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Author:Rev. Mark Chen
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Congregation:First Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore
Title:Building and Protecting Our Household
Text:Psalms 127:1-5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Role of the Father

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Trinity Hymnal Revised 1990, The Psalter 1912

TH 407 - The Day You Gave Us, Lord Is Ended
Psalter 359 - Conscious Dependence on God
TH 94 - How Firm a Foundation

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

The traditional and historic role of the man is to be a provider and protector - to be a husband and father - to build up the household. It’s also biblical. That’s why men have rightly done this. While it’s not wrong per se for our married sisters to work, men are primarily responsible to work and build up the family. Wives help. Paul said that women in Titus 2 are keepers at home. But some women are mighty capable - to be keepers at home and still run a business and manage staff - like the Proverbs 31 woman. But building up a household is hard. We want success. To have households which are better run, supported, financed, with stability and success. If we send our kids to this school, they’ll be successful. If we live in this neighborhood, things will be better. If we follow this method of child-rearing, we will have good children. And we work hard to follow that plan. And sometimes we’re so busy - sleep becomes an issue.

This was the case with Solomon. The Psalm title “A Song of degrees for Solomon” tell us that it was written for Solomon - by David or possibly under the direction of Solomon. It can be also translated as “of Solomon.” So Solomon could have written it. After all, he wrote Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. At the end of verse 2, he refers to himself - “for so he giveth his beloved sleep.” This was how he described himself in the Song of Solomon. And we all know how hard he worked in Ecclesiastes. This Psalm tells us that apart from God, life is pointless. Whatever you do, plan, strategize, if it’s without God, it’s pointless - whether you are building a house, securing a city, or raising a family. Many of us are trying to raise a family, to protect what we have built, what we have invested, what we have earned. We’re concerned for safety. We want what we do to succeed for our family, homes, and security. And it can be tough.

There are two truth from this Psalm. Firstly, building and protecting our household without God is vain. Secondly, building and protecting our household is successful only with God’s help.

Firstly, building and protecting our household without God is vain. Now, we see several things that people, even Solomon as a man, was trying to build and protect. Verse 1 says, “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.” We try to build our house. The word “house” in the Old Testament means more than 1 thing. It can mean a literal house or a household, a family, a life. In 2 Samuel 7, David told God that he would build him a house - a literal place of dwelling - the temple. This is where God’s presence would be with his people in the Holy of Holies - where his glory would reside between the wings of the cherubim on the mercy seat. This represented God's presence on earth where he would dwell with his people. God’s dwelling place was in heaven, beyond the glass ceiling. So David wanted to build God an earthly dwelling place. On the contrary, God used the same word “house” to speak of something different. God told him that he would build David’s house, referring to his family and lineage. 

The fact that Solomon was writing this is significant. He would’ve known about this exchange between God and David. Solomon built the temple for God. And God was building David’s house through Solomon. So which is meant here? In verse 3-5, Solomon talks about family. I believe, that Solomon is referring to the building up of the household. The household encompasses all areas of life - security in having a roof over your head, of having sufficient, of saving sufficiently, of having a successful marriage with successful children and a successful life. And we’re all actively building it. Some of you are preparing for marriage or are newly married and having children or planning for them. Home renovations, home acquisitions are all on your minds. You’re thinking of children’s education. And some, when they’re reaching tertiary education - would they have to take a bursary, a loan, a scholarship, local or international. You have to think. Or perhaps, you’re an empty nester - how do you upkeep your income, when’s your insurance plan maturing, how do you still help your children, pay your medical bills, etc? 

That’s why we also spend time guarding our households. “except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” What we build, we also try to protect. We watch like an alert watchman, staying up. And the way we build and protect it can be quite intense. Verse 2 says, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.” Husbands and fathers, I can understand what many of you face. Some of you single mothers as well. Not even single mothers - but those who share the work almost equally or unequally with your husbands. You are spending much time keeping the household together so they would flourish. Many of us sleep late and wake up early. Sleep is the resource in this psalm.        But of course, this can also refer to other resources God has given. There’s intelligence, time, the sun and rain, your income, etc. God’s resources are sufficient for our lives. And we try to enlarge our resources like good stewards. It’s hard. If you need time, you must sacrifice sleep. If you need extra classes for children, you must sacrifice money. If you invest money in a scheme, you must sacrifice that new fridge you need or a holiday. These are all legitimate decisions we must make.

But the problem is this. We try to extend our resources irresponsibly. Skimming on much sleep to get more time; skimming on worship and fellowship to manage your work; or fudging taxes or not declaring income to get keep money. As the verse reminds us, we may work very hard and skim on sleep, or work or give up other resources until sorrow becomes our food. Sometimes our building and protecting end up resulting in more trouble. Why? Because we do it sinfully. Some think - I’ll sacrifice all of this now to build up my life. But it’s ironic. I’ll sacrifice worship, family, rest, fellowship, so that I can build up my household, so that I can focus on worship, family, rest, and fellowship at a later time. The answer that God gives to this irony is this - what you’re doing is vain.

The word “vain” here is different from the word “vain” in Ecclesiastes. This does not mean futile or messy. The word here has a moral component. It means wrong or false. It means lies. It’s the same word in “thou shalt not bear false witness.” Or who can ascend to the holy hill? He that has clean hands and pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to vanity - lies. These are the lies we tell ourselves - if only I can do this, then life will be better. If I can sacrifice this now I can gain it back later. If I can cut back on time spent with my family to work, they can have a better life. But why are they lies? How can you sacrifice what God has freely given, to gain what God has given? You’ve sacrificed it! And we can’t neglect God’s resources and limitations without copping negative consequences.

What’s the point of building up your household, if by being constantly absent because of work, your marriage and family are ruined? What’s the point of investing in kids by neglecting their fellowship for them to pursue success, if they only become successful pagans? What’s the point of losing sleep to build up your career, if your illness will end your career? The Lord gives his beloved sleep. Rest! Sabbath rest, rest in God’s provision and providence, rest at the cross, rest from lusts. But if we take not this rest, there will be turmoil. We say - just one more and it will be okay. Meanwhile we don’t treasure our position as God’s beloved. If you’re too busy to sleep, you’re too busy. If you’re too busy to worship, you’re too busy. If you’re too busy to spend time with the children, you’re too busy. If you’re too busy but think you can still build up your marriage and family, you believe lies. Thou shalt not bear false witness. Are you a liar today?

Dearly beloved, do you believe lies? You deceive yourself - it’ll be okay one day. But how many years have you said this? How many more years will you say this? If you don’t make use of God’s resources rightly NOW, how can he bless you? You think building and protecting your household sinfully now will automatically transform to building and protecting your household biblically? Your poor use of resources will continue because you’re not learning now. And when you have what you want - the best house, the most accomplished family, the best job - they will not satisfy. Your rest is not in God but in your vanity. You become used to your sinful use of his resources. Moses says in Psalm 90:17, “And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” God establishes and prospers the work of our hands. We can’t truly properly prosper without surrendering to God. You may prosper, but your heart may not turn back to God. It is steeped in vanity. Wives, weep for your husbands who are like that. Husbands, weep for your wives if they are like that. And weep for yourselves. By building and protecting without God, you are only tearing down. Don’t trust your own lies.

But secondly, the building and protecting of our household is successful only with God in it. Verses 3-5 say, “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” A successful household in the Old Testament was illustrated by number of children. Lo, children are a heritage or gift of the Lord. We see there’s a wrong way in scripture. In Genesis 11, the people of the world were very successful. They had multiplied and filled the earth. Then they all came to Shinar. They decide to build a tower to reach the sky and according to verse 4, they did it so they could “make us a name.” God frustrated their plan. They had many children; successful households; well organized. But God confounded them and scattered them. They tried to build without God. On the contrary, how did God bless the world? He takes an old man from Ur of the Chaldees - one who had no children; a man with an old wife, passed child bearing age. And they only had a child when he was 100. No one today would look at Abraham and say that he wasn’t successful. God did that work in his life for a lasting legacy. He trusted in the Lord. And the Lord built his household.

Now remember the context. This Psalm was written by Solomon. Wisest man on earth, but his household was built in vain, because he didn’t apply his wisdom. He had a huge kingdom. Many riches. During his life time, it looked great. People and tribute came from all over. But his house was built in vain. He married women who drew him away from God. His legacy? His kingdom was divided. This was Solomon’s folly. His foolish son split the kingdom Solomon had worked so hard to build. Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it.

Now, Solomon used the illustration of children and the fruit of the womb to make a point - that inheritance is from the Lord. In the Old Testament and Mosaic Covenant, children were the tangible way God showed his pleasure. The New Testament doesn’t say those who are childless are cursed. Solomon was making a point - there are things we can labor over but can never guarantee. Like children. Similarly, we can never guarantee a good business, nice house, smart children, and a great marriage. These are gifts from God. But if we pursue after God, he will bless us with immeasurable blessings. Chief of which - he will help us build up our household - our business, our family, our children - the way he wants - and we will be joyful and spiritual. 

Only God can give a truly successful and spiritual household - unless you’re working to build and protect that, you’re only destroying it. And what kind of success do we see? Solomon continues with the illustration of children. Verse 4 says that his children are like arrows in the hand of a mighty man. Verse 5 says that happy is the man who has his quiver full of them. In those days, a man’s success was seen in his weaponry - he could display his arrows. It showed his ability to protect what he had. His success was also seen in the number of children - especially sons. If there were disputes, they would come to the city gates - which were the law courts where all the elders sat in judgment, and he could speak and testify before his enemies. That’s the meaning of verse 5 - “they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”

We don’t want to subtract from this context - yes, having many children, in the Lord, is a blessing. And I want to be the first to testify of that. And we desire that our families here will continue to multiply as the Lord leads. But we also don’t want to miss the obvious application apart from just the example of    children. God blesses our lives - our building up of our household, careers, families, marriages, etc - when we let him build us up. A godly family is a great testimony. A godly business with Christian principles is a testimony. A godly marriage is a great testimony. A godly church life is a great testimony. And we cannot achieve these things without building in the Lord. These things are ordinarily the results of a life that is built in Christ. Is your meat to do the will of him that sent you? Are you like Paul and Apollos who plant and water, but relied on God to give the increase? Or do you strive and labor rejecting God’s resources and limitations? Do you ignore what he had placed at your disposal? Do you labor for things you already have in Christ by rejecting them? You may have what you want, but you won’t have the best of that God has revealed.

Dearly Beloved, and I say beloved, because we are the beloved of God in Christ. What is the Lord’s Word to you? Firstly, evaluate what you’re doing in building up your household - your job, your life, family, marriage, etc. Are you working to establish and protect what you have without God doing the building? You’re trusting in lying things and not in God. The Lord Jesus Christ came to do what God wanted. His food was to do his father’s will. There were many times he could’ve acted but didn’t because they were not his time. But when he was 30 years old, he was baptized and commissioned. He waited for God to lead him. And when God did, Jesus labored hard. God said to him - this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.

Secondly, what can you now do? If you are vainly building and vainly watching, if you’re at the end of your resources, what must you do? You must rest in God. Jesus worked hard and he was exhausted doing the will of God - that he slept and not even a storm could wake him up. Some of you need to rest. This was different from Jonah - he was sound asleep in disobedience, but eventually his plan came to nothing. Resting in God is doing what he wants of you. Surrendering your lying ways, your stubborn ways. It may be so that you must rest physically. 

Thirdly, yearn for the blessings that God will give. You continue to labor the way you do, losing sleep, not worshiping, not serving, for yourself, because you can’t imagine that God’s gift of strength and blessing can be far better than your flimsy house. Christ did not bow to Satan to obtain the nations of the world, but by his obedience, he rules over all nations around the world whose people worship him with grateful hearts; he did not turn stone into bread, but ate the bread of sorrows and drank the cup of judgment, so that he would drink of the vine new with his people at that Great Marriage Supper of the Lamb; he did not cast himself off to be rescued by angels, but he cast himself to the hands of sinners to die, that he may be raised from the dead to the high heavens where now he is far above all angels. What blessings are you wishing for that you are trying to obtain by your lying ways?

May the Lord flush your heart with his love and blessings and convince you that his ways are better than yours. Save yourselves.

Sermon Outline:

1. Building and Protecting Our Household without God Is Vain. 

2. Building and Protecting Our Household Is Successful Only With God's Help

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2022, Rev. Mark Chen

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