(A song by Solomon for worship.)
Only the Lord
1Without the help of the Lord
it is useless to build a home
or to guard a city.
2It is useless to get up early
and stay up late
in order to earn a living.
God takes care of his own,
even while they sleep.
3Children are a blessing
and a gift from the Lord.
4Having a lot of children
to take care of you
in your old age
is like a warrior
with a lot of arrows.
5The more you have,
the better off you will be,
because they will protect you
when your enemies
attack you in court.
Ambition – what a great value! Or is it??
This wisdom poem challenges us to reconsider where we focus our energies.
How often do we decide what we want to do and then ask God to bless our endeavour? Instead this Psalm teaches us to look for what God is doing, and then get involved.
The psalmist uses common illustrations to point out our dependency.
If God is building a house – if God is guarding the city – then we can sleep instead of toiling endlessly.
I have often reflected on the first two lines of this psalm – because I don’t want to expend energy on something that is simply my own vision. I would be wasting my life pursuing it.
Another illustration David uses is that of raising a large family for protection. In that culture, children were needed to defend their father, if necessary, when he is old. They are like “arrows in his quiver – ready for battle.”
But the message again is that God is the provider – children are a heritage from the Lord. Without divine initiative, our efforts are futile. It’s a warning against an attitude of self-sufficiency. God is the agent of our success. We are simply to cooperate in the process.
Clearly the house will not get built without our labour; we need to station human guards; and there will be no children without our coupling.
It’s a great message of the cooperation between God’s initiative and our endeavour – keeping us from letting our own ambition lead us down the path of futility or mistakenly thinking that it all depends on us. It is only as we join in God’s plans that what we accomplish will be worth the investment of our life.
Lord, Help me to keep my ambition surrendered to you so that I am kept from following a path that saps my energy and wears me out. Open my eyes to recognize where you are working and then join you so that I don’t waste my life in fruitless endeavour. Amen.