The Pilgrim’s Prosperity & Rest In the Lord 

a brief study of Psalm 127, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 15 July 2011 


Psalm 127 is another song of ascent. It was one of the songs that the saints of old would sing as they ascended to Jerusalem to celebrate the annual feast. But it is a song that many of us in psalm-singing churches will, no doubt, use together with Psalm 128, to celebrate new-births.

It is, as you can see, a psalm which celebrates the blessings of domestic life. But as the family is the building block of the society, whether church or nation, this psalm is also most appropriate for corporate singing.

It may be entitled, “The Lord’s Pilgrim Finding Rest & Prosperity in Him.” It is attributed to Solomon. This means that it is either written by Solomon or by David for Solomon. Either way, it is composed by the king (or under the direction of the king) as a kingdom song. David and Solomon were both representing Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. This psalm is, as with all the psalms, given by the King so that His subjects may sing in union with Him to admonish one another.

It has two parts. In the first part, we are reminded that without the blessing of the LORD, all endeavours will come to naught. Here, we shall see the necessity of the LORD’s Blessing. In the second part, we are reminded of one of the many ways that the Lord blesses His beloved pilgrims, and the value of it.


1.The Necessity of the LORD’s Blessing

1  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.

Work is not a curse. Adam and Eve were assigned work in the garden of Eden even before the Fall. The need and desire to work is part of the human nature created in the image of God. Without work we will lose our sense of significance. It is part of our nature to expect to earn benefits for ourselves only through hard work.

However, since the Fall, work no longer yields as much pleasure or returns. The ground is cursed. It will yield thorns and thistles. It will only be in the sweat of our face that we may eat bread (Gen 3:17-19). In fact, work has become a chore and a frustration for many. “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” says Solomon (Ecc 1:14).

Did Solomon write Psalm 127? Whatever the case may be, the idea expressed in the opening words of this psalm is the same as that expressed in Ecclesiastes, namely that those who labour as if all there is to life is what may be seen under the sun, shall surely reap vanity or emptiness. Put it in another way, if work is carried out without the blessing of the LORD, it is vain and meaningless.

1  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.

Builders who try to build a house without the blessing and help of the Lord, will build in vain. Watchmen who guard a city without the blessing and help of the LORD, watch in vain.

The house may collapse, the city may still be conquered despite all the effort, unless the Lord bless the work with His providential power. Indeed, even if the Lord allows the house to be built and the city to be kept, the labour of the builder and watchman who care not for God would amount to nothing in God’s sight and has no value in eternity.

So too for all of us in our labour and service. All our effort will come to nothing if we labour in our own strength, without seeking the Lord’s blessing.

2 It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.

Those who rely on their own strength and believe that the result is entirely dependant on their own ability and how much effort they put in, will often have sleepless nights. They can never be sure if they have put in enough effort and time and so they are often depressed when they do not get the results they are expecting.

On the other hand, those who trust in the Lord, who do all things as unto the Lord (Col 3:23), seeking first the kingdom of God, need not worry about tomorrow (Mt 6:33-34). They have a peace that transcends understanding. They can rest in the assurance that promotion comes from the Lord (Ps 75:6) and that it is He “that giveth the increase” (1Cor 3:7). Therefore, they are not overtly perturbed by failures. They know that even if they fail, in that they have laboured as unto the Lord, it is not a vanity, it is “of the Lord [they] shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for [they] serve the Lord Christ.”

Now, the Lord’s reward takes many forms—both eternal and temporal. Consider therefore, secondly,…


2.  The Value of the LORD’s Blessing

3 Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. 4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. 5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

Children, the fruit of the womb, is one of the Lord’s temporal providential blessings. It is a reward (v. 3) of the LORD for those who fear Him (Ps 128:4).

In ancient days, a mighty man might put forth his greatness and ability to defend himself by taking out a handful of arrows from his quiver to display them (v. 4). Again in ancient days a man that has many sons will find himself being supported by his sons when there is any civil dispute that need to be settled before the judges at the city gate (v. 5). Or if there should be an attempt to attack the city, the man with many sons can stand armed at the gate to speak to the enemies.

Either way, today, these imageries are lost to us. A man who has many children is more likely to be seen as strange rather than blessed or great. And having more children will often mean having more headaches and embarrassment rather than advantage at the city gate.

But brethren and children, though times and perception have changed, let us understand that the reality has not changed. Children remain a heritage of the Lord and the fruit of the womb is His reward. We will see a little more on how children are a reward of the Lord in the next Psalm. But for now, we can see how children provide men and women with work that will last unto eternity. Isn’t training of children in the fear and nurture of the Lord a work that lasts unto eternity? Isn’t it a contribution to the spiritual fight against the wicked one, the enemy of the Lord and His church?

But what about those without children? Well, this psalm is a corporate song. It is for us to sing it to encourage one another to trust in the Lord and to expect His reward.

But this psalm is also applicable to those who are not married or are unable to have children. For you see, the Lord often rewards our labours in other ways. Some will have many spiritual children though they have few or no children of their own. Think of the apostle Paul or John Calvin. Others will have fruit by way of lives transformed. John Bunyan once remarked on this psalm saying:

“In my preaching, I have really been in pain, and have, as it were, travailed to bring forth children to God; neither could I be satisfied unless some fruit did appear in my work: if I were fruitless, it mattered not who commended me; but if I were fruitful, I cared not who did condemn. I have thought of that, ‘He that winneth souls is wise’ (Prov 11:30); and again ‘Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord…’ (Ps 127:3-5)” (Grace Abounding, [Baker, 1986], 129)

Oh may the Lord grant us the same attitude of fervour and gratitude to the Lord. May we use this psalm to encourage ourselves and one another in this regard.


Conclusion

This beloved brethren and children is the purpose of Psalm 127. Let us sing it in union with our Saviour. Let us sing it with thanksgiving unto the Father for the blessings He has bestowed upon us in terms of children. Let us also sing it with gratitude and assurance that as we serve Him in His strength He will bless the labours of our hand. Amen.