Except the LORD Build the House

“Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”Psalm 127:1 

In Christ, this applies to absolutely everything. It is the Lord’s work. When it is not of the Lord it is of the flesh. This is an eternal text that reminds us of the sustaining and upbraiding power of the Lord. Jesus said essentially the same thing to the disciples on the night He was betrayed, as it is written in John 15:5

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 

We may sometimes forget this simple truth: “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (ESV). Though we say He’s sovereign, and even believe that He’s sovereign, as we who are Reformed in theology most certainly believe He is, we sometimes act as if God needs our help. We apply ourselves in so many ways that we often act like God couldn’t do it without us. We work and toil over ministry relentlessly. We touch on areas of service to God and to His people with incredible zeal; and don’t get me wrong— we should be doing all that we can in these areas of missions and ministry, but it should not be all that we do. 

Because of the totally depraved nature within man since the fall, we tend to obsess over so many things; and with every good intention, we become obsessive over missions, or ministry, or whatever. We need to be reminded of v2 from our Psalm, 

It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. 

We get up early and go to bed late doing all these things for Christ, weeping over souls, but it is vanity for we forsake resting in Christ. We forsake the blessedness of the heritage He has given us in Himself and in others. We have an example of one aspect of how to remedy this situation in Psalm 127:3-5

Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate. 

We should certainly do all that we can to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, but we often forget that they are our heritage. Though we are responsible for our children as good stewards, they are given by God as a blessing. 

Are we so busy raising our children in the scriptures that we forget to enjoy them, spend time with them, that they might see the example of parents loving their children in the same way that the heavenly Father loves His children? 

Okay, you don’t have children. How about a wife? a husband? a member of church? 

If this devotion has touched your heart just a little, you may enjoy listening to the 18-1/2 minute devotion delivered at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church on this same passage prior to our prayer meeting. You can download it for later listening through SermonAudio here, or you can click on the arrow below and listen to it without leaving the page.

About Jon J. Cardwell

"The Spirited Speaker" - Pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Anniston, Alabama. Nationally recognized speaker and publisher. Author of several books, including the bestseller, Christ and Him Crucified.


  1. Dear Pastor Cardwell,

    Isn’t it just like the evil one to pervert even good intentions? This would be one (of many) area of great struggle for me!

    God is sovereign and is on the throne and aware of everything that is going on. When we feel anxious and/or overwhelmed we need to step back and hand the reigns back to God. (Who by the way is holding them anyway:)

    It is very difficult sometimes to determine what exactly God has put on our plate, and what we in our zealous and “good” intentions have added on our own. But, in the end, how will we be remembered? Did we represent Christ well in our daily living? Do our children see the love, care, hope and joy towards life?

    Thank you for this post. Praise God for another day of His tender mercies to get back to the truth of His Word and His lovingkindness to us. My prayer is for us to truly be a godly example in all areas of life to our children or those around us who are watching. “Glorify God and enjoy Him forever”

    In gratefullness of heart, Charisse

    • Even this morning, I rejoiced in the struggle that we all face until He come, just as you expressed so well, “It is very difficult sometimes to determine what exactly God has put on our plate…” The words of Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones often comes to mind in these very struggles of life: “O Lord GOD, thou knowest.”

      Thank you for sharing that, sister. Praying that your day is blessed, and that the family is doing well. We do miss you and thank you so much for your love and prayers.

  2. Good morning Pastor Jon,

    I just finished listening to the prayer meeting you linked here…thank you for that. I do love Psalm 127 esp. verse 2….’For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” nasb
    It is as if He is saying in this verse…if you would just trust Me, if you would just, in all your ways, acknowledge Me, if you would just remember it is not so much doing for Me as being with Me, if you would remember I am you first love, then I will care for you with so much abundance that even as you are sleeping you will receive from Me. Precious Lord!
    All the striving and working, if not done through resting in Him, sure is “painful labors.”
    God bless you!

    • Indeed, Sister Diane. Very “painful labors” if not resting in Him.

      Blessings to you and your family, dear sister.

  3. Becky@ Daily On My Way To Heaven

    Thank you for this…Such a reminder is needed every day of our journey under the Sun…this is certainly how one of the precious doctrines which I love and believe looks “in the kitchen”…

    Blessings to your family.

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