Psalm 127:1-5 (ESV)
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.
Psalm 127 is first of all about the home. We know this from verses 3-5. Marriage, child rearing. The most important job in our lives and we only get one crack at it. And to come to the end of this episode of our lives and have the Word of God tell us that it was vain is a tragedy far too many have discovered from experience.
To those who are still raising their kids: What do you want for your home? Is the Lord building it? Do you see your children as a gift from God to you? A reward? The heritage of blessing He has granted you as evidence of His love for you? That is what they are. And He has given them for you to shape for glory under His direction. And unless He is the Builder, all the hard work of parenting is vain. The late night feeds, the trips to the doctor, the dental visits – and bills, the money spent on music and sports and college, the time grooming them for being able to live as responsible adults in a cut throat world – all vain if God has not done it.
We tend to underestimate the value that God places on family. One account out of the Scriptures can help with that. In Genesis 12 and 15 we have the accounts of God’s covenant with Abraham. He is going to bless the whole world through Abraham. The promises to Abraham are about Jesus Christ and the salvation of the world through Him.In Genesis 18:19 we read:
19For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”
This is stunning. God has chosen Abraham to be the father of all those who will ever come to faith. Paul tells us that all who believe are children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7). So God promises Abraham that He will make him to have more descendants than the sand of the seashore and the stars of the sky. And then He says that the way He is going to accomplish this incredible promise is by having Abraham teach his kids the way of the Lord. This is an incredibly encouraging thought. You think that you are not accomplishing much by reciting verses to your children and teaching them the Scriptures. You worry about whether they will take it to heart.
God, from before the foundations of the world, ordained that a vast numberless multitude from every tribe and tongue and people and nation would be redeemed from their sin and for eternity sing the praises of their God and be what sin had prevented the world from being. He will accomplish that great thing through the life and death and resurrection and intercession of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God. The Son will come as a real human being as a descendant of Abraham in fulfillment of a covenant made with Abraham 2000 years before Jesus was born. And that covenant would be kept because Abraham taught the ways of God to his children. It is simply too astounding for words. See it repeated in Psalm 78.
Never think that the hidden, unpopular, unwanted, culturally discarded work of training up children in the Gospel is vain work. It is work that omits it that is vain. Tackle this great job with great hope and belief in the promises of God.
No parent watches his or her child leave the home for independent living thinking that they did everything right. We see far too much of ourselves in our children. But our God is so gracious to allow us to be used for His great purposes in bringing lost ones to Him who entered the world as our children. And even when their salvation did not happen and our hearts are broken because we are certain that we cannot say, “the Lord built this house”, He is still able to overcome. And isn’t this the message of the Gospel? He fixes what is irreparable. So even when we mess up in the home His grace can take the vanity of our efforts and turn them into truly meaningful fruits for His glory. What a God.