith; God is a God who has chosen to use very ordinary means to build up the faith of His people.
- So as we said earlier, we must be people of prayer. Prayer is the chief tool of faith, because prayer reminds us that everything and anything comes to us from the hand of our Father in heaven. Jesus said, “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” So ____________, parents, pray for, pray in front of, and pray with your children. Prayer is one of the very ordinary means that the Lord Jesus delights to use to build faith.
- But you must also read the Bible with your children and teach them to read the Bible themselves.
- And because this Psalm moves from a house to a city, so the Lord delights to build faith within a church – He joins us to other families in a church community because we need the input of others to grow best and to grow well.
- So bring your children to both of the worship services on Sunday and talk with them about the Bible passages that were read and the sermon and look again at the words of the songs that were sung.
- And bring them to places like Sunday school and catechism and cadets and gems and youth group.
- And because of the warning in v1, just as we expect the Lord Jesus to be King in the curriculum at Sunday School, so He should be King in the curriculum of Monday to Friday school. See to it then that your children receive a Christian education.
The Lord Jesus is the one who builds faith. But we are required to build.
- But fourthly and finally, note what is said here about the Rewards for Faithful Builders. And there are two rewards mentioned – first, at the end of v2, we read that God “gives to His beloved sleep,” and second, from v3, that children are “a reward.”
- So firstly, a few comments about sleep.
- In 2 Samuel 12:25, we learn that David gave Solomon a second name, which was Jedidiah. And Jedidiah means ‘His beloved,’ meaning the Lord’s beloved. And in Hebrew, the end of v2 reads, “He gives to Jedidiah sleep.”
- So it will help us to understand what is being said here about sleep if we first think about sleep in relation to Solomon. I want you to try and imagine the potential for anxiety that might have existed if the building of the temple depended on Solomon. There would be many meetings with designers and craftsmen, trying to get it just right, and countless building problems that would have needed Solomon’s input, and squabbles between various trades, and strike action from those delivering material, and labour shortages, and delays because of weather, and on and on it would go. And on top of that there are the constant rumours about what the Babylonian and Syrian and Egyptian armies are up to in war season that need to be considered. Arghh! Talk about a recipe for worry and insomnia. But the building of the temple was not the project of Solomon; it was the Lord’s. And everyone involved with building the temple knew that they were a part of what the Lord was building, which would have had an amazing effect on the atmosphere and attitude on-site. And God had told Solomon that He would give him peace from his enemies. There was no need then for Solomon to be anxious that everything depended on him. And so, God gave Solomon sleep. Solomon was able to sleep because he trusted in the Lord and he believed in the promises of the Lord and he knew that the building of the temple was in the hands of the Lord.
- So with that in mind, if the ‘building project’ of Psalm 127 is primarily about how we raise our children, can you say, The Lord gives me sleep? And this applies equally to whatever ‘building projects’ you might be busy with – Your marriage, your employment, your work in the church, your evangelistic efforts. The Lord gives me sleep. You see, if these things depend on you, well, you have a recipe for anxiety and insomnia. But if you busy yourself with the obedient ‘building work’ that the Lord Jesus has called you to, all the while trusting in Him and in His promises and knowing that He is the one who builds, then you are free to enjoy the sleep that He gives you.
- But the second reward spoken of here is children, as we see in v3, where they are described as a heritage and reward.
- Now, before we go any further, we must note that we live in a broken and fallen world. And this has implications also for sleep and children.
- What we said earlier about sleep is a general But there can be medical reasons why sleep does not come, even to those who trust in the Lord Jesus.
- And the same is so with having children. Children are a reward of the Lord. This is a general But sadly, because we live in a fallen and broken world, there can be medical reasons why devoted servants of Jesus Christ are unable to have children.
- Now, there are all sorts of wonderful and much needed truths about children that we could explore in these verses, but we want to tie all that has already been said with one in particular. And it is this: The growth of families is the Lord’s work. Where do children come from? Verse 3 tells us; they come from the Lord. Believers who receive children receive a gift from Him. God brought Eve to Adam in the Garden of Eden and said, “Be fruitful and multiply in number.” Families are of God’s design.
- I don’t know him personally, but I read about a Moses Browne who had twelve children. And someone once commented, “Sir, you have as many children as Jacob!” And he replied, “Yes, and I have Jacob’s God to provide for them.”
- The growth of families is the Lord’s work. And He grows them, as we have seen, using the very ordinary means of the efforts of parents who are a part of a church community. Many commentators describe Psalms 127 and 128 as twin Psalms – both are very much about the family. Psalm 127 begins with the city and ends with the family and Psalm 128 begins with the family and ends with the city of Zion or Jerusalem. And the city in the OT is the church in the NT. We saw this in our earlier reading in Ephesians 2. The church is the “household of God,” built on the foundation stone of Jesus Christ. To the church, the Lord Jesus gives shepherds and teachers “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” And the work of ministry includes the work done by parents in the home and supported within the covenant community.
- Now, before we go any further, we must note that we live in a broken and fallen world. And this has implications also for sleep and children.
In Psalm 127, Our Covenant God has Given us a Building Code. That is why it is right that _____________ have promised to “do all in [their] power to instruct ____ in the truth of the Christian faith and to lead him by [their] example to follow Jesus Christ.” And that is why we as a congregation have been charged to “pray for _____, help care for his instruction in the faith, and encourage and sustain him in the fellowship of believers.”
May the Lord Jesus, the founder and perfecter of faith, continue to build faith among us. Amen.