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May 12, 2019

Sermon Psalm 127 . . .“Bible songs:  Unless the Lord builds the house”

“Bible songs:  Unless the Lord builds the house”

Psalm 127

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

In honor of Mother’s Day, author Suzanne Raga wrote an article called, Twenty-five of History’s Greatest Moms.  This is what she wrote:  “With their words, actions, and unconditional love, mothers have a profound influence on their children.  Our mothers give us life, nurture us, and support us as we grow from babies to adults.  They teach us, take care of us, and give us advice, (wanted or unwanted!), and provide this sort of motherly presence for many others in their lives as well.”

So who are twenty-five of history’s greatest moms?  First on her list was a woman named Marie Curie.  Although she’s best known for being the first woman ever to win a Nobel Prize, she also raised her two young daughters alone after her husband died in an accident.  And, amazingly enough, one of her daughters, Irene Joliot-Curie, also went on to win a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her work in radioactivity.  Marie Curie must have been a pretty amazing mom!

Or think of Nancy Edison, mother of seven children, the youngest of whom was named Thomas.  You know, Thomas Edison.

Apparently, little Tom was having a little trouble in school, so much so that his teacher refused to teach him.  She said he was incompetent and even mentally ill.  So Nancy kept him home and taught him herself.  And it’s a good thing she did!  In fact, next time you turn on a lightbulb, or listen to music, or watch a movie, or use a battery, or pretty much 1,089 other things that he has patents for, you can thank his mother, Nancy.

Later, he said:  “My mother was the making of me.  She was so true, so sure of me; and I felt I had something to live for, someone I must not disappoint.”

And just one more--Sonya Carson of Detroit, Michigan.  She was only thirteen years old (!) when she married, and would become the mother of two sons--the first named Curtis, and the other, Ben.  But when she learned that her husband already had another wife and family back in Tennessee, she moved out and raised her boys alone.  Then when they got behind in their schoolwork, she cut down their time on TV, and made them write book reports on two library books every week.  

And we’re glad she did, because her second son, Ben, went on to Yale, and later became the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University.  Only when Curtis and Ben were older did they realize that their mother, Sonya, couldn’t even read!

That’s an amazing mom!

The Bible is also full of some pretty amazing moms!  Think of Sarah, the mother of Isaac, Jochebed, the mother of Moses, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Eve, the mother of all mankind!

Please turn in your Bible to page 657 as I read the words of our text.  Psalm 127, starting at verse 1:  “A Song of Ascents.  Of Solomon.  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.”

If you would glance for a moment across this page, to the page after, as well as the page before, you’d notice that at the beginning of every one of these psalms are the words, “A Song of Ascents.”

Within this book of 150 psalms, there’s a group of fifteen psalms that are called, “Songs of Ascent,” songs that Hebrew pilgrims sang as they made their way up to Jerusalem for their great festivals and feasts.  And they’re called “Songs of Ascent” simply because, not only was Jerusalem the highest city geographically in Palestine, the people were coming “up” to God, giving thanks for all that He had done.

Even more, within this group of fifteen psalms, there are five groups of three, with each group having the same pattern--first, a psalm of trouble, then a psalm of trust, then a psalm of triumph.  And this psalm, Psalm 127, is in the third group of five, putting it right in the middle of all of them.

And who wrote it?  Solomon did!  And we know that because it not only says so just before verse 1, oddly enough, in verse 2, he even managed to sneak in his name.  You see that word “beloved”?  “For He gives to His beloved sleep”?  In Hebrew, it’s “Jedidiah,” which is another name for Solomon (II Samuel 12:25).

Is it strange that he would write a psalm?  Yes and no.  Yes, it’s strange, because there are only two out of all the 150 psalms that bear his name, and no, it isn’t strange, because the Bible says he wrote three thousand proverbs and one thousand and five songs (which means there are another one thousand and three songs that we know nothing about!)

Let’s look at verse 1:  “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.”

“Unless,” it says.  We use that word in lots of different ways, usually in place of other words like “if” and “except.”  Think of, “He won’t go to sleep unless you read him a story” or “You won’t pass the test unless you study hard.”

It’s our way of saying, “You better do it, or else…”

And that’s just what going on here in Psalm 127.  “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.”

You can build a home, you can start a business, you can raise a family, but if the Lord isn’t in it, they’ll have no lasting value at all.  To put it another way, whatever you do, don’t do it without God.  

Sound familiar?  It should, for that’s exactly what Jesus said in the book of John:  “Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me...Apart from Me, you can do nothing.”

And if that’s not enough, Solomon added in verse 2:  “It is in vain, (it’s useless, pointless, fruitless), that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to His beloved sleep.”

As Paul wrote to the Colossians:  “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

Then verse 3:  “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.”

Funny thing about arrows--they’re a warrior’s means of victory.  They’re his protection.

And a warrior is awfully careful about his arrows.  He never leaves them sitting around the house, to be stepped on or broken.  Back in Bible times, there was no Gander Mountain nor a local sporting goods store where he could stop in and buy some more.  He made them.  He sharpened them.  He guarded them with care and concern.

So it is with children.  As one commentator wrote:  “Parents must not trifle with their children, like idiots playing with sharp tools; but as the bowman straightens and polishes his arrow, gives it a solid point and wings it with proper feathers, they must educate their sons and daughters in the name, and with the help of the Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”

One day, a mother and daughter were having lunch, when her daughter mentioned that she and her husband were thinking of starting a family.  “We’re taking a survey,” she said.  “Do you think we should have a baby?”

Her mother answered, “It’ll change your life.”

“I know,” said the daughter, “no more sleeping in on weekends, no more spontaneous vacations…”

She looked at her daughter, trying to decide what to tell her.  She wanted her to know the things she would never learn in a childbirth class, that her body would heal, but that becoming a mother would make her emotionally vulnerable for the rest of her life.

She considered warning her that she would never again read a newspaper without asking, “What if that happened to my child?”  That every plane crash and every house fire would haunt her, that when she saw pictures of starving children, she would wonder if anything could be worse than watching your child die.

She looked at her carefully manicured nails and stylish clothes and thought that, no matter how sophisticated she was, becoming a mother would reduce her to the level of a bear protecting her cub, that an urgent call of “Mom!” would make her drop even her best crystal without a moment’s hesitation.

She wanted her daughter to know that her life, now so important, would be of less value to her once she has a child, that she would give it all up in a moment to save her offspring, but would also begin to hope for more years—not to accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her children accomplish theirs.

She knew the day would come when she would feel the bond with women throughout the ages who have tried to stop war, hatred, and drunk driving.  And she knew that someday she would know the joy of seeing a baby’s belly laugh as he touches the soft fur of a dog and the exhilaration of seeing her child ride his first bike.

And with a tear in her eye, she squeezed her daughter’s hand said, “Dear, you’ll never regret it.”

As Solomon wrote in the words of Psalm 127:  “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!”

One more thing--in March of this last year, a lone gunman, a jihadist terrorist, took several people hostage in a French supermarket, shouting, “I’m a soldier of the Islamic State!”  He had already killed one, and would kill two more.  That’s when a French police officer and former Iraqi war veteran, Arnaud Beltrame, offered to trade places with a hostage, a woman, during the standoff.  

But things didn’t go as well as anyone planned.  For when police stormed the supermarket, not only was the terrorist killed, Colonel Beltrame also lost his life.

Later it was said of him:  “It seems to me that only his faith can explain the madness of this sacrifice which is today the admiration of all.  He understood, as Jesus told us, that there is no greater love than to give one’s life for one’s friend.”  And he wrote:  “Only a Christian faith animated by love could ask for this superhuman sacrifice.”

What Beltrame did in that French supermarket was incredible.  What Jesus did on Calvary amazes us even more.  For we who were once held hostage by sin and death, have been won by the blood Christ, forgiven, redeemed, and set free.

In the words of a hymn:  “If Christ had not been raised from death our faith would be in vain, Our preaching but a waste of breath, our sin and guilt remain.  But now the Lord is ris’n indeed; He rules in earth and heav’n:  His Gospel meets a world of need--in Christ we are forgiv’n.”

 

Dear Father, in Your rich, undeserved, unending love, You have given us a mother.  Help us to hold them in honor, love, and esteem, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen

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