True Rest: Psalm 127:1-2


Psalm 127:1-2

 

1  Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake 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 to his beloved sleep.


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A Psalm for the Journey

This is a psalm of ascent, and all the psalms of ascent are related to pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship God. In Old Testament days, such a journey of worship required overcoming very real geographical difficulties to arrive at another place. We can hardly imagine the extreme heat and cold, the wind and rain, the moments the dust storm swirled up to slap against their faces. This was nature’s test of the worshiping heart. Although we have never experienced the difficulties of that journey to Jerusalem, those of us on a pilgrimage to the heavenly Jerusalem also have our faith and worship tested by the reality of our travels.

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“Although we have never experienced the difficulties of that journey to Jerusalem, those of us on a pilgrimage to the heavenly Jerusalem also have our faith and worship tested by the reality of our travels.

Whether you are a young person just entering society or a middle-aged person who has experienced the ups and downs of the workplace, this is the perfect Scripture to respond to our current situation. The word “to build” makes us think of perspiring laborers on a construction site, and also of desk jockeys sitting behind their office computers, worried about performance and competition. It is likely that you are in a situation like this.

Once upon a time, I was inspired by inspirational self-help books on the workplace which preached a gospel of professional success. I thought that, as long as I worked hard enough, a rich life and financial freedom were only a matter of time. However, these two verses help us see that this focus is wrong. Scripture tells us, “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)

Look to the True Builder

The meaning of this passage is that your efforts may well be “in vain,” and all your building and labor may be useless in your life. This judgment is a great offense to those who work hard every day! We do not want our serious and diligent work to be proven worthless, even if our work is that of a preacher serving the church. This Scripture, though, is not denying your work or dedication. This Scripture is reminding us that everything we hold in our hands, everything that we believe to be the fruit of our own effort, is built by the Lord and is a result of his guardianship.

The world uses success, pride, busyness, and anxiety to resist or deny our Creator’s gracious and practical mercy and provision. We shape our identity on boasting of our busyness, and use our refusal to rest to show that we can completely rely on ourselves. Yet the Bible tells us all this is in vain, and is in fact a sign of unbelief in the Lord.

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“This Scripture is reminding us that everything we hold in our hands, everything that we believe to be the fruit of our own effort, is built by the Lord and is a result of his guardianship.

This psalm of ascent reminds us that, in our life’s journey of worship, work and the workplace can hinder our worship. Work is good because, in the book of Genesis, the Lord created placed man and woman in the garden of Eden, commanding them to cultivate and guard it. Yet the sad thing is: not only did sin take humans out of the garden, sin also caused people to work in a way that resists God and relies on themselves.

If your work makes you feel more prideful than ever; if your work causes you to feel overwhelming anxiety; if you are unceasingly busy, day and night, and have no time to rest – heed the wisdom of Scripture. Stop immediately, shift your focus, and look to the One who truly builds and maintains. He “gives to his beloved sleep.” In the Lord, you will find true rest.

Nathanael is a pseudonym for a young urban church planter who lives in eastern China. 

 

PRAYER

Lord God,

You created the heavens and the earth, and lead us to rest. We give thanks to you. You are the Lord of work, and you call us into your own work. But sin has torn our relationship, and the attitude we should have toward our work.

We should be faithful and diligent in our work, and serve and worship you faithfully and diligently. Instead, we seek our own value by our own work. We forget to worship you, and work often takes your place in our lives. “The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply.”  We are often so worried and troubled. Lord, we ask you to forgive our sins!

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“Remove our idolatrous worship of material vanity; remove from us the bondage of comfort and ease so the good news of true rest proclaimed in the gospel may be spread.

Lord, too many young people on this earth have lost their way because of their work, making it their whole life. It has torn apart marriages and families, the intimacy between fathers and sons, and has separated believers from the worship they owe to you. The pandemic and the overall over-prevention of the zero-Covid policy has put the hearts of the people to a severe test of their reliance on self and work. Even still, not all of them can find true rest and rest in the gospel. We pray for you to heal the land through the unhindered proclamation of the gospel. Remove our idolatrous worship of material vanity; remove from us the bondage of comfort and ease so the good news of true rest proclaimed in the gospel may be spread.

We pray for the blessing and encouragement of those who work diligently, but we also pray they may understand that while it is their duty to be diligent, only in the hands of the Lord are they built up and made whole.  May believers truly live out their commitment, and may we face today’s material life or turbulent times without fear. We pray in Jesus’s name. Amen.

   


We are using the Psalms to guide our prayers for China

In 2022, our prayer movement is turning to the scriptural prayers found in the Psalms as we pray for the Chinese church. When you join our prayer movement, you will receive weekly prayer emails and a monthly newsletter so that you too can pray for our brothers and sisters in China.

  

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Further Reading

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Qingdao: How to Pray
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Qingdao: Locals and Outsiders
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Qingdao: Good Soil for the Gospel
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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