Have you ever felt like there were relatively few verses in the Bible dedicated to child-rearing? We can find powerful overarching principles (like the importance of teaching our children God’s word, Deut. 11:19) but few passages that help us with “parenting techniques.”
Honestly, in all my searching for good parenting advice and scriptural principles, for a long time I missed the fact that there is an entire chapter—an entire psalm—that is dedicated to the topic of building a home. Although short, it’s one of those foundational psalms like Psalm 1, Psalm 2, or Psalm 19, that gives valuable insight to the way the world works and the key principles to remember in the middle of difficulties.
Maybe you’ve read Psalm 127 that way before, but I had always separated the first half from the second. Verse 3 seemed to come out of nowhere. Now, however, as a parent, I see more clearly the beautiful and unified message of this psalm.
The Holman Concise Bible Commentary says, “This psalm acclaims the value of family life under God.” And for those of us in the trenches of parenting, as well as for those struggling with when and why they should start a family, these are principles that we need to cling to.
Psalm 127 (ESV)
“A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”
As I study the psalms, I find it helpful to write paraphrases for myself. The one I wrote for Psalm 127 is a personal meditation on my own struggles, but I hope it can help other parents out there:
A Personal Paraphrase of Psalm 127:
“An uplifting song, for remembering as we ascend, by Solomon
If I set up myself (rather than the LORD) as the boss of my home, I’m working for nothing. If I try to watch over my children and prevent everything that could go wrong, without trusting God’s care over them, I’m guarding them in a useless way.
I can give every ounce of energy and every moment of my time to my family, working constantly, but it will all be in vain if I’m not looking to God, submitting to Him, and relying on His grace. He loves me because I am His child, and He wants me to rest, not furiously move from one task to another.
You—the one working so hard, worried all the time—what do you think about your children? Do you consider them to be an inheritance, a legacy, a prize, a wonderful gift? (Or do you think of them mainly as the source of endless labor and an obstacle to the things you really want to do?)
God has sent these children to you as a good gift. You didn’t create these precious ones—He did, and He gave them to you. Someday, you will see them for what they truly are—tools for God’s work, protection for you, and an indispensable support for your real work in the world, spiritual warfare.
God will bless His children through their children. God will work through these families, using them to support each other as they work together on His great mission.”
As we pray for God’s wisdom in guiding our children, let’s not miss this foundational song about parenting. I want it to form my basic understanding of who my children are, and how God is working through them and through me.
Garrett, D. A. The Poetic and Wisdom Books. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman Concise Bible Commentary (p. 232). Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1998.