“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.” Psalm 127:1-2
“Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
who walks in his ways!
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.” Psalm 128:1-2
We humans, made uniquely of all creation in the image of God, are wont to be satisfied expending our efforts within human limitations. Yet our infinite God, in whom we actually live and move and have our being, has so much more in store for us if we would only orient our lives around Him. We wake, we toil, we fret, we roil, and limit our soil to producing temporal fruit. Would we lift our eyes and see the skies, we’d tap what lies in the heavenlies! Unless the Lord is in it, we work for naught. (Genesis 1:26-28; Acts 17:28)
He cares about our work, our homes, our communities, but often for wider reasons than we consider. We may plan and pray, but our end is personal favor, comfort, and success. Would we recognize that our families, our cities, our nations, are the Lord’s to establish, bless, or diminish, all that we might fear and bless His name? He it is who sets leaders in place, and removes them from position, according to His infinite purposes. We see dimly, and so arrange and act in temporal space, yet He designs the whole of history and intersects each component with holy, eternal precision for His ultimate glory. (Daniel 2:20-22; 1 Corinthians 13:9-12)
In Babel, men were judged for trying to build their way to heaven and thus ‘make a name for themselves.’ In other words, ‘leave God out of it, we can do this; and when we do this, we won’t need Him anymore.’ Their motive was self-centered, their rules self-written, their impetus self-compelled. They wanted to win, and they wanted notice and power. But there is only One worth building for, only One by whom we can succeed, One by whom and for whom we were made, and He will not be mocked. (Genesis 11:1-9; Galatians 6:7; Colossians 1:16)
If we are spinning wheels in fruitless toil, if fretting and anxiety over our city or nation are keeping us from rest, we must check to see who we are trusting as watchman over our lives and possessions. It is so easy to take over the reins, to drive drive and do do, to work work and build build, and pay homage to God with only a rushed blessing on our labor. Yet the Bible promises peaceful sleep, fruitful labor, and blessing when we trust and fear the Lord- not failure, not ruin, not others’ assessments, not loss. Unless the Lord is our foundation and confidence, we will be unsettled.
Where do I need new priorities? How will I clear the way for the Lord to have His sway?
Lord God, guard me from any effort or expenditure, decision or inspiration, unless You are at the helm. May I walk and work in Your ways, not my own.