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TEXT: Psalm 127

SUBJECT: Songs on the Way to Heaven #8

Everything you have is a gift. Some of the gifts are so big you might not notice them. Take the sun for example. It provides the light, heat, food, and water without which you could not survive. But survival is not the half of what it does for you. Think of all the happy times you've had in the sun: playing ball, picnicking, swimming, and lying on the beach to name just a few. The sun is so good that it blesses us even when it's on the other side of the world. In the fall of 1984, I fell in love with a girl on the rarest of all things: a warm night in San Francisco. The sun not only gave me my life, but also my beloved wife. And I never paid a dime for it! The sun is a gift.

So is the power to enjoy it. If you had no pigment in your eyes or skin, the sun would blind and burn you. If you had no sense of beauty, you wouldn't see the beauty it reveals. If you were insane, you might mistake it for a lidless eye spying on you every day. But you have pigment in your eyes and skin, you have a sense of beauty, and you have your sanity. Every one of them is a gift.

The givenness of your life is most evident in childhood. It took you a year to walk, two years to feed yourself, three years to talk, four years to go to the bathroom, five years to get dressed, and who knows how long to make a living? All this time you lived on gifts.

You still do, no matter how self-reliant you think you are. Your life depends on a heartbeat, a brainwave, breathing, digestion and other involuntary actions of your body. If the actions are involuntary, you didn't put them there and you're not directing them. They are gifts.

So are the natural resources you depend on. If you eat, you depend on the soil, the plants that grow on it, and-if you're not a vegetarian-the animals that eat the plants. You didn't create the soil, invent the corn, or lay the eggs! That you pay for them makes no difference at all, because if they didn't exist, all the money in the world couldn't buy them-and you'd starve. Natural resources are a gift.

Humans are too. You cannot live without money (or what it buys). Thus you depend on other people: if you're an employee, someone has to hire you. If you're an employer, someone has to work for you. If you're a salesman, someone has to buy your product. If you're a doctor, someone has to get sick. If you're an undertaker, someone has to die! You didn't create these persons, but live off of them. Every one of them is a gift.

Everything is a gift. While Atheists ought to believe that, Christians have to believe it. For the Word of God says--

Who made you to differ one from another? And what do you have that you did not receive?

It not only says that everything is a gift, but it also tells us where the Gifts came from--

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of Lights with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

We all agree with this in principle. But when it comes to the details, we're not so sure. Of course eternal life is the Gift of God, but what about the things we work for?

This is the question Psalm 127 answers.

AN ASSUMPTION

It begins with a common-sense observation: people work for things-and they work hard for them. Carpenters labor to build houses. Soldiers stay awake to guard cities. Men rise up early, sit up late, and eat the bread of sorrows to take care of their families.

Because these are not religious or spiritual things, people think they can do them without God's blessing. That's the assumption most people have. And a good many of them are Christians.

AN ASSESSMENT

But is it true? Can we build houses without the Lord? Can we guard cities? Can we take care of our families? No we cannot.

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 He gives His beloved sleep.

Why can't we do these things? Because the things needed to do them are all the gifts of God.

What does it take to build a house? For one thing, it takes men who know how to do it, and who will do it. But where do men of knowledge and ability and will come from? They come from God.

I have two examples from the Old Testament. The Tabernacle was designed by God and the plans were delivered by His angels. But God and the angels did not build it; that job was given to men. I would guess several hundred must have worked on it under the supervision of Bezaleel and Aholiab. Where did they get the skill to do the work? God gave it to them!

Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying:

'See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship.and I have appointed with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all who are gifted artisans, that they may make all that I have commanded you (Exodus 31:1-6).

If knowledge and skill are required, so is a mind to work-and that too is a gift of God. Referring of the men who built the Second Temple, Haggai 1:14 says,

So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel, the governor, and the spirit of Joshua the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of Hosts.

I know these were special building projects, but the fact remains: all construction requires knowledge and power, and both are gifts of God. Without them, they labor in vain who build it.

The second example he uses is guarding a city, which depends on watchmen staying awake all night. Can men do that? Of course they can; some of you have worked the night shift, and as far as I know, never got caught sleeping on the job!

But the ability to stay awake-and alert-all night does not lie in them. Most people in those days grew up on farms, and farmers go to bed with the chickens and get up with them too! Thus it was unnatural to these people to stay up all night. Add to this the nature of the job: the hour is late, the city is quiet, no one is keeping an eye on him, and nothing ever happens! The watchman's work depended on a power greater than his own-and God gave it to him-

He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might, He increases strength (Isaiah 40:29).

The third example is the man who wants to provide for his family. He loves them so dearly that he rises up early, sits up late, and eats the bread of sorrows.

Like other men, he gets up at the crack of dawn to go to work, but unlike them, he doesn't quit when the sun goes down, but works late into the night contriving ways to take care of his family, now and in the future, and even when he dies. This is a good man who loves his wife and children more than he loves himself, his fun, and even his sleep.

But all of his efforts-without the blessing of God-are vain. His crops fail; his plans miscarry; and he dies young leaving his family in the poverty he was working so hard to keep them out of.

Nothing can be done without the blessing of God. Everything depends on grace. All we have is given.

This is what the first two verses teach.

A PROOF

Verses 3-5 prove it:

Behold, children are a heritage from

The Lord,

And the fruit of the womb is His reward.

Like arrows in the hands 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.

If the good things of life are not the gifts of God, how do you explain children? Where do babies come from? We smile and smirk at the question, but can we answer it? We can talk ovulation and fertilization, and all the other 'ations', but after we've said all that we stand dumb before the sublime mystery of life. Where do their personalities come from? How come the one who looks like his mother acts like his father? And why do babies who demand all of our time and never say thanks, make us happier than all the world besides? Where do babies come from?

They come from God!

The Israelites weren't stupid about reproduction: we're the stupid ones! They knew the biology of babies, but they also knew the theology of babies! But today, biology has swallowed up theology, and the miracle of life has been buried under a pile of boring manuals and dirty magazines.

Children are a gift from God, and under the sun, they are His greatest gift. Happy is the man who has a quiver full of them!

If all children are God's gift, then good children are a double gift of grace. Good children are as dear to their parents as arrows are to soldiers. They are the joy of their parents' strong years and the comfort of their weak years.

When enemies tell a man God doesn't love him, all he has to do is point to his children and say, Then explain my kids! Having good children means God loves you!

Children are the gift of God. But not only children, all things are given. Life itself is a gift and everything it contains.

THIS MEANS

This means we ought to live in constant thankfulness. The saddest day of your life was full of Divine favors! If the cloud was dark, the lining was silver, and to miss the silver lining is to be unobservant and ungrateful. Paul summed it up beautifully-

In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

If everything is a gift of God, then the worse things in life are also His gift, and this means there is something good in them. C.S. Lewis wrote, Pain is God's megaphone to rouse a sleeping world. Nobody likes pain, but I doubt anything has done more to convert sinners and sanctify God's People. Three years ago, a very close friend of mine died after a long struggle with Leukemia. We served on a committee together for several years and passed a lot of email over that time. The PS on all his letters was a Bible verse, Psalm 119:71,

It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes.

I can say that a lot easier than I can mean it. But my friend meant it because he lived on it and died on it!

If everything is a gift of God, then human effort has its place, but its place is not above or alongside grace, but far below it. The Psalm doesn't disconnect labor from building a house, but it makes labor dependent on God. This means:

We must not boast. If we have anything at all, we have it by grace. Speaking of his own frenetic efforts, Paul said,

I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I but grace of God that was with me.

We must not look down on others. Maybe others have less than you do because God has not blessed them as richly as He has blessed you. If you remembered everything is a gift, you wouldn't be so quick to pass judgment on others, as if what you have is due to.you.

We must work in felt dependence on God. Without Me, you can do nothing, said our Lord. But Paul added, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Thus we ought to work for Christ and to work hard for Him! And then leave the results to Him.

Finally if everything is a gift of God, don't be afraid to enjoy it-

I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor-it is the gift of God (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13).

Trust in the living God who gives us richly all things to enjoy (I Timothy 6:17).

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