Summary: Robert Burns wrote a poetic apology to a mouse for having destroyed its home. How often are we like that mouse when we try to leave God out? What does the Psalmist have to say about finding balance between faith and effort? Check out these thoughts from our Family Minister, Scott Jewell

There’s a popular saying that goes, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Where does this saying come from? Many attribute this to John Steinbeck’s book- Of Mice and Men, written in 1937. He actually got the title from a poem by Robert Burns- To a Mouse, written in 1786. Burns wrote this poem to apologize to a mouse because when he plowed his field in preparation for planting season, he destroyed the mouse’s nest. So often, like this mouse, we make plans on our own without consideration of what God may want in that circumstance.

We’ve spent this month looking at some of the songs of God. The first week we looked at how God’s love for us is expressed in creation, the scriptures, and, most importantly, Jesus. Last week we learned to express our love for God through worship and service. This week, we’re finding the balance between the two- trusting God as we put forth effort in this life. Doing so helps us to leave a legacy for our children.

The psalmist begins with three spheres of life in which we often struggle to give God control. The first sphere is faith. Typically when we read this psalm, we begin with this mental image of someone constructing a house for their family. I believe the psalmist had the house of God in mind as he penned these words. If you look at the notations at the beginning of the psalm, you’ll see two things- “A Song of Ascents” and “Of Solomon.”

The Songs of Ascent are a set of 15 psalms, this one is right in the center, that were sung by Jews on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem for any of the three major annual festivals. They may also have been sung by the priests as they climbed the 15 steps leading up to the temple in preparation for the sacrifices. People sang this song with the temple in mind as they approached God’s house.

The notation “of Solomon” has scholars believing either Solomon wrote this psalm around the time he built the first temple or David wrote the psalm as a reminder to his son about the importance of keeping God central as the temple was built. In fact, as we see in 1 Chronicles 17 & 22, David had wanted to build the temple himself- he had a beautiful palace and God had a tent, but God told him no. God wanted a king of peace to build the temple.

With that context in mind, let’s look at the opening of the psalm again. Unless God builds the house, the workers labor in vain. Bumper sticker theology reveals a lot about where people are at. Consider the COEXIST bumper stickers that are out there. Each letter is formed by a symbol that represents a different world religion. Their point is that all religions are equal so we should just leave well enough alone and respect each other’s viewpoints. In contrast, there is now a CONTRADICT bumper sticker, again using symbols of a variety of religions. The print underneath states, “They can’t all be right” with reference to John 14:6. That’s where Jesus proclaims, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” When it comes to faith, we need to work hand in hand with God and follow His way.

Notice the balance in this verse- God builds the house, but the workers still labor. Our youth have been studying the book of Ephesians. We were looking at Paul’s description of salvation in chapter 2. I believe Jack Cottrell sums it up nicely with this expression- “We are saved by grace through faith at baptism for good works. God does the saving, but we still do our part. We can’t save ourselves, but do good works out of gratitude for having been saved so that others might see our good works and praise God.

The second sphere in Psalm 127 is that of safety. “Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. The role of the watchman in Jerusalem was to watch over the gates and wall of the city, keeping an eye out for enemies, wild animals, or any other dangers to the city. I liken it to our police today. They may not be looking for enemy troops, but they keep an eye out for criminal activity so that we can rest well at night and deserve our respect for taking on this task.

Again we see this idea of balance of trusting in God for our safety, but also needing to keep watch and act on our instincts. I believe the church at large has developed a saying that appears to be biblical, yet isn’t, and therefore does more harm than good. That saying is that we need to “forgive and forget.” Now, we definitely need to forgive, the Bible is very clear about that. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us we need to forgive as God has forgiven us and if we don’t, God won’t forgive us. Frankly, forgiving is as much for ourselves as it is for the guilty party. When we don’t forgive, we leave them in control. We hold on to what they’ve done and become bitter and angry, sometimes even choosing to not go places knowing they’ll be there- we’ve given them control over our lives. Definitely forgive and take that control back.

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