Faithlife Sermons

The Blessing of Godly Labor

Psalms  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  24:33
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For my Scripture text this morning I am going to read from two psalms rather than one because the editors of the Psalter intend for us to read them together. However, I am not going to read through both Psalms all at once, but rather I will read a potion and explain it. I will begin with the first two verses of Psalm 127.
Psalm 127:1–2 ESV
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
The Psalm opens with the futility of work apart from God.
Have you ever wondered why the typical American’s celebration of Labor Day has so little to do with labor? It really should be called Leisure Day! For most American’s their job is something they endure. We have our “Monday Blues,” Wednesday has become “Hump Day,” and when we turn the alarm off on Friday morning we mutter under our breaths, “Thank God it’s Friday”!
The reason this is so is not because our labor is hard, but because without God it is futile.
The three great motivators to work are given to us in these first two verses:
To Build a Legacy
To Build Security
To Build Peace
Our text first introduces the idea of legacy.

The Blessing of Legacy

When our text speaks of “building a house,” it is not speaking of building a residential building, but rather of building a legacy. In ancient Israel, one’s “house” was sum total of their lifetime of labor which they passed on to the next generation. For example we read of the “house of David.” This is referring to the kingdom that David established and passed on to his sons.
Everyone wants to have a legacy. As young adults we dream of “making a difference in the world,” but by middle-age this dream is all but dead. This is why so many men and women have mid-life crises—they suddenly realize they are not going to be a person of riches, power or notoriety. Even if they do happen to grasp the “golden ring” the crises is only delayed, for in old age they will realized as Solomon did:
Ecclesiastes 2:11 ESV
Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
But there is another way of “building a house,” and Psalm 128 speaks of it. Let me read this psalm in it’s entirety.
Psalm 128 ESV
A Song of Ascents. Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. The Lord bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel!
In this psalm we are given the secret to fruitful labor—the fear of the Lord.
When a man fears God his labor is fruitful (vs. 2).
His wife’s labor is fruitful (vs. 3a).
His children’s labor is fruitful (vs. 3b).
This legacy is the legacy of a godly family. God understands what is truly valuable in life—it is eternal life with Him and the people we love! The intimacy we enjoy with family in this life is only a foretaste of the intimacy we will enjoy for all eternity.
Within two months I will enjoy the blessing of “seeing my child’s child”! I have been told that there is nothing that compares to the blessing of being a grandparent. Soon I will know this joy!
But this is not the ultimate joy, the ultimate joy is being a part of God’s heavenly family. Jesus said,
Matthew 19:29 ESV
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
Do you see how radical these words are? In the eyes of the ancient Israelites this was tantamount to losing ones “house” or legacy, but Jesus is saying there is a greater house and a greater legacy. Godly labor is laboring for “heavenly treasure,” not those things that “rust and moth destroy and thieves steal.”
What does it mean to build a house with God.
It means we build it for Him and by Him. As we heard earlier in our service in the reading of the Law, all that we do should be done for the glory of God. Moreover it should be done in a way that we relies on God’s strength and not ours. Finally, it is a legacy that is built on people, not things. A biological family is a beautiful picture of this, but it is not the ultimate picture, as the words of Jesus we see before us suggest, in Christ there is a spiritual family that far surpasses the blessings of a physical family.
I hope those of you here who do not have a spouse or child hear this. Psalm 127 often creates sadness in the hearts of those who do not have a spouse or children. God is not excluding you from His best blessings.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain!”

The Blessing of Security

The second thing our text points us to is the blessing of security. Once again it first speaks of the futility of attempting to have security without God, “Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stays awake in vain.”
Life in the ancient world was “wild and woolly,” at any moment a marauding army could descend upon your farm or city and carry off everything you own. This is why great effort and expense was put into building city walls and posting guards. Our text however says that all such efforts are futile if God is not guarding our city.
History has again and again proven these words true. Every city and every empire that has ever existed has fallen. This is because the only wall that can protect us is erected by God. This blessing of security is found in the following verses:
Psalm 127:3–5 ESV
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
Without carefully reading these verses in their original context, it is easy to miss this point. These verses often appear on congratulations cards given to new parents. At first glance it seems to be about the blessing of children.
Now children are said to be a blessing in this text, but not for the reason we think they are. The reason they are a blessing is because they gave people security in the ancient world. As I said before the world back then was “wild and woolly,” as a person got older if they did not have sons and grandsons standing up for them, they would not stand. We clearly see this at the end of verse 5, “He (the man with many sons) shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gates.”
As we grow older, we grow weaker. As we grow weaker there is no shortage of people looking to take advantage of us. I will be turning 59 next month and I notice that as I get older I am receiving more and more scam phone calls and emails. I can only imagine what it will be like when I turn 79!
Once again, I don’t what those of you without children to think that you are excluded from the blessing of God’s security. Remember it is the Lord who builds the walls!
The message is clear that we need to invest ourselves in people and not in things.
After the humiliation of defeat in World War II, the Japanese people invested their time and labor into material things. From the ashes they arose as one of the most prosperous nations in the world, but their prosperity came at a cost—relationship, especially family. Today many elderly Japanese die alone without son or daughter, niece or nephew. Their decomposing bodies are only discovered days later because of the smell.
Unless things change America is heading down the same path. Both the marriage and birth rates are at historic lows. We have become a nation rich in material things and poor in relationships.
Godly labor means we labor for the things God calls a blessing and not the things the world calls a blessing. Friends and family are the best security in this “wild and woolly” world.
“Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stays awake in vain.”

The Blessing of Peace

The final blessing godly labor provides is peace. Let me read once again from verse one and two.
Psalm 127:1–2 ESV
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
These first two verses end with a contrast between “anxious toil” and peaceful “sleep.”
I read somewhere that the insomnia champions of the world are the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom. These three nations are three of the biggest and most prosperous economies of the world. One of the reasons these three nations are so prosperous is because they work so hard. You would think a hard days labor would put them fast to sleep, but their nights are filled with restless anxiety.
What is going on? Our text tells us what is going on, the people of these three nations are laboring without God! This verse clearly says that a good night’s sleep is a gift from God.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns us about godless labor and the blessing of godly labor.
Matthew 6:25–27 ESV
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
Matthew 6:31–33 ESV
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Jesus was able to sleep soundly in the midst of a storm because He knew His heavenly Father would take care of Him. If we would trust in God the same way, we too can sleep soundly, even in the midst of a storm.
As I close this message, I hope that it has given you a new reason to celebrate Labor Day. Labor is truly a blessing, but only if it is done for the glory of God and by the power of God.
Let us pray.
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