Psalm 127 reads like two separate, self-contained words haphazardly spliced together. The psalm is one of two psalms attributed to Solomon, and the themes within the psalm, reflect the concerns of other Solomonic passages. Psalm 127 (ESV) reads,

1 Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

There are clues in the words which Solomon employs which help us tie the two together. The first clue is the word house, which not only has the meaning of an “abode” or a “place to stay,” but also of a “dynasty.” The second is a pun in the Hebrew between the words builders (bonim) and sons (banim). For Solomon, the making a name for one’s self through “building” will not come from the successful self-determined and directed plans of the individual nor will security be had through one’s self-acquired and overseen efforts; these blessings will only come “unless the Lord.” The blessing we seek through work comes not through our individual effort but more like the manner of child bearing. Blessing is not achieved and mastered, it is conceived and delivered. Blessing is the result of a loving consummation which births into a greater joy and blessing.

As one walks the pilgrim way, one must understand what is being wrought in them and what awaits them even as one does the labor of walking, step by step, day by day to God (and this not alone but in community). The blessing at the journey’s end is exponential (1+1=3), conceiving is miraculous, laboring is travail, but delivery is glorious. And as one works and walks and waits, one rests each night in the name bestowed upon them, the special name which the Lord gives his children and the name which his children receive and own. We are called, “Jedediah” even as Solomon (2Sam 12:25). We are and rest soundly in our identity as “the Lord’s beloved.”

Psalm 127 (ESV) reads,
1 Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

“Unless the Lord,” the qualification
That matters, the watchman’s only security,
The only footing, the firm foundation
Upon which to build, the builder’s surety.
But when you lie down, your heart’s empty of rest;
Your mind works all night at a rolling boil;
You arise in the morning stiff and stressed
To feed upon the bread of anxious toil.
Fruitfulness isn’t ledgered productivity
As if blessing could be quantified,
Rather it’s the labor of love’s creativity
As children begotten by husband and bride.
Beloved of God, be at peace tonight;
Sleep safe as his child, his beloved, delight.

© Randall Edwards 2017
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.

artwork: detail from an illustration of The Pilgrim’s Progress or Christian’s journey form the City of Destruction in this evil World to the Celestial City; Published July 1, 1813 by J. Pitts No 14 Great St Andrews Street Seven Dials.

One thought on “What Work?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s