Psalm 127, A Song of Ascents, of Solomon

"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. 2 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. 3 Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; The fruit of the womb is a reward.   4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth.  5 How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They shall not be ashamed, When they speak with their enemies in the gate."

How many LIKE building something only to find out that you did it wrong?  This Psalm was written by Solomon.  He was inspired by God when he wrote these words, yet, if you look at the end of his life you will find that...  His building, both literal and figurative, became reckless (1 Kings 9:10ff).   His Kingdom became a ruin (1 Kings 11:11ff), and His marriages became a disastrous denial of God (1 Kings 11:1).  This is because Solomon ignored his own words. He stopped depending on God; He stopped seeking God's face alone in all he did.   He let other gods and other concerns come between him and the Lord.

One of the most important features of this Psalm is that it addresses three of the most important of human concerns: accomplishment, security, and family.  This Psalm forces you to examine these areas and recognize the One who is in control of all three.  In addition, this Psalm speaks of your need for utter reliance and trust in God.  And in that, you must remain humble.

Have you ever begun something incorrectly and then found you had to start over to make it right?

- In cooking, if you don't have the right base ingredients, you have to start over.
- On a journey, if you go in the wrong direction, you miss your destination.
- In building a house, if you don't build properly, your house will not stand.

In whatever you do, before you begin it, you must first think about what you want to accomplish and then begin carefully and thoughtfully. The same is true, of course, for the Christian.

You must build your lives (in all areas) with God, because of God, and for God.

  1. The first part of verse 1 says, "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it."  (This speaks of building, of Accomplishment.)
    1. Man is a builder.  He builds houses, boats, computers, airplanes, televisions, damns, hospitals, industries, roads, satellites, cars, rockets, and much more.
    2. It is in his nature to build, after all, Man is made in the image of God, and God built the universe.  So, we build.
    3. There are two ways for you to build: You can build being dependent upon God, or you can build being independent of God.
      1. The first involves humility, the second involves pride.
      2. If what you build, if what you accomplish is not for the Lord, if it is not for His glory, if it is not by prayer and supplication given to Him, then it is in vain.
        1. Then it is really for your own glory and comfort.
        2. It is useless and it will burn up like twigs in a raging fire on the day of judgment.
    4. When man builds apart from God, he is building with a prideful heart, and the Lord will tare it down.  God says, "They may build, but I will tear down..." (Mal. 1:4, NASB).
    5. Ultimately, building without God will bring you to frustration, sadness, hopelessness, and discouragement.
      1. There is a great example of building without God, of vain effort.  Look at the tower of Babel.
        1. Genesis 11:4-5, 8 says, "And they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth."  5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built... 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city."
    6. The people of the Tower of Babel were full of pride.  They did not build in humility and dependence upon God.  They sought their own will, not the will of God.  They built in vain.
      1. The Tower of Babel is a warning to you to be sure to build according to God's will and word.  But, how do you build so that it is God who has built it?
    7. Notice the structure of the verse.  God builds...and you build.
      1. You both build.  You work with God to accomplish.
      2. Raising children is a good example of this.
    8. How do you build so you do not build in vain?
      1. You acknowledge that God is the true builder of all things and that you can only do what you can by His grace.
      2. You acknowledge your utter dependence upon Him.
      3. You must pray and bathe all that you do in seeking God's will and blessing.
      4. You remain humble before Him and seek Him.
    9. There really are only two kinds of foundations: a godly one and an ungodly one. On which do you build?
      1. Are you basing everything you do on the cross of Christ? On God's grace?
      2. Do you depend on God?  Do you seek His will?  Do you work and accomplish for His glory, or
      3. Do you only occasionally consider God in your work?  Do you only occasionally lift up your occupation to Him?
        1. You are either dependent upon God, or you are not.
        2. You are either humble before God, or you are not.
        3. Do not be lukewarm. Be hot or cold.
    10. Both you and God can build, can work, can accomplish in life, whatever it might be whether at work or at home or in your very heart (where God works miracles).
      1. But for the Lord to build the house, it means...
      2. To trust God,
      3. To be patient,
      4. To yield to His will and His timing.
      5. Various Ministry Involvements
    11. Because God is the True Builder.
      1. In John 14:1-3, Jesus said, "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  2 In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."
      2. Ultimately, the house that we build will not stand.  The house that the Lord builds will stand forever.
  2. The second part of verse 1 says, "Unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain." (SECURITY, safety, protection)  (It is the Lord who makes secure)
    1. In the ancient cities, there were guards who would patrol at night and watch for enemies trying to attack unexpectedly.  Israel had been at war with many nations and their security as a nation, and therefore as individuals, was a very real and important concern. Likewise with us.
    2. Today, there are nations that want the United States destroyed.  There are people who do not want Christianity to flourish in America. There are religions that seek the destruction of Christianity and you.  And, the devil prowls around looking to see who he can devour.
      1. But, the Lord says that He is the one who is watching.  It is He who is the true Guard.  He has kept America Safe from attack.  His sheep in this land are of great value to Him and He will not let us be destroyed.
    3. Jesus is the True Watchman.
      1. John 10:7-9, "Then Jesus said to them again, "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  8 "All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.  9 "I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture."
        1. Jesus is the door.  Jesus was drawing from a commonly understood occupation: sheep herding. When the shepherd would put the sheep to sleep at night, he would pen them up and sleep, literally, sleep in the doorway so as to protect his sheep. This is what Jesus is to you.  He is guarding you.
    4. The Lord guards your lives and your very hearts:
      1. Phil. 4:7 "And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ."
  3. Verse 2 speaks of the uselessness of rising up early and staying up late.
    1. This doesn't mean you aren't supposed to work hard or work diligently.
    2. It is the attitude we could call today "workaholic."
    3. Yes, you build and you want to keep what you produce.  But you need to recognize humbly that God is the One who ultimately keeps you safe and secure and that there is a need for us to rest, to rest in Him, as a sign of faith in Him.  That means you trust Him with your lives, your family, and your future.
    4. There are two ways to translate the second part of this verse:
      1. "For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep."
        1. If it is translated this way, then the meaning is that God is the one who is providing for us and that even while we sleep, God is at work.
      2. "For He gives His beloved sleep."
        1. If it is translated this way, then the meaning is that gives rest to His people. It is a blessing from Him.
  4. VV. 3-5 (It is the Lord who blesses)
    3 "Behold, children are a gift (heritage, inheritance) of the Lord; The fruit of the womb is a reward.  4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth.  5 How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They shall not be ashamed, when they speak with their enemies in the gate." (FAMILY) Building and security are essential for a family.
    1. The Lord blesses His people with children and so, He builds your homes.   Also, He is the One you should ask to protect your families, to keep them safe and secure.
    2. The NASB says here that children are a gift from the Lord.
      1. I like that translation because it reminds me of another gift given by the Lord: eternal life.  In both cases, life is a gift from God.
    3. As with the earlier verses, as Christians you are to trust the Lord with your families.  You are to lift them up to God, pray for them and seek His will in their lives.
    4. It is one of the most difficult things, sometimes, to trust the Lord with your children, when your children are hurting, sick, or in danger.
    5. Children are a blessing, to those who build upon the Rock of Christ, who trust in the Lord to keep them.


This Psalm calls you to recognize and acknowledge that God is the true builder and that all you do must be done in an attitude of humble dependence upon Him.

It calls you to look to God for your security, both on a national and in a personal level.

It calls you to trust God for your safety and the safety of your family and to recognize that God blesses His people with children. His children.

Your dependence upon God, as Christians, will not produce vain effort. If you seek God's will in all you do and have, then it is not vain work.

On that day of judgment, when the Lord Jesus judges all the secrets of men and women and the fires of purification remove the pure works from the impure, your works will stand... if they were done for the Lord, if they were blessed by Him, if you gave to Him all that you do and have.

In humility, seek God in all you do.  Seek His will.  Give to Him your work, your security, your family... and He will bless you.





About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.