A Song of Ascents; of Solomon.
1 Except the LORD build the house,
They labour in vain that build it:
Except the LORD keep the city,
The watchman waketh but in vain.
2 It is vain for you that ye rise up early, and so late take rest,
And eat the bread of toil:
For so he giveth unto his beloved sleep.
3 Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD:
And the fruit of the womb is his reward.
4 As arrows in the hand of a mighty man,
So are the children of youth.
5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them:
They shall not be ashamed,
When they speak with their enemies in the gate.
This is a psalm well known among believers. Some remember the lines about children being a great quiver-full of joy. Others take note that except the Lord works, our work is vanity. It feels full of immediate and practical consideration.
At its heart is the great theme of our emptiness and God’s greatness. Some say, “If we truly loved ourselves we’d do what’s best for us.” I’ve often seen this fail in practice, and the psalm teaches the same. We think and act, but our efforts fall short. We try to build lasting cities, but they inevitably crumble. Selfishness can creep into the cracks and, without godly direction, our buildings are unstable. All our efforts to edify our walls with engineering and learning, and we’re still surprised by life’s storms and floods. What we need are God-built buildings. They will rarely be structures of stone; rather, they’re built of souls and humble hearts.
The psalm doesn’t preach that all work is useless as much as pull us back to give perspective of our work. Early rising and late nights do not equate with success, only in sleeplessness. Thus, if houses of stone can crack, what of our family homes? This is where the metaphor really comes into clarity: If I cannot keep rocks from cracking, what can I do alone in my family? I need God. I need God’s help to build.
Jesus says to seek first the kingdom; this may be our best instruction for family work. Without seeking God’s heavenly kingdom, how can I have the Lord’s help in my house? Without God’s help, how can I ever have a quiver of joy?