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.