(Delivered Sunday, January 21, 2001 at Bethany Bible Church. All scripture quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from the New King James Version.)
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 stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate (Psalm 127:1-5).
This psalm is called in Scripture, "A Song of Ascents"; or, as it is in some translations "A Song of Degrees". If you enjoy reading the psalms, and have seen that name applied to certain psalms before, perhaps you've wondered what it meant. There are 15 psalms in the Bible that are given the title, "A Song of Ascents"; and they're all together in Psalms 120-134. It's a fascinating title for a psalm; and it gives this particular collection of psalms a special significance.
Three times a year, every Jewish man - wherever he might live - was required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and participate, with his family, in the three annual Jewish feasts: the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Firstfruits, and the Feast of Booths (Exodus 23:14-17; Deut. 16:16). These three feasts were appointed by God, and were designed to keep His people focused on Him and on His grace in their lives.
The Songs of Ascents" were psalms that were probably all written on different occasions; but they eventually came to be gathered together into this collection and sung by the Jewish men and their families as they made their way to Jerusalem for the different feasts. Certain of these psalms were probably sung at particular points along the journey. Perhaps, for example, Psalm 122 was sung as their journey brought them near to the city of Jerusalem - "Our feet have been standing within your gates, oh Jerusalem!" (Psalm 122:2). And perhaps Psalm 125 was sung as Mount Zion and the hills surrounding Jerusalem came into view - "Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever" (Psalm 125:1-2). And perhaps when they approached the Temple, they sang Psalm 132 - "Let us go into His tabernacle; let us worship at His footstool" (Psalm 132:7).
From the perspective of the Bible, anytime you went to Jerusalem, it was said that you were heading "up to Jerusalem"; and so, they were called "Songs of Ascents". (Some scholars suggest that they were sung by the Levite priests as they ascended the fifteen steps of the temple - one psalm for each step.) And because they were associated with the journey to Jerusalem, they were even sometimes called "Pilgrim Songs".
I like to think of these psalms as "getting away from it all" songs. The Jewish people sang these songs while on their way to celebrate the feasts of God. And because this is so, they were songs that were distinctively helpful in drawing God's people out of the rat-race of life for a while, and in giving them a fresh sense of God's perspective of things. These fifteen songs were sung during a time of concentrated spiritual refreshing and renewal. When God called His people away for a spiritual 'retreat', these psalms were the song-book they sang from.
In the first of these psalms, the psalmist complains; "Woe is me, that I dwell in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! My soul has dwelt too long with one who hates peace. I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war" (Psalm 120:5-7). "Meshech" (Ezek. 27:13) and "Kedar" (Isa. 21:16-17) were people groups distinguished for their worldliness and materialistic arrogance; and the psalmist mentions them as if he was frustrated that he had to be surrounded by the ungodly values and priorities of the world around him. He felt the need to get away from it all and have a time with God.
But there was reason to celebrate; because it was feast time! It was time to break away from the hustle and bustle for a while, and gather together with God's chosen people in Jerusalem! Psalm 122 says, "I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go into the house of the LORD.'" (Psalm 122:1). The closer these psalms bring us to Jerusalem, the more intense they become in terms of their expression of humble repentance of sin, exalted praise of God's mercy, and joyous celebration over the love of God's holy city. They end with these celebrative words: "Behold, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD, who by night stand in the house of the LORD! Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and bless the LORD. The LORD who made heaven and earth bless you from Zion!" (Psalm 134). Ahh - Jerusalem, at long last!!
These are psalms that encourage us to pull ourselves away from the business of everyday life for a season of refreshing with God - to separate ourselves from all the 'noise' and 'toys' of this world for a little while, and to regain a deeper sense of the perspective of God in the issues of life. And if I may recommend it; a great way to spend the Lord's Day some Sunday would be to go off with your Bible and a notebook for a mini-retreat with the Songs of Ascents. Give yourself a couple of hours alone with the Lord. Get away from 'Vanity Fair' for a while, and take, as it were, "a pilgrimage to Jerusalem" through a slow and prayerful reading these psalms. Ask the Holy Spirit to renew your perspective about the things that are going on in your life. Write down some of the ways God challenges your thinking through these psalms; and then come back to everyday life refreshed and invigorated - with a new sense of things as God sees them. I believe that's the reason God gave these psalms to us.
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I felt particularly led by the Lord to ask that we look together at one of these "Songs of Ascents" - Psalm 127 - and I'd like to share with you how I came to be drawn to it.
When I get up in the morning, I like to get a cup of coffee and read my Bible in an easy chair by the living room window. It faces out toward Germantown Road; and I see and hear the cars driving by in the early morning hours while I read. As I was about to begin my reading the other day; I was struck by how much things have changed on that road since the time Marilyn and I first moved here nearly nine years ago. It used to be that you'd rarely see a car driving by on Germantown Road before seven o'clock in the morning. But now, I'm amazed at how busy Germantown Road is by that time, as people are making their way to work.
And the change isn't just because of the population growth in our area. What I've come to notice most about it all is how early in the morning people are rushing off to work. The cars are lining up on Germantown Road as early as five-thirty in the morning - a lot of them!! And as I was sitting there in my robe, all cozy with my cup of coffee and my Bible, I caught myself feeling very guilty. Here were all these other people off on their way to work - being industrious and productive; while I was sitting there being useless and idle - just sitting around in my bathrobe, reading my Bible, sipping coffee and praying while my family slept. I wondered how that made me look in comparison to the busy people driving by. And for that brief moment, I felt the tremendous influence of our culture when it comes to its values and priorities over our work life.
Almost as soon as I felt that, though, I also began to wondered how many of those same people, driving by and rushing off so early in the morning, had any time left in their lives to do what I was doing right then. I had to remind myself that, whatever else God was calling all those other people to do that morning, I was doing - right then - what God wanted ME to be doing.
As I thought about the contradictory feelings that were going on within me that morning, I felt drawn to this psalm. As I read it and meditated on it, I gained a fresh sense of perspective.
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When you think about it, almost everything King Solomon says in this psalm diametrically opposed to what we see going on in the world around us. The message of our culture, for example, is that, if people will work hard enough, long enough, and smart enough, they can do anything they want to do or solve any problem they might encounter. They have it within them to accomplish anything. God, quite frankly, isn't a necessary part of the equation. In fact, if anything, our culture continually reinforces the idea that "God" and "business" don't mix, and that it's inappropriate to even try to make them mix. But the message of this psalm is that our work will never be successful apart from the blessing of God - no matter how many hours or how much effort we put into it. It teaches us that it's not only beneficial to trust in Him; it's absolutely essential that we do so.
The message of this psalm is also distinct from the message of our culture in terms of the ultimate purpose of our work. The message of our culture is that our work-life isn't merely a means to an end: it is the end, and that there isn't really anything else beyond it. It teaches us that the real value and identity of a man or woman is to be measured, not in terms of their inner life with God, but in terms of what they "do" for a living. It applauds the pursuit of whatever will make us more successful in its own estimation; but thinks nothing at all of what will make us better people in the eyes of God. It applauds the idea of "getting ahead in life" in the eyes of men; but it never applauds the idea of "getting a life" in the eyes of God. But the message of this psalm is that our work-life is not and end in and of itself. It's only a "means" to something else - something far greater and more substantial. It teaches us that our work-life is meant simply to aid and assist in the enjoyment of the true blessings that come, ultimately and freely, from a gracious and loving heavenly Father - a Father who knows with perfect wisdom what is really best for us, and what will make us the happiest and most content in life.
And the message of this psalm is radically different from the message we receive from our culture when it comes to balancing our work with our family-life. Whatever might have been said a few short years ago in our culture about the importance of a "family-friendly workplace", it's not being treated as important any longer. Instead, many people who work for large, rapidly growing corporations are being told - not just implicitly, but openly - that the order of things is as follows: "work first; family second". But this psalm teaches us that the lasting blessings of God in life are found, not in the work of our hands, but in our relationships with family and friends that we've forged for the long-haul, and in how we've built ourselves into the lives of our children for the time when our work-life comes to an end.
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The pull of the "work culture" around us is powerful, and almost irresistible. You and I know that, if we were to surrender ourselves passively to the influence of its values and priorities, we'd naturally gravitate toward the exact opposite of what it says in this psalm. We'd lose our sense of dependency on God; and begin to think that we can make a life for ourselves apart from Him. We'd end up making our work - and the life-style we believe it can provide for us - the only thing that really matters in life. We'd soon be sacrificing the things and the people that are most dear to us; and we'd wind up - in the end - sad, bitter, disillusioned slaves to our work. As someone has once put it, we will have climbed the ladder of success ... only to find, to our regret, that it was leaning against the wrong wall.
The pressures of the world around us, and the ever-present sin nature within us, are so powerful that we need to hear what this psalm has to teach us. We need to take some time to get away from it all. We need to make the trip "up to Jerusalem". We need to cease from our labors long enough to take inventory of our priorities and beliefs; and to conform ourselves, in a fresh way, to what God is telling us in Psalm 127.
Notice, first, that this psalm, given to us by God through King Solomon, teaches us to ...
I. DEPEND ON GOD IN ALL OUR WORK (v. 1).
"Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchmen stays awake in vain" (v. 1). Here, Solomon describes two different endeavors: constructing a home, and guarding a city. They typify two broad areas of concern: making a prosperous and comfortable life for one's self, and managing and protecting what one has from loss.
If anyone should be considered qualified to speak on these two fields of endeavor, Solomon would have to be the undisputed authority. The Bible tells us that he "surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom" (1 Kings 10:23). He engaged in many successful and ambitious building programs - "whatever Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion" (9:19); and under his reign, Israel prospered with unprecedented wealth, until he "made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and he made cedar trees as abundant as the sycamores which are in the lowlands" (10:27). God also gave him peace with the surrounding nations, so that "all the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart" (10:24).
By this world's standards, Solomon was a dazzling success. When it came to building a life for one's self, and protecting the assets one had, no one could touch Solomon. He should be considered a greater and more credible authority than any other 'success authority' or 'motivational speaker' on earth. And yet, our culture insists that this can all be done without God's help. Here, we're told by Solomon that it's a waste of time to even try to do such things apart from God. He said that it's "vain" - that is, an empty and worthless effort. It wont succeed.
We tend to be 'spring-loaded' to spout-out our plans and schemes, and then chase out recklessly to fulfill them as if it were all, in the final analysis, our doing. It isn't that we are wrong in setting goals and developing plans for the future; rather, it's that we're wrong to set our goals and develop our plans in a spirit of independence from God. We're wrong to ignore His priorities and disregard His agenda in the setting of our goals. We're wrong to forget to ask Him for wisdom in developing our plans. We're wrong to neglect asking Him to give us wisdom and strength as we set out to do our work. We're wrong because we don't ask Him to bless the whole project with success before we even begin it.
The apostle James taught about this. He says,
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the LORD wills, we shall live and do this or that." But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil (James 4:13-16).
The Songs of Ascents challenge our thinking in this. They call us to break-away from the proud, self-reliant, independent, God-marginalizing attitude of the world around us; and remind us that God offers Himself to us as our unfailing helper in the business of life. Psalm 121, one of the Songs of Ascents, puts the matter this way:
I will lift up my eyes to the hills - From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore (Psalm 121:1-8).
With a helper like that, who could possibly fail?!! Wouldn't the wisest thing we could possibly do be to consistently turn our plans and designs over to Him for His wisdom and help? Wouldn't the wisest course be to do as it says in Psalm 37:5 -"Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass" -?
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By the way; from 'whence' comes your help? Have you been trying to 'build your house' without turning to this great Helper? Have you been trying to 'guard your city' without His aid? It doesn't matter how hard you work, or how long you work, or even how smart you work: this psalm reminds us that, no matter what, it won't work. You aren't designed by God to do your work in any other way than in utter, continual dependency on Him. He alone is God; and you are not. No matter what we think we might have accomplished without Him; apart from Him, it's all "in vain".
Perhaps it's high time for you to, as it were, take the journey to Jerusalem. Perhaps it's time to get away from it all for a while, and turn yourself over to God again in a fresh way. Ask Him to show you where you've been trying to do your work independent from Him; and ask His forgiveness. Confess your sin, and turn to Him in repentance. Ask Him daily to guide your work in a way that's pleasing to Him. Cultivate the habit of turning to Him consistently for strength to do your work well, and for the wisdom to do it effectively. Trust Him, throughout it all, to crown your work in the end with success.
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This psalm not only teaches us to depend on God in all our work; but it also teaches us, secondly, to ...
II. TRUST IN GOD'S PROVISION WHILE DOING OUR WORK (v. 2).
Solomon writes; "It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep." Here, Solomon is giving us a picture of a man who is working very hard; but whose work, in the end, was "vain" - a tragic waste of his time and energies. It wasn't that the type of work he was doing was somehow wrong; nor was it because of the fact that he was working hard that it was all in vain. This man's efforts were "vain" because of the belief he had about himself, and the attitude that was motivated behind that belief. Solomon here gives us a picture of a man who - to put it frankly - doesn't trust God to be his provider; and who therefore does his work in a spirit of bitter desperation, as if it was all up to him.
I remember watching a movie once in which the lead character - an overworked husband and father - was rushing out the door to work, in spite of the protests of his wife. Once again, the demands of his job, and the pressures of keeping the bills paid, were forcing him to miss out on much-needed rest and on the simple blessings of family life. His wife asked him if he really 'had' to go right then; and as he stepped out the door, he turned to her with a bitter, angry look on his face, and growled, "My whole life is 'have to'."
That's the sort of man Solomon is describing in this verse. This man is being presented here as rising up early in the morning, and sitting up late (that is, delaying to sit down in all his work, either to rest when he's tired or to get nourishment when he's hungry), in order to "eat the bread of sorrows" - toiling for his daily food in a spirit of bitterness and grief. He had ceased long ago to be the master of his work; and instead, he had become mastered by his work. He had become such a slave to his work that it was killing him. His job became a prison to him; and it was all because he believed that he had to be his own 'provider'. Somewhere along the way, this man lost sight of the goodness and loving care of God. He forgot that God alone is His real and only ultimate Provider; and he came to believe - mistakenly - that it was all up to him.
Solomon says that this was all vain. In the final analysis, the provision of our daily bread isn't up to us. It's the responsibility our almighty, faithful God - a wonderfully rich Provider, who loves His children and calls them His "beloved". He can provide for us even if we couldn't lift a finger to help ourselves at all. Some translations put the matter this way: "... for he grants sleep to those he loves" (as in the NIV); suggesting that it's wrong for someone to work so hard that they deny themselves needed rest and refreshment, because "sleep" itself is one of the gifts God, our good Provider, gives us. Other translations state it this way: "For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep" (as in the NASB); suggesting that it's not even necessary for someone to work so hard, because God is able to give them what they need during a time when they're not able to do anything for themselves - even while they sleep. Both translations from the original Hebrew are possible; and both are certainly true.
Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong - in and of itself - with rising up early, or working late. Sometimes, it's necessary to do so - no matter what sort of work someone does. But as I see people driving off to work so early in the morning, I have sometimes wondered how many of them are driving off with precisely the same sort of motivation that's described in this verse - because there is no other provision for our needs than the work of our own hands; because it's all up to us, and no one else; and because our whole life is nothing more than a bitter 'have to'. I've wondered how many of them are rising up early and staying up late, only to eat the bread of painful labors "in vain" because they have lost a sense of faith in God as their Provider.
It would be hard to find a more perfect commentary on all this than the words of the Lord Jesus from His Sermon on the Mount. He taught us to pray to the Father, "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11); reminding us of that our Father alone - and not the work of our hands - is the ultimate source of our provision. Jesus said,
Therefore I say to you, do not worry 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, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matthew 6:25-34).
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When it comes to faith in God as our ultimate Provider, I wonder if the number of hours we put into work in the course of a week isn't sometimes something of a measure of that faith. Obviously, an occasionally heavy work-week is to be expected in any job. But if "rise up early; sit up late; painful, sorrowful labors" is the consistent pattern of our work-life - particularly when it's to the detriment of the other important areas of our lives - then it's time to examine whether or not we're trusting God. Do we really believe that He is our ultimate Provider? Or do we believe that it's ultimately up to us? Do we have an overly-inflated sense of our own importance?
And again, this is something that the Song of Ascents challenges us to think carefully about. Psalm 131 puts it beautifully:
LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forever (Psalm 131:1-3).
Could it be that, when it comes to trusting in God as our Provider, one of the greatest acts of faith we can perform is to simply stop working when it's time to quit, nestle ourselves confidently in the strong arms of our good heavenly Father, and just quietly and comfortably go to sleep for a while - knowing that, in the end, He is much better able to take care of our needs than we ever could on our own?
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Let me ask a frank question: is the number of hours you put into your job in the course of a week really necessary? Does your job really - in all honesty - demand that you "rise up early, stay up late, and eat the bread of sorrows"? Does the provision of your daily bread really demand as much of you as you're giving to your job? Or if the truth be told, do you work more than forty hours a week for some other, less noble reason? Is it because you are trying to keep up with a standard of living that's beyond your means? Is it because of how it makes you look to others when you do so? Is it because you're afraid of what will happen if you don't do so? Is it because, in the end, you have a hard time believing that God really is your ultimate Provider? In short, has your job become the master, and have you become its slave?
If you occasionally find that you're trying to survive through the week on little sleep, poor nourishment, and the absence of balance in your life - all because of your job - then honesty demands that I say, "Welcome to the club." We all fall into that trap at one time or another. But when it happens, it's time to take a trip to Jerusalem. It's time to pull away from it all and renew our sense of trust in God as our ultimate Provider and caregiver. Carve out some time during which you can get away from it all for a while and have a heart-to-heart talk with your Provider/Father. Confess to Him the sin of thinking that it was all up to you in the first place. Ask His forgiveness for having allowed things to get out of balance. Appeal to Him for the wisdom to know what sort of boundaries you need to re-establish in your work week. Make a new commitment to nourish your soul through His appointed day of rest each Sunday, just as He has commanded. And most of all, learn to grow in your trust in Him as your ultimate Provider, and the Provider for your family.
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So far, we've seen that this psalm teaches us to depend on God in all our work, and to trust in as our great Provider while we do that work. Finally, we see that it teaches us to ...
III. PRIORITIZE GOD'S TRUE BLESSINGS OVER OUR WORK (vv. 3-5).
Solomon goes on to say, "Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate." Here, Solomon - writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit - reminds us that God's deepest and riches blessings in life don't come to us through our jobs. They come to us through the relationships we've forged with our children, and our spouses, and our families and friends. Our temporal job has ultimate value only as a means of helping us support those eternal relationships.
Solomon expresses this in three ways. First he says that children are a "heritage" and "reward" that a man receives from God. He doesn't say that they are "like" a heritage and a reward; but that they themselves are a heritage and reward. He doesn't say that our job is a "heritage" and a "reward"; but that the children the job is meant to feed and support are the heritage and reward from God.
Second, he says that children are a "security". Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are a source of security to him in a time of trouble and during the heat of battle, so also "the children of one's youth" are a security to a man - much more so than his job. Many couples think that their careers is the security; and so they put off having children for as long as they can until they can get their careers off the ground. But here, it says that "the children of one's youth" - that means, born into the family while a man and a woman are still young - are the real source of security in the eyes of God. Ultimately, the happiest couples are the ones that have filled their quivers early with "arrows"; because when the time for working comes to an end, those grown children and their families provide a network of love, security and satisfaction to their mother and father.
Finally, he says that children are the source of "honor". "They shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate." The "gate" of the city was the place where legal conflicts and business disagreements were settled. And here we find that it's not just the man who has lots of sons that stands confidently before his enemies; but rather, "they" - the man and his sons, standing in union together. The man who had his quiver full of children in his youth will be able to stand strong as a man of honor with those sons in his later years.
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Many years ago, while I was an art student, a nationally recognized book illustrator came to visit our school. He displayed some of his illustrations to us, discussed his techniques and answered our questions. As a painter and illustrator, he was marvelous. All of us longed to be as good as he was, and to grow to be doing the sort of work he was doing.
Now, it's only reasonable to believe that someone couldn't be as good an illustrator as this man was without making a lot of sacrifices along the way. But as he told us about how much he enjoyed his work, he said something that I'll never forget as long as I live. Laughingly and lightheartedly, he announced, "In fact, I have so much fun doing what I'm doing, I'd gladly go through another marriage for it." I had just gotten married to Marilyn, and I didn't think it was funny. His words immediately shocked me out of my daydream. There was no question that he was justifiably a noteworthy illustrator; but he had gotten there by placing his career above his marriage; and in the end, that wasn't such a good trade off as he was making it sound. That was over twenty years ago; and I've often wondered since then if he'd still be willing to laugh about it. Would his children - if he had any - have ever laughed about it at all?
We're being lied to when we're told that real happiness and fulfillment can come through a job. We're being lied to when we're told that success in a career, at the expense of a deep time-intensive relationship with our children, is a good trade-off. God says that the real blessing in life - the real "heritage" and "reward" from Him - is our children, and the family relationships we forge with them. And yet, many men spend more time at home studying how to improve their career than they do actually talking to their children. Any job or career that is robbing us of an investment into our children is, ultimately, robbing us of real blessing and real enrichment. Our job is not eternal; but the souls of our children are.
And once again, the idea that our work only has real, lasting value when it's seen in the context of our relationship with our family is something that the Songs of Ascents reinforces to us. Psalm 128 says,
Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, you will be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD. The Lord bless you out of Zion, and may you see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life. Yes, may you see your children's children. Peace be upon Israel! (Psalm 128:1-6).
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How about you? Have you found that the values and influences and pressures of this world have caused you to, unwittingly, turn your priorities upside-down? Has the job that was meant to be a means of providing for your family so overwhelmed everything else that you've neglected to be serve as the priest in your own home? Has your work-life grown to demand so much of your time that you no longer have time for your children? Do you have a sense that you're laying ahold of a prosperous career, while your opportunity to make an impact on your children for eternity is slipping through your fingers?
Then I suggest that it's time to make the spiritual journey to Jerusalem. It's time to get away for a while and allow God to correct your sense of balance. Make it a priority to get alone with God for a while. Allow Him to examine your values, and to reveal the truth about them to you. Ask Him to show you how you've allowed your job to assume the time and energy that rightfully belongs only to your wife and children. Confess your loss of balance in your priorities; and ask Him to show you how to grow to invest yourself more in the lives of the people that He says are the real 'heritage' and 'reward' from Him. And trust Him to teach you how to keep things in perspective.
(copyright 2001 by Pastor Greg Allen and Bethany Bible Church. Reproduction without permission, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.)
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