Children are Like Arrows: A Fresh Look At Psalm 127

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. 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! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. (Psalm 127, ESV)

I guess I hear lots about this passage in regards to having a “quiver full of kids” and “kids are a blessing.” I’ve heard all kinds of explanations about how many arrows would be in a Hebrew quiver at the time that this was written.  I’ve heard glad parents tell me that their hoping to “fill their quiver” and others express over the loud noise of a toddler that “children are a blessing.”

I see value having lots of kids and most certainly agree that children are a blessing, even on their worst day (and toddlers have some pretty bad days).  However, I think there is a bit more to this passage than that.  I think there are some riches not mined here when we gloss over this Psalm so glibly.  Take a minute and dwell on this text with me.

Arrows are offensive weapons. You don’t use them to defend yourself as much as you do to make a dent in the enemy. Swords can be defensive. Shields are defensive.  Spears perhaps even defensive.  Arrows are purely for offense.  You let them go.  While kids are a reflection of their parents, they are also their own individuals.  Sometimes as parents we can try to use our children to protect our own egos, relive a second childhood, or even provide all the things we missed out on.  The fact is that just like an arrow leaves the grasp of an archer, your children were meant to leave your grasp too.

Those parents who are oppressive with their own sense of pride expressed either in the need for perfection or the need to be needed risk warping their children.  Start with the end in mind. Just like archers shape branches to make their arrows because they know what an arrow needs to fly, so parents are to be intentional in shaping their kids to live beyond their home.  The arrows in the quiver of Psalm 127 aren’t meant to be kept in the quiver.  They were intended to be a deadly show of force and accuracy against the enemy.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that your children won’t remain at home forever.  Arrows aren’t intended to fill quivers.  They have a greater purpose.  Because Archers know this.  They shape their arrows with their ultimate purpose in mind (to be aimed and released).

Question: How are you raising your children for the years they will live outside your home?

More thoughts on Psalm 127 to follow this week.

A Few Thoughts on Fatherhood

Getting ready for kid number two in a few months has me reminiscing about fatherhood.  So I thought I would take a moment and share about how God prepared me for fatherhood the first go round.

My preparation for fatherhood began when I was a child watching my own father.  I was gifted to have a strong and capable dad.  I learned so much from him, even when he wasn’t looking.  I must have been a really good student of my father, because I catch myself saying things and acting just like him.  And that’s not bad, because I really love my dad and feel blessed to be his son.  I wonder if he knew he was teaching me about being a father?

Rebekah Writing in the Sand

Then there was the day that a friend of mine told me that he and his wife were going to have a baby.  We were memorizing scripture together and so we turned our hearts to Psalm 127.  We discussed the meaning of the Psalm and that day Psalm 127 began teaching me that children are a blessing. Though I was young, unmarried, and a long way from fatherhood, God used that psalm to shape my life.  I longed for the day that I would be a dad.

Along the way my job has afforded me the opportunity to watch parents in action.  I have been blessed to see some great parenting from discipline to discipleship.  I’ve learned a lot through the years by partnering with parents in student ministry.

Yet, nothing could have prepared me for the day when I was told I was going to be a dad.  In our marriage, it was something Avia and I were hoping for, but not exactly planning on quite so soon.  Yet there we were, newly-weds, five-months into marriage and Avia became aware that all was not as it used to be and took a special trip to the doctor.

One Wednesday night I came home to see my wife and in my chair there was a little teddy bear holding a pregnancy test.  Tears filled her eyes and then mine and then I quoted Psalm 127.  We were nervous.  We didn’t know what parenthood would be like, but we knew this was a blessing from God.

Nine months later I held my little girl in my arms for the first time.  I held her up and quoted this same Psalm over her and prayed and thanked the Lord for this blessing in our lives.  Then I dedicated her to the Lord and asked for guidance to be a godly father.

“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. 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! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” (Psalms 127:1-5 ESV)