Centuries before our Lord said, Without Me you can do nothing (John 15:6), the psalmist sang of the futility of human action without divine assistance: If the Lord does not build the house....If the Lord does not watch over the city.

 

 

Psalm 127 is not directed only to construction workers and night sentries. It echoes the divine point God made when King David was planning to build Him a magnificent house. (cf. 2 Samuel 7) The Lord revealed that it was not David who would build a house for Him, but that He would build a house for David — a house not made of cold stone and cut cedar, but of living stones sprung from his loins and destined to last forever. That God builds bigger and better was confirmed when the angel announced to Mary that the Lord would give to the Son she would miraculously conceive the throne of David his father... and His kingdom would have no end. (Luke 1: 32-33)

 

 

Go, repair My house, the Crucified Christ said to the future St. Francis of Assisi. The poor little church of San Damiano outside Assisi was falling into ruin and so the merchant's son set about his task. It was only later that the Holy Spirit revealed to Francis that God had chosen him for bigger and better Church-rebuilding, not with stones and mortar, but with the living stones of dedicated followers, on fire with love for Christ.

God's gifts and plans are so much bigger and better than our own. Perhaps that is why He gives to His beloved while they slumber. Solomon in Gibeon, Joseph in Nazareth, Francis in Apulia all received, while they slept, gifts in the form of dreams which directly impacted their future. They arose, ready to respond to His call, even when they were not certain what that would fully entail.


Psalm 127 teaches another lesson about divine gift-giving. In the translation used during St. Francis' lifetime, the word currently rendered as quiver was translated desire. His early biographers used the verse, 0 the happiness of the man who has filled his desire with these arrows, to highlight God's role in the fulfillment or deferral of the Little Poor Man's desires. Desires fulfilled: as when the Lord wondrously inspired all the friars sent on mission to return at the same time to Assisi, in order to fulfill the Seraphic Father's desire to know how they were. Desires deferred: as when Francis set out to meet the Sultan in the hope of being martyred — only to gain the admiration and respect of the Sultan and safe passage home. God, the medieval author notes, had another kind of martyrdom in store for Francis — that of bearing the wounds of the Crucified Christ.


God desires to build bigger and to fulfill better in our lives, too. He asks us to leave Him room to work, not only in the exceptional moments of our lives, but even amid the daily details of house-building, city-guarding, bread-making and night-slumbering. Self-reliance leads to a sense of futility. Dependence on God, giving His grace scope to work, brings peace and fulfillment. Scripture proclaims it, and the lives of the saints bear witness to it: God does build bigger and better. We only have to let Him.





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Psalm 127

 

 

 

 

If the Lord does not
build the house,
in vain do its builders labor.
If the Lord does not
watch over the city,
in vain does the watchman
keep vigil.
In vain is your earlier rising,
your going later to rest,
you who toil
for the bread you eat:
when He pours gifts
on His beloved
while they slumber.
Truly sons are a gift
from the Lord
a blessing, the fruit of the womb.
Indeed the sons of youth
are like arrows
in the hand of a warrior
0 the happiness of the man

who has filled
his quiver
with these arrows!
He will have
no cause
for shame
when he
disputes with

his foes in the gateways.



 

God Builds, Bigger and Better
PART 25