The Step of Duty - Part II
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Psalm 127. We have been studying the book of Psalms from a devotional standpoint, and we have selected that portion of the book of Psalms beginning with Psalm 120 and concluding with Psalm 134. We have been pleased to call this study the “Pilgrim's Staircase.” It is not with the idea that you can climb to Heaven, but after you come to know the Savior you certainly can grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

There should be new heights which Christians should gain every day. We are not suggeting a calendar day when we make that statement, but there should be certain steps in growth in relation to our Christian experience.

In our last lesson we stood upon the Step of Duty. It is described for us in Psalm 126. It is a step of duty–the responsibility which rests upon you and upon me as believers in the light of the wonderful things which God has done for us.

We discussed the Step of Duty from the human standpoint. In Psalm 126 we read:

Psalms 126

6He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

We learned that if we go out bearing precious seed, “weeping” (being concerned), we shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing our sheaves with us.

From a Divine Standpoint

If we continued from this Step of Duty to the next step, we wouldn't have the whole story. We might be inclined to think that all the responsibility rested upon us. We might be inclined to think that everything depended upon what we do. And so in this lesson we will tarry a little longer on this Step of Duty. We are going to examine it from the divine side instead of the human side. That is why I have asked you to turn to Psalm 127. Notice the words, please:

Psalms 127

1Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
2It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
3Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
4As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
5Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

As we meditate upon this psalm I suggest to you that, before we leave this Step of Duty upon which we are resting at the moment, there is a realization to which we must come. If I were going to sum it up, I would say that we must come to the realization that man is insufficient within himself. We must come to the realization that human effort without God is nothing more than vanity.

Man Contrasted With God

In order to do this, I would like to suggest that we look at a threefold picture of man and a threefold picture of God which the Holy Spirit offers us in this psalm by way of contrast.

Man as a Worker

Glance back at the psalm as I suggest to you that man is presented as a worker, for we read in verse 1:

Psalms 127

1Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it……

Someone is building in this verse. And so we can say to you that man is a worker. He is given to building. He is given to construction.

That is good, but I want you to notice in verse 1 again two words, “build” and “labour.” The man in this verse is building, but he is also labouring. It is the word “labour” that interests us at the moment. He is not enjoying what he is doing. He doesn't like it. He has to do it, but there is no real joy of completion related to it. It is a job, and it is worse than he thought it would be when he got into it. If he had half a chance he would get out of it.

I wonder if I am talking about you? Perhaps you are doing something for the Lord, but you are not really enjoying it. Somehow you go into it and, oh, you are building. What you are doing is good and constructive, but it is an irksome thing to you. It may be irksome for many different reasons. Maybe you don't know if you will be able to succeed in the task in which you are engaged.

Man as a Watchman

Now, there is another picture of a man. It is described by the word “watchman.” Look at verse 1 again:

Psalms 127

1…….. except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

The word we are interested in, which describes the watchman, is the word “waketh.” This is a word which suggests a man fighting to stay awake. He is a watchman and he is watching the city but he doesn't even take time out for the rest that he ought to have. He feels like everything depends upon him and he dare not fall asleep. He feels if he does fall asleep, everything will go to pieces. He doesn't know the meaning of the word relaxation. He is on his toes all the time, but nature demands that he have some rest and yet he won't take it. He feels like he must go that extra mile and so like many of us, he does what he can to keep awake. He doesn't realize the danger of it, and he doesn't realize that he could do a whole lot better if he relaxed a little, because it doesn't all depend upon him like he thinks it does.

Man as a Worrier

Now, the third picture of a man in this psalm is one that I am going to call the “worrier.” There is the “worker,” there is the “watchman,” and there is the “worrier.” He is described in verse 2:

Psalms 127

2It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.

You will recognize that all of these words are tainted with the word “vain.” Here is a man who is a worrier. How do I know that he is a worrier? Because he gets up early, he sits up late, and he eats the bread of sorrows. We are not suggesting that you shouldn't work. We are not suggesting that you shouldn't work long hours. We are suggesting that you don't have to rise up early and you don't have to sit up late to work at anxious toil. Because you are a worrier, you are always worrying about those things that you think will come but never do.

God a Skilled Craftsman

Now I would like for you, by way of contrast, to look with me at the threefold picture of God that the Holy Spirit presents in this psalm to offset this threefold pictured of man that I have just described for you.

Let me suggest that God is presented in this passage as a skilled craftsman. Look again at verse 1, and notice the phrase “except the LORD build the house.” Look at the word “build,” as I suggest to you that it is a translation of a Hebrew word which means “to set up securely and surely.”

You see, here is the workman, an ordinary human being. He is building, but he is not sure whether the foundation is good. He is not sure that the superstructure is what it ought to be. He doesn't know but when the first snow storm comes that the roof won't fall in. He is in a constant state of irksomeness because he isn't sure.

What he needs to recognize is that if he would go into partnership with God, Who, being a skilled craftsman can set the foundation surely and securely; and there will be no danger at all of the roof falling in.

Able to Guard

Let me suggest to you another picture. God is not only a skilled craftsman, but He is also able to guard the city. Notice the last part of verse 1 again:

Psalms 127

1……. except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

The watchman is struggling to stay awake and is not sure that he will be able to guard the city properly. What he needs to do is to take the Lord into partnership and let the Lord keep the city.

A Sympathizing Sustainer

Notice the word “keep” in verse 1. We also studied this word in Psalm 121. Keep in mind what we learned in Psalm 121:

Psalms 121

3……. he that keepeth thee will not slumber.

Instead of being worried about what is going to happen if you fall asleep, you take the Lord into partnership. You and I may have to fight to stay awake, but our God doesn't need any sleep. If we would listen to Him we would find that He is a sympathizing sustainer. And that is the third picture I want you to get. He is a skilled craftsman; He is a sleepless sentinel; and He is a sympathizing sustainer.

He Giveth Sleep

Did you notice in the last part of verse 2 the phrase, “for so he giveth his beloved sleep”? He loves to do that. He says to you and to me in so many words, “Now, I don't need any sleep and there is no point in both of us staying awake, so why don't you relax and rest and have your strength renewed.”

Beloved, you are His Beloved. He wants to give you sleep if you will let Him. So tonight, instead of lying awake worrying about a decision you made that maybe wan't a right decision, let Him stay awake and worry about it. Tonight, instead of worrying about whether or not you will get enough business tomorrow to pay your bills and to take care of your family, say to the Lord, “Good night Lord, you make the plans; I'll be ready to work tomorrow.” Let Him take care of the situation.

If you are concerned and burdened about your children and you are wondering about the outcome in relation to them, go to sleep tonight and ask the Lord to overrule whatever mistakes you made today. Ask Him to give you the wisdom you need tomorrow, but you sleep tonight. You let Him stay awake. You let Him work.

An Inescapable Responsibility

Now, you may be thinking, “Why did you bring children into this?” Because the Holy Spirit does. Notice what is recorded in the last part of Psalm 127:

Psalms 127

3Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
4As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
5Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

As you meditate with me upon those three verses, I suggest to you that there is not only the realization to which we must come about which we have been speaking, but there is a responsibility which we must assume.

Let me say it again. There is a responsibility that we must assume. We have found it a happy privilege, but not everyone has. So I will say to you whether you have found it to be a happy privilege or not, it is a responsibility that you cannot escape if you are addressed in this particular psalm.

I am talking to you about the other side of the Step of Duty. Oh yes, I have talked to you about the fact that you have your part to do in going out and God has His part to do on the divine side. But we have to look at it from another standpoint. In Psalm 126 we talked to you about going out. In Psalm 127, we are talking to you about staying at home. In Psalm 126 you go out. In Psalm 127 you stay in.

Psalm 126 tells us we are interested in other peoples' children. In Psalm 127 we are told to be interested in our own children. In all probability in applying Psalm 126 you will get more glory and a certain amount of satisfaction in seeing the work done because you are measuring the work done so often by what is done in one or two contacts.

You don't get any credit for staying home, not at all. No one even knows that you do. You don't get much praise for staying home.

I want to lift that illustration a little higher and say to you that you are not going to get much praise for the ministry that you carry on with your own children. You are not going to get much praise for it, but (notice carefully) you will get a lot of criticism. You will be blamed soundly for every indication there may be in your child's life that it is not as effective a work as it might be.

Yet, I want to say to you, as we look at this other side of the Step of Duty, that not only is the greatest responsibility you will ever have to face lying on your own dorrstep, but the greatest privilege you will ever enjoy is the ministry which is committed to your care in relation to your own children.

Children an Heritage of the Lord

If you come to accept this responsibility, there are three things in this psalm that you are going to have to realize. First of all I want to talk to you about the source of children. Oh, you say, you know how children get here. I'm not talking about the biological aspect. I'm talking about the source of children that is given to us in verse 3:

Psalms 127

3Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

Beloved, this verse of Scripture says that children are an heritage of the Lord. They are a legacy. Some people do not treat their children as a legacy. They treat their children as a necessary evil. They treat their children as a result of a biological carelessness, not as a legacy.

Beloved, our children are a legacy from the Lord. They are His possession and they are entrusted to us as a very sacred trust. I would emphasize again that there is nothing more important than they are. There is nothing that should take any more of your attention than they take.

Now think with me. Often a mother, who, when her child comes in to her with a question that may seem irksome to her, but important to the child, pushes her child off to the side because she has the dishes to do. Let me let you in on a little secret. The dishes are not nearly as important as that little child and his question.

Often a father, who, when his son comes to him and wants a little attention, is too busy making money to pay bills instead of giving his son the attention that he needs. Ten years from that time he will wish that he had given his son that attention. He is honest; he is sincere; he has a job to do, but let me tell you something, Friend. If necessary, feed your family beans, clothe them in sacks, and let them live in a shack, but don't neglect to give your child the attention that he needs. Why? Because children are a legacy.

Have you looked upon your children as a legacy? Beloved, the Word of God says, “Except the Lord build the house, they lahbour in vain that build it.” I'd like to suggest to you that we are still on the subject, because the word “house” in this verse may also be translated “family.” Except the Lord build the family, they labour in vain that build it.

Responsibility of Child Training

Another thing that you must realize if you accept this responsibility is not only the source of children, but the training of children. Look, please, at verses 4 and 5 again where we read:

Psalms 127

4As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
5Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

There are many object lessons in the Bible related to children. In these verses the Spirit of God has been pleased to consider children as arrows in the hand of a might man. Now He makes one definite statement about these arrows. He says, “Happy, blessed, is the man who has his quiver full of them.”

Is your quiver full? It is possible that an individual will have his quiver full with one child. It is possible that two or three will fill it. It is possible that more will fill it. If you deliberately refuse to have children because of your own selfishness, you couldn't be pleasing the Lord.

Is your quiver full? If your quiver is full, you'd better begin to examine each one individually. For if you follow what the Bible has to say about a might man and arrows in Scripture, you'll find several things.

You'll find, for example, that a man never reaches into his quiver, pulls out an arrow, puts it into his bow, and lets it fly. He examines each arrow very carefully. If there is a rough place on that arrow, he smooths out the rough place. If the arrow is bowed a little bit, he'll put it in certain treatment that will straighten it before he ever puts the arrow to the bow. Do you know what the Bible says about a mighty man and his arrows? They never return in vain. They always hit their mark.

That is what God wants you and me to think about in relation to the training of our children. He wants us to realize that they will need training. They will need polishing. They will need cleaning and sharpening. And you see, the arrows don't come that way.

Some of the greatest blessings that my wife and I have had, have been in shaping the arrows. Some of the greatest blessings we have had have been in making the arrows clean and sharp. Some of the greatest blessings we have had have been sanding off the rough places. Some of the richest blessings we have had have been putting the arrow back straight.

Satisfaction Related to Children

You may think that it would be wonderful if when children were born, all you had to do was to enjoy them, but that isn't true. The blessings come when you make the arrows ready for the bow. Could it be that you are so busy building the house and watching the city and eating the bread of sorrows that you have forgotten about the arrows in your quiver?

If so, I beg of you to reconsider so that you will be able to recognize the third thing. You need to recognize the source of children. You need to recognize the need for training children. And you need to look forward to enjoying the satisfaction of parents in relation to their children. Notice verse 5 again:

Psalms 127

5Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

Notice that last statement, “they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” That is another way of saying that the arrows of a mighty man never return void. The phrase “they shall speak with the enemies in the gate” is an Old Testament way of describing a position of importance and trust.

These children grew up into young manhood and they were appointed to positions of responsibility. As they stood at the gates of the city, any enemy that came had to deal with them. Anything that needed to be settled by way of dispute was settled at the gate. They reached their mark.

I want to say to you that the greatest satisfaction in life is not making a fortune. Do you know that? The greatest satisfaction in life isn't having a successful business. The greatest satisfaction in life is seeing the arrow reach the mark after you have shaped it, put it to the bow, and aimed it. That is where the satisfaction comes.

I'm sure that if you talk to parents who have recognized this truth, everyone of them will tell you of this satisfaction. I've had a great many things in my life, a great many pleasure, but the greatest pleasure I ever had is seeing my child, in young adulthood, reaching the mark.

Beloved, there isn't enough money in all the world to pay for that kind of satisfaction. We are on the Step of Duty. I have been talking to you about the other side of it now. And I hope that you remember that you need to witness. Don't forget that! But, I hope you won't forget to stay at home when you need to.


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