Unless the Lord Builds the House
A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.
127 Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
Psalm 127 Commentary
by Hank Workman
Solomon knew that man’s work must be blessed by God for success. If one was left out of the equation, he labored in vain. In particular, as this psalm declares, Solomon speaks toward the building of a house and the watchers on the city walls. Both intricately important to the life of man in ancient days. As the watchman holds a critical role and must stay awake as he looks upon the horizon guarding the city, so the father must be just as diligent in the raising of his children. Without active participation in both, giving what human effort we have, in the end, God’s blessing is what mattered.
The reality is a family without the foundation of God will never stand. They will never become an example of God’s living tangible blessing and glory through the raising of children to follow after Him. Just the same a city without God, without the watchers on the wall to ensure things are well, will crumble. Speaking toward a wall surrounding the cities in ancient times, without God as the leader of all decisions, things will fall within and without those walls.
Yet here the wisdom of Solomon was not followed through by himself. He knew that trusting God to build the house was critical. It was not that of brick but of children carrying on their foundation taught and living godly lives. Sadly, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines and yet we know little of the children he had with these. We read of only one son and he was far from wise in his leadership.
This is the irony. With all of Solomon’s wisdom and even calling the reader to build the foundation of the family in such a way that brought glory to God; he failed. He didn’t apply his own words. For as David Guzik points out, “His building, both literal and figurative, became reckless (1 Kings 9:10ff), his kingdom a ruin (1 Kings 11:11) and his marriages a disastrous denial of God (1 Kings 11).
It is one thing to know the truth. It is a completely different thing to apply and live it.
Psalm 127 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
According to J. Vernon McGee, this psalm has been used on several important occasions. It was used at the inauguration of President Eisenhower. Two Bibles were used. One of them was George Washington’s Bible, and it was opened at Psalm 127.
This wisdom psalm explores our need for the Lord. The things we build in this life and spend our time on mean nothing if God isn’t in it. More specifically, the act of getting up early in the morning and feeding ourselves should give us fuel to serve the Lord. If we aren’t living this life for Him, that energy only sustains us in a miserable state. It’s all in vain.
Like children bring contentment (verse 3), a life dedicated to the Lord brings satisfaction. This is the reason why God gives us sleep and provides us with material resources (verse 2). We are to take all of those blessings and pour them out to be used for His Kingdom. This is what it means to practically live out “presenting your bodies as a living sacrifice.”
As Nancy deClaissé-Walford writes, the “children” from verses 3 and 4 could refer to an expression of God’s love birthed in our souls.
“But the term “children” includes far more than our biological offspring. The fruit of our womb may be a project to end hunger in our community, the hope and encouragement we give to the seniors who wait anxiously every week for our visits, the changed lives of teens who come to our church on Friday evenings instead of cruising with their friends. These children, these “building projects,” are the sources of our contentedness in life, the purpose for which God gives us sleep.”Nancy deClaissé-Walford