From the vantage point of humanity, to fail to drive out the people of Canaan when Israel went from Egypt to the land the Lord God promised was merciful. From the vantage point of the Lord it was both resistance to His will and destructive to them morally and spiritually. The Lord knew (and knows) what He is talking about! We (or people), on the other hand, only do occasionally. There were some who saw it the way the Lord, but not enough of them did. Through the years the proverb “wisdom is justified by her children” shows itself to be true—as it always does. RT
A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.
This psalm is known as a wisdom Psalm, along with the next Psalm. The Rabbis say, “The Psalmist offers his advice on how to succeed in these important endeavors” (the endeavors spoken about are those that tend to building a home, earning a living, raising a family).
1 Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain. 2 It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep.
The thrust of these two verses focuses on the Lord’s protection over the house built. Taking the physical matters into account, the psalmist (Solomon) transfers the application to the family. Thus, the house built is not a physical structure, but of a family. Man will make his plans relative to the environment in which he lives. He considers the ground, the building material that will be used in the structure built and the tools to accomplish his task at building. No matter his effort, if the Lord stands opposed to him, that which he wants to build will not be built (cf. Genesis 11). We see, however, that the physical structures that are all around us stand tall and, at the same time, we are very much aware that those who built these structures have little to no interest in the Lord’s way of righteousness. Is this, then, a contradiction to what the psalmist is saying? If one interprets it exclusively as a matter pertaining to the physical environment, then perhaps one can so conclude. On the other hand, if there is a deeper meaning (and there is as the Psalm unfolds), then there is no contradiction, but a point of application. Another point to not miss is the psalmist’s words having direct application to the nation of Israel because that was his own environment. In other words, the psalmist wrote about his own community and its relationship with the Lord and His covenant. The Rabbis highlight the failings of Solomon at this point. With all the effort expended to instruct him in the right ways, when Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh, he sowed the seeds of his own destruction. In fact, David was the man who penned this Psalm and gave it to Solomon when he learned of this impending marriage, trying to dissuade him from it (Artscroll 1542). Thus, looking at 127:1, the primary emphasis is on the Lord’s involvement in the building of that which is important. One can build, but the structure won’t stand; one can guard, but the structure won’t be protected. In verse 2, the vanity is related to the hard work put into the building up of one’s house. By analogy, one can get up early and go to bed late, but as the home is built without the Lord, the one working hard will fail to rest in his sleep. The “psalmist decries this [approach] as an inferior way of life if the hard work is only for the purpose of providing daily food and clothing for oneself and the family” (EBC-Revised 913). The NET offers this thought: “Hard work by itself is not what counts, but one’s relationship to God, for God is able to bless an individual even while he sleeps.”
Strangely, the Rabbis interpret verse 2 in allegory to refer to Absalom (rise up early) and Adonijah (sit up late). In other words, the Lord’s anointed (Solomon) was not going to be thwarted by to “upstarts” when the lord set the foundation in place with David, then Solomon.
Leupold calls the break between verse 2 and 3 more incidental than real (891).
3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. 5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
The NIV, Young’s Literal and the NET use the word “sons” rather than “children.” The NET has this translator note “Some prefer to translate this term with the gender neutral “children,” but “sons” are plainly in view here, as the following verses make clear.” Most translations render the Hebrew word “children” but it is worth notice how others render it. In his commentary, L. C. Allen renders the word “sons” (Word Biblical Commentary); Keil and Delitzsch said the Hebrew word includes daughters, thus indicating that the word is understood as “sons.” “The concern of the Israelite was not only that he would have children but particularly that he would have sons, who in that patriarchal society held the right of inheritance…” (EBC-Revised 914). Ash/Miller writes, “Sons may be understood here of male children only (cf. the NEB), if emphasis is placed on their hunting prowess (vs. 4), or if they are thought of as defenders of the family (vs. 5)” (407).
Not sure much can be made of this. If the children are to be understood as a warrior protecting his home, then “sons” would be the idea. On the other hand, if the comparison is only for the benefit of showing that a childless man is like a warrior going to battle without arrows, then “children” seems to be the idea.
The word “heritage” (NKJV) is “gift” in the NET and NLT. Since children are a gift from God, they are the fruit of the womb, God’s reward to the one who has built his house on the Lord’s foundation and not his own. Leupold cautions that ‘reward” is to be understood in relation to verse 1.
What good is a warrior going into battle without the arrows to serve as a weapon, a help in battle? What good will it be for parents to have no children when those children could be of great help as the parents grow older? This seems to be the idea behind the verse. In 4b, the NKJV reads, “the children of one’s youth” and the NLT reads, “Children born to a young man.” the sense is that parents are to have children early on in their marriage “for there will be situations when he needs support, times when he cannot stand alone…who are ready to stand by a father in all manner of situations is a happy state of affairs” (Leupold 893).
Verse 5 is an expression of one’s emotion (psychology) and status. The status has more to do with justice than with one’s particular wealth. The man who has a houseful of children not only has one to help in time of physical need, but also help in the time of false accusations. Spurgeon writes, “They can meet foes both in law and in fight. Nobody cares to meddle with a man who can gather a clan of brave sons about him. He speaks to purpose whose own sons make his words emphatic by the resolve to carry out their father’s wishes.”
- Do not make doctrine out of poetic language. “…we must not expect figurative (nonliteral) and exaggerated language, which, if taken literally, would be wrongly understood” (Plummer 244). Is it a physical house that is in view? Is your house a city? Will you as a watchman stay awake continually?
- The principle of the Lord’s guidance relative to the family will hold sway regardless of the time in which man lives. On the other hand, to take the circumstances of the time and stringently apply them to today’s environment or family, when there is much difference between the two, is to be guilty of #1.
- What about having as many children, then, as one can – filling up one’s quiver, if you will? The number of children in one’s family is a subjective matter; it is strictly up to those involved within the family. Wisdom and prudence would tell us that we should have only as many children for which one can provide. “The Lord will provide a way,” someone might say. This is certainly true, but is this in regards to the number of children and the necessary means to provide for them? What if your occupation is a $17 an hour job? Based on a forty hour week, this amounts to $680 a week, $2720 a month, $32, 640 annually. In today’s environment, the likelihood of providing for a family of four could be difficult at this amount; what if you had six family members, or ten? Is it proper to live off the government when one chooses to believe and accept the idea that God will provide me the means to provide for the family? “I will just work more hours” comes the reply. Forty hours turns into fifty or sixty ($40,800 and $48,900 respectively). Where then is the father of the house? He is working and can’t be home. The mother, then, is a “single” parent.
- FROM BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR: a) No house stands that God does not build, whether the house signify the home, the business, the character, or the church; for human sufficiency is a foundation of sand (Prov. 14:11). b) No city is safe that God does not keep, whether interpreted politically as belonging to the State, or religiously as being that of the heart: for the arm of flesh is a bulwark of mud (Prov. 11:11; 29:8). c) No labour is profitable that He does not bless, whether it be manual or mental: for without grace it increases sorrow or multiplies wickedness (Prov. 10:16). d) No sleep is peaceful that He does not give, being broken by searing dreams or prevented by devising schemes (Prov. 4:16). e) No family is blessed that is not a heritage of Him (Prov. 3:33). ( O. Keen, D. D.)
What is your legacy? Your legacy, to your children and to your grandchildren will be in that which you leave behind when your life is over. What did you prepare to leave behind? In 2 Kings 17:21, the legacy of one of Israel’s Kings is that “he drove Israel away from following the Lord.” That which he did (1 Kings 12:25-33) was out of fear and a lack of faith. To him, the Lord’s way was an old an ineffective way so he altered it and make a new way.
If your legacy is anything less than faithfulness to the Lord then the legacy you leave is inadequate. My wife and I really have not much at all, but that which we have (our commitment to the Lord and His way) is that which we want our children and grandchildren to have. It won’t buy them an extra ticket to the football game, but it may preserve them when the football game is over.
Jeroboam had the Lord on his side, but because of fear and little faith, the Lord was set to the side and his own way held sway. Not much of a legacy! RT
A wise son makes a father glad, But a foolish man despises his mother
(Proverbs 15:20, NKJV). A child is precious to loving parents. Sometimes, however, the parents are not wise in the life they have chosen to live. This passes to the child. The apple does not fall far from the tree it is said. If the parents are wise, then it is only natural that the child (children) will gain the parent’s wisdom; what is in the heart/mind of a parent does indeed make its way out, and a child is but a sponge. It is a great blessing for the parents to see the children grow into productive citizens and, more than that, into godly saints. On the other hand, there are some parents who exhibit little wisdom and this lack of wisdom is also soaked up by the child. Wisdom is more than just being a productive citizen in society; wisdom is fear of the Lord. When the parents don’t exhibit such, neither will the child. Foolishness! RT
Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain (Psalm 127:1, KJV). What good is it to build a house, a physical structure so strong that you become convinced it will weather whatever storm the Lord may throw against, yet not but a spiritual home to weather the trials of life that beat against the soul? To ask, of course, is to answer. Yet, that is exactly how a great many people operate in this world. Unfortunately, many of these same people identify themselves as Christians.
The Psalm is not speaking of a physical structure at all, however. The psalmist speaks to that which is greater than the physical realm, though he uses the words “house,” “city,” and “children” to make his point. One can build a physical structure, but was it built with the Lord in the center of it? One can fortify the city with the arsenal of man, but did the leader (leaders) of the city incorporate the greatest weapon (the Lord) known to man? One can have many children (or few) and be proud of each, but did he (the parents) prepare the children for the future that lies before them?
When the Lord protects the house one built, in place is a teaching that not only secures a proper foundation upon which the house is built, but also ensures a direction and arrival that is out of this world (if you will)! When the Lord protects the city, not only will He be the assurance of those who reside within, but He will be the destruction of those who attempt to come in to do harm from without.
The “children” of 127:3 really refer to the males, and some translations reflect a literal rendering of “sons,” rather than children. Whether males or females, without the Lord and without the parents being directed by the Lord, what direction would the son (child) go?