Humility Reaching (Psalm 127:1, 2)
Topic: Psalms Passage: Psalm 127:1–127:2
Psalm 127:1, 2
(One Truth: Walk in Truth)
April 10th, 2016
I. The Necessary Ingredients
A number of years ago, when we lived in east-central Phoenix and were thinking about doing an addition to our house, I went down to Home Depot Pro and took advantage of an estimation service they offer.
There was a little old man, who sits in this estimation office all day long, looking at blueprints, and figuring what materials will be needed to completer the project and how much those materials will cost. Now this is in addition to all of the other services they provide; and of course their hope is that it will be in concert with all the other services they provide: if you need the materials, the store can provide them for you. If you need the right tools for the job, they have them. And then, if you need someone to build your project, they can provide a contractor for you.
Home Depot wants to be a one-stop retail outlet, where everything you need to build a house is available. But this morning, I’d like to talk about one crucial element that Home Depot has overlooked and cannot ever provide when it comes to building a house. Turn with me to Psalm 127.
If you were with us last time, then you may remember that we've started a new series exploring what the Bible tells us about the subject of humility. While it is not, never has, and never will be a popular subject in our society, listen again to just two verses that remind us about the importance of humility in God's economy:
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
But you may recall that this study is not just about humility as an abstract concept, but humility in the everyday. What should humility look like in your everyday life. As I mentioned last time, there is a big difference in how I feel when when I eat junk food compared to when I eat healthy foods. So what does it look like and feel like to live on a diet of 'humble pie”?
II. The Passage: "Unless the LORD" (127:1, 2)
That's precisely the question we want to bring to the opening verses of Psalm 127 this morning. Let's look at what they teach us and consider how they connect back to the topic of humility. Psalm 127, verses 1 and 2...
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.  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.
The psalmist reminds us here of a critical element we did not mention when it comes to building a house, an element Home Depot will never factor in: the Lord God. The psalmist reminds us that without God, all of our efforts are, in some way, in vain. Along the same lines, he also tells us that guarding a city is futile without God.
But wait a minute. How can this be? What does this mean? People build houses all the time without trusting in or praying to or committing themselves to the Lord. Godless cities and nations are defended all the time. What is the psalmist getting at here?
And look at verse 2. Why is the psalmist disparaging getting up early and going to bed late? It sounds like he is minimizing the efforts of someone who is making the most of their time; someone who is willing to put in the hours to get the job done.
Well I believe verse 2 helps us make sense of verse 1. Notice the last phrase of verse 2: for He gives to His beloved sleep. Does this mean that anyone who does not get a good night's sleep is not loved by God? Not all. Just like it isn't saying that anyone who does get a good night's sleep is God's beloved child. Neither of those is true as an absolute rule. What does this mean then?
It means that the man or woman who is depending on God is able to rest, truly rest, in the reality of God's provision, purpose, and power. Now do any of us trust God like this all the time, in every way? Of course not. But this is our goal, isn't it.
As we build, we want to trust that in the building of that house, God will do what only he can do in terms of the ultimate significance and ultimate blessing of that home and that family. As we seek to be safe and secure, we want to look to God to do what only He can do in terms of our ultimate safety and security.
To understand this, think about the opposite of this: those who build with no regard to God, the Master Builder, and those who guard the city without reference to divine protection, are building solely with the wood and straw of human effort. And though they work from sun up to sundown, though they give 110%, what human efforts constructs apart from God will never last. It's significance is always limited by the limitations of human weakness and sin.
While men can build great skyscrapers and fortify defenses with trillions from their military budgets, apart from God's grace, none of it can have any lasting importance or impact. There is always an eternal vanity or futility to such efforts. Remember what we said before: the man or woman who is depending on God is able to rest, truly rest, in the reality of God's provision, purpose, and power.
Think about this in regard to building, not a house, but a church. We can follow the latest trends and techniques, we can have the highest quality programs and facilities, but if we are not looking to God and His word, unless we can confess, “unless the Lord builds His church”, our investments of blood, sweat, and tears will be in vain.
So what does this have to do with the topic of humility? Well, I think we can say that what the psalmist is describing here is humility reaching. True humility reaches out in dependence on God. Remember the words of Jesus:“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3, 4) What does that mean? Well...
When a little child walks up with a parent to a drinking fountain that is too tall for them, and they holds their hands up, straight above their head, what are they asking? Is there any hesitation in this request? Not usually. Why would there usually be hesitation with an adult who was in a similar position of need? The child reaching is an expression of genuine humility.
You may remember last time we defined humility in this way: Humility is an inner condition, springing from a true recognition of my proper position. The child knows, she recognizes, that her proper position is one of dependence on her parents. But are we any different when it comes to our relationship with our heavenly Father? Not at all. The psalmist is calling his readers to depend on God in all they do.
Let me give you three reasons, from Scripture, three reasons humility reaches out in dependence on God. Here's the first reason...
1. Humility Reaches Because It Helps Me Understand God's Provision for My Life
In his book, I Want That, Thomas Hine writes, “Three out of four American babies visit a store, usually a supermarket by the age of six months, though some start virtually at birth. They soon realize that the store is the source of some of the good things that they had previously associated solely with their parents.”
Doesn't the same thing happen with us in regard to God? Paul told the Athenians:
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,  nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:24, 25)
But we struggle to live in light of the fact God is our ultimate provider. And what do we lose in the process? A failure to acknowledge what you have comes from God is a failure to receive the fullness of God’s provision. How? Why?
Because the fullness of God's provision is to know the Provider and go to him in times of need. God’s provision is always meant to point us back to God. And so even the most valuable provision according to the world's standards is nothing compared to the value of depending on God as our Provider. God is the one who give us all, who builds the house and guards the city.
How does the humble man or woman pray? How does a diet of humble pie affect our prayer life? We pray each day according to what Jesus taught us, “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11) But there's more about humility reaches out in dependence on God...
2. Humility Reaches Because It Helps Me Understand God's Purpose for My Life
Think for a minute about what God has called you to do tomorrow. Now you might be thinking, “I'm not sure if God has called me to do anything specific tomorrow. For now, it looks like it will be just another ordinary day.”
Really? Your purpose tomorrow should, above everything else, be informed by God's purpose for your life and God's purpose for His people. A couple of verses come to mind:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (I Peter 2:9-10)
So what has God called you to do tomorrow? To be patient, to be kind, to hold your tongue, to pray, to put others first, to resist temptation, to share God's truth, to love and live like Christ, to fulfill the Great Commandment, in your home, at your school, in your workplace, at the grocery store, doing all for the glory of God! These are the “good works” God has prepared us for, the “good works” that “proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us]...into His...light.”
We might think of our day tomorrow in terms of very natural categories. But God has most certainly called you and me to live a supernatural life. And you cannot live a supernatural life without depending on a supernatural source of strength and wisdom.
I'd like to think there is a lot I can fix around our house. And when I haven't known, I've been able to look it up online and figure it out. But when our air conditioner acts up, or if there is a serious electrical issue, I always call a technician. Why? My recognition of the seriousness of what is involved and my recognition of my inability leads me to lean on another.
Don’t accept a counterfeit Christian life. Our failure to depend on God in the our everyday life can often be traced back to our failure to accept God's definition of the Christian life. How capable do you feel of living this life? The humble man or woman recognizes that he or she, in and of themselves, cannot in and of themselves live this life and fulfilling this calling.
But there's one more thing I think we can say about depending on God...
3. Humility Reaches Because It Helps Me Understand God's Power for My Life
Listen to how Jesus connects this point with the previous point. He tells His disciples...
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
What has God called you to do tomorrow if you are a follower of Jesus? He has called you to “bear much fruit”.
But as we talked about a few minutes ago, you cannot live a supernatural life without depending on a supernatural source of strength and wisdom. And Jesus points us to Himself as that supernatural source. He is “the vine”. The life-giving sap that we need as branches comes from the vine. Humility reaching for Christ is humility abiding in Christ. Apart from humility reaching, Jesus is brutally honest: “apart from me you can do nothing.”
So if we are not depending on God, what things do we depend on in order to live some version of the Christian life? Cleverness? The pressure or praise of others? Routine?
Not only does the humble man or woman recognize the impossibility of living the Christian life on their own, but at the same time, he or she rejoices in the possibility of living that life through the power of God by faith in Jesus Christ.
III. An “Unless the Lord” Kind of Life
Humility is a response to the truth about God, and as a consequence of that, to the truth about myself. It is an inner condition, springing from a true recognition of my proper position. And my proper position is a position of utter dependence on the power and grace of God.
And the man or woman who is living on a diet of this 'humble pie', is a man or woman who is living an “unless the Lord” kind of life. His or her humility is reaching out to God with needy hands. What does this look like practically? Well, the most obvious expression of humility reaching is expressed by Paul in the closing words of his first letter to the Thessalonians...
Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (I Thessalonians 5:12-18)
The regular, consistent, day-by-day, hour-by-hour life of praise and prayer described here is the clearest expression of depending on God. This “unless the Lord” kind of life is a life marked by prayer.
Think about it, if tomorrow you are moving through your day recognizing and confessing, “unless the Lord is blessing my job, unless the Lord is watching over my kids, unless the Lord is sustaining my marriage, unless the Lord is in this conversation, unless the Lord is in charge of our finances, unless the Lord heals me, unless the Lord opens the door, unless the Lord is with the doctors, unless the Lord breathes into what I have done...all of it is in vain”...if that is your confession, how could you not “pray without ceasing”.
Tomorrow, I want to challenge you with an exercise. If you have a phone, you may have an alarm feature. Set an alarm for every hour tomorrow throughout the day. Or hourly chime on a watch. When it sounds, think about what it will mean to depend on God in the coming hour.
Listen to how the hymn writer described humility reaching: I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord; No tender voice like Thine can peace afford. I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby; Temptations lose their pow’r when Thou art nigh. I need Thee every hour, in joy or in pain; Come quickly and abide, or life is in vain. I need Thee every hour, most Holy One, O make me mine indeed, Thou blessed Son...I need Thee, oh, I need Thee; Every hour I need Thee; Oh, bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee.