The Psalms are full of rich truth. Some of those riches are lying on the surface like gold nuggets just waiting to be picked up. Others are buried and take time and effort to discover and retrieve. Many of the Psalms are very personal, giving us glimpses into the struggles of the soul of the writer. Many of them contain very clear and forthright teaching.
I want to challenge your thinking on a particular subject found in Psalm 127. This brief Psalm deals with a specific subject, children. I’ve titled the message, “The Heritage of the Lord.”
Families, especially godly families, are under tremendous attack today. Satan is throwing everything he has into the battle to destroy God’s design. We need to reexamine the priority and blessing of children. How can we stand effectively against the negative pressures surrounding us and recapture the biblical view of children as treasures from the Lord? This will only happen as we embrace God’s Word and His principles.
As I said earlier, our text is Psalm 127, sometimes referred to as “the family Psalm.” Listen now as I read Psalm 127.
Let’s consider several ACTIONS we can take to make sure we understand and properly value children as “The Heritage of the Lord.”
The First ACTION is,
Challenge The Protector.
The Psalmist starts by pointing out the absolute necessity of relying on the Lord’s involvement. Notice the word, except. This is a term of exclusivity. You can build any way you want, but there is only one way to build if you want your house to last.
The word house has a wide variety of applications but especially refers to the family. The word city is used of anything from a large city to a mere outpost. What do a city and a small outpost have in common? Both have a jurisdiction, a defined area of authority. Cities and towns have limits, often marked by signs showing the boundary.
The family is a jurisdiction; in fact, it is the earliest defined area of authority in human existence! The family is under the authority of the father. He is the protector and is responsible to God for the way he performs his responsibilities. He is challenged to act upon the fact that building a family that lasts is dependent on his obedience to the Lord. The primary responsibility for the direction of the family belongs to the father.
Fathers must learn to love children. The closing verses of Malachi’s prophecy make this so clear. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” According to Malachi, the timing of the day of the Lord is impacted, in part, by the love of fathers for children.
So, the first part of the challenge to the protector is to understand the importance of relying on the Lord’s involvement as he builds his house.
The protector is also challenged to understand this process of loving children is accomplished by relentless toil. In our society, with its emphasis on fun, it’s no wonder this isn’t attractive! It’s why many fathers give up. Our natural inclination is to take the path of least resistance. But, if you’re like me, I can stand the discomfort if the payoff is great enough.
Being responsible for a family is a difficult task, an impossible task on our own, but the rewards more than offset the toil. Much of what we’re called to do is faithfulness in the mundane. Yet we have a sense of joy, knowing that God is in what we are doing!
Right after the Psalmist speaks about this relentless toil, he adds a warning about a wrong focus in life. In verses one and two, the word vain is used three times! The literal meaning is ruin! Relentless toil with the wrong focus leads to ruin. Think of those who built carefully (the tower of Babel), watched diligently (Belshazzar lost his kingdom), toiled relentlessly (Peter fished all night), but it all came to nothing.
As men, we want to see results from our labor. Those results can be slow in coming in our families. If we have a good job or a sizeable income, that generates results almost immediately. Yet if we make that our focus, the Psalmist refers to those results as “the bread of sorrows.” Sorrows are defined as literally an earthen vessel. A clay pot is easily damaged and made useless. It’s not the kind of item on which you spend a lot of time and money.
We dads can easily fall into the trap of adequately meeting our children’s physical needs while neglecting their spiritual and emotional needs. We must avoid that at all costs. Be sure the effort you expend produces something that lasts beyond the present time. The Psalmist states it is vain for us to rise up early and stay up late to pursue the temporal.
So here are the challenges to the protector. Rely on the Lord’s involvement for building the family. Acknowledge the relentless toil, but know this, it must be expended on that which will endure into eternity, your children.
The Second ACTION is,
Cherish the Heirlooms
Many of you have an heirloom at home. It’s something you treasure. It’s special because of its sentimental or monetary value. If that heirloom were to be lost or stolen or somehow destroyed, you would be very upset! But you know, as valuable as that item may seem to you, it’s only temporary. Genuine heirlooms are eternal.
Verse 3 tells us children are the heritage (literally heirloom or treasure) given by the Lord. Unfortunately, even among professing Christians, children are often seen as a bother instead of a blessing. I know of couples who faced ridicule from other Believers because their pregnancies were close together or because of the number of children they had.
Children are priceless heirlooms. We take steps to protect and preserve those things we value the most. A pastor friend and his wife had a child, and there were complications with the birth that resulted in large medical bills. He said, “Many people are willing to make payments on a vehicle or a house, but how many are willing to make payments on children?” He wasn’t advocating going into debt. He was trying to help us to see the real value of children.
One way we can measure the value of something is by the amount of time we spend in relation to it. We can get an idea of how important hobbies, sports, work, or relationships are simply by looking at how much time we spend pursuing them. God says the children He has given us are heirlooms. How much time do we spend with them? What steps do we take to preserve and protect them? Don’t compare yourself with others; let the Lord guide you.
Children are a reward from God. They’re not a burden; they’re a blessing. That doesn’t mean that childless couples or parents of small families are not blessed of the Lord. Joyce and I have couples among our friends and relatives who have been unable to have children. It’s been a grief to them, but they’ve accepted the fact that God has other work for them to do. God has given them many spiritual children. The key to joy, fulfillment, and success in building our house is accepting God’s plan for us, whether it includes no children, few children, or many children.
A note of caution here; many young couples say, “We won’t have children until we get established financially.” The Bible makes it clear that the Lord opens or closes the womb it’s not simply a matter of biology. So, if you wait until YOU think it’s the right time, you may be disappointed. As a Christ-follower, this area of your life should be under His control too.
The second action we need to take is to cherish the heirlooms. Your children deserve your very best because they are your most valuable treasure.
The Third ACTION is,
Craft the Arrows.
The Psalmist changes the analogy from heirlooms to arrows. He says, “As arrows in the hand of a mighty man so are children of the youth.” In David’s day, you didn’t go to the local archery shop and buy a dozen arrows. You made your own, and you made them right. It could be a matter of life or death in battle, or starvation if you didn’t get the game animal you hunted.
I’ve read about Native Americans making arrows. They’d rough out the basic shaft and then whittle it down to perfection with a sharp piece of flint or a broken clamshell. They’d take off a little here and a little there, gradually working to the finished product. Then they’d attach the head, making sure that the arrow was properly balanced. And the arrow needs fletching to guide it in its flight. Everything had to be just right so the arrow would fly true to its mark.
Shaping the arrows God gives us requires skill, time, and patience. We can only do it successfully if we follow God’s instructions. He will give us the skill, but we need to take the time and exercise the patience. He provides the arrows in the rough; we must by His grace be the instrument to smooth and shape them to be accurate and effective.
“Happy is the man that has his quiver full of them.” Some have suggested warriors of that day carried a certain number of arrows. But our text says nothing specific about numbers. There’s a reason for that. One person’s quiver may be full with one or two, another person’s with eight or more! If I were going out to battle, I would certainly want as many as I could practically carry! The principle here is not the amount, but the attitude. We must ask ourselves the question, am I open to receiving all the “arrows” the Lord wants to give me?
One of the common excuses people use for not having children is, “we can’t afford them.” But notice, the previous verse says that children are the heritage of the Lord. They belong to Him! And the Lord will pay for what He orders. I can testify to you personally that this is true. So that excuse doesn’t hold water. It’s usually a cover for selfishness.
Taking unnatural steps to limit the number of children we have is not an idea found in God’s Word. The goal of every genuine Believer is to be a person of the Book. This issue of how we view children needs to be examined carefully in the light of Holy Scripture.
Let me clarify something. I’m not trying to tell you how many children you should have. As far as I understand the Word, there is no set number. I am challenging you to search out what the Word teaches. We readily acknowledge that if Jesus is to be Lord of our lives, then He must be Lord of All, yet WE reserve this decision for ourselves.
Parents, consider the incredible potential that exists in the lives of each of your children. Seek God’s face regularly for their spiritual growth and development. Dads, take your place as the spiritual leaders in your home. If you didn’t grow up in a home where that was practiced, find a brother who did and ask him for counsel. Don’t worry that you’re not doing it just like someone else. Just do it and be genuine. Your children need to see that spiritual matters are a priority to you. You need to craft the “arrows” God has entrusted to you.
The final ACTION is,
Confound the Enemy.
In Psalm 45:5, we have these words, “Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee.” The children the Lord gives us, properly trained and fitted as arrows for battle, can do great damage to Satan’s kingdom. We might ask ourselves how many battles have been lost because we have chosen to limit our number of “arrows.”
The last line of Psalm 127 refers to the gate of the city. It was the place where official, legal, and business matters were dealt with. For a man to sit in the gate was a position of respect and privilege. The Psalmist says that fathers of godly children will speak with (the word literally means subdue or destroy) their enemies in the gate. They will not be delayed, confused, or disappointed.
Sharon Bible Institute is located in our community. One thing that impresses the people of our community is the young people who attend. These young people have a much greater chance of gaining a hearing with others because most of them have been taught to be neat and modest in their style of dress, polite and respectful, and to have a genuine interest in the well-being of others. There’s nothing quite so powerful in our world as an army of godly young people committed to serving the Lord with all their youthful energy. Godly children confound the critics. I believe that’s the reason Satan has aroused so much opposition to the family.
Years ago, we were in colonial Williamsburg on a family vacation. One morning at breakfast in the motel, a man and woman came up to our tables where we were eating. They said, “We’ve been watching you.” That wasn’t really news because when you go somewhere with eight children, lots of people watch! They just wanted to express their joy at seeing a godly family together. People are watching you and your family too. What are they seeing?
Our children were not perfect, and neither were we as their parents. We were learning to walk in God’s ways together and were making a conscious effort to make people aware of His plans for families. I’m grateful for the families I see today who are embracing God’s principles for the good of their families.
I’m not a pessimist, but much of the darkness we see in our culture and country is a result of violating God’s biblical laws. We cannot continue to violate God’s principles with impunity. There will be, and are, consequences. But remember, the darker the night, the brighter the light will shine. If revival comes to the church, it will need to begin in our homes and families.
Let’s recap the four ACTIONS we can take to make sure we value children as “The Heritage of the Lord.” First, Challenge the Protector. Dad’s, we’ve got to be committed to making the Lord our first priority and realize that all we do must be for His glory. We’re called to faithfulness in the hard work of building our homes according to the Lord’s blueprint.
Second, let’s Cherish the Heirloom. As parents, we need to realize the eternal value and potential of each of our children. When we leave this world, the only way we can continue to have a lasting impact is through the lives of our children.
Then, let’s Craft the Arrows. Carefully, methodically, we mold and shape their character, preparing them for a life of service to the Lord. And I urge you to let the Lord decide how many arrows it takes to fill your quiver.
Finally, let’s Confound the Enemy. I believe Satan trembles at the thought of an army of godly young people advancing on his turf. He’s trying his best to distract them by dangling possessions, entertainment, sports, and other trinkets in front of them. Young people, reject those little gods that have no lasting worth. Embrace the cross and follow Jesus.
Together, God, parents, and children, we can advance the battle and roll back the forces of darkness by the light of Christ in our lives!