You know, since becoming a parent one thing I have noticed is that there is no shortage of advice for mothers to give one another. There are books, magazines, blogs, podcasts, and, heaven help us, Facebook groups dedicated to finding the hack, the foolproof way to raise the children to be who you want them to be in three (hundred) easy steps. We have experts from every field coming out of the woodwork to tell mom what she needs to be doing above all else! It’s organic food, no its no screen time, no, its gentle parenting, er, authoritative parenting, er, montessori, classical, something not even invented yet is going to be the thing that is going to finally make mothering easier! You would think having access to all of this information would be calming as there would be at least direction on where to go, but it is just the opposite. It’s not even all of the bad advice out there; it’s actually all the advice that sounds and is exactly right. The only problem is there is just no way to do it right all the time, so mothers go around feeling like they are failing in slow motion, mothering in a nightmare where you just can’t get your feet under you.
This passage puts a cool balm over this irritated, anxious wound as we are reminded of the providence of God in our lives and in your mothering. This passage reminds us to have a proper view of God and the things that He has called us to do. Our customary two points today are God provides for His people and secondly, God blesses His people.
This Psalm was written by Solomon, and it reads a lot like a proverb, doesn’t it? There is much wisdom in the simple sayings we see here, yet they are so often forgotten. The wisdom is put in the form of a Hebrew poem, a short, carefully worded piece of literature that makes a powerful point. To aid in memory, it is also set to music for the people to sing in worship to God as they went up to celebrate and worship Him. Here in verse one, we have a hallmark of Hebrew poetry called parallelism. When you see it once, you see it all over the Psalms. The poet is going to write one line with an idea and then the second line is going to say the same thing, generally, but provide slightly more illumination about the overall idea.
That idea is that God is the one who provides for His people, not their own labors alone. He is the one that makes our work successful as He defines it. It’s a simple truth, but one that we usually forget about to our detriment. Solomon, writing, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the Lord’s own words, tells us that our building, watching, and late-night toiling are all in vain (or an exercise in futility) if God isn’t behind it. In other words anything we attempt without the approval and support of God is doomed to failure.There is no preparing beyond God.
This doesn’t mean that we resign ourselves to pessimistic fatalism. “Oh, I can put in the effort, but God is just going to come in and wreck everything so might as well not even try.” No God commands us to work, but here’s the thing: You’re not building a doomed project. You’re building the Kingdom of God! Guess what house God is building? His own! Guess which city God is watching over? His own! And if you’re a part of that work, there’s no need for anxiety and dread!
God being the ultimate factor in success isn’t meant to make us paranoid or unmotivated, but to make us more reliant on God and sure of His own success. God isn’t capricious or malevolent, instead, He gives His beloved sleep. This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t call us to work hard. After all Jesus Himself got up early to pray with His Father, and was up late doing God’s work, but as one commentator pointed out, when He was in the boat during the storm, where was Jesus? Was He wringing His hands or flailing with the ropes? Nope. He was asleep. He knew that His Father was working and thus models for us what our attitude should be.
How do you approach your work, the work that God has called you to whether that’s motherhood or ministry or something in between? Are you depending on yourself and your resources entirely to make it happen? That’s eating the bread of toil. Do you try to squeeze every last ounce of effort and time because you are driven by the pure fear and anxiety of having the world on your shoulders? No matter what you do, that sort of effort doesn’t guarantee anything! Here God is telling you that actually He is holding the world. It doesn’t depend on you. He’s not saying stop working, but He is telling you worship, not worry, while you work. In fact, I heard a sermon this week at presbytery that asked, “Have you thanked God for your dependance?” We don’t think that way, do we? We wish we weren’t so dependent! But we should in fact be grateful that we are dependent on God because He cares for us so well.
We still need to do our best and keep all of these things in mind, so, how do we approach work the way God wants us to? My Old professor, Dr. Alan Ross in his commentary on this passage lays it out for us: “We may say that the LORD builds the house if (1) the people build it by faith in the LORD’s provisions for it, (2) in accordance with his will, (3) in a way that is pleasing to him, honest and fair, (4) dedicate it to his use and purpose, and (5) give him glory for the accomplishment.” (681) Anything that we approach in our lives with that framework in mind is going to be something that God is building. To put it in fewer words, “God’s work done in God’s way won’t lack God’s provision.” This is how we approach everything in our lives, especially when we think about our next section of the Psalm this morning:
God blesses His people
We have seen so far how any success we have is totally thanks to the involvement of God. And now we are about to see that all blessings we have are from God as well, including that of children.
Verse three calls attention to children and calls them a heritage and a reward. The word “heritage” captures how God sees children so well. When we think of a heritage, we think of something that is both a privilege and a responsibility to have. Think of a family heirloom that you may have. The object may have intrinsic as well as sentimental value, making it an honor and privilege to own. But at the same time, being entrusted with a family treasure is no casual matter. You have been called to care for that treasure with the expectation that it will continue to travel down the generational line after you. I have a pocket watch from my late grandad that sits in a little glass box in our home. It was photographed at our wedding as a way of having him there. It was a gift for that to be passed on to me, a gift that I am entrusted with. That’s what children are! They are a gift and an honored responsibility, a family heirloom from God Himself.
Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of that, don’t we, moms? We have to remind ourselves that what we have in front of us is a blessing God has entrusted to us. And as the weight of that responsibility crushes onto your shoulders again, let it be lifted by what we have already talked about earlier in this passage. Unless the Lord parents your child, your training is in vain. This means that we are dependent on the Lord to parent His way so that we may dedicate our children to His purposes giving Him glory for it the whole way. We are not reliant on our own wisdom or the thoughts of supposed parenting experts who don’t have the Bible as their foundation. We’re not even trying to raise them up to be in our own image but in the image of Christ as detailed in here. And we’re not doing it alone. We are working with the Holy Spirit as He indwells in us and hopefully our children as well. That is the entrusting.
But what is the gift? God describes children like a warrior having a full hand of arrows, confident and ready to wade into battle. Blessed indeed would be the person with a whole bunch of them! Now, what sort of battle might be brought to mind? Well, the last part of verse 5 talks about speaking with an enemy at the gate. This is where legal battles would take place for property and financial disputes. The argument goes that the more kids one has, the more they are able to defend the families interests in the future from attack.
While that can be true today, and folks who have had many children will tell you how much of a help they are, but obviously that is not all that God has in mind. He’s not giving you kids just so you have a bunch of lawyers! But what we do find is that the blessing of having children is something that sometimes won’t fully show up until they are grown. After many years of training and discipline, nothing thrills the soul more than to see those little arrows go out and speak in defense of the family of God. That’s where we see blessing.
That word “blessed” is broken out into many different contexts. In short, to again borrow from Dr. Ross, this word “blessed” “celebrates the benefits of a right relationship with the LORD; it refers to the feeling one has who knows that all is well with God.” That’s what children are.
Now at this point we might be thinking a couple different things. One might be the person who never had children. Does that mean that you are somehow cursed by God? Absolutely not. Children aren’t only the blessing and responsibility of the biological parents. As I’ve said before, Talladega county has 72 kids in need of a home. Those kids are a blessing to us and a responsibility. Just because you can’t raise them in your own home doesn’t mean you can’t be involved.
Or maybe you’re thinking something different. Maybe you’ve tried having children and for one reason or another it’s never worked out. Perhaps you know the deep pain of miscarriage and in your darkest moments feel that God must be cursing you, making this day all the more difficult. Oh, my sister, this isn’t true. God has blessed you, because He did give you a Child who has ministered to you in ways that you can’t even imagine. He was promised long ago and was born in a humble stall. He was born to save His people from their sins which is why He is named Jesus. He grew up and died on the cross for your sins and mine so that we might have an inheritance, a heritage of eternal life, a gift and a trust to share with everyone we know.
So this mothers day, if this is a day of pain for you for what you have lost, that pain is real and deep, but it is not beyond Christ’s reach and eventual putting right. You have a God who cares for you deeply and oversees all that you do. All that you’ve done in your life and will do in your life you owe to Him. So as you work, worship. As you raise your kids and the neighborhood kids, worship! For each of these things is a blessing to you, a blessing that the Lord Himself is building for your good and His glory! Abide closely with Jesus and He will build it. Will it be built overnight? No. Will it always look like we want it to? No. As it has been said, the Kingdom of God leaps from victory to victory often cleverly disguised as defeat. Sometimes it’ll look that way with your plans and your children. Despite our best efforts sometimes, our children can wander away from the Lord. We aren’t promised anything, but as long as they are alive, their story isn’t done. Jesus isn’t finished with their construction, so rest from your anxiety, and put them in His hands.
What’s our takeaway? Rest in the victory that Christ won on your behalf. Rest in knowledge that if you are in Christ your sins are forgiven, and then get up and love on those little blessings in your home and your neighborhood under the caring eye of your Lord, knowing that He will prosper your work done in His name for His glory.
Alan Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms Volume 3, Kregal Exegetical Library.