There are a number of different intersecting points in this psalm that should be shared. The first is the most obvious which is that this psalm, and especially the beginning of vs.1, points to the necessity of the presence of the Lord in all of our lives. . Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build, labor in vain. The statement is that it doesn’t matter how hard you work, if God is not a part of your life, then what you work towards will never come to the kind of fruition you would want. If the Lord is not a part of our life then we can never realize the dreams that God has for us. This is an important concept. But we can’t forget that God still calls us to work hard. The converse of this psalm is not true. While if you work hard but God is not a part of your life it will inevitably lead to unrealized potential. There is no truth to thinking that if I don’t work hard but just pray enough and know that God is on my side then God is going to bless me. Uh, no, sorry, it doesn’t work that way. I have heard pastors say at times that they don’t prepare for their sermons on Sunday because they just want the Holy Spirit to move them. For me, that is an excuse to not work hard. There are other examples in other lines of work for other people as well.
But this first verse is used more often than not in building dedications, and specifically in the dedications of church buildings. It is nice and it is a great reminder that God always has to be in charge of all that we do.
The other aspect of this psalm which has been burned in my memory is seen in vs.4-5. We were on a bus in Israel and I was in my second year at the church in Florida. I was maybe 30 or 31. I was in Israel with a bunch of people that I knew who had graduated from Princeton, probably 6 years earlier, so it was a great reunion of sorts for all of us. I was reading the Psalms (I do have some good habits every now and then!), and I ran across this psalm. For some reason it struck me as especially significant. Maybe it was when Stacy was pregnant with Bethany and I was feeling especially blessed. I leaned over to a friend of mine and said that this psalm is especially powerful because it speaks about the incredible blessing that children are.
He looked angry and said something like: “What if you are someone like me who has been married for 5 years and has not been able to have children, does that mean that God has cursed me?” I was much more circumspect after that in my eureka moments. But I’ll never forget that and I’ll always remember it as a perfect example of something that may seem obvious to me is sometimes incredible painful and opaque for others. It was a good lesson and I was grateful for his candidness.