Sometimes a bit of scripture gets lodged in my brain. I can’t get it out. After a while I begin to wonder if the Lord wants me to get it out. Or if he just wants it to stay put, gnawing at the inside of my head until it travels down to my heart.
Psalm 127 has been like that lately.
Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
The watchmen stand guard in vain.
In vain you rise up early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Psalm 127 is a Song of Ascent. It is part of a group of songs recorded in Psalm 120-134. Tradition says that when the Jews were climbing the steps to the temple of God, they paused on each step to sing one of these psalms. The Songs of Ascent are musicals of faith. They made climbing the steps to the temple a journey of faith.
I’m a builder of sorts. I’m not the kind of builder who knows his way around blueprints. I’m not very good with a saw either. Or with a hammer, nails, a level, or many other tools for that matter. (I’m decent with a roll of duct tape.)
Although I’m not that good with the construction itself, I like to build things. My wife and I have owned two houses. We added on to them both. What’s present needs to be remodeled. What’s not present can be imagined and built. I love that.
I’ve done the same with the church. I got to build Lakeside Church. From the ground floor, from the bottom up. I didn’t do much of the physical construction—if you’re a Lakesider, you can be grateful. But I got to be involved in a lot of the spiritual construction. That has been a huge privilege.
And yet, unless the Lord builds the house...
My two daughters are starting to build marriages this year. One crossed the threshold in February. The other’s turn is coming in July. I’m happy for them and eager for them to thrive in those marriages. But I hope they (and their new husbands) know, unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.
Psalm 127 is relevant for every area of my life. It’s time to build a budget? Unless the Lord builds the house...
It’s time to lead a ministry team? Unless the Lord builds the house...
You are launching a new career? Or remodeling a long-term one? Unless the Lord builds the house...
We are often so busy making, building and launching things. In all these activities I want to ask: Am I letting the Lord build it? Or am I so driven to build it, that I bypass the Builder?
How do I let the Builder do his thing? And how do I know if I am letting him build the house?
I find two things that make room for the Builder to build in my life. First, I pause. I take a moment or two to reflect on who is building. Chances are if I am rushed, it is I who is building the house. If I am impatient, it is I who is building the house. If I am angry in the process, it is I who is building the house. When the Lord builds the house, he gives room for my best me to come out.
Second, I invite. I take a moment to ask the Lord to build. I ask: What do you want it to look like, Lord? What is your timetable? What do you want to build in me while you are building the house? And I invite him to do it as he likes. That is a journey of faith. It is exactly what a Song of Ascent should be.
And when the Lord builds my house—whatever that house may be—my labor is not in vain.