The Latin motto Nisi Dominus Frusta has adorned the coat of arms of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland since 1647. The meaning is “Without the Lord, frustration,” and it is taken from the first line of Psalm 127:1– “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” The sentiment accurately portrays the outcome of one who seeks to navigate this life apart from his Creator. The emphasis of this Psalm, however, is not on the individual but on the home. Imagine the frustration and heartache that would result from dedicating large sums of time and money toward constructing a home only to see it destroyed by a natural disaster. Infinitely greater is the tragedy that unfolds whenever a home is built by someone or something other than the Lord. Such a home is destined to falter.
In five verses, Solomon outlines the blessings that result from allowing Jehovah to construct and defend our homes. When the Lord build’s the house it includes…
Building (1a) Every structure must be built upon a solid foundation, and so must the home. Too many in our world build their homes upon foundations that are weak. Things like lust, convenience, and materialism often serve as the basis upon which families rest. Homes such as these are like the foolish man’s and are destined to fall under the weight of the storm (Matt. 7:26-27). But the homes which God builds are like the wise man’s and stand firm regardless of how fierce the storm becomes (Matt. 7:24-25).
When the Lord builds a home, He builds it upon the foundation of His Will. Consider the occasion of Matthew 19:1-9. The Pharisees came to Jesus seeking to ensnare Him and asked, “is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason” (Matt. 19:3)? Jesus was not interested in toeing the party line on the matter. Instead, He pointed their attention to the garden and reminded them of God’s original intention for marriage–one man and one woman united in the covenant relationship of marriage for life (Matt. 19:4-6). God’s will for every home is that it consists of a man and a woman who are eligible to enter into the marriage relationship. Both leave father and mother and cleave to one another as a new family unit, that they may grow and serve the Lord together (Ps. 34:3).
Additionally, just as a structure is composed of many parts, so God constructs a family of many parts. The Bible identifies a number of Christian characteristics that ought to be present in every home. Peter wrote, “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another, love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing…” (1 Pet. 3:8-9). Though written in a context of relationships within the body of Christ, consider how each of those characteristics ought to be present within members of a family. We must “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). Love, compassion, kindness, longsuffering, self-control, purity, sound speech, and every other Christian character trait enjoined on God’s people ought to be present in the DNA of every home.
Guarding (1b) The Devil knows that the home is a sacred place. He knows that our most tender moments happen at home and that it is the place where we can be at our most vulnerable. Within the walls of our homes, we raise our children and teach them to love the Lord and follow His will. At home we make important decisions that impact the direction of our families. The home is the building block of society and even of the church. Therefore, the Devil puts forth every effort to attack it. He seeks to infiltrate it in many ways and thus we must always be on guard. Thankfully, God has not left us alone in this endeavor. Not only does He build, He also protects.
On old athletic truism is that the best defense is a good offense. This truth applies to guarding and protecting our homes as well. In Matthew 12:43-45 Jesus said,
When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.
The lesson of this context is that of filling the void. The unclean spirit leaving the man left a void which should have been filled with truth and things of a spiritual nature. Doing so would have left no room for the unclean spirit to return. Regarding our homes, the best way to guard against the Devil’s advances is to fill every occupiable space with righteousness so that no room is left for wickedness. Reading and studying God’s Word together as a family, worshipping and serving the Lord together, prioritizing spiritual things as a family–these are all practices that should be present in every Christian home and will guard against the enemy.
Enjoying (2) The world moves at a fast pace and we struggle to keep up. Too many families run themselves ragged working and worrying about making ends meet, saving for retirement, and providing the necessities of life. In the process, we take no time to enjoy the blessing of the family God has provided. Psalm 127:2 says, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: For so He gives His beloved sleep.” Solomon is not suggesting that working to earn a living is vanity. His point is that working and worrying ourselves to death over it is vanity. Instead, we should trust in the Lord and take time to enjoy our family.
In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus commanded that we lay up treasure in heaven, and not on earth. It is easy to imagine a father sitting in the audience thinking about his family and wondering how to reconcile what Jesus commanded with his need to provide for his home. To this Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ (Matt. 6:31). Rather, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). The Psalmist said
Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord (Ps. 128:1-4).
It is true that we must work to provide for our family, for “if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). But it is also true that God provides for His people and so we must trust Him and enjoy His provision.
Conserving (3-5) One of America’s great tragedies is the low view that so many have of children. The abortion industry is a grotesque reminder of the perverted view of family in the eyes of many in our country. To the writer of Psalm 127, abortion would have been unthinkable because children are a joy and a blessing from the Lord, not a burden. It does no good to build and care for houses if there are no future generations to inhabit them. Thus, the emphasis of these passages is two-fold: thank God for our children and teach them to honor God as their Creator.
In the ancient world arrows were primarily a long-distance offensive weapon. Their effectiveness depended upon the strength and skill of the archer. Similarly, the godly influence of a man can live on through his children once his time on earth is over. God commands parents to teach their children (Deut. 6:4-6; Eph. 6:4) so that they may learn to love and obey the Lord. Our commitment to fulfilling this command makes it possible for godliness to exist from generation to generation. As Paul commanded Timothy, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).
Conclusion: Life is short and the time we have with our children at home is even shorter. It would be tragic indeed to look back over 20 plus years of parenting with sorrow and regret because of misplaced priorities and an insistence of allowing everything and everyone but God build our home. Remember the words of Jesus, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock” (Matt. 7:24-25). Heed the cry of Psalm 127 and allow the Lord to be the builder of your house.