The pair of songs on the home, Psalms 127 and 128, begins with a look at the foundation. How does one establish a family legacy that will survive the inevitable crises, and then thrive for generations?
Inception of the Home
Unless the LORD builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the LORD guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.
These two verses convey two crucial points:
1. The Lord Himself is to be the center of our home (127:1). The emphatic repetition of the phrase “unless the Lord” tells us that God’s involvement is absolutely essential. Of course, the Lord never picks up a hammer to “build the house” literally; nor does He wield a weapon that He might literally “guard the city.” The meaning is that a relationship with Him, based on obedience to His Word, must be the defining mental, emotional, and spiritual guide for every decision if the home or the nation expects to stand firm. He must be the unseen Guardian of a city, trusted completely, before a city can be considered safe. If such is not the case, all is “in vain” (also mentioned twice). In fact, in the Hebrew sentence structure, the words “in vain” appear first in each clause, emphasizing the emptiness of it all:
. . . in vain they labor who build it.
. . . in vain the watchman keeps awake.
Work, strive, fret, worry, plan, strain all you wish, but if a relationship with the Lord is not the very center of your home, and obedience to His Word doesn’t guide every decision, no amount of your additional effort can preserve it from falling apart.
2. The Lord Himself must be the center of our life and work (127:2). In keeping with the context of these two songs, 127 and 128, verse 2 has reference to making a living—working long and hard hours. His point is that long, hard hours by themselves will never result in a godly, happy home—only “painful labors.” And please note that if the Lord is first in our lives, He will reward us even in our sleep. A godly life includes times of rest and relaxation.
There is an ancient Greek motto that I learned many years ago. “You will break the bow if you keep it always bent.” That is worth some thought. Do I write to a parent who has become too busy, too hurried, too stressed out? God says He will reward you even in your sleep! Though you may feel too involved to back off and rest, you’d better! And on the other hand, if the Lord is not the very nucleus of your life, all the labor of a lifetime cannot serve as a substitute for Him. Long hours and painful labors, rising early and retiring late can never replace your allegiance to the Lord and His presence in your home. Money cannot replace Christ! Neither can things, or promises that circumstances will change “someday.”
So let’s get this straight, right at the foundational level of instruction on a happy home: Christ must be first. You must be a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and you must marry one who is a believer if you wish to establish your home with full strength and stability. Then, obedience to the commands and principles of Scripture must become the defining value if you hope to build a strong family.
From Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.