“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)
It is good to consider one of the Psalms of Assents as we prepare to worship Christ corporately on the Sabbath. These songs (Psalms 120-134) may have been sung by God’s people as they journeyed to Jerusalem to worship on their Sabbath. The Book of Psalms was probably compiled during the period after the small remnant of God’s people returned to their homeland at the end of the seventy-year exile.* The Jerusalem temple and wall were in the process of being or had been rebuilt, but there was no descendent of David on the throne, according to God’s promise to David. Perhaps the people had lost hope in God’s promises. The Psalms would encourage the faithful to turn their eyes away from their visible circumstances and look with spiritual eyes on the invisible Holy One of Israel.
Believers today frequently move further and further from God as the week progresses and the world demands our attention. Maybe this is why we like to sing hymns at the beginning of the worship service, before engaging in liturgy or the preaching of God’s Word. Singing hymns, psalms, and songs with biblical doctrines prepare us to embrace the teaching that follows. All of our worship should induce us to look with faith on Christ, our sure hope and the cornerstone of the church. He is the anchor of the church universal, and we are the living stones, reclaimed and restored by God, secured to him.
Commentaries often include a note for Psalm 127:1 that leaving God out of the building of a life, a house, or a family will fail. However, the verse says that “God is the builder,” not us. I appreciate John Gill’s reference to the Tower of Babel, which was entirely built by men, in imitation of God. However, this is the worst possible imitation, in contravention of God’s decree to multiply over the earth. The people gathered and said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). Today people unwisely try to build for themselves what only God can construct, including alternative families, church bodies, and ministries, to name a few. The Lord sometimes allows them to be completed and used, but to discredit and dishonor. Other times he will stop the work, as he did in Babel. Only with Christ as our foundation, by his saving work, are believers transformed into “living stones…a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
Is your corporate worship built on the gospel of Jesus Christ, not the morals, ideas, or philosophies of men? Why not read a few more Psalms of Assent in preparation for worship today?
*Reformation Study Bible, “The Psalms” (p. 827), Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), 2015
For further study see: Proverbs 9:1; Isaiah 28:16; Zechariah 6:12-13; and Ephesians 2:22.