Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
“The first people to sing this psalm had expended much effort to get to Jerusalem. Some came great distances and overcame formidable difficulties. Would there be a tendency among the pilgrims to congratulate one another on their successful journey, to swell with pride in their accomplishment, to trade stories of their experiences? Would there be comparisons on who made the longest pilgrimage, the fastest pilgrimage, who had brought the most neighbors, who had come the most times? Then, through the noise of the crowd, someone would strike up the tune: ‘If GOD doesn’t build . . . guard . . .’” [E. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction]
How does this psalm change the tune of Israel’s tendencies during pilgrimage?
Was there a time you’ve “stood watch in vain”? How does this psalm change your perspective?
Despite great distances and formidable difficulties related to work, how can we wake each morning?
Declare that the Lord’s mercies are new for us every morning as we rise to work / study!
Psalm 127 (NIV)
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
“Relentless, compulsive work habits (‘work your worried fingers to the bone’) which our society rewards and admires are seen by the psalmist as a sign of weak faith and assertive pride, as if God could not be trusted to accomplish his will, as if we could rearrange the universe by our own effort.” [E. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction]
How then does the reward of sleep in verse 2 surprise or make sense to you?
How does this type of rest differ than how we might commonly understand it in our culture today?
What happens when we try to do God’s work for him?
Spend time resting in the promises of God today.
John 5:17 (MSG) – But Jesus defended himself. “My Father is working straight through, even on the Sabbath. So am I.”
Psalm 127:3 (NIV) –Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.
”Jesus’ job description: ‘My Father is working straight through. . . . So am I.’ By joining Jesus and the psalm we learn a way of work that does not acquire things or amass possessions but responds to God and develops relationships. People are at the center of Christian work.” [E. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction]
How does this new view of work edit your current job description?
Perhaps you’re not a “people person” or you like to work independently – in light of John 5, how does this affect the way you work?
Jesus’ legacy in his work was to make us sons and daughters. What do you want your legacy to be?
Spend time praying for a new view of work, centered in Christian work.
Genesis 1:27, 29-31 (NIV)
So God created mankind in his own image…
male and female he created them.
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
“The truth is that work is good. If God does it, it must be good. Work has purpose: there can be nothing futile about work if God works. The curse of people’s lives is not work, but senseless work, vain work, futile work, work that takes place apart from God.” [E. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction]
How is the work of God defined / described in Genesis 1?
If Christian discipleship turns us away from senseless work and re-orients us in God’s work, this sets us in the mainstream of what God is already doing – how does this free us from the curse of work?
Does Christian discipleship sound like “work” to you? Why or why not?
Spend some time asking for God to re-orient us in the good work He is doing.
2 Thessalonians 3:11-13 –We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.
“One of the tasks of Christian discipleship is to relearn ‘the works you did at first’ (Rev 2:5 RSV) and absolutely refuse to ‘work like the devil.’ Work is a major component in most lives. It is unavoidable. It can be either good or bad, an area where our sin is magnified or where our faith matures.” [Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction]
How did Paul encourage the church in Thessalonica to avoid the sin of Babel (frantic and compulsive work, Genesis 11:3-4) as well as avoid becoming the lilies of the field, which “neither toil nor spin” (indolent and lethargic work)?
Some in Thessalonica may have read Psalm 127 as you don’t have to work hard to be a Christian. Go to sleep. God’s doing what needs to be done. There’s nothing more for us to do. How might the psalmist respond?
Spend time in prayer, asking God to mature our faith as we work faithfully unto Him.