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Monday, 19 January 2015

Psalm 128 - Blessings from fearing the Lord

The primary focus of the psalm is not the blessings of family life (of which some are mentioned), but the blessings that come to believers through fearing the Lord. The first word of the psalm is ‘blessed’, which means happy. Happiness is what every person looks for, and in this psalm we are told how we will get it (by fearing the Lord) and what it will look like in several areas of life (in work, in the home, and in the church).

How can we know that a person fears God? The answer is given in the next line of the psalm: such will walk in God’s ways. The imagery of walking illustrates progress and a destination, and we have God as upholder, teacher and guide along the path to heaven.

Great promises are given in this psalm to the person who fears God. We have to remember that when this psalm was written, the husband usually worked from home (v. 2). In biblical times, one could walk past a house and see the husband working at his trade, his wife busy in the home, and the children sitting around the house. Work in the ancient world was usually done in order to provide the basics of life. The psalm promises that such will be provided to the person that fears God.

The next blessing concerns the man’s wife who is described as a fruitful vine (v. 3). The vine in Israel was regarded as a source of refreshment, shelter and fragrance. That is how the man who fears the Lord will regard his wife. Just as the vine symbolised joy, so such a man finds great joy in what his wife brings to their home. His contribution is to work for the security of their needs, her contribution is to provide the beauty of their home.

When there is such a husband and wife, then there will be happy children. The father is likened to an old olive tree around which younger plants are growing, partaking of his wisdom and knowledge. The imagery also suggests that as the plants grow, they protect the older tree that has become weaker through age.

Such a home is worth observing says the psalmist in verse 4. We are to behold it, to contemplate with wonder what the Lord can do in a home inhabited by sinful parents and children. A happy home is the blessing often given to those who fear the Lord.

In verses 5 and 6, the psalmist describes public blessings in addition to the private ones he mentions in the previous verses. They can be interpreted as definite promises or as prayer requests. In either case, those who fear the Lord will receive spiritual blessings from Zion. The house of God becomes a blessing to our homes when we fear the Lord.

The psalmist also mentions that the man who fears the Lord will see his grandchildren. No doubt, there is the family joy of descendants included in this promise. Further, and probably more important, is the fact that the presence of grandchildren would indicate to the psalmist the continuation of family inheritance.

The psalm closes with a benediction, probably originally announced by a priest in the temple. We are assured that the Great High Priest in heaven is also raising this benediction over us, ensuring that the blessings promised to those who fear God will come to us. May he say to us at this time, ‘Peace be upon Israel.’

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