The Agora
Bible Commentary

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150

Psalm 127

Psa 127:1


OUTLINE: V 1: "Of Solomon": reads like one of his proverbs (cp Pro 8:15; 16:9; 21:30,31). Cp "the Lord's house" in 1Ki 8:27. Vv 2-5: Poss added by Hezekiah.

THE HOUSE: The natural house (beth) is the pattern of the spiritual. The one is built up of natural stones (eben), the other of spiritual sons (ben) and daughters (bath).

The root word "banah" (to build) has begotten a whole family of Hebrew words: "ben" (son), "eben" (stone), "bat" (daughter), "beth" (house). Sons and daughters build up the spiritual "house" as surely as stones and timbers build up a physical building. In Scripture, the physical house or temple is the symbol of the spiritual, which consists of "living stones", or sons and daughters (1Pe 2:4-6; Rev 3:12; Heb 3:6).

RR (in Ways of Providence 70,71) -- after citing various passages that describe God's saving hand, without the help of man (ie, 1Sa 17:45-47; Psa 20:7; 33:16; 127:1; etc) -- says: "There might be a tendency to conclude that, in such a view of matters, human agency is superfluous, and indeed displaced: and that the only thing left for a man to do is just to do nothing, but stand still and see what God will do. Such a view has, in fact, been acted on in many instances. it is a mistaken view altogether, as we have seen in previous chapters [actually, I would say the whole of RR's "Ways of Providence" is the perfect working primer for discussions on the Holy Spirit and man's faith and agency, and how they interact... in short, what God does and what man does!: GB}. It seems to result from one aspect of the matter; but we must not limit our view of any subject to one aspect of the matter. We must take all sides into account. The other side in this case is the revelation that in working with a man, God wills that that man should do his part humbly, faithfully, and diligently, and that God's part should come in as a supplement or addition to what man does. We might pause with profit to consider the admirable wisdom of a principle of action which, while making effectual results depend upon God, admits man to the pleasure of co-operation in the process by which they are worked out, and compels him to perform this advantage-yielding part. Our aim, however, is not so much to discuss the philosophy of God's ways as to exhibit what they are."

Then RR launches immediately into the next illustration of this principle by making the observation: "Israel were made very distinctly to recognize that while they could do nothing if God were not with them, yet God could not, in a sense, do His part unless they did theirs."

Psa 127:2

IN VAIN YOU RISE EARLY: Not to discourage industry or labor, but rather anxious worry (Mat 6:25,34). While the "Gentiles" fret and worry and "burn the midnight oil", juggling accounts to find the funds to build "bigger barns", and to protect the ones they already own, the believer may lay himself down in peace, and sleep. "He that keepeth thee will not slumber" (Psa 121:3-5).

FOOD TO EAT: AV has "the bread of sorrows". This phrase harks back to Gen 3:16,17 -- where the same and similar words are translated "sorrow". A part of the curse upon our first parents was the difficulty with which bread would thenceforth be wrested from the thorny soil. But this labor was a burden to be shouldered, if not joyfully, then at least from a sense of duty: "If any would not work, neither should he eat" (2Th 3:10,12).

And yet, though honorable, though commanded by God, this labor for daily bread is nevertheless in the highest sense "vain". It can at best postpone the day when the "grinders" are finally silenced and the frame of dust shall return to the ground (Ecc 12:3,4,7).

THOSE HE LOVES: Echoes the name "Jedidiah" (2Sa 12:25).

Psa 127:3

Hezekiah's joy at the birth of a son and heir, Manasseh, born after the lengthening of days.

Hezekiah's joy at the birth of a son and heir was very real to him. But this joy is but the faintest echo when compared to that which Christ will experience when he receives his inheritance of "children" (Isa 8:18; 53:10; Psa 22:30,31), born from "wombs" of stone and earth in the great resurrection day.

Psa 127:4

Naturally speaking, as arrows exceed a man's own reach, so children exceed the span of his life -- projecting into the future the father's influence either for good or ill, long after his death. At the same time, they are both a reassurance of a sort of "immortality" and a responsibility to the future.

Children of a man's youth are even more a blessing than those of old age, in that the father may reasonably expect to have more years to influence their development. Though Hezekiah was not particularly young when his son Manasseh was born, he must have felt some of the joys of youth in his miraculous deliverance from death. Consequently he must have also valued his remaining years more than most, having had such a close escape; thus he would see those years as a wonderful opportunity to bring up his child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (But why then does his work seem to have been so fruitless? Or was it?)

(NT) Symbolically, Christ is the gibbor, the mighty man or warrior (RSV), who holds his "seed" as arrows in his hand (cp Zec 9:13,14; Rev 6:2; 19:11-15). They will be his lieutenants by which his judgments (both of sword and word) are executed in the earth, the extensions of his own will. They will be "children of his youth", for Christ will be eternally "young" (as will they).

ARROWS: The righteous are "arrows" in the hand of Jesus: Zec 9:13,14; Rev 6:2; 19:11-15.

Psa 127:5

BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE QUIVER IS FULL OF THEM: When the haughty Rabshakeh stood before the walls of Jerusalem and uttered his blasphemous boasts, "they held their peace and answered him not a word: for the king's commandment was, saying, 'Answer him not' " (2Ki 18:36; Isa 36:21). Significantly, Hezekiah had no children at this time to rebuke the enemies in the gate, and he himself was beset by a fatal disease; so at that time, no such challenge could be offered. But the king and the prophet cast themselves upon the Lord, and the threat was answered by His Angel. And Hezekiah survived his illness and begat a son to continue the Davidic line through him.

It is possible that a more figurative reading of these verses may explain the references to "children" who would "speak with the enemies in the gate": Here "children" is really sons, which can be taken metaphorically as "officers" or "disciples", ie, those emulating the faith of their master (as in Isa 8:18; Heb 2:13). The helpers of Hezekiah, who spoke with the enemies in the gate, are specified in Isa 37:2 and Psa 45:5 (in v 4 "teach" is closely connected in Hebrew with to fire arrows). If this reading is correct, then the "quiver" is the king's cabinet. But if the passage is read with reference only to a natural family, it is difficult to assign any specific meaning to "quiver" here.

"But it is manifest such cannot mean 'full of' children who are indifferent or non-responsive to the instruction of their parents. Children are, indeed, a blessing when they are Timothy-like (2Ti 1:5). Were all children of that character, parents might regret being childless... So cheer up, ye childless ones who may yearn for offspring. Read Rom 8:28, and emulate Paul as pictured in Phi 4:11" (FGJ).

IN THE GATE: (NT) Christ in the "gate" (of judicial proceedings: Deu 21:19; 25:7; Rth 4:1,2), before the Sanhedrin (Mat 26:62,63). Abraham's seed to possess the "gate" of his enemies (Gen 22:17; Rev 1:18; 1Co 15:55,57,58).

His body broken and ready for the cross, Christ stood before his enemies in the "gate" (the traditional place of judicial proceedings: Deu 21:19; 25:7; Rth 4:1,2). "Answerest thou nothing? What is it which these witness against thee?" But Jesus held his peace (Mat 26:62,63). His disciples had fled; there remained none to speak on his behalf (cp Job's plight in Job 5:4). He stood alone and cast himself upon the Father. The Father spoke for him in thunder and earthquake, and the stone was rolled away. His "children", born again through the power of his own resurrection -- men such as Peter -- brought the answer to his adversaries: "This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses... Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:32,36).

Christ had overcome the greatest enemy, Death. As God had promised Abraham, his seed had possessed the gate of his enemies (Gen 22:17). The gate which no man can open, the gate of death, was opened by Christ: "I am he that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of Hades and of death" (Rev 1:18).

So now his "children" are no longer ashamed; they may stand face to face with "the enemy in the gate", and repeat the words of Paul: "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" (1Co 15:55,57,58).

Previous Index Next