Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Songs (psalms) for a Good Life: Psalm 128

Psa. 128:1    How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, 
Who walks in His ways. 
2 When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands
You will be happy and it will be well with you. 
3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine 
Within your house
Your children like olive plants 
Around your table
4 Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed 
Who fears the LORD. 

Psa. 128:5 The LORD bless you from Zion
And may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life. 
6 Indeed, may you see your children’s children. 
Peace be upon Israel!

Finally, on January 20, I will try and finish my 2014 series on “Songs (psalms) for a Good Life,” 6 psalms that start with “blessed,” and which outline how the God-oriented life is indeed the good life.

Earlier psalms, and posts, are available on Psalm 1, 32, 41, 112, 119, and this post on Psalm 128.

If the colors come through on the psalm, blue shows elements of “the good life.” Certainly, “blessed” is part of this. In this psalm, the first phrase of verse 1 forms a nice inclusio with verse 4, wedded with the idea of fearing this God who blesses. These are not exclusive terms. One does not either fear, or is blessed. It is inclusive: fear and blessedness go together. This is the God who holds us in the palm of His hand, and we are utterly at His disposal, and yet this is also the God who has made us promises. This is the God with whom we are bound by covenant, and we always fall short of our covenant obligations, and yet this is the God who covers are failings and provides a Substitute for us. Fear, and blessedness.

Further, in terms of blessings, more than in the other psalms, this blessedness is drawn out for us with other terms: happy, well, prosperity, peace. There is nothing wrong with these things. The blessing of God works out in ordinary and happy ways when our closest relationship flourish, and we are able to enjoy the simple joys of home and garden without undo fears of outside interruption or interference. If we have enjoyed these things for most of our lives, we may forget that this is not the rule in all places and at all times. Let us not forget to thank the Lord for the blessings that we have enjoyed for these years.

This is a family psalm. It is a garden psalm. It is a psalm that recognizes that family and garden can only thrive and be enjoyed when there is national or social stability.

The family aspect of the psalm is traditional. It is addressed to the father, with references to his wife and children. There is a stability here, an order that is outlined in Scripture as designed by God. Modern renditions of family have not been proven, and I believe that we will soon see increasing, disastrous consequences from this experimentation which will have to be further justified or explained away by social engineers. But this ancient text reminds us that there is old wisdom that is now sadly neglected.

The idea of fruitfulness can be difficult for us in a manufactured society. Fruitfulness should be organic. But when we live by the machine, we tend to think of productivity in manufactured, man-produced ways. You can find a perfect match online, and pick your children from genetic maps. But this is not what God is here describing. Our marriages and families are marked by surprises and delights that are not the product of our careful planning. They are from God, and we are blessed to see how they turn and grow.

We do not live our family/garden lives in a vacuum. There is a capitol, and the reign runs from the throne. There is a King, and we are subjects in the kingdom. And until every enemy has been placed under Christ’s feet, this political center will be contested by would-be powers and potentates. We will be caught in the middle between earthly and heavenly kingdoms, and here there will be rebellions and wars. May God continue to give us that kind of peace and stability, that we could enjoy not only our children, but their children as well.

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