There just be a bajillion ways to have a personal devotional time-I can’t call it “quiet time” because that’s what my kids have to do when they get too old for naps-with the Lord by reading and reflecting upon His Word. Sometimes having a set of pre-ready form questions can be helpful. Our church is going through the Psalms of Ascent (120-134) and then the book of John during this Lenten season. So here is just one way in which you may or may not find helpful should you join us, or want some variety in your devotional life.
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[a] 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
What does this passage say about God?
He has the final say on whether something, someone, or some project is successful. No matter the energy, effort, or planning on our attempts, He is ultimately Sovereign over all. A point that Nebuccadnezar had to learn the hard way (Daniel 4), as have I. But he is also good. He gives rest. He gives sleep. He gives kids. He does not want to see His people put to shame.
What does this passage say about man/woman? Why do we need this passage?
If you ever followed the Buccaneers, one of its head coaches-our only Super Bowl winning head coach-exemplified verse 2. He rose up early (4 am) and went to bed late, drawing up plays that would confuse the offense more than the opposing defenses. But I think we can all see ourselves in Jon. I don’t get up as early, but I bet I’m more anxious. Behind my anxiety is bad theology: God isn’t good and isn’t in control. So I believe the lie, if I could just do more, if I had done a better job parenting, coaching, pastoring, planning, that I wouldn’t have problems. The good news is that ultimately, my kids, my house, our church, are completely 100% gifts from God and they are in His good hands.
How does this passage point me to Jesus?
It is clear that at the time of Jesus, many people, especially his disciples didn’t view children very highly. But he rebuked his disciples for disbelieving the truth that children are a blessing. In fact, he took this passage a step further:
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
So if I am to be used in God’s Kingdom, as it is slowly growing here on Earth, I need to make sure that I have the same simple trust a child has of His father. My faithfulness probably looks like stick figures to Him, but he loves even my broken attempts to follow Him by faith. Jesus has proved that He will build His church and the gates of Hell won’t stand against it. Therefore I can trust Him.
How will my life look different if I repent and believe?
Today, if I truly believe this, I will rest my head on the pillow at night, recognizing that God calls me neither to laziness nor unquenchable driven-ness. These Psalms were originally sung and prayed as Jews journeyed to the Temple in Jerusalem. I can imagine traveling with little ones was quite hard even then! What a reminder to me today when I feel burdened in parenting. If I believe children are a blessing, I will be far more patient today than I was yesterday evening. If I believe the Lord is good and has the final “say,” I can never look down upon another person or parent for how things turn out. And if that favor is not returned to me, I don’t have to be bitter because I know what God says is trustworthy and true. Lord help me believe, that I will obey. Lord help me see you as Good, Good Father, because I fail so often. Amen.