Pilgrim Psalms: Wait for the Work of the Lord (Psalm 127)

We have a strange relationship to work. Some of us are workaholics. (Or have a “good work ethic,” if we want to sound more pious about it.) Others are “working for the weekend.” (Or working toward a retirement of lounging and luxury.)

Psalm 127 provides us a good theology of work. As Eugene Peterson points out in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, “God worked.” The first thing the Bible tells us about God is that God created. So work is not a necessary evil, it is at the core of who we are as creatures in God’s image. However, unlike God, we have limits to what we can achieve with our work. Psalm 127 tells us that we can keep watch, but only God keeps us secure. We can plant, but only God can give the harvest. Indeed, the Psalm ends with a striking example of the interplay between God’s work and ours: children. We can procreate, women can labor, but only God can give life.

Peterson talks about frantic activity on the one hand and detached laziness on the other. In between those extremes is work that is full of joy and meaning, that trusts the Lord for the miracles of life and food, and that rests securely in the Lord when work is over (Sabbath).

This new setting of Psalm 127 (I wrote one before) attempts to tease out the balance between our work and God’s.” You’re probably wondering what my favorite line is. It’s in the third verse: “For our labors are a blessing we conceive in faith and love.” See what I did there, with “labors” and “conceive”?

Wait for the work of the Lord.
Wait for the work of the Lord.
Wait for the work, wait for the work,
wait for the work of the Lord.

1. We will build while there is sunshine
and keep watch throughout the night,
but only God can bless us
and guard our very lives. CHORUS

2. We will rise at dawn for planting
and we’ll pray for rain and sun,
but anxious toil and worry
rob sleep from those God loves. CHORUS

3. For our labors are a blessing
we conceive in faith and love,
but God alone brings life and breath;
we work, we pray, we trust. CHORUS

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