The Blessed Family
The Blessed Family
We are looking at a psalm of ascent. There are fifteen psalms with this inscription and most scholars believe that ascent refers to the pilgrimage to worship at the temple in Jerusalem (120-134). These psalms were sung on that pilgrimage.
The psalm we are looking at today is a psalm about the blessed person, and specifically it focuses on what his family is like.
A Song of Ascents. Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways! 2 You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. 3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. 4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD. 5 The LORD bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! 6 May you see your children's children! Peace be upon Israel! (Psalm 128:1-6 ESV)
Prop: The blessed person has an inner reality that transforms those around. It works through him, into those closest: his family, and then ripples to others in time and space. This blessing is not dependent on how good and perfect they are, but on the grace of God that comes to all.
Let's look at this psalm. The first word is blessed.
This psalm is about the Blessed person. Happy. We have seen this word in Psalm 1. Blessed is to be happy. In this psalm the blessed person ripples outward. It affects his spouse, his children, the city and nation, and even ripples out into the future and children’s children.
Who would not want to be like this person? Who doesn’t want to have an impact on others? Who doesn’t want to leave a legacy for his children’s children and also for the nation, for the church? Everyone would aspire to that. And so the question is how does that happen? How does one receive this? What is the source?
In this psalm you can trace that impact backward to the first cause, like a string of dominos. V6 blessed in children’s children (the future), the nation. V5 blessed in the city in present, v3 the spouse and children around the table, v2 blessed in eating, working, enjoying, being blessed. V1 Blessed is the one who fears the Lord.
Fear of the Lord. Repeated twice. Verse 1, 4
The source of all of this is the fear of the Lord. The sine qua non of happiness. It is the indispensable and essential ingredient. It leads to all the others. This is like following the domino train all the way back to the one that caused all the others. It also shows that this blessing can be had by anyone, as long as they fear God. “Blessed are all who…” This is an invitation.
Everyone lives in fear of something. It may be a fear of what others think. It may be a fear of not making enough money. It may be living up to the image you want (what you most value you will worship). You will be no better than the object of your worship.
Fearing God is so significant because it puts you on the path of God’s purpose. You don’t want to go outside of what pleases him. You fear disappointing your Father. God blesses people so that they can be a blessing to others (Gen 12, Psalm 112). This brings us in line with who God created us to be, and you can’t truly be that person until you see its essence of who we are. Blessings overflow out of the goodness of God. He creates and redeems not because he has to, is obligated to, but because it is simply who he is. We are to bless as he blesses. We don’t hoard blessings. We give them away.
This psalm is about one whose singular devotion to God has set him free from all other fears. The ultimate concern of this person is not making money, what he is going to eat or how he will live. The focus of him is not his reputation. His focus is not even having his wife’s respect or children’s obedience. He is characterized by a fear of God, not of other things. He has these because they are not his primary concern. I believe this fits in line with Jesus teaching, you cannot have two masters, either you will love one and hate the other (Matt 6:24).
What like when fear respect rules life. Whatever you fear is what rules your life. If you are consumed with fears about money, you will rule your family to get it. Kids will see that you don’t care about them but money, and then they will be like you.
Concern to fear God and walk in his ways.
This psalm challenges us with what is the singular desire that controls us. Moms, are you concerned about honoring God, or are your fears about others respecting your kids, leaving some detail of your kid’s lives unattended.
Men. I think this psalm is a particular challenge to you. Will you be the spiritual leader in your family, in your church, in your community. This blessing begins with a man experiencing it personally and sharing that outwardly. It goes from him, to his wife, to his kids, to his city, nation, church. Read your bible with your family. Lead in this. Make time for it. Pray with them. Talk about the hard issues that need to be talked about. Take responsibility. Talk about reaching others. If not then you are not teaching them to influence others. Focus on spiritual things. Are you leading? How… Are you...
There is a promise here that helps trust God and his ways. Avoid the fear of income, money. For our society this is one of our biggest struggles. Nothing takes us away from blessing others more. V2. Rest in that! We are having a trailer removed from the church property. And as soon as the guy showed up to do the work we encountered problems. He sees dollar signs rolling, shares that with me, and I'm frustrated at it. I came back in and read this psalm. Not to do sermon prep but because I felt like my soul needed it. Fear God. Follow him and his ways. You will eat. You will be blessed. It will be well. It will be good. Pleasant, joyful, good, delightful. Not perfect, but good. This is in line with “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread,” (Gen 3:19 ESV). Hard toil but he would eat.
We worry about our excess. Who is worried about food tonight? Don’t worry about tomorrow, it will worry about itself. Be present with your family. Be present with the people around you. Dads, your kids need you! Not your body while your mind is still in the office.
Fear God. Trust him means not fearing other things. This psalm looks back to the previous psalm. “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. (Psalm 127:1 ESV). Next time you are anxious, worried, etc ask yourself if you are fearing God.
His wife is blessed. She is a fruitful vine.
A couple things with this phrase. First note that his wife is flourishing. Vines are beautiful plants. They thrive most when they are supported with a trellis or some other prop. It seems here that the analogy is appropriate. The wife is nurtured and cared for by her husband and in turn the wife is a blessing to her husband. Within house.
Her heart is focused on those closest to her. Their good and well being and she is beautifying the house. Decorations, attitudes, etc. He is blessing her; she is blessing him. And the source of it all is the love and fear of God. Accepting the place God has you and blessing the other.
If you are in a place in your marriage that this is not the case start discussing it. Husbands lead in the conversation. Get it focused on God. Your marriage is not about you. It's God first. Regardless of where you are, husbands take time to talk to your wife about how you are doing in loving one another, “where can I improve.” Initiate this discussion. Lead in it. Ask her how you can support her better. Wives, ask your husbands the same thing. Say you're sorry when you mess up or hurt one another. Don’t grow sour!
As a leader, when Amanda and the kids are struggling, I'll ask myself or them, what does this say about my leadership. How can I set a better example or care for them and how can I get them the support they need.
In the Bible people who know each other eat together. Eating together is significant. It is significant that the image of a blessed family involves a table with all gathered around it. Eating together shows relationship. You learn about each others lives while eating together. Kids learn about life. You learn about showing others respect, listening to each other, how to ask questions and converse. Your kids are like olive branches. I don’t fully understand that imagery. I would have said they are like tazmanian devils, but an olive tree sounds better. Olive sprouts come up from the base of an olive tree, green sprouts bursting all around, could see how it resembles a parent with kids running around. Spend time eating with people you know and care about. Make it a goal to eat meals together as a family. Put your phones down. Get in sync on the schedule. Be present and involved. Don’t just everyone eat in a different room, different time, and all going about their own lives without intersecting. Here family is together.
While this psalm gives us a wonderful photo of a family and what it could be like, I think it also teaches us to live by faith, and reminds that this wonderful family comes by grace.
Live by faith
The fear of God also teaches us to have faith, faith in what God says and will do.
Might think this reads like an episode of Father knows best. The father comes home in his suit, knows everything, and his trophy wife is done up in makeup, hair perfect, and dressed to a T. Some of you might sit there and say this has nothing to do with me. I am not this. I have failed. I am a failure, and all this church has to offer me is more condemnation in feeling bad about the things that I have done. I already hate those things. And so you tune out the message of blessing, “I’m not that so I’m not blessed and never will be.”
Let me list some realities for us that might show why I want to address this issue. We live in a time when people say you can be whatever you want. Don’t let anyone hold you back. We live in the richest nation in the history of the world, and that creates expectations that will never be met. It also makes it extremely hard when we see some of the realities of our age.
24 million children (34 percent) live absent their biological father. Nearly 20 million children (27 percent) live in single-parent homes.
About 60 million married couples in the U.S. About a fifty percent divorce rate. 30 million people whose marriage has fallen apart.
Do you know that today there are over 42 milllion survivors of sexual abuse. Estimated that 1 in 5 boys; 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused. Over 90% of these were abused by someone they knew, someone they trusted, someone in their family. A blessing coming from the family is totally foreign.
Staggard to find 6/10 female prison inmates had experienced sexual abuse. Shows the difficulty in dealing with such abuse.
Do you know that since 1973 there have been over 56 million abortions. There are currently 330,000,000 people in the US. That means one abortion for every six people. Families are ravaged and hurting.
More than 23 million adults in the United States have struggled with problematic drug use, According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 19.7 million American adults (aged 12 and older) battled a substance use disorder in 2017.1
one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk,
You may feel deeply the effects of sin in your family and you shutter to hear of this perfect family. You may not want to hear it. You may be uncomfortable and think Christianity is not for you because you don’t have this. Maybe other things you experience that keep you from believing God has a good plan for you. I'm glad you are here. I believe this psalm is for you. I believe this psalm has a powerful message for you. It is a call to live by faith. But you will need to turn away from faithlessness. You need to stop letting your hurts, sin, mistakes define you and you need to fall completely into the arms of Jesus and his Lordship over you. You need to have him define you fully, completely, and not just one of many voices. It is his and his voice alone.
5 The LORD bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life!
This psalm speaks of Jerusalem, God’s chosen city as the source from which the fear of God would be taught and spread, thus his blessings flowing from Jerusalem, Zion. Jerusalem was the location of the temple. It was the capital of God’s people. He sees God’s blessing flowing from there. That they would see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
This psalm book, the greatest hits album, was composed around 540-440bc. Do you know what Jerusalem was like in this time period? It was destroyed in 586bc. King Nebuchadnezzer destroyed the temple and city. He burned it to the ground, and then deported the people to a new land. That is a terrible defeat. This psalm is included even though the city was destroyed. The temple was rebuilt but remember the people who knew the original temple cried when they saw the rebuilt temple because it was just a shadow of the former.
There is a speaking by faith here. He is speaking of blessing come from Jerusalem. That is looking to God who “calls things that are not as though they were” (Rom 4:17). To look at the torn down, neglected, messed up, ruined, and saying “God, do a work there”. It is by faith we believe. It is by faith we are saved. It is by faith we live.
Jesus as the source of blessing.
You may think you have failed and don’t deserve God’s blessing. And you would be right. None of us deserve it. And the amazing thing is he still invites us to partake of it. He invites us to his table. We have to leave behind all other things. We have to leave behind our doubts, our evil ways, our bad habits, and fall on him. And the good news is that he gives us new life. He reorders our lives. Jesus came to people whose lives were ruined by sin, ruined by evil, he cast out evil spirits and people began to find restoration in him. We are blessed by fearing him (v1). It is not what we have experienced.
What is holding you back from finding peace? What are you looking to for refuge? Are you looking to Christ to change you, heal you, help you. Only he died for your sins. Only he created you and can recreate you. Only he breathed life to your body and can fill you with his Spirit.
Stop denying his power. Stop resisting it. Stop turning to other things to do what only he can do. Take refuge in him and his word. I was listening this week to a pastor talking about a lady in his church that was struggling with depression. As they worked through things, she shared taking refuge in violent movies, particularly horror and violent movies. They had become a form of oppression to her. There was a spiritual influence that was destroying her. She had to cast that away. Maybe it is horror movies, maybe it is pornography, maybe you have been hurt, and you refuse to love. The lake of blessing in you has been damned up and nothing can come out and so nothing comes in. You are stagnant. You are isolated, but you refuse to humble yourself.
Pushing people away because you have been hurt and fear it happening again. Do you fear the trauma more than you fear the Lord then the trauma is defining you. Is your hardship greater than God’s grace.
Stop avoiding God. Stop making excuses. When you avoid church, people, prayer it means you have not dealt with your hurt. Don't go to the movies when you should go to God, to God’s people, to prayer. You need to spend time with God and the things he calls you to. Live by faith. Experience the healing God makes possible through Jesus.
Don’t say “But I...” That is making excuses for not believing the power of God, for not surrendering to him.
Where sin abounded grace super abounded. Are you living like Jesus can fill up your emptiness.
It is possible for God to change you, change your experience in family. I recently had a friend give me a lathe, that is a machine that spins wood in circles so you can put a metal knife to it and shape it into bowls, candlesticks, etc. It’s like pottery for men. I like to do woodwork so this has been fun. I realized something this week. My favorite pieces are the ones that have blemishes. It adds to the depth and character of the piece. Shows it's not a fake plastic piece. These spots are often left from old branches that broke off, water got into and damaged the wood, but the tree continued growing, and the new growth covered the old blemish. As I looked at a piece I was wondering why those spots made it so appealing to us. Why do people like barnwood so much today? I think it reminds us of a story, a story of God, a story that our God takes what is blemished and makes it beautiful. It happens with wood and it happens in our lives. Give yourselves holy to God. Fear him above everything else. Look to him for refuge, for change, for direction. He will take your blemishes and make them beautiful, even the most painful, difficult ones, and he will make you a blessing to others, to your family, to your neighbors, to generations in the future. That is living by faith.
Why does God bless those who fear him? Why is the fear of God so critical? What do you really fear most in life?
What are the blessings experienced by those who fear God?
How does this psalm encourage and challenge you to live by faith?