God is the benevolent Sovereign over all—including the family. We must, therefore, attend closely to the cadence of his design for the family if we wish to arrange our family life to the tune of his life-giving song. Psalm 127 offers three insights that help tune our ears and focus our eyes and orient our heart to the rhythm of God’s benevolent purpose for our families. Though these insights may seem elementary, there is a depth of profundity that we have yet to taste, our appetite for divine truth having been dulled by familiarity. What is required for faithful parenting in the divine program is far more than indifferent familiarity—it’s transformative wonder.
First, our children are from God. This is stated explicitly in the first part of verse 3—“children are a heritage from the Lord”—and assumed implicitly in the second part—“the fruit of the womb a reward (from the Lord).” God, as Creator & Sovereign owns and rules all things, and all things are his to dispense at his pleasure. The New Testament affirms this. James writes in James 1.16-17: “Do not be deceived my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Here we see James understands that the eternal reality of God’s nature—his ever enduring, never faltering constancy and his boundless graciousness as a giver—is the eternal reality that underscores how his people ought to receive and enjoy these gifts knowing they come from God. Paul in his address to the Areopagus in Acts 17 says: “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth… [is not] served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” Yet again we see, God’s unique office as Creator—he made the world and everything in it—and his unique office as Sovereign—he is Lord of heaven and earth—uniquely and supremely qualify him to be the giver of everything. So the biblical testimony is quite clear. No one can give a gift to God. He is always the giver. “Behold children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward (from the Lord).”
Where the world around them is unraveled and in disarray because of their rebellion against God, Israel was called to display how obedience to God’s commandments opens a beauty, fullness, harmony and richness of life only hoped for apart from God.
The second point to consider is that our children are for God. Our children are from God, and our children are for God. The from informs the for. Origin informs purpose. Verse 4 and the first part of verse 5 states: “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” In the Divine design, children have an evangelistic purpose. In other words, from the beginning in Genesis 1 God has decreed that children display the good news about God—that he alone is the true God—and the true life to be found only in him. In Genesis 1.28 God declared Adam and Eve should “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” The children of Adam and Eve were, like their parents, to display the glory of God by submitting to his rule over them thereby living lives of worship and obedience. But when Adam and Eve failed to proclaim the supreme glory of God when tempted by the serpent in Genesis 3, all their children inherited a binding and debilitating inability to display the glory of God. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Paul tells us in Romans 3.23. Yet God, refusing to let his glory be defamed in his creation raised up Israel, a people for his own possession. By grace he saved them out of slavery in Egypt and called them to himself. He then gave them the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) that were to shape the individual, family and corporate life of Israel. They were to permeate and inform the whole of Israel’s life. And the home was the schoolhouse of God’s law. The primary tutors were parents. Children, the pupils. Listen to Deuteronomy 6.6-9: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You (parents) shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Where the world around them is unraveled and in disarray because of their rebellion against God, Israel is called to display how restoration to God by living in obedience of his commandments opens a beauty, fullness, harmony and richness of life only hoped for apart from God.
In the right hands children are effective for the purpose for which God has ordained them—to participate in the corporate display of God’s glory, his worth, his power among the nations.
This is the context in which Solomon writes Psalm 127. He understands that Israel’s corporate display of God’s glory begins in the home, in the family. Children, being trained up in the fear of the Lord and in wisdom and in righteousness will be well placed weapons in the fight to promote and display God’s glory among the nations. Children under the tutelage of God-fearing parents are well placed weapons because they are “arrows in the hands of a warrior.” They are not as arrows in some unskilled hand. In the right hands they are effective for the purpose for which God has ordained them—to participate in the corporate display of God’s glory, his worth, his power among the nations. By their submission to these commandments, the whole of Israel would display the good news about God and the beauty of life to be found exclusively in him to the nations surrounding them. And this is why Solomon writes in verses 4 and 5: “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them.”
There is obedience to be had even for those whose bodies or whose relationships cannot bear them children.
There is something very interesting in the first part of verse 5. Compare verse 3: “Behold children are a heritage from the Lord” and verse 5: “Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” We have established children are from God, and yet verse 5 indicates that the man who fills his quiver is blessed. If children are from God, why then is the man blessed if he produces children? Because there is blessing for those who desire to submit themselves and their families to God’s creational design for children. A pause here is necessary to emphasize again that Scripture is not blind or deaf to the havoc wreaked on the whole of the human existence by sin. Scripture is not ignorant of the anatomical, physiological and relational defects and brokenness that plague families as a result of sin. So please hear that Scripture is primarily and chiefly concerned with obedience as a posture of the heart and a disposition of the will before it is concerned with obedience as merely mechanical or perfunctory duty. Therefore, there is obedience to be had even for those whose bodies or whose relationships cannot bear them children. And there is blessing for those who desire to raise up children to participate with the people of God in a corporate display of the glory of God.
The third point: our children picture the family of God. Verse 5 declares: “He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” In ancient Israel, the gate was the place where justice was administered. So we have a picture of the patriarch, the father, being vindicated before his enemies, presumably opponents of God, in the place of justice because his quiver is full, because he has raised up children to reflect and display the glory of God. Therefore, when the man is vindicated in the gate, in the place of justice by the virtue of his children, God’s glory is likewise vindicated. But we know God’s glory was not ultimately or finally vindicated in or upheld by Israel, nor is it in us. Like Adam and Eve, Israel failed and we fail to testify by our obedience of God to the supreme worth of God. Their continued disobedience of God, like ours, profaned the glory of God among the nations though they were called to display his glory among the nations. Enter Jesus. The eternal Son of God incarnate. I love that familial name for Jesus—Son of God!
The children of the patriarch, stand vindicated before their enemies in the place of justice because of their familial inclusion, because of their belonging to the family of their father. What a beautiful picture of the gospel!
The Hebrew Bible which uses a different ancient Hebrew manuscript for its translation into English than the ESV renders verse 5: “They shall not be put to shame when they speak with their enemies in the gate.” I do not think the differing translation alters the meaning of the text, but I think the point is more clear if we follow the Hebrew Bible and use they in verse 5 instead of he. They, the children of the patriarch, stand vindicated before their enemies in the place of justice because of their familial inclusion, because of their belonging to the family of their father. What a beautiful picture of the gospel! Apart from Christ, in our sin, we stand ashamed and condemned in the place of justice. Our sin, our rebellion against God has rendered us unfit for inclusion in the family of God. And yet, in unspeakable grace, God appoints his Son, his own Son, the perfect, spotless, righteous Lamb of God to be shamed condemned in the place of justice on our behalf that we, though vile and wretched and undeserving sinners, might by faith, stand unashamed and acquitted before the Enemy, before our Accuser, fit for adoption into the family of God. Marvel and be amazed! God executed his just judgment of our sin against his own Son in the ultimate place of justice, Golgatha. And for those who have repented and believed this gospel, we are heirs with Christ and fellow heirs of God, sons and daughters of God based on our inclusion by faith with the Son of God and our identification with him in the place of justice, the cross. We, in Christ, the family of God, in whom God and his glory are being vindicated.