Principles for the Family Man, Psalms 127-128

Well, it’s one of the greatest days of the year today, Father’s Day. But most of us men recognize that Father’s Day is kind of an afterthought. If you know a little of the history of how these days came to be you know there was Mother’s Day first. They threw in Father’s Day so we wouldn’t feel left out and totally unappreciated. But it’s Mother’s Day that really gets the attention. According to some surveys, Mother’s Day fuels 75% more spending than Father’s Day worldwide. 141 million greeting cards are purchased each year around Mother’s Day, compared to 90 million for Father’s Day. Industry insiders know that restaurants are packed for Mother’s Day lunches and dinners. For Father’s Day, not so much. Often dads are at home in the back yard standing over a smoking barbecue cooking everybody’s lunch. One little boy defined father’s day like this, “It’s sort of like mother’s day, but you don’t have to spend as much on the present.” Yeap, that’s father’s day. But I think it’s probably rightfully so that mothers get a little more attention, because often they’re the ones at home more with the kids, often they have more time invested in the raising of the children. But still, even if it is an afterthought, I still think it’s good to have a day to especially do the first half of the 5th commandment, “You shall honor your father and your mother.”

But I do hope you ladies recognize that it’s not easy to be a father. There are some days of a father’s life that I think ladies don’t realize how difficult they are. One of those days is the day when the children are born, because the father is only one who has to endure childbirth without anesthetic.

Then when you get the baby home from the hospital that’s also a hard time for fathers. Mothers seem to kind of instinctively know how to take care of the baby. But it doesn’t come so easy to us fathers. With our first kid I was kind of like the new dad, who was left at home for the first time by himself with his new baby while mom went out to run some errands. And of course, just a couple minutes after she left, the baby started to cry. This poor dad did everything he could think of to sooth the baby, but it just would not stop crying. The baby cried so long and this dad got so worried that he decided to take the baby down to the urgent care. After the doctor listened to all that the father had done to get the baby to stop crying, the doctor began to examine the baby’s ears and chest and then down to the diaper area. When he opened the diaper… well, he found it was full. And the doctor said, “Well, here’s the problem, he just needs to be changed.” And the dad was perplexed and said, “I don’t understand. The diaper package specifically says it’s good for up to 10 pounds!”… I could sympathize with that guy. Probably a lot of us fathers could.

Another difficult time for fathers I’ve discovered because I’ve been able to perform a dozen or so wedding ceremonies, and when you do a wedding ceremony you also have to be there for the rehearsal. And I’ve observed that during the days just prior to one of the kids’ weddings, fathers get absolutely no input in the wedding at all. They make a suggestion and the mother says, “Yeah, we’ll think about that dear. Now, why don’t you go sit down over there and write another check.” That’s about all he gets to do during that time. So I think it’s good that we have a day to honor fathers. It’s not an easy job.

You may have guessed that I’d like to say something especially for fathers today. So I’d like us to turn this morning to a couple Psalms that are especially for family men, for husbands and for fathers. We’re going to be in Psalm 127 and Psalm 128. These 2 Psalms present some timeless and very practical and valuable principles for the family man. These little nuggets of truth here are worth more than rubies and diamonds. If a family man will simply take them into his heart and live by them, it will bless him and his family more than anything else he could do. We’re going to notice 4 such principles here for the family man.

I. Unless the Lord is with you in your efforts, your efforts are totally are in vain (127:1)

That’s Psalm 127:1, “Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchmen keeps awake in vain.” That’s a principle that applies not just to the building of literal houses and the guarding of literal cities. It’s a principle that applies to the building and guarding of anything.

5 years ago when my neighbors and I were building each other’s homes, a few of you came out to help one particular day. The job you were given was to put down the first boards on the foundation walls of one of the houses. You had to cut the boards to fit, and measure and drill holes in the right spots to match the bolts sticking up out of the concrete. And then you had to bolt down the boards. You worked couple hours or more and set all the boards on the foundation of a house. And you stood back and admired your work and had a sense of accomplishment, only then to find out that you’d used the wrong boards. The supervisor forgot to tell you that you were supposed to use treated wood on the foundation. So it all had to be taken apart and redone.

A lot of people are living their lives like that. They’re building or guarding stuff that the Supervisor in heaven doesn’t really want built or guarded, and it will be torn down. They’re working hard to build stuff, their business or build bigger barns like some other guy you’ve read about (Luke 12:16ff). They’re working hard to build a nice retirement nest egg. They’re working hard to build their kids into valedictorians and all-stars of their sport teams. They’re working hard to build collections, gun collections, coin collections, car collections. They’re working hard to build an affluent life for their family where they live in a nice home, wear nice clothes, have nice toys and can afford nice vacations. And they’re working hard to guard stuff, to maintain and preserve stuff. Maybe their career, their wealth. Maybe they’re guarding a relationship they have going on with someone that they don’t want interrupted. Maybe they’re guarding a lifestyle that they don’t want changed. And they might be admiring their work. They may have a sense of accomplishment about it. But one day the Lord is going to say, “That’s really not what I wanted built. That’s really not what I wanted guarded. We’re tearing that down.”

We need to make sure that in whatever we endeavor to do that it’s something the Lord wants done and that He will be with us in accomplishing it. Only then will our efforts have lasting value.

Something that I know the Lord wants built and guarded and that He will be with us in building and guarding is simply faith and character, faith and character in ourselves and in our kids and in the people that we can influence in our lives. Matthew 7:7 Jesus said “Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” And He’s not talking about just asking and seeking and knocking for anything and everything. In the context of the sermon on the mount where He says that He’s been talking about having righteousness that surpasses that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, having the character God wants us to have where we honestly love God and love our neighbor and how that’s essential to entering the kingdom of heaven. He’s talking about asking and seeking and knocking for righteousness, for character and life pleasing to God, and entrance into the kingdom of heaven. And the promise is that God will be with us in that, and He will make sure that we succeed in that. It won’t be an endeavor in vain. And then at the end of the gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples. “Go… and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of age.” He will be with us not only in the work of building faith and character in ourselves, but also in others. I Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” If we’re toiling in the word and in prayer and in service and in teaching and such to shape ourselves and our kids and others into the image of Christ, the sort of endeavors that He’s with us in, then our toil will not be in vain. We’ll look back on our work, not in regret, but saying, “I am so glad I did that. That was worth it.” But if we’re just trying to build other stuff, if we’re just trying to build an affluent life for our family where are kids have a nice childhood of recreation and video games and toys and such, we’re going to look back and say, “Man, I wish I could roll back time and spend those years building what the Lord wanted me to be building, spend it building something that has lasting value.”

So that’s #1 unless the Lord is with us in our efforts, our efforts are vain. Here’s the second principle:

II. God takes care of His beloved (v2)

This is v2. Listen to what it says. “It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in His sleep.”

Now, wise old Solomon wrote this Psalm. That’s what the ancient superscription above it says. And in v2 I think Solomon is recalling an experience in his life. Did you know Solomon had another name? II Samuel 12:24-25 says, “Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her; and she gave birth to a son, and he named him Solomon. Now the Lord loved him 25 and sent word through Nathan the prophet, and he named him Jedidiah for the Lord’s sake.” And so Solomon was also called Jedidiah. And Jedidiah means “Beloved of the LORD”. And you remember the occasion when Solomon, the beloved of the LORD, was the new king of Israel, and the LORD appeared to him in a dream while he was sleeping and, like a genie, said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you. You get one wish, Solomon. What do you want?” And of all the things Solomon could have asked for, Solomon asked for an understanding heart, the ability to discern between good and evil so that he could judge and lead God’s people well. He wanted wisdom. When he made that request, I Kings 3:10 says, “It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, 12 behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you. 13 “I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days. 14 “If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days.” 15 Then Solomon awoke…” He was sleeping. God gave to His beloved, to Jedidiah, in his sleep. I think Solomon is recalling that when he says here, “It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.”

Now, that doesn’t mean that if you have a right relationship with the Lord that he’s going to make you materially wealthy. But he is saying that God will give to you, He will take care of you if you are one of His beloved. Yes, God loves everybody. But He has a special love for those who walk in His ways. And they are called His beloved. God will take care of them.

You don’t need to try to get ahead by waking up at 4 o’clock and going to bed at 11 at night and working all day every day, never taking time out for the other things that God wants you doing besides just your job, never taking time out to just be with the family, to be an example to the kids, to teach them, to be there to discipline them, to take the family to church, to do good things for other people. It is vanity to push all that aside so that you can try to get ahead by working all the time, because God takes care of His beloved. He gives to them even in their sleep. You just try to do the things God wants you to do in your life and He’ll make sure that you have what you need.

Solomon said it again in Proverbs 10:3, “The Lord will not allow the righteous to hunger…” And Jesus said it in Matthew 6 when He said, “Don’t worry about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. If God feeds the birds of the air and clothes the grass of the field, then definitely He will take care of His children. So you seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things that you need will be added to you.”

III. Your kids are a gift from God to you (127:3-5).

This is v3-5. “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. 5 How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate.”

Do you see your kids this way? Not burdens or expenses or responsibilities or interruptions to your life, but gifts to you.

But they are the kind of gifts that you have to do something with in order for them to be all the blessing that they are intended to be. Have you ever gotten one of those gifts for Christmas? It comes in a box with a picture on the front of what it can be, but it says “Assembly Required,” and inside the box are a thousand pieces and an instruction booklet. And you could just focus on the “Assembly Required” part and all the work it’s going to take and think, “Oh thanks a lot. What a chore. What a headache.” But it’s still a nice gift. It’s going to take a little work, but it’s worth it. That’s what kids are.

They are likened here in v4 to arrows in the hand of a warrior. Arrows protect the warrior. With arrows a warrior can defeat his enemies and save his home and gain the glory and spoil of war.

Kids can protect us and bless us in many ways.
1. I learned that even when they’re little they protect you from things, boredom for one thing. There’s rarely ever a dull moment in my house since kids arrived.
2. They give you an excuse to play again. I remember when I was maybe 11 or 12 years old how saddened I was when my parents told me I was too old now to go play in the playplace at McDonalds. I just had to sit there with them and eat and watch my younger siblings play. What a bummer. But you know what? Now I get to go back into the playplace at McDonald’s, because I have kids. They let you in if you have kids. And I’ve got to play on about every playground in town now.
3. They protect us from selfishness. They help shape us into servants as God want us to be. They sure help teach you patience like no other. They’re blessings to shape our character into what God wants it to be.
4. If we work on them when they’re little, then as they get older they can become assistants. They can help you with the chores, with the yard work, with feeding the dog, fixing the car, the family business, whatever you’re doing, you can have helpers.
5. As they get older they protect us from loneliness. We have people to talk with, laugh with, play games with, share holidays with. And they continue to be our helpers.
6. As we get older they can be our care takers. They can return the favor one day when we need them to. Especially in Bible times, kids were your retirement package. They didn’t have Social Security and these deals we have with our employers where we if we work so many years then we still get paid when we retire. They depended on their kids when they got too old to work.
7. And kids are a blessing in that they can enlarge our impact on the world. I kind of see my boys like little soldiers that I’m training to fight the battle for souls when they get older. And I can have a greater impact on the world because God’s given me those kids.

Proverbs 23:24, “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.”

But in order for our kids to be all the blessing they can be it takes some time and work. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 the people of Israel were told, “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” It takes time and effort to do that. Proverbs 13:24, “He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” Which takes time and effort. Proverbs 29:17, “Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul.” But the implication is don’t give the time and effort to correct him, to train him, and he won’t delight your soul, generally speaking.

It’s very common for fathers to pour themselves into their work from early morning until late night and to be too exhausted to do much of anything with the kids. And justification for it is usually, “Well, I’ve got to provide for my family.” But I hear Solomon saying “Don’t do that. God will take care of you when you try to do the things He wants you to do including training those kids. And you don’t need a bunch of money, because you have kids who are a gift from God that can bless you far more money if you will put in the time and work to “assemble them.” So quit working so much and read the instruction booklet and assemble them accordingly. And you’ll be far more blessed that way, than by earning a bunch of money.”

You know, I’ve never met anyone over 65 years old who says, “I wish I had spent more time in the office.” But many do say, “I wish I’d spent more time on those kids, building faith and character in them.”

And then the last principle for this morning (Nothing complicated about it):

IV. Blessed is the man and his family if he fears the LORD and walks in His ways (128:1-4)

That’s Psalm 128:1-4. v1 says, “How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways.”

The fear of the Lord means being afraid of displeasing Him or disappointing Him. It stems from a proper understanding of God. Understanding something of His greatness and His power and His holiness and His anger against sin. And understanding that He is our judge and we will stand before Him and give an account and He will render to each according to their deeds. And it also stems from understanding that He is a Father to us. I Peter 1:17, “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth” It’s not just because He is our judge, but also because He is our Father that we should fear Him. Fathers discipline their children when they misbehave. God will do that. But also good fathers sacrifice and give a great deal for the good of their kids. Children have a great indebtedness to their fathers. And so they ought to be afraid of disappointing him because of how much he has done for them. That’s what Peter says in the next verse. After saying “Since you call Him ‘Father,’ conduct yourselves in fear,” then he says, “knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” God, our Father, has paid an extremely high price to save us. And so we should be terribly afraid of disappointing Him. There is nothing you should fear more in all the world than displeasing God. Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!

And the man who does, because he has a proper view and understanding of God, that man walks in God’s ways. That’s a no-brainer. If you fear the Lord it results in obedience. You walk in His ways. So this man reads his Bible and submits himself to the Bible. He is not violent. He’s not hot tempered. He is not abusive. He’s not unfaithful to his wife. He doesn’t curse. He doesn’t lie. He’s not greedy. And positively, he’s kind, compassionate, prayerful, generous and a doer of good things for other people. And that man is blessed. That man will be the happiest man.

In what ways will he be blessed? v2 and 3 tell us.
#1 this man….

 will eat the fruit of his hands.

Which implies that walking in the ways of the Lord means you work if you can to provide a living for your family. Not overwork. But you work. And he will eat the fruit of his hands. He will have what he needs, in other words, through his good honest work.

#2, it says, this man….

will be happy and it will be well with him.

And he appears to be talking even in this present life. Many think God’s ways are just restrictive, enslaving, that they take the fun and joy out of life, that God is just a big kill-joy who doesn’t want us having too much fun. That’s what Satan has always wanted men and women to believe about God’s commands since the beginning. But far from it. God is a Father to us, who knows a lot of stuff we don’t know and who loves us. And like why you tell your kids not to eat stuff off the floor and brush their teeth and look both ways before crossing the street, God commands are for our own safety and happiness. The only way a man can live a truly happy life is to walk in His ways. That man will avoid a lot self-destructive and addictive behavior. That man will have good relationships with people because He’s kind and humble and honest. That man will feel good about how he’s living his life. He’ll enjoy a clear conscience. He’ll sleep good. He’ll have a sense of meaning and purpose. He’ll have the joy of knowing he has God’s favor, and the blessed assurance that no matter what happens to him God will see him through it, he will be alright.

Then #3 in v3…

 his wife shall be like a fruitful vine within his house.

A fruitful vine in the hot Israel climate was one the most prized possessions. It was considered something beautiful and a source of refreshment and happiness because from it we get tasty grapes and wine. A man who fears God and walks in His ways will likely not have a contentious, bitter, lazy, self-centered wife. He will have a delightful, productive, helpful wife, a wife devoted to the happiness of her husband and family. Makes sense when you consider that walking in the ways of the Lord, means trying to love your wife like Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. This man loves his wife sacrificially, He does what’s good for her even when it hurts. She’ll likely respond as a fruitful vine to him in return. This isn’t always the case. You know the prophet Hosea had a wife he was good to and she was repeatedly unfaithful to him. This is just a general principle. Generally this is the way it will be.

#4, this man’s…

children will be like olive shoots around his table.

If you have “olive plants” in your version it’s literally”olive shoots”in the Hebrew text. Olive shoots are growing into olive trees. And olive trees were one of the greatest natural resources of Israel. They provided shade and beauty, food, olives, and oil that they used for all kinds of things. They’d use the oil to fuel their lamps and they’d use it in cooking and as a healing soothing ointment and as a cosmetic thing good for the skin and in making perfumes. The man who fears the LORD and walks in his ways generally will have kids that grow up to be the olive trees of society; beautiful in character, useful, helpful, just total blessings to everyone around them. Makes sense, because kids generally follow the example of their fathers. I came across an article about church attendance on Wikipedia.org, which I know is not the most reliable source of information. But this is probably true. I’ve heard other things very similar to this. It mentions a study that was done in 2000 which concluded that the church attendance of the father of the family the majority of the time determines the future church attendance of the children. If a father is a regular church attender, between 2/3 and ¾ of time their children will be church goers at least occasionally. If the father is an irregular church goer, if he’s kind hit and miss in his attendance, about half to 2/3 of the time his children will be church goers at least occasionally. If a father does not attend at all, then only 1 in 50 will become a regular church attender. The attendance of his wife doesn’t change the statistics much. It seems often the father is the more dominant influence. We will be a model to our children whether we want to be or not. If we use foul language at home, we shouldn’t be surprised if our kids being to use it. If we blow up in temper tantums at home, we shouldn’t be surprised when they do the same. If we’re stingy in our giving, if we have some unhealthy things we like to do for fun, if worship is not too important to we, if we lie, if our wife is on the phone with someone and we tell her, “Tell him I’m not here”… they watch and listen and pay attention to all those things and they make mental note of it, and odds are they will imitate us. But if man is an olive tree, then chances are his kids will be like olive shoots, growing to be olive trees themselves.
Behold,” says v4, “for thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD.”

Conclusion – If family man will hang on to these 4 principles and live by them, then that coffee mug in his cupboard at home that says “World’s Greatest Dad!” won’t be too much of an exaggeration.

If he lives by the principle that unless the Lord is with him in his efforts, his efforts are in vain. So he makes sure that the Lord approves and that the Lord will be with him in whatever he’s doing so that he’s not laboring in vain.

If he lives by the principle that God will take care of His beloved. So he doesn’t overwork, neglecting the other things God wants him doing in his life.

If he lives by the principle that his children are a gift from God to him. And so he’s investing the time and effort it takes to train them in the way they should go that they might be all the blessing God intends them to be.

And if he lives by the principle that blessed is the man and his family if he fears the LORD and walks in His ways.

– James Williams

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