The home, the city, and the family — these three bastions of human experience are the building blocks of Psalm 127. This pithy psalm is attributed to Solomon, and I do not doubt it’s authorship at all. After all, few are so qualified to write divinely-inspired poetry on these three things!
Solomon (or Jedidiah, as the Lord named him — “Beloved of Yahweh”) had built not merely a house, but a palace; not just a city, but a kingdom; not just a family, but 700 wives, 300 concubines, and God only knows how many children! In the two recorded times that the Lord dramatically encountered Solomon, he is instructed in the way of the Lord: to take no other gods, to take care how he builds his house, his city, and his family. Yet he, in all these things, turned away from the Lord’s instruction and went his own way.
The result? If we’re truthful, we know the result of abandoning God’s way all too well: vanity, emptiness.
Hevel, hevel, says the Blogger!
Building the House
Though Solomon’s palace was striking, no house that he built would be as important as the house he built for the Lord (1 Kings 9). In the building and propagation of this magnificent house, the Lord says that he will bless it for all eternity—if his way is followed. If he is in it. But if the Lord is not in it, it is vanity. The house of the Lord will be reduced to a heap of rubble, and everyone will know that it is because the Lord’s people did not walk in his ways, but rejected him (1 Kings 9:8).
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Watching the City
Solomon is most known for his request for wisdom, and its granting. And so the Lord gave wisdom — wisdom to govern the kingdom, this city of cities. The Lord was in it, and the Lord blessed it. But when the way of the Lord was rejected by Solomon, in his lust and greed? The Lord raises cunning adversaries, and his kingdom is torn in two. All of Solomon’s striving, his “anxious toil,” was for nought.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
Now it is as though we are climbing the west face of a mountain, not yet lit by the rising sun. But the end of verse 2 brings us to the precipice, and to a pleasant journey down with the warm rays of the sun’s face turned sweetly upon us.
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.
Sweet rest from the Lord. This is the exact opposite of the “anxious toil” one line before. It echoes into the future in Christ’s God-trusting, completely-un-anxious repose during the storm, on a boat. It is that kind of faith-filled rest before God that is meant here. The stillness before the Lord which is bellowed out of the pages of Psalm 46: “Be still! Stop your raging, you tottering, faithless fools!” (my paraphrase, obviously).
Filling the Quiver
Charles Spurgeon (in what I deem to be a very existentially English moment) wrote, “Nobody cares to meddle with a man who can gather a clan of brave sons about him.” And this founder of homes, cities, and families in Psalm 127 has been given a great heritage—given, mind you, not built or created—which will “fly where he cannot,” hitting the aim of their father. Solomon not only knew of the vanity and harm of children poorly raised, but he was also the (inherited) recipient of a great promise. One day, an arrow from his quiver would fly straighter than any arrow before, piercing the head of the serpent and pinning it to the tree.
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.