Psalm 137 Lynne McCarthy 11/30/22
Observe: A communal lament as the children of Israel recall their exile in Babylon. They missed their life in Zion and longed for Jerusalem, far out of their reach. Their captors mock them, demanding entertainment with their hymns praising the Lord of Zion, but the people will not, cannot do this.
And the depth of the captives’ desire to have the Lord repay their hurt takes the form of a prayer in the last stanza, against Edom that utterly destroyed Jerusalem (Obadiah 11 on) and Babylon’s violence to those in Jerusalem. The last verse makes us shudder, but it is so honest.
Interpret: Lex talionis, the law of punishment matching the crime (from where we get “retaliation”), is a central feature in this psalm. While the Exile was part of God’s purifying process for his people, and the prophet Jeremiah urged the exiles to live in Babylon and make the city flourish (Jer. 29:5-7), they now ask God to destroy their infants as the Babylonians had done to theirs in Jerusalem. In the ancient world, the practice of destroying infants of a conquered people was common, even recorded in the Hebrew Bible – 2 Kings8:12, Hosea 10:14 and 13:16, Nahum 3:10.
The psalm is not an approval of this horror but asks that the conquerors of Babylon would carry out God’s justice. Oppression of God’s people will be met with this very justice, and not out of human desire to hurt back. It’s hard to understand when Jesus has taught us to turn the other cheek, pray for those who oppress us and love our enemies, but God is Mystery, and this we must accept. We need more to pray for the repentance of those who do harm to us and others.
Apply: It’s so easy to want to strike back against someone who has hurt us, or to seethe in righteous anger at those who hurt others. We too live in a violent, Godless society, but while we aren’t part of it, we are too close for any comfort as we read, watch, and observe what’s going on around us.
Seething only raises the blood pressure, griping only becomes a tape loop. We have prayer to counteract these useless reactions, and how we need to exercise that gift! It’s not for lack of means; there are small groups (find one and join it if you’re not in one!), prayer teams at the end of the service, prayer warriors in our church, and we can even pray on the phone or via email. But that’s what we do, knowing the Lord is in complete charge of all things and knows what’s going on. He’ll give us our marching orders in His time. Meanwhile, we’re in prayer boot camp as we wait for Him.
Ask: Lord, will You help me to lift my eyes to You so that I constantly honour Your glory and power, and not become depressed or angry when I look at what’s happening around me?
Pray: Lord, thank you that we can come to you at all times with things that disturb, hurt, or militate against what is Your righteousness and goodness. This is not mere optimism or idealism, but rather a desire that You deepen our faith, that together with brothers and sisters who experience injustice and terror, we may always turn to You as the Giver of hope, healing and justice. This psalm was hard to read, but it is what is out there. And You are not ‘out there’ but are so very close to us in our sadness and need. Thank You, our great Lord of Life and Peace.
Sing: Psalm 137 - Poor Bishop Hooper
O Zion - Scottish Psalmist
Rivers of Babylon - Jason Silver
Blog on Psalm 136 by Rev. Susan Salo
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.”
Thus begins this ode of thanksgiving to the Lord who has been in a very special relationship with Israel throughout their history. It begins with the bidding to be thankful to God, declaring the sovereignty of God from the act of creation and continues with Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt and through the conquest of the Promised Land. The summing up in v. 23-25 put it into a nutshell, with reciting God’s character of love and mercy to Israel and to the whole of creation. The last verse is another bid to, “Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.”
You can’t miss the theme of this psalm, as it is a constant refrain throughout. It is most likely to have been intended as a liturgical psalm, said or sung responsively; possibly with a priest leading with the first line of each verse, and a Levitical choir or the whole congregation replying with the refrain.
Just as we celebrate certain seasons throughout the liturgical year with Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and so on, so this may have been used in a season of Thanksgiving (totally unrelated to turkeys and pilgrims). Such seasons in the church’s year are a reminder – that we have a good God who is worthy of all thanksgiving and worship. Sometimes we need a reminder like this so that we will see our own lives in relation to God’s commitment to his creation and his people.
APPLICATION: So, looking back over your own life, take time to thank God for bringing you the tough times, blessing you with good times, and especially for revealing himself to you in his beloved Son, Jesus. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you through the retrospective, and “Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.”
SONG: Robin Mark - Forever (Give Thanks to the Lord)
Observe The first four verses are a call to the community (and the Levitical attendants – the servants of the Lord (1)) -- to praise God, and the singer gives the reasons for doing so. The next verses briefly rehearse their history, God’s mighty deeds, and mock the ludicrous gods whose ‘worshippers’ become like them, so do all who trust in them (18). The last stanza (19-21) calls on the houses of Israel to extol the Lord from Zion, he who dwells in Jerusalem! (21).
The splendid God of majestic power displays His deeds on behalf of His covenant people. Praise is their very best response, simply because He is great, because He loves them, protects them, gives to them, and has no parallel among the gods of other nations.
What’s not to love such a wonderful God? Why not praise Him?
Interpret Following the Songs of Ascent, Psalm 135 is a ‘community’ or historical hymn that recalls the deeds of the Lord in the life of His covenant people. There’s no mention of their faithlessness, because this is a hymn to their Lord, to praise His glorious name.
The significance of His name is reflected in this Psalm (1,13), demonstrating His sovereignty over earth, sea and sky (6-8), all at His good pleasure. His power and enduring love are Israel’s history – His protection from their enemies and His generous legacy of the land express His covenant love. The singer borrows Psalm 115:4-8 to mock the worthlessness of dumb pagan idols – they can’t do what He has done -- or anything else.
Why not praise such a wonderful God?
Apply There’s value in thinking back over events in our lives, whether via Grandpa’s ancient 8-mm movies cranked out on an equally ancient projector, Grandma’s overflowing photo albums of every event in children’s and grandchildren’s (and maybe great grands!) lives, Great-Aunt’s old diaries and letters, or flipping thru our phones for that buried picture (wait a sec, it’s here somewhere!) of some event so very important at the time. We want to share these markers in our lives, these pixels of our history.
We need to remember. Even more, we need to remember often and everywhere our need for our Lord as we learn dependence on Him.
Name is still a powerful thing. God knows our names, calls us by name, loves us, so He gave us His Son and we bear His name. He remembers us! To develop our memories, let’s ask His Spirit to help us recall the blessings, the joys, the rescues, the mercies, the grace without measure He has given us.
Then – come and praise the Lord! Why not?
Ask What haven’t You done in my life, Lord? When I think about You how can I not praise You?
Pray Lord, as I recall my so-brief history, how You saved me, how You cared for and carried me, how You adopted me into this dear church family, bring me by Your Spirit to praise and thank You, often and everywhere. You know my name; let me call on Your Name in thanksgiving for all You are.
Sing Ps 135
The Gathering Sound Collective - Come Praise the Lord
U of Arkansas Choirs - Slavite Gospoda (Praise the Lord) Serbian Orthodox hymn
May You Bless the Lord, and May He Bless You
Psalm 134: by Trish Reimer
This is the last of the series of fifteen psalms with the title A Song of Ascents. It is the shortest of these psalms and the second shortest chapter in the Bible (Psalm 117 being the shortest). If we were to sum this psalm up in two thoughts it would be: “May you bless the Lord and may the Lord bless you!”
Interpretation and Application:
The Lord blesses us by reaching down to take care of us and our needs, but how do we bless the Lord? He can’t receive anything from us that He needs or He doesn’t already have. A translation of the word bless in this case would be to adore, praise, or give heartfelt thanks to the Lord. It is thought that the servants mentioned in this psalm were the Levites, the temple priest and the captain of the guard whose duty it was to keep watch from sunset to sunrise in the temple. (I Chronicles 9:33 Those who were musicians, heads of Levite families, stayed in the rooms of the temple and were exempt from other duties because they were responsible for the work day and night.) They were to lift their hands and praise the Lord. This means that they wouldn’t be spending their time only in watching, but also singing and pouring out their hearts in praise to the Lord. No time to sleep here! But…raising one’s hands in the sanctuary? What does that mean? Perhaps we can think of raising our hands as a symbol of surrender as well as offering up our lives to the Lord. It’s also a sign of welcoming fellowship and communion with the Father.
We end the series of the Songs of Ascents with an answer of blessing back to the people. We began the series in Psalm 120 with a theme of “this world is not my home” and end with Psalm 134 declaring that we are safe at home with God and His people. It’s rather like climbing a mountain. When we finally reach the peak or the end destination of the climb, what do we do? We tend to look back and see how far we’ve come and the terrain that we’ve traversed. So in reading through the Songs of Ascents, how far have you come?
May you bless the Lord and may He bless you!
Father, we bless You and praise You for what you have done and are continuing to do in our lives. May we keep our eyes on You as we go through life, surrender to You, and look forward to our heavenly home. Amen.
Bless the Lord: by Andre Crouch
True Unity - by Richard Neufeld
Psalm 133 is the last of four Psalms attributed to David in the 15 Psalms of Ascents. While the exact timing and reason for it’s composition is unknown, it could likely be attributed to David’s reception as king over all of Israel which marked the end of a long season of division and discord.
In it we see 3 verses, the first of which declares a blessing, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” Followed by verses 2 and 3 which describe the blessing, “It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron … It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! …”
Such a short and simple Psalm can easily be overlooked in favour of those who are more lengthy and detailed, however we cannot afford to miss the exhortation here; God is pleased and honoured when His people dwell together in unity! We are, of course, called to be in union and communion with the Lord, which is our highest duty, but this supreme function must overflow into union and charity with one another.
If we belong to the Lord then we are a part of His body, and a body cannot function properly if it is warring with itself. See the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 12, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.”
Obviously, the presence of many parts needing to work together is an opportunity either for great discord or great humility. The more parts a thing has the more segmented it is, the more chance these differentiating lines between one part and another can become lines of division. We, as Christians especially, are in constant danger of puffing ourselves up and thinking ‘our way is the best way, the right way,’ and we can look upon those who are simply different as lesser or inferior. Our tempers grow short with those who have caused us grief and we arrogantly isolate ourselves from others in the name of pride.
David reminds us of what is truly and simply good; We are called together as one body, as living sacrifices, as living stones to make up a greater whole (that is, the body and temple of Christ) and that means fitting in right alongside those who might genuinely rub us the wrong way or have caused us anger or annoyance. True unity doesn’t come when there are no causes for division, for as long as we are on this earth, we can always find reasons to push one person or another away. True unity comes from seeing ourselves and others for what and who we are yet loving one another anyway, warts and all.
True unity starts with the humble admission that none of us are perfect; we’ve all rocked the boat and exasperated and hurt others. We have all grieved the Holy Spirit, offended our Heavenly Father, and piled our sin on His crucified Son. Yet even while we were His enemies, He poured out grace upon grace. We ought to extend that limitless grace to one another and not hold back! I challenge you, my wonderful reader, to hear the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 18:21-35.
True unity grows into love and forgiveness through loving understanding. It doesn’t mean brushing everything under the rug, but graciously dealing with hurts, accepting responsibility, holding our temper, forgiving quickly, and just letting the little things go.
True unity grows into love covering a multitude of sins, forgiving as we have been forgiven, and seeing those in the pews next to us as our God-given family who are walking that narrow path alongside you.
True unity results in us having the mind of Christ which has compassion on those who grieve us, and in a well-functioning body of believers that cast aside bitterness and gossip in favour of humble service towards one another. This unity is good and pleasant, a city on a hill, and our light in the world, that all may see our good works and give glory to God.
Lord, as I write these blogs and exhort others to live as you have taught, let me not be a hypocrite. Convict me of what disunity I may have caused and teach me to love others as you have loved them. Show me ways in which to lift up my fellow brothers and sisters, so that by demonstrating your love to others, I may do my part in edifying your great and glorious Church. Help us all to remove the root of bitterness and self-righteousness from our hearts and seek to serve you and one another with cheerfulness and thanksgiving. Amen!
Song: Hello Heaven - Strahan
Lord, Remember Me (By: Chris B)
Text: Psalm 132
Verse 1: After invoking God, the psalmist asks him to remember David. Here the psalmist calls on God not only to have a positive disposition towards the Davidic dynasty, but also to act positively on his behalf.
Verses 2-5: This stanza recalls David’s intense commitment to build a place where God is to reside. He swore an oath and will deny himself sleep in the interest of constructing the holy place.
Verses 6-9: This stanza recounts David’s efforts to bring the ark to Jerusalem. The endeavor began in Ephrathah, another name for Bethlehem, the ancestral home of David. The stanza ends with a call for God to confer righteousness on the priests and joy on the people as they accompany the ark back to Jerusalem.
Verses 10-12: These verses are best understood as a request for help for a royal descendant of David, based on the promise of a dynasty that God made to David.
Verses 13-15: The psalm now focuses on Zion; the place God chose for the construction of the temple and thus the spiritual center of the world.
Verses 17-18: The psalm opened with the request for God to remember David, and now it ends with the divine commitment that he will indeed adopt a positive disposition and act accordingly towards his dynasty.
INTERPRET: Psalm 132 does not fit neatly into just one genre. However, it is clearly a royal psalm, appealing to God on behalf of the Davidic dynasty and based on the Davidic covenant found in 2 Samuel 7. The psalm pre-supposes a problem that is not clearly described, but certainly explains the urgency with which the psalmist asks God to remember his self-denial (v. 1), and his appeal not to reject your anointed one (v. 10).
Psalm 132 appeals for God’s help for the anointed king. It recalls David’s passion to make a house for God’s presence, as symbolized in the ark. The importance for Christian theology centers on the concern for the anointed king (or Messiah) and its connection to the Davidic Covenant. After the exile to Babylon in 586 BC, the royal psalms were read with an eschatological meaning - in the future, an anointed one, a Messiah and descendant of David, would assume the throne. Although Psalm 132 is not explicitly quoted in connection with Christ in the New Testament, other royal psalms surely are, which include Psalms 2, 45, 89 and 110.
APPLICATION: Psalm 132 is a beautiful psalm filled with promises stretching all the way from Genesis to Revelation. This psalm teaches us one simple truth: All of God’s promises are ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, God has come to dwell in and with his people forever. We have been made priests of our God – clothed in salvation, richly provided for, to sing joyful songs of worship.
Two practices that will help us live abundantly in these promises include:
PRAYER: Jesus, Son of David, remember us. Make us a priestly people; clothe us in righteousness, make us fruitful, and give us hearts to shout for joy in your salvation; we pray in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
SONG: Jesus, Remember Me
Childlike Faith by Pastor Dave
“But I have stilled and quietened my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.”
Psalm 131: 2
This Psalm of David is simple, short, beautiful and deep. David, in verse 1, shows that he knows the enemies of his own soul: pride; haughtiness; and arrogance. These failings are found in the heart, eyes and actions of his (and our) lives. Pride is a matter of the heart where an individual believes that they know better than God; self is their king not God. Haughtiness is the focus of a person’s eyes; they can look down on others and focus on their desires rather than on their Saviour and Lord. Finally arrogance can lead people to fill their lives with action and busyness, often in matters that are actually above them, rather than in loving service to the Lord. These characteristics lead people away from God and harm their souls.
The antidote for the soul is a childlike faith. A weaned child no longer suckles at their mother’s breast; they have grown. They are in a state where they remain in their mother’s presence, in a place of peace and trust. As a child of God a person can trust in God’s sovereignty as He knows the big picture and has all things in His hands. In this state of humble assurance they can fix their eyes on God and be held in a loving embrace; this heals and quietens the soul.
The Psalmist encourages God’s people to adapt this attitude and to place their hope in the Lord.
In some senses the application of this Psalm in our lives is straight forward: what is the condition of our hearts – proud or humble; where are our eyes focused – on our Saviour or our desires; and in what activities are we involved – humble service or personal ambition? The answers to and deeper aspects of these questions lie, however, in the state of our relationship with God. He calls us to grow beyond being spiritual babies (1 Corinthians 3: 1-2) and to satisfy ourselves on more that spiritual milk (Hebrews 5: 11-13). We are to mature as Christians, as His children, but remain in His presence trusting His sovereignty and being held in His loving embrace. In that place we can truly quieten our souls and place our hope in Him. We do however need a childlike faith (Luke 18: 16-17).
The Question of Application
Who holds your heart, where are your eyes focused and what are you busy with?
Father of hearts, desires and actions may we know you, your voice and embrace in a living and loving relationship with you. Teach us the way of quiet, that we may find our peace in your presence and hope in your grace, in and through the pattern of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen
Abide with me sung by Audrey Assad
Blog on Psalm 130 by Rev. Kim Salo
“Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord, hear my voice.”
Observe: Psalm 130 is a penitential psalm. The psalmist has sinned, and is now overwhelmed with guilt like someone drowning: “Out of the depths I cry to you.” The plea from the heart is for God to hear the cry for mercy. This is an act of faith, that God really is merciful.
The psalmist knows that if God wrote down every sin, no one could stand. But God is forgiving, and once forgiven, we can stand and serve once more.
“I wait for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning.” The lonely sentinel in the dark hours before dawn is a powerful picture of patient waiting for God. The psalmist knows that God will redeem, but this can not be hurried, not can we rush to “fix” it, so one must wait.
The last stanza (7-8) is a final call to the congregation to trust the Lord to be merciful. God will redeem Israel from all their sins. So, this is more than a personal and private prayer; it is also a word to others to do as the psalmist does: cry out to the Lord, and wait for God’s redemption. We move from private confession of sin to corporate confession and redemption.
Interpret: I recently did something wrong. I felt guilt and shame. But because I have faith that God forgives, I asked to be forgiven. I also know, partly from experience, that my efforts to “fix” or deny what I did wrong are vain, and only make matters worse. Faith, and experience, teach me that honestly talking to God and patiently waiting on God are the way to go. My part is to trust that God really does forgive when we confess real sin. God saves us.
All this is true of personal sin, but it is equally true of corporate sin. Israel knew this from centuries of bitter experience. Their long rebellion against God’s covenant finally resulted in their exile from Israel itself. Not just the 70 years of exile but the long years of reconstruction after the return gave Israel’s prophets and sages much to ponder. Does God truly forgive? Yes. Must we be honest in our repentance? Yes. Is there a process for redemption, rather than a quick fix? Yes. Finally, do we need to be patient and wait for God to do his forgiving work? Absolutely yes.
Apply: Is God mean-spirited, penny-pinching, holding long grudges against us? Or, is God gracious and forgiving, ready to listen, embracing the penitent sinner, generous with love and mercy?
How we answer this will determine much of our attitude to God, and will also set our compass on how we should treat others who sin.
Which picture of God do we carry in our hearts? Our answer to this question makes a real difference in how we approach our own sins. If God truly forgives, then we will honestly confess, and wait for what God will do.
But if God is mean and grudging, in our private picture of the Lord, then we will hide our sins not only from God, but even from our inmost selves, let alone everyone else. That is not a road to joy and freedom, but the road to perdition.
Which God do we believe in? Do we believe in a God who forgives?
Pray: Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name, through Christ our Lord. Amen (Collect for Purity, Book of Common Prayer, p.67)
Song: “My Faith Looks Up To Thee”
Cutting the Cords
November 11th – Les Kovacs Psalm 129
Observe: Psalm 129 is the tenth of the fifteen Songs of Ascent. As the people journeyed in groups to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the religious festivals, they sang these Psalms. This Psalm remembered the occasions when God delivered them from their enemies and brings a curse down on the heads of their oppressors.
In the opening 4 verses the psalmist describes how they were oppressed from their youth, and how these oppressors bound them in cruel slavery. Yet though they were oppressed, they were not defeated, because the Lord had cut their cords of bondage.
The final 4 verses call for retribution on all who hate them. The psalmist wants them all to be covered in shame, and to wither and die like grass on a roof. No blessings from God are to be offered to them.
Interpret: When you read Psalm 129, you can sense the psalmist's pain, an enduring pain that lingers from the time he was a child. It is a pain that has left bitterness in his heart. It is expressed as a personal pain, but it is one that that is shared with all the people of Israel, a kind of collective, national lament. The psalmist invites the other pilgrims to repeat the line with him, "Let Israel now say.” Their oppressors were cruel and brutal. "The Plowmen have plowed my back and made their furrows long." (verse 3) referring to the welts and scars on his back made by flogging and beating that remind him of a plowed field. The suffering was painful and long, but now it is over. The Lord is just and righteous. He has delivered them out of their slavery. The Lord has cut the ropes and they are free, He has cut the “cords of the wicked" (verse 4).
Even though the Lord has freed them from their oppression, the bitterness of the experience remains, and the psalm concludes with a curse on the enemies who have done this to him and to Israel. The curse expresses the animosity built up in them towards their enemies. Their oppressors had shamed Israel in the past, so now let them be ashamed and defeated. Let their assault on God's people be turned back on them.
In ancient Israel, neighbors would usually greet one another as they walked by saying, "God bless you." But for the enemies of Israel, the psalmist declares that no one should greet them and wish them well. No one. “May those who pass by not say to them, “The blessing of the Lord be on you;” (verse 8)
Application: As Christians, it can be difficult for us to reconcile the psalmists asking God to curse their enemies, sometimes in the cruelest of terms, while Jesus calls us to forgive them. Is that a contradiction in scripture? Does God curse people? No. Absolutely not. Any hardships, difficulties, or challenges we face in life, the “curses” as the psalmists put it, are a result of sin, either ours or someone else’s, not God. Nothing about living a “cursed” life is willed by God, just the opposite! His will for us is clearly revealed through Jesus Christ in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
What we see here is an example of "progressive revelation". These are scriptural truths that are revealed gradually, over time. Remember that the Patriarchs actually met the Lord, but they weren’t shown everything about His whole character or His righteousness. The psalmists experienced God, but they weren’t given complete understanding of His grace and love for His people. It is through the life and teaching of Jesus Christ in the New Testament that we begin to understand what real love, mercy and grace means. And even when we do understand it, we find it hard to put it into practice in our daily lives.
As we endure our own injustices, we may empathize with the writer of the psalm as we cry, “But they deserve to be cursed! They're evil! They're unjust! They’re cruel!” as we wallow in our bitterness and resentment. But Jesus brings us a new truth, a new way to live. "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:43-44)
Psalm 129 teaches us that while we may be sorely afflicted by various oppressions, we are not defeated because the Lord has "cut the cords of the wicked" and set us free. However, it has little to teach us about grace. It takes Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross for us to learn about grace and to extend that grace even to our enemies.
Furthermore, we sometimes forget that we too may be counted among the wicked for the various sins we commit against each other and against Him. None of us can stand before God in our own righteousness. Jesus took our curse of our sins upon Himself and stood in our place before the Judge of all Creation. His sacrifice cut the cords of all the wicked, once and for all.
Prayer: Thank you for delivering us from our afflictions, O Lord. Thank you for cutting the cords of the wicked in answer to our prayers. And thank you for taking our curse upon yourself, so that we need not curse our enemies, but rather love them with the radical love that we find at the cross. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
Song: Psalm 129 – Jason Silver
"Blessed Is Everyone" by Lynne McCarthy
Observe This Psalm begins with a beatitude: Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways (1). It exults in the faithfulness of the godly who follow Him, and the results are apparent: fruitfulness of the land, joy-giving spouse, children bursting with energy and promise, sitting around the table – the ideal happy family. The home is meant as an image of this God-gifting: fruitful, joyful, prosperous, and generous (5b).
As each family is blessed with abundance by Yahweh, so is Jerusalem. Longevity is tied closely to peace. The psalm ends with prayer for the peace of Israel, God’s larger community.
Interpret Continuing the Songs of Ascent, this “wisdom” Psalm expands some themes in the previous Psalm, showing material and familial blessedness in the context of ancient Israel. Family, microcosm of the entire community of Israel, flourishes.
The beatitude recalls Psalm 1:1, where the person refuses to walk in the way of the wicked but careful study of God’s Word brings abundant growth. In Psalm 128, walking with the Lord means prosperity and progeny for the wellbeing of the community. God looks down from Zion with blessings for Jerusalem, its faithful citizens living long enough to enjoy their grandchildren.
This Psalm is chanted at weddings in the Orthodox Church, its picture of ideal married life reflecting the joy and generosity of the Lord.
Apply The ideal family isn’t a June Cleaver perfect wife, hubby in suit and tie (and fedora of course) back from work to a pristine house, a home-cooked meal and more or less respectful children. So how does this Psalm fit in to our culture of self-centred, materialistic, do and be whatever you want norms?
As families in ancient Israel realized that they were part of the larger community of God where peace was the desired norm, could we not look at a Christlike church family as a desired norm? Each of us has a part to play, youngest to eldest. Family may not become an isolated idol; singles (an aberration in many cultures) may not live their lives independent of others; the elderly may not be warehoused and ignored.
Not easy because we’re so acculturated, but our Lord can move us outside our squeezed boxy lives into His expansive goodness, cultivated in the family unit (and church), spilling over to where it is most needed.
Ask How may I be truly a contributing member of Your family Lord, in our less-than-ideal world?
Pray Lord, we thank you for the babies, toddlers, children among us, so full of life and energy and innocence; we thank you for the youth, subject to so many temptations but You rejoice over them; we thank you for young adults starting a new life in careers or studies; we thank you for young families, teaching their children to love You; we thank you for older adults, fulfilling what You have asked of them while facing their challenges; we thank you for those called to singleness, serving Your community in their unique way; we thank you for our elders, whose stories and lives we must respect. Lord, by Your grace we are becoming one in You. Keep each one of us faithful to You as we cultivate Your love for one another.
Sing Ps 128
Sons of Korah - Olive Plants
The Music Ministry - Blest are those who love you (Marty Haugen)
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.