emilynisch

Psalm 127: blessing

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2009 at 1:51 am

Today at church Kendrick talked about generosity and giving, making the point that the most profitable way of handling your money isn’t keeping it for yourself, but instead, giving it away with the belief that your planting seeds that will advance the kingdom (while knowing also that God will bless you because of it – “he who waters will be watered”). Listen here.

There have been certain areas in my life where I’ve been asking God for more. I can choose whether I’m going to try to pursue any of those things in my way – I can go after those things I see directly (as I perceive it). The only things in equation are myself and whatever the things are I’m going after. Of course, since we live in this world, there will be unpredictable aspects as well (flood, thieves, the market and economy). If I’m lucky, what I put in will be determine what I get out. If I work in the fields for 10 hours, I should be able to harvest ten hours worth of hay. I will be tempted to work constantly, cutting short my time with people in my life, etc, etc. I have found that this way leads to “painful labors” and feeling burdened and discouraged.

There’s an alternative: God’s economy. Psalm 127 begins with a verse that I’ve heard often: “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” I’ve heard people use this verse to mean something like, “unless you’re working with God and within his plans, you’ll fail”, and it may have this meaning in part. In the context of psalm 127 I think it has another meaning, one that’s been more productive to help me understand God and how he works and has set things up to work.

Here’s all of psalm 127:

1Unless the LORD builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the LORD guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.
2It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.
3Behold, children are a gift of the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
4Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
5How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They will not be ashamed
When they speak with their enemies in the gate.

The verse that helped me understand the rest of the psalm is this: “He gives to his beloved even in his sleep.” When we’re sleeping we’re not doing anything. We’re not working toward our goals. We’re completely helpless. Just like when a married couple desiring children. Hearing about all the difficulties some couples have to become pregnant has convinced me that God is the one who gives children. It’s totally out of our control. We take the first steps, but after that we are helpless – just like when we’re sleeping.

So what is God saying? We are helpless. We are unable to produce anything like what happens when God blesses us freely because we are his beloved. I’m not saying that if we sit around and do nothing God will do everything for us. That’s not true. In this psalm, God is speaking specifically about gain. He’s speaking about his plan of blessing for us. He will always increase the work that we put in.

I’m reminded of the series Grace Church did on Margin. God ordains margin in our lives. He wants us to work for a specified time, then set down our work and trust him with the rest. Our work can become burdensome for us if we believe that our own strength must accomplish our goals. We will continue to push ourselves past the point of appropriate margin, denying ourselves rest, time with God and even sleep. Even when we are awake though, “Unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain.” (Remember that the creator and therefore ruler of the world is either for or against you, and he can make anything happen or not happen – there are lots of stories about this in the Old Testament on the scale of nations).

In short, God is saying that it’s not our labor that measures what the production will be. When we’re asleep or awake, it’s God’s blessing us that produces – as in the case of children. I hope understanding this will help me to rest, trusting that God is working out rich, good, bountiful blessings for me. I like how psalm 127 ends: “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.” God knows what will make us stronger. He gives this man children so that he will have these arrows, so that his quiver will be full to encounter anything that approaches him. He will always be strong and ready for enemies that come to take what the Lord’s given him.

God doesn’t just give to us randomly. He gives to us to make us stronger and richer in him and in the things that he’s given us to work toward. I said earlier that when we try to gain things on our own we go for them directly, without God in mind. In reality, the most direct path to the things we work for and desire is the path that looks longer. It’s the path through God. When we appeal to him and trust him, when walk with his as his beloved, he brings things to us, and secures us so that they continue to be bountiful and protected from the enemies of this world. Sometimes this path takes us through hardship. Before the field can be planted it must be torn up and the rocks taken out. If they weren’t anything that grew there would be stunted, weak and would die quickly, leaving the farmer with no crops for the winter – a job hastily done would mean death for him and his family. God’s good and caring enough to be careful planter, and to teach us to be the same.* He doesn’t give us things we aren’t ready for, good gifts that we would take and destroy. He wants to give us good gifts that last forever and continue to grow.

If God isn’t giving you something or hasn’t, it’s not necessarily because there are rocks to be uprooted in your field. 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