Ps. 127 A Song of mAscents. Of Solomon.
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD xwatches 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 ytoil; for he gives to his zbeloved asleep. Behold, bchildren are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of da warrior are the children1 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 ein the gate.
Embedded in these words is a biblical concept called “covenant.” God made covenant with Abraham and promised to be his God, and the God of his children after him, that his descendants would be as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore, and as glorious and numerous as the stars of the heavens. In fact, God promised that through Abraham’s children, all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:3, 21:17-18).
A covenant is an agreement between two or more persons, with attendant blessings and curses – blessings for keeping the terms of the covenant, curses for breaking covenant. God made covenant with Abraham and then renewed that covenant with Israel at Mt. Sinai. While God called his people to obedience, He always called them first to faith. Abraham believed God and it was imputed to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6). Even the Ten Commandments begin with a statement of salvation: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage…” The only way to obey God rightly is to first trust God fully.
And so we see the same thing here in this Psalm. Children are a heritage of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. But we do not build families in our own strength. Unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. Apart from the covenant blessing of God, we can do nothing. If God is not with us, all our attempts at family and community are worthless. But if God is with us, nothing and no one can stand against us.
But we are fallen and sinful, and no man or woman keeps covenant perfectly. We are all covenant breakers in Adam, and we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The wages of sin is death, and so we all deserve to die. And when we come to a funeral, we come face to face with the curse of sin, the curse of covenant breaking. Often, when we come to a funeral of a loved one, there can be many regrets. Perhaps you regret things that were said, or things left unsaid, or the way things were left. There may be a sense that certain things were unresolved or there may have been tensions in the family or old sins or grievances never completely addressed. A funeral in this world can amplify weaknesses, regrets, and failures. And yet, we are here as Christians to ask for God’s blessing on this moment, on this family, and on all who knew Mrs. DeBoer. But the question staring us in the face is: How can a just God who promises to punish covenant breakers, nevertheless bless covenant breakers?
How can we ask for the blessing of Psalm 127 when the wages of sin is death? The answer is that we must have another covenant, a greater covenant. We must have a covenant of grace. We must have a covenant that is perfectly kept. And so we do: Jesus is the head of the New Covenant. Every covenant must have a head, a representative. The Old Covenant head was Adam, and so we have all been born under the curses of that broken covenant, and therefore it is appointed to every man to die once (Heb. 9:27). But the New Covenant head is Jesus, and He has volunteered to represent all who trust in Him. He has been perfectly faithful to the terms of the covenant. In fact, He has been faithfully obedient even to the point of death, even the cursed death of the Cross. And because He has fulfilled the terms of Adam’s covenant, dying for our disobedience, receiving the fullness of the curse we deserved, all who trust in Him are granted the status of covenant keepers. This was the righteousness reckoned to Abraham a couple thousand years before Jesus came.
How could Abraham believe that God would bless his family with descendants like sand and stars, that through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed? How could Abraham, a frail, sinful man possibly receive such a heavy blessing? Only by believing that God would somehow uphold both sides of the covenant. In other words, only by believing that God would build his house, by believing that God would watch over his city. God would have to do it. And so God did in the person of His own well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
This is how we ask for the blessing of Psalm 127 on this moment, on this family, on this legacy. We ask for it by faith in Jesus Christ alone. He has been perfectly faithful, and if we are in Him, we stand perfectly righteous before the throne of God. And we are summonsed to come boldly. We come clothed in our covenant head, we come in His name, in His obedience, in His covenant faithfulness. And therefore, we may ask God boldly for the covenant blessings of that obedience. And so we do that now.
We ask that God would be pleased to continue building this family, this house, this legacy, and that He would watch over this city. We ask for fruitfulness to continue, with children and grandchildren and great-grand children that love the Lord and walk with Him all their days. We ask for boldness and courage that they might stand in the gates and speak with our enemies under the blessing of the living God and never be put to shame. We ask that the legacy of this woman, a dear daughter of the covenant, would be mercy and truth, to a thousand generations.
And so may we rest in the covenant care of our covenant-keeping God. We do not eat the bread of anxious toil; for He gives His beloved sleep. And so we trust that Tressa DeBoer is resting safely in the presence of her covenant Lord, and so we rest secure in that same mighty care.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.