- Without the Lord, Frustration
The title of this post is the motto of the city of Edinburgh in Scotland and summarizes much of the message contained in this Psalm which was probably written by Solomon. It was a time when the household was the basic unit of economic production, it was the cornerstone of society and when Solomon refers to a house he may have been speaking about a family as much as a building. In time past it was not uncommon to refer to a family as the House of Abraham, or David, or in more recent times the House of Windsor or similar.
Solomon suggests that building a house is hard work, but no amount of hard work will be of any value unless God is the heart of the building. “Hard work can produce a large and beautiful house, but it cannot create a happy home. A zealous entrepreneur can create a successful business but cannot by work alone create a good life. Only God can make it all worthwhile.” (Theologyofwork.org). Solomon does not suggest that we do not work at building our house but that we make sure that God is the master builder.
A similar comment is made about protecting the city, which can also refer to the community. The watchman can stay up all night, but unless God is also on guard their efforts will be fruitless. In our societies we tend to rely on others for protection, that may be the police force, neighbourhood watch or some other agency, and in the case of loss or damage there is always insurance. But none of these are sufficient without God. God has determined now much work is enough, he scheduled a day of rest into his creative plan, there is no point in anxiously seeking more and more work if we neglect God’s purpose for us, we will just get more and more tired and probably irritable and of course our family will suffer. It is often said that at a funeral you will never hear it said that a loved one wished that the deceased had spent more time at work and not at home.
Children were a valuable component of the community in Solomon’s day and most families were anxious to have as many as they could. They were seen as a reward for faithfulness and an obvious blessing on the parents. Large families were not only a source of pride but brought greater economic benefit through increasing the workforce but also in providing dowries and alliances through marriage. Despite having 700 wives and 300 concubines there is only 3 children, a son and two daughters mentioned as part of Solomon’s family. In writing this he must have felt a keen disappointment. He mentions children born at the time of the parent’s youth as being particularly valuable. These ideas contradict much of values of modern society in which the size of family is carefully regulated so as not to interfere with economic capacity and lifestyle choices. In the days of Solomon it was usual for girls in their early teens to bear children, while today the average age of a first childbirth in Australia is 31.
As with building a house and protecting a city God expects to be Lord in the realm of child bearing and rearing. The social pressures that existed in Solomon’s day are different to our own and the need for large families is not as significant, but decisions about bearing children and how and when that should be are still matters in which God is keenly interested. Many decisions about family life are made without reference to God; where should we live, what sort of house do we want, how many children should we expect and how do we care for our older relatives, how much should we earn and where should we take our holidays for example. Except when things go wrong, then of course all of those issues inform our most passionate prayers. God wants to be part of your life and work, he offers to guide, keep and protect you and make your life both valuable and meaningful – without him everything is like chasing after the wind.
- Who is building your house?
- When is enough, enough?
- Does God have a say in your family decisions?