Psalm 127 (Psalms on the Trail)

Psalm 127

“Unless the Lord builds the house,

their labor is in vain who build it….

It is vain to rise early and go to bed so late;

vain, too, to eat the bread of toil;

for you, Lord, give sleep to your beloved.” 

Psalm 127:1-2

One never knows what kind of houses one might find on the trail. This, I think, is a yellow jacket nest.  Tell me if you know otherwise.  I miss my own house when I am on the trail, particularly my bed and bathroom.

But beyond the physical yellow jacket houses and people houses, there are lots of “houses” we build in our lives. We build relationships.  We build careers.  We build reputations and influence.  We build wealth.  Pastors are not immune to this drive to build.  We want to build a good ministry.  Ostensibly, we say, our building is for the Lord.  Actually, most of the time we truly believe our building efforts are the Lord’s.  But we humans have mixed motives; pastors, therefore, are no different.  Our building sometimes is about our self-identity.   Many of us are prone to over-compensate and fill in the gaps when we see the building not going as planned.  I am no exception, and a few wise souls in the congregation are aware of this and regularly remind me of what is not my responsibility.

That’s what I like about the second verse of this psalm which is a reminder to me that I am given the gift of sleep and rest for a reason. It’s not just because my body needs it, but also because I need to remember a congregation or ministry is not mine but God’s.  If I am not able to walk away sometimes, then I am building my own kingdom and not allowing room for God to be the architect.

That being said, I have been involved in a tremendous amount of building these last few months.  How much is God’s and how much is mine is impossible to say.  That’s why God offers “sleep.”  So come Monday, I am hitting the trail for a dozen days.  Will it be fun?  Yes.  But it’s more than that. It is a cautionary exercise, temporary stepping away to rest, that I need to ensure that God is doing the building, not me. Still, I’ll miss my bed and bathroom.


1. Take this verse with you and ponder its meaning for you throughout the day.

2. Or read the whole psalm to find out how this one verse fits into the whole.

3. Or comment with a photo of your own that is a window of this psalm’s meaning for you.

The next post will be on Psalm 128.

Starting January 1, 2016, for 150 days I am posting a daily psalm verse with a photo that is a visual meditation on the text for me.  Each day a verse from the next psalm is chosen until all 150 psalms have been featured.   To participate you may subscribe to my blog at or “friend” me on Facebook and watch for the daily links to blog posts.  Disclaimer:  I am not a photographer and most of the photos are from a cell phone or small camera while hiking the Appalachian Trail or the C&O Canal/Great Allegheny Passage Trail.