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.
There is not an orthodox Christian anywhere who would deny the first statement of Psalm 127. If God is not the One behind all we do, then it will achieve nothing. We affirm it, we quote the verse and others as well (“Without me you can do nothing” is a frequent favourite.
But then, quite often, we conduct ourselves as if it is not the case. This Psalm is not promoting people sitting around and waiting for God to do something. But it is an opportunity to state that we need to stop believing that the indispensable element in our worship, witness and discipleship is us. We believe that God can save people, but deep down we think that He cannot, or for the more biblically minded, will not, without a great web site, a super talented worship band, or a professional sound system. Others rely on dynamic personalities in the leadership or the ability to crush every argument that is put up against the faith. We think that unless we do demographic studies and know the culture inside out then we won’t be able to win it to Jesus.
Paul tells us in Romans 10 that people will not be saved if they are not preached to and they will not be preached to if people do not go and they will not go if they are not sent … . The point there seems to be that while only God can build the house we must use the tools that He provides. And what has He provided? In the Scriptures we are told that He gives the preaching of the Word (preaching means any form of explaining the Gospel), prayer, and the movement of the Holy Spirit. We have to work hard to get the Gospel into the hearts and minds of our neighbours and the world. In the Book of Acts we see Paul preaching and debating and arguing and reasoning with people about the claims of the Gospel. We should do all this as well.
But we must never think that what it takes to get people saved is a PhD in logic. We need to remember that the early church turned their world upside down without much of what we think is crucial for us to evangelize properly.
What is it that attracts you to your church? Is it the skill of the musicians? Is it the programmes for the various groups of people? Would you stay if the preaching was excellent but the programmes were scantily manned and it was not a well oiled machine? It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that our successes are due to the way we do things, or the ideas we came up with or the organizational prowess that marks us. It is easy for us to believe that our failures are due to the absence of such things.
It does not seem that we check our hearts and actions very much when we fail. Could failure ever be because of our sin, our disunity, our pride? Could it be that our successes, if they are truly ours, are not going to last very long unless they have a much more solid base than the planning and organizational skill behind them? How can we show that we really believe that unless the Lord builds the house we labour in vain who build it?
This Psalm, lest we forget, is primarily about the home. But we’ll have to look at that another time. For now, we close with this. Use everything that God provides for the propagation of the Gospel and the sanctification of the saints. But never trust the tools that God gives you more than the God who gives them.