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 2024, 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.