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A DIDACTIC psalm, preaching a contented trust in God as more conducive to the prosperity of a man, or a state, than any amount of fussy activity. The ascription to Solomon is borne out
(1) by the use of Solomonic words; e.g. 'etseb, ne'urim, yedido; and
(2) by the agreement of the general sentiment with Proverbs 10:22.
Except the Lord build the house; rather, a house; i.e. any house whatsoever. They labor in vain that build it. They will effect nothing—no house will be built. Except the Lord keep the city; rather, a city. The watchman waketh but in vain. Human watching is of no use unless accompanied by Divine watching.
It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late (comp. Isaiah 5:11); i.e. to be "careful and troubled" about your work in the world, whatever it is. To eat the bread of sorrows. To feed, as it were, on sorrow—and trouble and care—to make your lives a burden to yourselves through your carefulness. For so he giveth his beloved sleep; rather, surely he giveth to his beloved in sleep; i.e. in their sleep. The teaching is similar to that of Exodus 14:14; Isaiah 30:7, Isaiah 30:15; Matthew 6:25-34. God gives to men that which he knows they have need of, if they have only the faith to "sit still" and "wait."
Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord. The teaching is enforced by an example. The prosperity, alike of states and of individuals, depends on nothing so much as on an abundant progeny of children. But children are manifestly the free gift of God. And the fruit of the womb is his reward. One of the ways in which he rewards his faithful ones (see Deuteronomy 28:10 :11).
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth; rather, the children of youth; i.e. children born to a man in his youth. Such children protect their aged parents as effectually as arrows in the hand of a warrior.
Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them. Happy the man whose quiver contains many such arrows, and who is thus sure of abundant protection. They shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate; rather, when they shall speak (Hengstenberg, Kay, Cheyne, Revised Version). "The gate" was the place where judgment was given, and where consequently adversaries were apt to meet, as they pushed their respective causes. There might be collisions on such occasions; and, in any case, a man with several lusty sons to take his part would have an advantage.
The blessing of God.
The psalm is in keeping with that prevalent piety which led the devout Israelite to trace God's hand in everything, and ascribe both good and evil, both joy and sorrow, to his directing power.
I. UNBLESSED LABOR.
1. We can do nothing at all without the Divine co-operation. We constantly depend on the presence of his material, on the action of his laws, on the activity of the forces he keeps in play. We all recognize this in agriculture; that it is vain for the husbandman to sow his seed, unless God sends his rain and wind and sunshine, etc. It is also true of our other occupations. The sailor and the builder depend on the constancy and regularity of Divine laws and forces. We are always assuming their existence, though we may think nothing of their Author.
2. We can effect nothing without the Divine permission. If God means that the guilty city shall fall, the watchman will wake and the soldier will fight in vain. If God intends to humble a man whose pride needs to be brought down, his utmost exertions in his trade or in his profession will not bring success. Many a man has found, as he at first thought to his cost, but as he afterwards knew to his great advantage, that when God's wise and faithful providence is against his prosperity, he wakes early and works hard in vain. But how much more blessed is he in a corrective adversity, than he would be in a hardening prosperity! We do well to ask that God's blessing may wait upon and crown all our activities; we do well, also, to remember that it may happen that, for our own sake, God will not grant us our desire in the form of temporal success.
3. We find no blessedness in a prosperity which is not hallowed by devotion. It is a vain thing for a man to strive hard and to attain the immediate object of his pursuit, if he is not making his life a life of holy service. Even if the bread he eats is not "bread of sorrows" in the sense that it is scanty, yet it will be such in the sense that it yields no abiding joy; for it is abundantly clear that a life of even prosperous labor, apart from the service and without the friendship of God, selfish and earthbound, is a life of dissatisfaction and practical defeat. The springs of pure and lasting joy do not rise on that lower ground.
II. NEEDLESS ANXIETY. "It is vain that ye rise up early," etc.; "for he giveth to his beloved in sleep and without labor, 'so,' i.e. just as, even as to those who vainly harass themselves with labor and think not of him" ('Speaker's Commentary'). To those who serve God and are beloved of him he will grant sufficiency, though they do not turn labor into hard toil, but take the rest they need. It is not godless struggle, but reverent activity, that attains the goal and receives the prize of happy life. The two elements of success are
(1) a moderate and rational activity With needful and appropriate rest; and
(2) the enjoyment of God's favor bringing down his blessing on our work. Be diligent at your post, give to muscle and to brain the relaxation they demand, spend your days and powers in the fear of God,—then you may commit yourself to his promise and await its fulfillment. There is no need for anxiety if you are honestly and wisely laborious, and also prayerful and obedient (see Philippians 4:5-7).
III. THE FULNESS AND OVERFLOW OF DIVINE BLESSING. "So he giveth to his beloved in sleep."
1. What great things God does for our bodily well-being in sleep! Every night he lays his restoring hand upon us, refreshes us, renews our muscular and mental powers, gives back to us the vitality and strength which had been exhausted. Every morning we owe to him a "new song" of praise.
2. What great things God does for us in the outside world during our unconsciousness! Our Lord reminds us that, while we are otherwise occupied, "night and day," the seed we have sown springs and grows, we "know not how." Many things God does for us when we are as unconscious of his action as if we were "in sleep." It is an unseen hand, working with such silence that no ear hears the sound, that is carrying on those wonderful operations by which he "satisfies the wants of every living thing."
3. What great things he does for us in the human world in which we take no part! His hand was working and overruling in all the toil and strife of the nations of the earth, leading the world up to, and making it ready for, the great advent of the Redeemer. Unknown to us, while we are practically "in sleep," he is directing all our strife and all our labor to a beneficent result.
4. We are hoping that God will make our past life effective for good in many hearts and through many generations when we "fall on sleep." When our body rests in the grave, the influences he enabled us to exert in life will, under his gracious guidance, be telling and bearing fruit. To those who love and serve him now he will give the blessing of the workman whose labor is producing and reproducing long after he has left the field.
IV. THE BLESSING OF PARENTAGE. (See next psalm.)
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
The builder's psalm.
Our ignorance of the exact reference of this psalm enables us to apply it, as perhaps otherwise we might not be able, to all builders whatsoever. Four such seem to be pointed at here.
I. THE TEMPLE-BUILDERS.
1. We know that this was one of the solicitudes of the returned exiles—to uprear again the temple of the Lord. And in the books written after the return from Babylon we read about this and the difficulties they had to encounter, and the success they at length achieved. Continually they needed to remember that "except the Lord build," etc.
2. And in the gathering together the living stones which are to form the Church of God, how we need to remember this same truth! Her builders are perpetually tempted, and some are all too prone, to try other methods in this work than those the Lord employs. We are apt to rely on wealth, eloquence, learning, talent, and all other such things, and to forget that it is the Lord alone can really make our work successful.
II. THOSE OF THE CITY. (Psalms 127:1.) Jerusalem is doubtless meant, and, surrounded as she was by relentless and ever-watchful foes, the sentinels and guards needed ever to be on the alert. But again the same reminder comes in. And it does so still. This is the age of great towns and cities, of municipal corporations who naturally and properly take pride in the cities over which they are placed. They cannot but know how much depends upon wise administration and rule, on the sagacity and wisdom which the citizens can supply. And they who know the history of municipalities know how eager corruption and vice are to assert their power. And often it seems that to pander to them would help on the city's prosperity. But the city-builders need to recollect the truth of this psalm. What is all man's wisdom apart from God?
III. THE BUSINESS. (Psalms 127:2.) "Our house," "our firm,"—these are well-known expressions for business associations—how many are hard at work to build such houses? And in the keen competition of the day, how difficult this often is I what temptations are on every hand, by tricks of trade, by what is called smartness, to get on, it matters not much by what means. How many succumb to such temptations, and try to keep one conscience for Sundays and quite another for weekdays! They have little faith in what this psalm says, "Except the Lord," etc. Their faith is in strenuous hard work, rising early, sitting up late, eating the bread of toil, and so to win rest and repose for themselves. But it is not so, the psalmist declares; for all that toiling and moiling is "vain;" the Lord giveth to his beloved that which they need without all that restlessness and anxiety; their souls repose in him; he keeps them in perfect peace. Let the Lord, then, be the predominant partner in every firm; so shall the house be built.
IV. THE HOME. (Psalms 127:3-5.) People marry, and then begins the upbuilding of the family. What strenuous exertion does many a father put forth for the sake of his family! If the children be numerous, the parents are often very slow to appreciate the congratulations of these verses (3-5). The reason is that they are counting most precious for their children what the Lord scarcely counts precious at all. Of course, only a fool would despise secular advantages for his children, if they may be had; but infinitely more important for them is the grace of God possessing their hearts. Then no real ill can come to them, but eternal good shall be their portion.—S.C.
The sleep God gives.
This psalm is, by its title in our Bible, ascribed to Solomon; in the Septuagint it is left without a title; in the Syriac Version it is ascribed to David. In structure it is like all the rest of these "Psalms of Degrees." Hence we are very much in the dark as to its date and authorship, and are shut up, as it is well we should be, to its religious teachings. What these are it is not difficult to see; for its plain lesson is that all our defense and security are in the Lord alone. Hence reminder of this is given to the builders of the city, its watchmen and its toilers; and of its greatest earthly defense, the numerous children that should be born, it is declared that the blessed gift of children is from the Lord alone. So that if we are to know the real sense of security without which men cannot sleep, the Lord must give it.
I. NOW, THIS IS TRUE OF OUR LITERAL, NATURAL LIFE. Strong walls and vigilant guards are not enough; the Lord must give one sleep. And he does so.
1. Think of the physical conditions of sleep. They are part of that wonderful organization which God endued us with, and which is so constructed that at due times sweet refreshing sleep shall steal over our senses, and our tired bodies shall have rest.
2. Think of the terrestrial conditions. How this earth of ours swings itself round out of the light into the darkness. "Thou makest darkness, and it is night" (Psalms 104:1-35.). The sounds and stir of the day are hushed, and the glare of light is gone for a while, and thus provision for sleep is made.
3. Of the social conditions. Strong governments, wise laws, skilful administration, security for life and property, all that which we call civilization, which God has been teaching men generation after generation,—all this, which gives that sense of security without which we could not rest, is part of God's methods whereby he bestows on us the blessed boon of sleep.
II. IT IS YET MORE TRUE OF THAT CALM AND SERENITY OF SOUL WHICH WE ALL WISH TO ENJOY. It is the Lord who giveth that. The psalm is a reminder to many who were seeking this "in vain" ways (see former homily). It is he who giveth, etc. It is not they who gain it for themselves or in any way earn it; nor is it given to all, but only to the beloved of the Lord. To them he giveth sleep, not the partial and unreal rest of soul which some seem to enjoy. To the builders, the watchmen, the toilers, the word is sent that apart from the Lord all is in vain. "Come unto me, all ye," etc.
III. AND TRUE, ALSO, OF THE SLEEP OF DEATH. To those who die in the Lord, death is but a sleep prior to a glorious awakening: hence it is so often spoken of as a sleep. But the Lord alone can give this.
1. For it there is needed forgiveness of sin. But this can only come to those who bring the sacrifice of the contrite heart. Even God cannot forgive an impenitent man; for he who will not give up his sin cannot escape the suffering which ever goes along with it.
2. And the new heart. The regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit. "Without holiness shall no man see the Lord." He that is not meet for heaven cannot enter there.
3. And a continual and utter trust in the love of God in Christ. But all these are his gifts. For them "Christ is all and in all." Seek them, and so will rest of soul be ours now, and when life is done we shall sleep in him.—S.C.
Children as arrows.
The psalmist takes far other than that pessimistic view, so common in our day, as to God's gift of children. Men now too often look upon them as so many misfortunes and encumbrances, and as compelling poverty and privation where else these evils had not been, and as so many channels through which trouble may come to the home in which they have been born. How beautifully and blessedly different is the teaching of this and the following psalm on this matter! Of course, where social conditions are such that, let a man be ever so willing to work, no work can be found for him, and toil as he will he cannot make a living, then the fact of a large family is, at any rate for a time, but an increase of sorrow. But then, such social conditions ought not to be, and the fact that by them what God designed to be so great a blessing is made to be only a terrible calamity, is reason enough why men should strive for a better condition of things. And there can be no doubt that many of man's laws and, yet more, man's sins do turn God's blessings into a curse. But children, it is never to be forgotten, were designed to be God's blessings, and in myriads of homes they are so. The special blessing the psalmist has in his mind, as coming through our children, is that they are as arrows in the hand of a mighty man. The similitude is a suggestive one.
I. THEY ARE SO FOR PROTECTION. Those children that are born when their parents are young will be of age to help and maintain their parents when these need such help. They defend their home from the attack of poverty and want. Long ere these have reached their home, these arrows have made them turn back.
II. FOR HELP IN THE BATTLE OF LIFE. The spur and stimulus which children impart to their parents, the pleasure they give, the love they awaken, the aspirations after good they arouse,—all these things are of vast help in life's battle, even "as arrows are," etc.
III. NEED TO BE CAREFULLY PREPARED. Arrows do not grow of themselves: they have to be wrought out with much thought and care. So our children.
IV. AND TO BE WELL AIMED. What is our aim for our children? The arrows will go where they are sent. How many parents there are who have no worthy aim for their children! They will be glad for them to "get on," to become rich, and to take good positions in society. If they have aim, it is no higher one than that. And those who profess the higher aim, that their children should be the Lord's, how badly, clumsily, carelessly, they seek that aim!
V. SENT FORTH WITH ALL POWER. See the "mighty man," how "he bends his bow and makes ready his arrow upon the string," and then draws it back to its full length, that it may speed with the more force on the way he would have it go; that is a picture of the strenuous, careful endeavor we should make to urge our arrows, our children, in the right way. But what all too little strenuousness there is in this matter!
VI. THEY ARE SURE TO WOUND, IF NOT KILL, SOMEWHERE. The foes of the home—want, godlessness, evil reputation and character, strife and ill will, hopelessness and despair, the malice of men, and much else, the children should slay, and not suffer them to come near us; and good children do this. But if we have not so trained them to thus serve the home, then they will turn and wound and pierce their parents to the heart. Bad children do this. Yes, always, they are "as arrows."—S.C.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
The God of the family life.
"These pictures are mild and bright; humanizing are they in the best sense: they retain certain elements of Paradise, and yet more the elements of the patriarchal era, with the addition of that patriotism and of that concentration in which the patriarchal life was wanting. The happy religious man, after the Hebrew pattern, possessed those feelings and habitudes which, if they greatly prevail in a community, impart to it the strength of a combination which is stronger than any other; uniting the force of domestic virtue, of rural, yeoman like, agricultural occupations, of unaggressive, defensive valor; and of a religious animation which is national as well as authentic and true" (Isaac Taylor). It is well to note that the very first associations of human beings over which God presided took the form of family life. Of Adam it is said, "which was the son of God," so the first relation of humanity was a family relation. When Adam and Eve had a child, earth held its model relationship—it had a family group. The patriarchs were but heads of families. The nation of Israel was Jehovah's family. And Christ came to restore for humanity its Divine family relationships. Man organized for himself fictitious social and citizen relations. Man made towns, governments, kings. All who are concerned in the welfare of humanity realize that everything depends on the healthy maintenance of family life. Napoleon was asked what could be done to restore the prestige of France. At once he replied, "Give us better mothers."
I. GOD INTERESTED IN FAMILY LIFE. The "God of the families of his people," he is called. The interest belongs to his own paternity; and we can partly realize it as we think of our interest in our children's children. It is possible to exaggerate in presenting God's interest in the individual. The plea for a family religion and a family altar is based on God's family care and blessing.
II. GOD WORKING IN FAMILY LIFE. Using its associations, cares, and mutual services for his work of character-culture. The commonplaces of family life only gain their dignity when God is seen to be using them; and the anxieties of family life become endurable when we feel sure that God is overruling. The Divine training of character for the life that is coming, by sanctifying family experiences, needs to be much more fully considered than it is.
III. GOD WORKING THROUGH FAMILY LIFE. That is, working his great work for humanity through the witness of family life. There is no mightier force used by God for securing the redemption of the race.—R.T.
The true city watchman.
"Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." This would come home very forcibly to the restored exiles if, as we may well assume, the psalm was written before Nehemiah restored the walls of the holy city. Then the only protection of the city must have been the vigilance of the night-watchmen, which never could be depended on. And yet the city containing God's people was absolutely secure; and would have been as secure if no watchmen had ever paced their ordered rounds. Their God was their defense. In older days, foes gathered round, but they never broke in, unless God gave them a commission of discipline or judgment. The restored exiles were surrounded by active enemies, and exposed on every side. But it did not matter. The fiat of Divine love and power held them in strictest restraint. Scheme they might, but they could not overpass Jehovah's limits, "Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further." The truth may be illustrated in all those human arrangements for mutual safety which have for their type the city watchman, and which we call national and local government. So elaborate is man's device for securing the liberty of the person, the safety of property, and the health of the family, that there is grave danger of losing all sense of needing God. Indeed, God in city life is but a sentiment. And yet we remove his direct relation from the various forms of human association at our peril. Be it government, or socialistic self-government, "unless the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." Very remarkable is the way in which man's civilization brings mischief as well as good; and his seemingly perfect schemes leave loop-holes for the entrance of desolating evils. This may be illustrated from city sanitary schemes, and from the prevalence of particular types of diseases, and from the masterful spread of epidemics such as' influenza. It may be shown that the true preservation of a city is an immaterial matter as well as a material; it is as closely related to morals and religion as to safety for property, healthy houses, and pure water. And if it could be so—which it cannot—that we succeed in separating God from the material, no one can delude himself with the idea that God is not concerned with the moral and religious. So, after all, it must be God who "keeps the city."—R.T.
The limited value of self-exertion.
The great lesson of this psalm is "that without God's blessing all human efforts and human precautions are in vain; that man can never command success; that God gives and man receives." It is suggested that the psalm was written to check self-congratulation and self-reliance on the part of those who were rejoicing in their national restoration. The sentence, "so he giveth his beloved sleep," may mean—so much as others gain by hardest toil and pains God gives to his beloved even while they sleep and can do nothing. While they are slumbering he is giving. "The pious, God-fearing man attains the same end without exertion of his own." Delitzsch well summarizes the points of the psalm: "The rearing of the house which affords us protection, and the stability of the city in which we securely and peaceably dwell, the acquisition of possessions that maintain and adorn life, the begetting and rearing of sons that may contribute substantial support to the father as he grows old,—all these are things which depend upon the blessing of God, without natural preliminary conditions being able to guarantee them, well-devised arrangements to ensure them, unwearied labors to obtain them by force, or impatient care and murmuring to get them by defiance."
I. SELF-EXERTION SHOULD BE ESTIMATED. It has its value. It is not necessarily wrong. Human enterprise and energy, the impress of a man's self on his work, is required in every department of life. Human labor and watchfulness are never superfluous in their right spheres. It is no true piety to under value self-exertion. Man must everywhere be his best possible.
II. SELF-EXERTION SHOULD BE RIGHTLY ESTIMATED. It has no right to claim the first place in a man's confidence. That he must keep for dependence on God. A man may work in dependence on himself, and he may work in dependence on God. Self-exertion is only rightly estimated when it is seen as loyalty and service to God (comp. Philippians 2:12, Philippians 2:13, and illustrate by the prophet's putting his hand on the king's hand when the king drew the bow).
III. SELF-EXERTION SHOULD BE DIVINELY ESTIMATED, The question is not what men think of our energy and enterprise. It is—What does God think of it? Does he see it as a trying to push beyond him, and to be independent of him? or does he see it to be loyal and loving working with him? If the latter, then his blessing is upon the righteous.—R.T.
Children a man's reward.
The picture presented is of the Hebrew man in mid-life, at rest in his country home, with his sturdy sons about him; his wife is still young; her fair daughters are like cornices sculptured as decorations for a palace" (Isaac Taylor). The Jews at all times of their history esteemed a large family one of the chief of blessings. "The Oriental view interweaves itself with the religious creed of the Brahmins, according to which a son, by offering the funeral libation, is said to procure rest for the departed spirit of his father." By "reward" we may understand "sign of Divine favor." The reward of a whole life's goodness cannot come until the life is completed. Signs of Divine favor cheer and encourage as life progresses. Some married people do not have families, but we have no right to regard the withholding as a judgment. We need only say that, when children are sent, they are a sign of Divine favor. And this is not saying that all children who come into the world come as a Divine reward. We are exclusively dealing with the families of God's people, and all we have said is strictly true of them. There is a great compensation for persons who have no children, in the fact that they often have an unusual love for other-people's children, and skill in ministering to them. This is illustrated in Sunday schools, ministers, orphan and outcast institutions, etc.
I. CHILDREN REWARD A MAN IN WHAT THEY THEMSELVES ARE. A man has no pleasure in life that can equal his joy in his children, who bear his image, and in miniature reproduce himself. Their ways, their talk, their crudities, their innocence, their unfolding, their very frailties, are a perpetual interest, relief, and pleasure. The child-ministry of childhood is seldom sufficiently estimated. Illustration may be taken from McLeod's 'Wee Davie;' or the more recent story of 'Bootle's Baby.'
II. CHILDREN REWARD A MAN IN WHAT THEY BECOME. For a man lives over again in the success of his children. He is proud of their well-grown healthy bodies; of their developed, and cultured minds; of their honorable and useful positions. A man never feels to have lived in vain when he leaves a respectable and well-ordered family behind him.
III. CHILDREN REWARD A MAN IN WHAT THEY DO FOE HIM. This is especially in the psalmist's mind. The good man who has good children has a fortune laid up against old age and infirmity safer far than shares in joint-stock companies. His every need will be safely met by the response child-love will make to all his sacrifices in days gone by.—R.T.
Children a man's power.
"As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth." They are his effective agents in the battle of life. This is illustrated in many a business. The man is greatly helped as difficulties develop, and responsibilities increase, who has his own sons to share his burdens. The service of hirelings, however devoted and faithful, can never equal that of sons. A man gradually outgrows the toiling part of life. He may think and plan better than ever; but the executive power fails; and it is well if sons arise to be not only arrows, but even arms, for him. In the entire active sphere of life a man's sons may come to take his place.
I. CHILDREN ARE A MAN'S POWER WHEN RIGHT RELATIONS ARE MAINTAINED. The assumption of the psalm is that they are maintained. The godly man's God-fearing children alone are in thought. When children grow up willful, wayward, un-son-like, they are a man's weakness. They are arrows bent from the straight, which may do more mischief than good. So on children the Word of God presses the duty of maintaining the family relation, and "honoring the father and the mother." And the relation must be preserved right up to the close of life. For long a son stands with his father; the time comes when he may have to stand for his father. Neglect of, and cruelty to, aged parents belong to heathenism, not to the religion of the eternal Father.
II. CHILDREN ARE A MAN'S POWER WHEN RIGHT CHARACTER IS CULTURED. What children are to their parents will of necessity depend much on natural disposition. Even an affectionate disposition finds expression in various forms. But it depends very much more on home-training. Parents may make themselves too independent, and, seeking little help from their children, get but little when they sorely need it. True home-culture nourishes mutual service. Only out of the practice of a Common service can the special ministries of times of strain be found to grow.—R.T.
Children a man's security.
The sons of a man's youth-time are specially mentioned, because they would naturally grow up to be a support and protection to their father in his old age, when he would most need their support, If he should be involved in a lawsuit, his stalwart sons would not suffer might to prevail against right. Some think the reference is to a battle fought with besiegers at the gates. But the peaceful association is better. "Unjust judges, malicious accusers, and false witnesses were shy and faint-hearted before a family so capable of defending itself."
I. CHILDREN A SECURITY AGAINST POVERTY. How this comes round to the aged is sadly illustrated by the number of old people who end their days in a workhouse; and by the number of cases in which business men keep too long in business, and fail to adjust their methods to new times. Many an old man has wrecked a good business simply by keeping it on too long. If there are children, they arrest the decaying process, bring in new life, and so keep away the poverty which would otherwise enter as an armed man.
II. CHILDREN A SECURITY AGAINST AFFLICTION. There is nothing sadder than the aged man, in invalid condition, tended only by strangers. No matter what may be the form which the decay of nature takes, there is relief—the best relief—if the aged parent is tended and cared for by his own children. And there are annals of heroism, which relate the self-denying devotion of children, who have taken away well-nigh all the bitterness and strain of last months of affliction.
III. CHILDREN ARE A SECURITY AGAINST ENEMIES. For a man may suffer, worthily or unworthily, through his own weaknesses, or through persistent malice, right up to the close of his life. It makes one sad to think of David, not only groaning about enemies in his old age, but speaking bitterly about them. But they rage in vain, and must leave the old man in peace, if his sons are round him, and defending him. To him they may be "sons of peace."—R.T.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
The Divine Builder.
(For the opening or reopening of a church.) "Except the Lord build the house," etc.
I. OUR DEPENDENCE UPON GOD FOR ALL REAL PROSPERITY.
1. Consider the material of the house we are building. "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" "Ye also as living stones, are built up a spiritual house," etc. The spiritual temple dwarfs the most magnificent material cathedrals.
2. The Divine implements employed on the building. Spiritual men working with Divine truths—the gospel—to build up a spiritual edifice. But some conditions to be remembered.
(1) That the qualifications for such work are God-given, "By the grace of God I am what I am."
(2) Even then we are still dependent upon the cooperative blessing of God's Spirit. "So then neither is he that planteth anything [alone], neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase." The soul like an organ. The keys give no musical response to the touch of the most skilful player till the wind is passed to the pipes.
II. HOW DEPENDENCE UPON GOD MAY BEST BE PROMOTED.
1. By the most strenuous spiritual effort on our part. This no paradox; for the more we aim to do for God, the more shall we feel the need of God to give us true success.
2. By constantly thinking of the greatness of his work, and the littleness of our faculties in relation to it. Men succeed in grand material enterprises and intellectual achievements—construct mighty bridges and steam-engines—and write magnificent books and poems; but to win men to Christ a good life is the most arduous work in life, demanding the highest inspirations of the mind.
3. We must realize the spirit of dependence by the constant help of prayer. To know the value of work we must put ourselves forth in constantly renewed endeavor; but our highest work can be sustained only by the help of the devoutest prayer.—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 127". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26