Unless the Lord builds the house…

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Psalm 127: 1 Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain. 2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.

This psalm alludes to the issue of “agency”, which Webster defines as:

“a person or thing through which power is exerted or an end is achieved”

We human beings often imagine ourselves as having “agency” when we really don’t. In John 5 Jesus said, “The Son only does what he sees the Father doing”. In other words, Jesus only pursued the things in which he perceived the grace of God the Father going ahead of him. It’s perhaps a key reason why he spent so much time in prayer. I can imagine him praying something like, “Father, give me eyes to see and ears to hear where you are leading.”

Again in Luke 10 Jesus sent 70 disciples in pairs to various villages where he might preach, teach, and heal. He told them to look for persons who would welcome them, receive them, invite them into their homes – sometimes referred to as “persons of peace”. If the disciples encountered a person of peace in a particular village, they would remain there and prepare for Jesus’ visit. If they didn’t encounter a person of peace, no matter how promising the village seemed on paper, they scratched that name off their list and moved on. Why? Because if God’s grace hadn’t gone ahead of them, all their effort would be wasted.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

What are you building right now? A career? A family? A business? A church? What evidence do you see that God’s grace is going ahead of you in your endeavors? Have you asked the Lord to lead the way in the first place? If you haven’t, that makes you “normal”. In this case, normal is not good.

Lord, many of us think we have great ideas, and perhaps we do. Yet these verses remind us who has ultimate agency. Give us grace to submit our endeavors to you. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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