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Psalm 127: Except the Lord build the house

Psalm 127

This is another psalm my Methodist grandfather taught me to memorize. Theme is another mind-blowing concept: God works in everything and everyone; all work, all being, all doing comes from God; and without God's power in us there is nothing we can do. In short, in God we live, move, and have our being.

We humans like "doing." We especially like this when it comes to being righteous. We trust in our works even when we say we don't. We trust in our works even when we are trying not to. Because we humans often feel as if nothing good will come to us unless we work for it, we cannot rest in God's care. We do not trust God to help us. But God wants us to trust Him as a sheep trusts his shepherd.

St Paul writes about "entering into God's rest." David also speaks of rest. The "rest" of God is also mentioned in connection with the Sabbath in Genesis and in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. In the Torah, the people of God are commanded to make the land rest every seventh year. God promises the Israelites that if they allowed the rest, God Himself would bless them. It was difficult for the Israelites to trust God to till, sow, plant, all they needed; therefore they never did give the Promised Land its Sabbaths.

I had a very vivid reminder of my need to rest in God one afternoon. I was playing Othello against my computer. I was awful at this game. Hence, my computer generally won against me, even at the easiest "beginner" setting. I was not lucky with the game, adept at playing, or good at thinking even one move ahead. I had 41 wins out of 388 games played, and I played those games on easy mode.

As I played the game, someone telephoned. I stopped to take the call. I talked with my friend for a while and after the call ended, I went back to my computer to finish the game. As I sat before the screen, that's when I saw it. The computer "gameboard" was a beautiful design with black and white dots forming a perfectly symmetrical pattern- the top part of the gameboard mirroring the bottom, and the left mirroring the right. I was utterly stunned. I was looking at a masterpiece, a black and white rose window -and there was no way I could have blundered into it. I certainly had not planned to create something so beautiful. I was no good at anticipating the computer, let alone choosing a series of moves and thirty or more computer counter moves to plan out or accomplish such a beautiful pattern.

I could not have planned such a design. I would have had to think clearly and say "If I go here, then the computer will go there and flip these many markers." What was even more interesting was that I had risen from the game at the perfect time. The telephone call had come at the right time to make me move away from the computer and to keep me from making another move. If the call had come even a second later, I would have made another move and the pattern would have been lost. Being so engrossed in the game, I would not have known the pattern existed, and I would certainly not have noticed its disintegration. After all, I never looked at the pretty patterns the black and white discs were making on the gameboard when I played the game. If I had not gotten up, I wouldn't have left the game in this perfect pattern. And if I had not paused to look at the screen after I returned to the game, my eyes would not have suddenly seen the pattern.

I glanced at it amazed! God had been working in me to make the pattern, working with my friend who called to make me pause at the game at that time, working in me to make me pause and look at the gameboard before I resumed play. I had been creating something wonderful without being aware of it. It was so good to suddenly see that God had been leading me even though I had not been aware of it. It was a wonderful lesson. The lesson was this: God works in all things for His children, whether we are aware or not. He is always working. He made the pattern, delayed the pattern from being changed, made the friend call me at the right time, made my eyes see the pattern when I returned.
We are often in the middle of things, floundering around, and we often don't see the beauty God is working in our lives. So many signs from God are understood as signs only after they are accomplished. If we understood His love and care, we would not allow our sleep to be disturbed.

I would be remiss, I think, if I didn't mention that this short psalm also speaks about children.

Christians believe that both God and humans are involved in creating a child or the act of procreation. Humans may initiate child-making but God Himself forms the child and gives life. However, there are people who will use verse 127:3-4 as a way of judging childless people. There are many reasons why people are infertile, ranging from food interactions, family issues, physical ailments. In my own life, I have used these verses as promises that to spiritually protect my children and to acknowledge that my children - however stressful they can be at times- are gifts that God gave me. So this verse doesn't necessarily promise biological children to infertile women. Neither does it declare that infertility means a family is not blessed by God. However, if the Holy Spirit brings this as a promise to the spirit of someone who wishes to have a child, I will not challenge them.

The psalm is also a good reminder that children- probably the main thing most people worry about- are a reward, never a burden. God gives them as joy. In a world where many Christians get an unplanned pregnancy and doubt God will help them feed their children, it's good to remember that.

One more thing. There are many Bible verses which explicitly prohibit certain sins. For instance, many verses restrict homosexuality. But other prohibitions -such as suicide, euthanasia, and abortions - can only be deduced. Certain prohibitions are qualified depending on the situation. For instance, Scripture is clear that homicide is not murder in the case of war, accidental death, or self-defense. One can deduce and assume God's will by comparing precepts to precepts and verses to verses. By adding the precept found in Exodus 21:22 to verses against murder and verses such as Jeremiah 19:4, Psalm 119:73, Psalm 139:13-16, Jeremiah 1:5, Luke 1:41 and Amos 1:13, Christians have concluded that God is against suicide and abortion because life is holy.

1Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
2It 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.
3Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
4As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
5Happy 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.

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