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Sun, Mar 29, 2020

Psalm 127 - Part 3 of 4

Welcome video:


To listen to the sermon use the Audio links below (when viewed on our website).

Duration:23 mins 21 secs

Testing 1, Testing 2, Raise your hands if you can hear me

Welcome friends! Wow – it’s only been a week or so, and we miss you all like crazy. But welcome to church – the church is not a building, it is not a place but it is a group of believers. Thank you for tuning in - I really enjoyed being able to listen in last week, and so thank you for the privilege of allowing me to be able to come to you in your own homes this morning.

I was thinking in the week – about the places and types of church gathering we’ve seen at Medway - some of us started coming to Medway when it was still in the chapel, with wooden pews. We’ve moved to the youth hall and claimed it as our own as we sit on the plastic chairs. We’ve sung carols in the park sitting on picnic blankets. We’ve gathered around campfires on camp sitting on stone steps – and now you sit on your couches and chairs at home - and while we can’t be together physically – we are together in spirit with one heart and mind and I have no doubt the Lord will minister to us. Until we meet in person again!

We’re going to continue our series on the Psalms of Ascent – and this morning we’re looking at Psalm 127 – one of my favourites for obvious reasons, and no, Lawrence and Grietjie not because we are planning on having five kids – hold your horses. It’s a Psalm that starts off all about building a house – and so it was a good choice for a Church like Medway that looks and building and growing for the year. But yes, the irony is not lost on us all that just as we want to be serious about getting numbers into the hall at Medway, we all get put on lockdown and we can’t leave our homes. But the Church continues – the mandate and the mission call - the great commission will not change.

So get your bibles out. And the cool thing I realise about a recording – I don’t have to do that awkward thing where I wait for you to get your bibles and turn to the right place – you can just pause the recording and go get it and restart it! Ha!

Right – so Psalm 127 lets read together

Psalm 127

New King James Version (NKJV)

Laboring and Prospering with the Lord

A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the
Lord guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb
is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

A Psalm attributed to Solomon, the wise Leader, who, it’s fair to say knew a thing or two about building. And having to watch out for a city and contemplate its future. A Psalms of Ascent - you would have heard in the last couple of weeks the Children of Israel would come to Jerusalem and sing the collection of fifteen Psalms as they ascended up Mount Zion.

First part of Verse 1:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;

So, house building, now I can relate. I am in the construction industry – so is Austin, so is Lawrence, Andrew Knott, but this is not just a Psalm for us. Everything we do is building – we are building relationships, we are building careers, building wealth, we are building reputations, we are building families? Mankind is all about building. And you wonder if that isn’t because we are modelled after the great Creator himself. He built the universe, he constructed you and me, the Psalms tell us he knitted us together in our mother’s wombs, and so we also in our daily lives look to create. Nothing wrong with that.

But then we come across this verse and it tells us that the Lord has to build the house otherwise it will be in vain? Being in vain meaning it will be a waste of time, will be worthless and worth nothing.

So straight off the bat then, first challenge – who is building for you. All those things that you are trying to build in your life. Have you given it to the master builder – the experienced guy who knows what he is doing – or are you trying to DIY it –

Vs 1b Guarding the city

The second half of the first verse goes on to talk about the vanity, IE the uselessness of a watchmen staying awake, guarding a city that God is not protecting himself.

Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.

Now I remember speaking on this passage previously and I think I said something like we’ve lost the sense of what it means to guard a city, or to be in a city under protection against an enemy.

But hows that, right now, as you sit at home under lockdown – armed forces are I’m told, roaming the streets – why? for your protection – to keep you safe. Keeping watch over you. First time in my lifetime we’ve had that? And you see the social media pictures of tanks and army vehicles being rolled out.

Wow, I hope the army do their job and keep us safe. Wow, I hope that people wake up and are diligent in their quarantine and are not doing foolish things. Yes and Yes – and hope and pray for both those necessary things. And do what the doctors tell you – be wise.

But Unless the Lord guards the city,
But commit yourself and be reminded of the Lords care. Old Cyril has stepped up – thank goodness! He needs your prayer too – but there is one far greater keeping watch over us.

We forget that, and we become overwhelmed and despondent, discouraged and disheartened and we fall apart.

We remember that, and we will get through this. And whatever comes next. And whatever comes after that.

So much already and that’s just verse 1!

Verse 2

It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,

It is vain – in other words, it is in vain, it will be a loss. We as human beings are designed in such a way that we need rest. We will, or should I say, should, be spending a third of our lives, in club duvet. What was Jesus doing during the storm on the lake – he was taking a nap! So why do we feel guilty when we get tired and need some rest? Why are we sometimes looked down upon when we admit to need a break.

Maybe this 21 day period is an opportunity for a break of sorts – a change in the routine, some enforced family time. Just by virtue of me not having to travel to work and back, I am able to sleep in in the mornings – and you know the Doctors facing this COvid 19 thing even say – getting a full nights sleep is good for your immune system!

I didn’t need a doctor to tell me that – we have Psalm 127.

Vs 2b Eating the bread of sorrows / anxious toil

Bread of sorrows? Some translations have this as the bread of anxious toil? Is that what we are feeding on? Is that what we are daily putting into our lives, keeping us going? The bread that doesn’t give you sustenance or energy or really feed you, it just tells you that, guess what, tomorrow starts another week and you’re going to be hungry again. The bread you eat, the money you make, the income that you earn from your hard labour, is it in sorrow? Is your toil anxious? The work that you do to provide for your family – do you do it, despite hating it? Or do you view your job differently. That the bread we eat is provision from the Lord.

The bread of sorrows won’t satisfy your hunger. It will leave you weak and malnourished. The Bread of Life says I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly! Jesus says why worry? Jesus say, when you pray, pray like this – Give us each day, our daily bread.

For so He gives his beloved Sleep – That’s how my New King James Version translates the last part of the 2nd verse. For so he gives his beloved sleep. Now there are two parts to the meaning of that verse


The sleep that I need so badly, the rest than my body requires in order to function properly, the calming of my anxious mind – where does that come from - He grants it. He gives it to us. We think when we take charge and try to solve all our challenges on our own, in our own strength and understanding, that we can produce peace and rest in our own lives. Not so – it comes from him. Sometimes, if you’re like me, you think that taking a rest, taking a break, includes taking a break from spiritual things. I’m tired and need a rest, and just need a break, so I won’t go out to the meeting today. Ah man, i’m just anxious and feeling low, how can I go to church in this state. How can I pray, how can I face God – let me just get myself together first and i’ll get back to my spirituality –. But the rest we need, the freedom from anxiety, from stress, He gives that to us. We need to be going to Him for it!

The second aspect – depending on what your translation says

For he gives to His beloved – even in His sleep. Even when his beloved – and that’s us, are sleeping, doing nothing, at rest, he is at work. Don’t you like that? What a picture of grace at work in us – we don’t do anything, he does the work. So why stay up late worrying about it – why work all night to try and guarantee your future security? Go to bed – and even in your sleep, while you recuperate, while you snooze off into dreamland – He will be at work.

You see, he doesn’t sleep!

Psalm 121

He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

He is constantly at work. He keeps us. He provides for us.

Verse 3 of Psalm 127 takes a turn

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb
is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

We were talking about building a house and guarding a gate, about getting sleep in the first two verses, and we seem to take this weird turn into the 3rd verse and we start reading about Children? Huh?

The real reason it’s appropriate for the author of this Psalm to go on to talk about Children, is because of the context – because of the background of the people of the time – in those days, what was the number one sign of your wealth. What was the number one way that it could be seen that God has blessed you. It was in your family. You could have not a penny to your name, but if you had a large family, well then, how could you not say that the Lord has not been good to you?

A large family is a secure future!

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,

A heritage is something to be cared for and maintained and taken responsibility for, even though you didn’t really earn it, you were just given it.. If you have a child, you didn’t create the child – God did, and He saw it fit to entrust that child to you – the Child is actually the Lords – remember that the Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.

So remember that next time some child is screaming your ear off during a service. Remember that when your focus is broken as they loudly shuffle out to Sunday school. They are an important part of the church –they are the future of the church.

The fruit of the womb is a reward.
The passage goes on to speak about the fruit of the womb being a reward. Now that’s a funny thing to call children – a reward? Sometimes it might seem like children are more like punishment than a reward What about people who don’t have kids? Are they not being rewarded?

I think this verse is perhaps easy to take by itself and interpret in a way that does not fit with the rest of scripture. Let’s make clear one thing that I think we all know all ready. We deserve nothing from God. Every good gift we have ever received, every good gift we will ever will receive, if because of his good pleasure. He did not send His Son for us because we deserved it. It was to show his nature, his kindness, his love and his mercy to us.

Think of the parable of the workers in the field. Where the different workers, despite working for different hours are given the same wage – and the Master says – don’t I have the right to do what I want with my money?

You see he gives in accordance with his good pleasure and will. Children are a reward – in that they are a gift from a God who loves nothing more to bless us – but they are an undeserved reward. Given out of love, not out of payment for something we’ve done.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; You do know that a quiver is five, right?
Like arrows in the hands of the warrior – what is it with these guys and warfare? OK so, my child is a weapon. Mine at the moment is a weapon of mass destruction. No, think more along the lines of my child is something useful – something, or rather, someone of great value. A warrior in the midst of battle doesn’t regard his arrow as a burden, he doesn’t think to himself, gee, I wish I had fewer arrows with me here today. No, I bet he is extremely grateful for all the arrows he has!

But whether your family is two strong or twenty strong –– the family is a good thing -

And what a time to look at these verses again. We sit in isolation. As the economy struggles and our investments disappear and the so called places where we thought our wealth lay are changing day to day.

As we are locked down with our homes and many of us are going to spend more time with our family than we ever have. There is no escape – no lonely fishing escapes for Mr Rowan. Here is a chance to appreciate the value of a family. Some of you have family overseas – some of you have family down the road but you can’t see them. Give them a call. Connect to them in a new way, just like we are connecting with you in a new way today. And do your best to keep in touch with your church family as well.

And know this -

God is still building his house, his church. God is on the watchpost looking over his people. God is still the giver of rest and peace. Put your trust and hope in Him.

I close with a something that was shared with me by one of my Senior Colleagues at work, which has stuck with me.

Question of the Week:

This coronavirus thing has really thrown me. I feel like I've lost all sense of certainty. No one knows what will happen next. How do we stay sane when we don't know what's lurking around the corner?


It is not that we have lost our sense of certainty. We have lost our illusion of certainty. We never had it to begin with. This could be majorly unsettling, or amazingly liberating.

This tiny virus of 125 nanometres* has sent the entire world into chaos. All of our plans are up in the air, markets are going crazy, entire countries shutting down, and we have no clue what the future holds.

But that is always the case. We never know what the future holds. We only think we do, and keep getting surprised when things don't pan out the way we expected. Now the mask is off. We have to admit our vulnerability.

What will happen next? We don't know. Our experts don't know. Our leaders don't know. Only God knows. And that is the point. Only God knows.

Close your eyes and feel the uncertainty, make peace with it, let yourself be taken by it. Embrace your cluelessness. Because in all the confusion there is one thing you know for sure. You are in God's hands.

Keep calm. Panic and fear are also contagious. Take every precaution as advised by health authorities. Wash your hands well. And every time you do, remember whose hands you are in.