The Lord and his Creation
Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
- Psalm 127:1
Let’s chase down a little rabbit trail of theology today. You might miss it if you hurry through this passage too quickly. But there’s something here that will help us in our quest to rest.
This week’s psalm distinguishes between the Lord and his creation, between the Lord and his creative activity. On the one side, you have the homebuilders and guards. On the other you have the Lord. And again, on the one side you have the Lord building the house and watching over the city. On the other you have the great “unless,” communicating that the Lord may or may not do those activities (according to some criteria yet to be revealed).
Why does this matter?
If we overidentify the Lord with his creation, we can come to think of him as some vague life-force in the universe, emanating from all of us and binding us all together. While there may be some comfort in this notion, a god spread so thinly across the fabric of the cosmos can hardly be much help when it comes to issues like shelter or safety or salvation.
The Hebrew and Christian belief has always pushed away from the abstracting ideas of ancient paganism and the depersonalization of God. Our God has a voice and speaks to us as beloved others. The experience of true unity requires the existence of diversity in a way that strains our imagination but doesn’t, on that account, become untrue.
The Lord’s will is not bound to ours as if he’s a marionette being pulled by the strings of our activity. He can choose to sit out a building project. He could take a night off of guard duty. He is, as Karl Barth said, “the One who loves in freedom.”
All of this makes God’s involvement in our lives all the more profound. He opts in. He chooses to be present. He decides, of his own accord, to get his hands dirty alongside us in the work that fills our days.
Would you take a few minutes today to thank him? Thank him for being present. Thank him for being involved. Thank him for caring.