The Secret Of Success
Mr. Jerry Clark, who currently makes his home in McMinnville, Tenn., continues to provide us with practical teaching in this the eighth of his series of fifteen articles on Psalms 120-134.
A song of the goings up; of Solomon:
1. If the LORD will not build the house, in vain its builders have toiled in it. If the LORD will not guard the city, in vain the keeper has watched.
2. It is vain for you to be rising up early, to be sitting up late, to be eating the bread of sorrows. For thus will he give sleep to His beloved.
3. Behold, sons are the inheritance of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward.
4. As arrows in the hand of a mighty man, so are sons of one’s youth.
5. O the blessings of the man who has filled his quiver with them! They will not be ashamed, for they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
The 127th Psalm stands as the middle psalm in this group of fifteen and is the only one of the group to bear the name of Solomon.
Solomon’s exact connection with this psalm cannot be definitely ascertained. The Hebrew particle translated “of” is ambiguous and may mean either written by Solomon or for Solomon. Did David write this psalm as godly advice for the son whom he knew was to build God’s house and rule the kingdom? Or did Solomon pen it as an expression of his God-given wisdom, exhibiting the principles he knew were necessary for the successful administration of the nation? Regardless of human authorship, the psalm contains one of the most profound principles in the entire Bible, a principle which —if acted upon — would guarantee a life of “success” for us today.
The Contrast Between Success And Failure
The psalm describes a contrast between life apart from God (vv.1-2) and life with God (vv.3-5). A key word in the first section is “vain.” This word is not nebel, the watchword of Ecclesiastes (cf. 1:2), which means empty or useless. Rather, it is shav’, a word which carries a moral implication. It is used of lying and cheating (Ex. 23:1), of idols (Jer. 18:15), and of men who are morally corrupt and evil (Job 11:11). A related word means desolation (Job 30:14) and destruction (Psa. 35:8).
Life apart from God may appear to be materially prosperous, but such a life is not only empty, it is morally evil, idolatrous, and actually false and “rotten” at its very core.
The key word in the second section is “blessings” (‘ashrey). This word means happiness, security, prosperity and success (either in a material or a spiritual sense: cf. Matt. 5:3-12 where the truly successful are described). Here, all three basic meanings of the word are illustrated in the example of children, regarded as one of the greatest blessings the Lord can give (and only God can give children!). Children represent prosperity (v. 3), security (v. 4), and happiness (v.5). This is, of course, only a typical example. The presence of children today in a home does not necessarily indicate that the parents are pleasing God nor does the absence of children indicate the reverse. The principle still applies, but our blessings are primarily spiritual (Eph. 1:3).
The Secret Of Success
Failure comes to those who disregard the Lord; success to those who depend on Him. The secret in this psalm goes deeper than mere dependence, however. Note that the idea is not “unless the Lord helps us to build the house or guard the city” we will fail, but that “unless the Lord builds and guards” Himself, such activities are both unsuccessful and evil.
The principle is one which is entirely forgotten not only by the world but by the vast majority of “popular” Christianity. It is not that God cooperates with us to help us do what we want to do, but rather that we cooperate with God to do what He wants to do.
This is the same idea expressed in Micah 6:8 (“What doth the Lord require of thee, but … to walk humbly with thy God?”), and in Matthew 19:26 (“With God all things are possible”). In each case, the key word is “with.” The Hebrew ‘im and the Greek para are here equivalent: they mean side by side with, in agreement with, working and walking alongside. The idea is not that God walks with us, smoothing out all the rough places, showering material wealth on us, protecting us from all trials and troubles, and supplying all our (carnal) desire, as much modern teaching would have it. Instead, we are to walk with God (cf. Enoch, Gen. 5:24 and Noah, Gen. 6:9), and when we do, “all things are possible”!
True success is not found by trying to get God interested in our schemes, willing to co-operate with us, but rather in finding out God’s plan, His will for our lives; finding out which direction God is walking and then ordering our lives so that we can walk with Him — submissively and humbly — along the way in which He is going.
In this psalm, it is God who desires to build the house (whether Solomon’s temple or the Body of Christ: Eph. 2:19-22), and it is God who desires to protect the city (whether Jerusalem then or His people today) from the power and influence of the heathen and the world. It is God who desires to bless His people with an inheritance (whether physical, as in this psalm, or spiritual, as in our case: Eph. 1:11, 13-14), and with help and happiness.
The application to modern Christendom is obvious. We have sought God’s help in trying to reach our goals or, even when our goals are God’s own, we are determined to use our methods to reach them. The result is the monstrosity which parades today as organized Christianity.
Failure comes when we walk in our way and expect God to “fall in line” and help us. True success will be found only when we humbly and prayerfully discover from God’s Word the goal He desires to reach and the methods He intends to use in reaching it. It is then our blessed responsibility to co-operate with Him in His work, walking “humbly with our God”!