Building something can be a little like aiming at a bull’s-eye. You’ve got an idea in mind, a direction to go. You probably also have some talents or supplies close by, like the arrows an archer keeps in a tote on his shoulder. You don’t want to waste them. But if you’re aiming well and working with the Lord instead of without Him, efforts lead to rewards. In God’s economy, that can mean stepping-stones toward future goals, too.
The “Songs of Ascents” are a group of 15 psalms that were traditionally sung by worshippers on the uphill pilgrimage to Jerusalem for religious festivals. One of them—Psalm 127—is about the importance of letting God lead as we work toward our goals.
What are you headed toward today?
- Scholars believe Psalm 127 was written by King David or his son Solomon. Both were acquainted with lofty goals and grand achievements: David united Israel and headed a great dynasty; his son presided over peaceful prosperity and built a tremendous temple for the Lord. Whether your aim is to change careers or to get more sleep, God is interested in your plans. Ask prayerfully if your intentions have His blessing.
- Have you ever labored “in vain” (Ps. 127:1)? Strong’s Concordance suggests this phrase means emptiness or worthlessness. Describe a time when your efforts turned out to be empty or worthless—or you saw this happen to someone else. What was the cost? What did you learn?
- Verse 1 implies God is the builder, but so are the people—the same form of banah (Hebrew for “to build”) is used in both instances. How is that possible? What could it mean for God to “build” in a physical world? Consider a goal you have and make a list of aspects to entrust to the Lord.
- Imagine verse 1 stated in reverse: “If the Lord builds a house, they who build it do not labor in vain.” When we’re careful to seek God’s will before making plans—and along the way—we can avoid a lot of heartache. And the fruit from our efforts won’t be simply what we were hoping for, but far more. To stay encouraged, read Ephesians 3:20-21.
CONTINUING THE STORY
The psalmist sees blessings as having multiple purposes beyond mere enjoyment.
- Scripture calls diligence a “precious possession” that leads to honor (Prov. 12:27; Prov. 22:29) and sees lack of discipline as “shameful” (Prov. 10:5; 2 Thess. 3:11). Compare that to the admonition against “painful labor” (Ps. 127:2). Diligent work and joyful peace are deeply connected in a godly life. How does verse 2 explain this?
- While the remaining verses describe offspring as a reward from God, the apostle Paul also affirms the value of singlehood. (See 1 Cor. 7:1.) Children are one of God’s blessings for the married, but consider how the principle of Psalm 127:3-5 might apply in broader terms. Can you think of a way He has blessed you in the past with something that enriches your life today?
- How are God’s rewards “like arrows in the hand of a warrior” (Ps. 127:4)? Read the next verse and consider ways that His gifts might not only defend you against enemies but also build your reputation, give you quiet confidence, and help you do something new.
What is your quiver full of?
- Blessings—whether a healthy family, a thriving business, a honed skill, a year learning to cope with difficulty, or something else—can propel you to success in times to come. In fact, God’s rewards for past efforts or obedience are often tailor-made for future challenges.
Consider how this study applies to your life.
Whether goals are massive like David and Solomon’s or modest by comparison, we all have them. And this is true in a special way for believers: Ephesians 2:10 says God has prepared specific tasks for each of His children to accomplish. Discovering and engaging in the particular “good works” He’s planned for you will bring satisfaction, delight, challenge, and exhilaration as nothing else can. That’s because the Father’s assignments are perfectly suited for the way His Holy Spirit gifts and empowers each of us. It’s also why labor looks different for every Christian yet always benefits from the fruit that is nurtured in us by the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). How are those qualities contributing to your goals? Is there one you need a bit more of?
- God prepares our works, but whether to accept them is up to us, as is the way we choose to build. How could keeping this in mind help you avoid laboring “in vain” (Ps. 127:1)?
- We can build with gold and silver, or we can use hay and straw. The former will have eternal rewards, but the latter will disappear (1 Cor. 3:12-15). Can you find “gold and silver” in your current efforts? What has Psalm 127 shown you about the importance of working with God throughout your life?
- If you follow God’s plans, rely on His Spirit, and use His blessings and rewards, you may still work hard. But you’ll be refreshed by successes that matter—and receive rest reserved for His beloved.