A song of ascents. Of Solomon.
1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
3 Sons are a heritage from the Lord,
children a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate.
Here are a couple of observations that I had never really thought about until I pondered this week….
1) What exactly is a “Song of Ascent?” – There are 15 Psalms that claim this designation (Ps 120-134). And there are quite a few explanations as to what this means. There does not seem to be a clear consensus, but this one gets as much press as any of them and I like it best:
The word ‘ascent’ means a step, or an upwards climb.
God’s law includes a rule that Jewish men should go to Jerusalem for the sacred holidays each year. There are three such occasions, called the Feast of Unleavened Bread, The Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 16:16).
Probably, these songs were for the men to sing as they travelled. Of course, they did not have modern methods of transport. Most of them walked. And as they walked, they sang these songs.
Their journey might take 3 or 4 days, or longer, if they were from the north of Israel.
Some of the journey had to be uphill, because Jerusalem is at the top of a hill. That is why these are the songs of “ascent” (an upwards climb).
2) The Psalm is “of Solomon” – Many interpreters believe the Psalm was written by David for his son Solomon. Did you know that at his birth Solomon was given the name “Jedidiah” by the prophet Nathan? (see 2 Samuel 12:25). Jedidiah means “loved by God.” There is a veiled reference to Solomon (Jedidiah) in verse 2 of the Psalm – “for he grants sleep to those he loves.”
3) My main takeaway from the Psalm – Comes from verses 1-2. “Unless the Lord…” One of the main things that differentiates Christianity from all religions (note that I did not say “all other religions” because Christianity is not a religion) is that Christianity is based on what God does (and has done in Christ) and religions are based on what people do. These verses are a reminder of that. We can do whatever we want BUT “unless the Lord” is the builder, watcher, boss, manager, coach, owner… then all the work will be in vain. Much better to join God in His great work than to hope, often futilely that God will bless what we consider our great work.
Next Weeks: Okay I am going to take the rest of the year off from blogging – not pondering, so that I can get prepared and re-energized for next year. I may slip a post or two in about my family and new grandson. For those of you who read this thing, thanks for your encouragement and support along the way. See you in a month or so.