The Life God Blesses (Psalm 128)

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Brad Pitt described the life he had and the life he wanted.

“Hey, man, I don’t have those answers yet. The emphasis now is on success and personal gain. [smiles] I’m sitting in it, and I’m telling you, that’s not it. I’m the guy who’s got everything. I know. But I’m telling you, once you’ve got everything, then you’re just left with yourself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it doesn’t help you sleep any better, and you don’t wake up any better because of it.”[i]

On our journey, the leader of the pilgrims stops and teaches us how to live so that our life will be the very best.[ii]  It is summed up in verse 1, “Blessed all who fear Yahweh, who walk in His ways.”

We all want to know the kind of life that God blesses. In this psalm we discover that God blesses the life of obedience to Him.

A life of obedience to God

The psalmist describes the kind of life that we will possess when God is busy blessing us.[iii]  The psalmist summarizes what he is describing in verse 4: “Thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.”[iv]  The psalmist points out the nature of our obedience that leads to blessing.  He pens this description in two simple statements.  The first is that blessing comes to the one who “fears the Lord.”[v]

The wisest man in history, Solomon, went on a pursuit of the prosperous life. We see the record of this pursuit in the Book of Ecclesiastes.  He tried party and pleasure, wealth and women.  In the end, he found that everything that he thought would bring him prosperity of the soul ended like a puff of wind.  Maybe he was sitting down and thinking about dear ol’ dad.  He realized that all the things that he thought would bring him a prosperous life ended in sorrow and emptiness.  Then he remembered what his dad told him.  Listen to the end of the Book of Ecclesiastes, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments For this is man’s all” (Ecc 12:13).

I am thankful to my father who taught me very early in life to fear the power of the river current, the danger of the timber rattler, bear, or boar on the trail, the deadly trouble of tumbling down a mountain path and getting upside down and lost. But when I think of fishing in the Smokies, my first thought is love coupled with fear.

Our heart is fixed on God’s command. When one “fears the Lord,” he becomes consumed with the desire to please the Father by obeying His commands.[vi]  Our heart’s affection is upon our Lord, and our desire is to follow His commands.  Our heart has been changed by Christ’s salvation to cling to what God wants as the very breath of life.  We find joy of God’s blessings when we open our heart to His commands.  His desire is our desire.  His calling is our vocation.  His command is our obedience.

When we do what God wants, we will have satisfaction in our work. The psalmist portrays the food which we acquire when we have spent our day in labor as a satisfying meal, even beyond what the mere nourishment of bread can provide.[vii]

When we do what God wants, then we will have a family that is fruitful.[viii]  The psalmist portrays the image of the wife as a fruitful vine.  We find satisfaction and fulfillment in our marriage when we obey the Lord.[ix]  Furthermore, we find strength from our children when we do what God wants.  The picture here is that our children will be strong and vital because we have obeyed the Lord.[x]

If we want a blessed life, then we need to make sure of these two things: 1) our heart belongs to Him, and 2) our life reflects His will.

A lifestyle of service for Christ

As our heart becomes fertile soil for Christ to show us the pathway of life, we conform our lives to match His commands. The psalmist speaks of blessings poured out upon those who “walk in His ways.”[xi]

Admiral Vern Clark, the former Chief of Naval Operations for the United States, told me one day that “service is at the heart of our faith.”[xii]  God has made each and every one of us a Perfect 10 in some area of ministry.  Not a one shot, quick fix, drive through spiritual snack.  To find true prosperity in life, we need to commit to an entire lifetime of service to the King.

This service finds deeper significance in the context of the church. The blessing of the Lord comes out of Zion.[xiii]  As God blesses the community of faith, we are included in that blessing.  One of the things that we miss as a church is the nature of God’s blessing being tied to His blessing the church.  It involves more than merely a rhetorical cry of “I love my church.”  Rather it is a view that the blessings of life connect to us through the community of faith.  It is also a view that says we are blessed by God through the community of faith, and through the community of faith, we become a blessing to others as we walk in Christ’s ways.

Lord, I pray that I might be a friend to that person You have for me to encourage today. That I might trust myself to Your care, no matter what.  I pray that I might follow Your plan and depend upon Your design to make this journey productively.

___________________________

[i]Interview with Brad Pitt, Rolling Stone (October 28, 1999).

[ii]Leslie Allen, Psalms 101-150, WBC (Waco: Word, 1983), 183.  Allen indicates that this is a wisdom psalm.  See also, J. K. Kuntz, “The Canonical Wisdom Psalms of Ancient Israel,” in Rhetorical Criticism: Essays in Honor of J. Mullenburg, eds. J. J. Jackson and M. Kessler (Pittsburgh: Pickwick Press, 1974), 190-215.  Kuntz demonstrates that this psalm utilizes two of seven rhetorical devices evident in wisdom psalmody.  See, M. Dahood, Psalms III: 101-150, AB (Garden City: Doubleday, 1970), 229.  Dahood proposes that the phrase, fearer of Yahweh, in verse 4 forms an inclusion with verse 1. See, A. Weiser, The Psalms: A Commentary, trans. H. Hartnell, OTL (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1962), 767.  Weiser also divides the psalm with verses 1-4 and 5-6 comprising separate parts.

[iii]James L. Crenshaw, The Psalms: An Introduction (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 21.  “Persons who fear Yahweh can count on domestic tranquility, with wives like vines and children resembling olive trees (128:1-4).  In company with Job of old, they will see their grandchildren (128:6).”

[iv]See F. Horst, “Segen und Segenshandlungen im der Bibel,” Evangelische Theologie 7 (1947): 23-37.

[v]Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150, TOTC (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1975), 443.  He writes: “The ingredients of true happiness (for the psalm should open with the word ‘Happy,’ the same word as in 2b) are not far to seek.  Here they are summed up as reverence (the right relationship to God, 1a) and obedience (the habits learnt from Him, 1b).”  Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150, trans. H. C. Oswald (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 458.  Kraus suggests that the psalmist begins with an address to “those who with all seriousness are devoted to Yahweh.”  This fear of the Lord is not just a “hackneyed expression for a conventional religious attitude, but an expression for existentially involved existence.  He who fears Yahweh recognizes God as a living reality that is to be feared.  He subjects his entire life to the obedience and service of the hrwt of Yahweh.”

[vi]J. Becker, Gottesfurcht im AT (Rome: PBI, 1965), 270.  The fear of the Lord connects consistently with the heart’s affection for the Lord and obedience to His commands.

[vii]Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150, trans. H. C. Oswald (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 458-59.  He writes that “salvation and good fortune” belong to the qydx – “not prosperity and wealth, but a contented and successful life.”

[viii]Leslie Allen, Psalms 101-150, 185.  “The botanical similes fill out the promise with emotive content.  The vine and olive tree, sources of the staple products of Palestine along with cereal crops, brought enrichment to daily life and made it worth living (cf. 104:15).  The pictures of joy and fertility conjured up by the grape-laden vine (cf. Ezek 19:10) and the suckers springing up round the old olive tree served to preach as powerful a message to the mind as any television commercial communicates to the eye.”

[ix]Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150, 459.  He points to the blessing of a large family in this passage, but I have taken it a step further.  I have applied it to the principle of fulfillment in marriage when we do what God wants.  It is more than having “a large cluster of grapes.”  It is having the sustenance of intimacy and fellowship with our soul-mate.

[x]Ibid.  “The young green olive trees in the comparison symbolize the vital strength of the growing children.”

[xi]Leslie Allen, Psalms 101-150, 185.  He writes: “Before the pilgrims or a representative member of their ranks is set the ideal of a life dedicated to God in reverent obedience to His moral will.”

[xii]Adm. Vern Clark, Chief of Naval Operations, at Student Leadership University in Washington D. C. on July 22, 2004.

[xiii]Leslie Allen, Psalms 101-150, 185.  He notes that this phrase points to divine origin of blessings.  “Blessing is the largesse of life in abundance from the generous hand of Yahweh himself.  He is no man’s debtor: trusting obedience is not overlooked.  Primarily, blessing is a cultic term: the sanctuary was the medium of its bestowal. . . . but its fulfillment depended upon each pilgrim’s attitude of heart and life to his God.  The hope is expressed in v 5 that the individual pilgrim may be found fit to receive the general promise of blessing as a reality in his own experience.”

 

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