The Blessed Life | Psalm 128

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  • The Blessed Life | Psalm 128
  • There is a general sense in which every person is a recipient of the kindness of God that sustains life. But it is a far greater thing to be enriched by divine favor. In this regard, some of blessed; others are not. Deep down, every human soul desires to be blessed by God. Many do not acknowledge, understand, or embrace this longing. They spend their lives seeking worldly blessings that do not satisfy. Proverbs 10:22 says, “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow to it.” What is the blessed life? Psalm 128 answers. 

    The ascription reads: A Song of Ascents. Psalms 120-134 are hymns the Jewish pilgrims would sing as they traveled to Jerusalem to worship in the temple. The author and the occasion of this psalm are unknown. But the dominating theme of the psalm is obvious. It is a celebration of God’s blessings on a person, his family, and the nation. The psalm mentions blessing four times. Two Hebrews for blessings are used. The psalm is an ode to the blessed life. 

    Verse 1 tells us the blessed life is available to “everyone.” Verse 4 describes the “man” who is blessed. In verse 3, the man has a wife and children. In verse 6, he has grandchildren. These references do not exclude women from the blessed life. They emphasize the God-given role godly men play in the home and society. As goes the husband and father, so goes the family and community. 

    • Psalm 127 warns that life, family, and work are in vain without God. 
    • Psalm 128 sings that life, family, and work are blessed when you live for God. 

    Psalm 128 is a Wisdom Psalm. It reads like Proverbs. This psalm does not guarantee health, wealth, and success. The psalm teaches godly principles, not guaranteed promises. The godly are not immune to financial difficulties, marriage trouble, or rebellious children. The blessings of God do not cancel the realities of a fallen world. The blessings of God overcome the realities of a fallen world. A godly life is a blessed life. How can I enjoy a blessed life? Psalm 128 celebrates three aspects of the blessed life. 

    Personal Blessings 

    Psalm 1:1 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” Psalm 128:1 also begins with a blessing: “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways.” “Blessed” is often translated “happy.” It is supreme happiness that experiences good fortune in walk and work. 

    Blessed in Your Walk. Verse 1 says, “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways.” The verse describes life a blessed person internally and externally. 

    A Godly Attitude. Verse 1 says, “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord.” The world views blessings in cash, clothes, cars, castles, and comforts. It views the fear of God as standing in the way of these things. The way to blessing is to fear God. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” The fear of God is not slavish fear. It is spiritual fear that combines awe, trust, and joy. It is worship God as Creator, Ruler, Sustainer, Redeemer, and Judge. The fear of the Lord is the heart of the blessed life. Psalm 34:8-10 says, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” 

    Godly Actions. What does it mean to fear God? Verse 1 answers: “walk in his ways.”  

    • The fear of the Lord is the cause. 
    • Walking in his ways is the effect. 

    The ways of God represent the will of God revealed in the word of God. There are two paths to follow: God’s way or man’s way. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” God’s way is the best way. Walk in his ways. Psalm 119:1 says, “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!” Walking denotes direction, constancy, and progress. Proverbs 6:18 says God hates “feet that make haste to run to evil.” Iniquity leads our feet to sin, minds to error, and souls to hell. The blood and righteousness of Christ produces a change of heart that results in a change of ways.

    Blessed in Your Work. Verse 1 is the blessed life declared. Verse 2 is the blessed life described. God blesseslife and labor. Verse 2 says, “You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.” Here is a threefold summary of the blessed life: 

    • Industry: “You shall eat of the fruit of the labor of your hands.” 
    • Prosperity: “You shall be blessed.” 
    • Security: “And it shall go well with you.” 

    God does not bless laziness. Verse 2 assumes legal and legitimate work. Genesis 3:17-18 says, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat if it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.” Work is not cursed. The curse makes work painful, tedious, and unfruitful. The God who established the curse suspends the curse for those he blesses. 

    Psalm 127:2 says, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil.” Blessed people do not work in vain. Psalm 128:2 says, “You shall eat of the fruit of the labor of your hands.” You can labor and not eat the fruit. The harvest may fail. Pestilence may devour the crop. Thieves may break in and steal. God can ensure you eat the fruit of the labor of your hands. Do not take credit for career, income, or promotion. You can be educated, excellent, experienced, and jobless. Psalm 37:25 says, “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsake or his children begging for bread” 

    Family Blessings 

    • Verse 2 describes the blessed life at work. 
    • Verse 3 describes the blessed life at home. 

    Here again is the difference between how the world and the Bible understand blessing. The world blesses men who succeed at work and fail at home. The high rate of fatherlessness, divorce, abortion is the result of a false value system that maximizes career and minimizes family. The blessed life is characterized by personal, career, and domestic bliss. 

    The Picture of a Blessed Family. Verse 3 pictures the blessed family in colorful images: “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.” 

    A Fruitful Wife. Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” Verse 3 describes the favor of a good wife. Martin Luther called this psalm “A Marriage Song.” God blesses a man with a wife who is like “a fruitful vine.” Interpreters read this as an image of fertility. That is the secondary point. The wife is like a vine. Fruitful describes what kind of vine she is. The image describes the wife’s graceful beauty. Song of Solomon 7:7-9 says, “Your stature is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its fruit. Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, and the scent of your breath like apples, and your mouth like the best wine.” 

    A fruitful vine is more than childbearing. It is all the Proverbs 31 ways a wife blesses her husband. She is faithful, not just fruitful. “Within your house” is literally, “In the inner chambers of your house.” It affirms the traditional family where the husband works the field, and the wife works the home. Even if she works outside the home, a godly wife’s heart is at home. She is not like the adulterous woman in Proverbs 7:11, whose feet do not stay at home. She embraces the dignity of marriage and motherhood with contentment.

    Growing Children. Psalm 127:4 describes the blessing of children in military terms: “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.” Psalm 128:3 describes the blessing of children in agricultural terms: “your children will be like olive shoots around your table.” Olive shoots grow slowly. They must be carefully cultivated. Wild olives shoots must be disciplined. And they remain fruitful for many years. 

    • Verse 2 describes God’s blessings on your table. 
    • Verse 3 describes God’s blessings around your table. 

    Marriage should come before sex. And marriage should come before children. Do not set yourself up to be responsible for multiple tables. Live so that your fruit of your labor lands on one table, and the olive shoots grow up around one table. Verse 2 celebrates a field harvest. Verse 3 celebrates the family harvest. Going home to a godly family is better than coming home with a bountiful harvest. Vines and olives were not staples. They were signs of abundance. If you have a godly wife and good children, you are richly blessed! 

    The Power of a Blessed Family. Verse 4 says, “Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.” This verse repeats and reaffirms verse 1. But this is no empty repetition. It may be read as an inclusion that connects verses 1-4 as one unit of thought. Or it may be an introductory statement that prepares us for the message of verses 5-6. Either way, the verse is emphatic. It is emphatic that the way to blessing to fear the Lord. It is also emphatic that blessings come from God alone. Psalm 127:1 says, “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.” 

    • Don’t take credit for the success of your job. 
    • Don’t take credit for the happiness of your marriage. 
    • Don’t take credit for the accomplishments of your children.

    God deserves the highest praise and full credit for everything good in our lives.  

    Societal Blessings 

     Unless you have a special calling, it is not wise for a man to live and work for himself without established a family through marriage and children. Genesis 2:18 says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” It is also not good for a man to isolate himself to his nuclear family. Personal blessings lead to family blessings that lead to societal blessings. Our world is in trouble. The solution is not government oversight, free education, economic stimulus, cultural revolution, or social justice. Godly men leading godly families can change the world! Psalm 128 concludes with several societal blessings. 

    Prosperity. Verse 5 says, “The Lord bless you from Zion.” Zion is the heavenly sanctuary where God sits enthroned in glory. It was represented by the temple in Jerusalem. The pilgrims who sung this Song of Ascentdid not live in Jerusalem. They traveled to Jerusalem to worship in the temple. Wherever they lived, the Lord could bless them from Zion. This is sovereign grace. You do not have to be at a particular place for God to bless you. The Lord bless you from Zion. 

    Verse 5 says, “May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life!” The key word is “see.” It is a wish, promise, and command at the same time. This prayer is not primarily about the prosperity of Jerusalem. It is to live to be a beneficiary of it. Note how the blessing of a person is tied to the blessing of a city. Jerusalem was the religious and political capital of Jewish life. A godly man does not just think about himself and his family. He cares about the spiritual and social progress of the city. Jeremiah 29:5-7 instructs the exiles in Babylonian Captivity to seek the welfare of the city. If God’s people should seek the good of Babylon, how much more should we seek the good of Jerusalem. 

    Longevity. Verse 6 says, “May you see your children’s children.” 

    • It is great to live to see your children. 
    • It is greater to live to see your children’s children. 

    Proverbs 17:6 says, “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.” Verse 5 is about the blessings of God all the days of your life. Verse 6 is about the blessings of God beyond the days of your life. The godly man lives to have a fruitful legacy, not a fancy lifestyle. Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.” 

    At the end of verse 6, personal and family blessings are tied to the blessing of society: “Peace be upon Israel.” This final word is no afterthought. 

    • We should long for the blessing of the city we live in – Jerusalem.
    • We should long for the blessing of the nation we live in – Israel. 

    Peace is more than the absence of conflict. It is wellbeing, prosperity, and justice for all people. You should care for the nation, not just your tribe. Galatians 6:16 says, “And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.” A healthy nation starts with health churches. Galatians 6:10 says, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” 

    Eternality. The psalm begins with your generation. It moves to your children’s generation. It ends with your grandchildren’s generation. It bids us to look beyond this life to the life to come. Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” 

    • Life does not end in death. 
    • Life continues into eternity. 

    If Christ there is hope that transcends life, death, and the grave. This is my answer to the “What if?” and “What about?” questions this psalm raises. You may not experience the blessings of this psalm in this life. If you do, they will not last. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the way of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” 

    Imagine you have been invited to the most elite affair in the city. You arrive early and enjoy the best appetizers you have ever tasted. But what if you get there late. You may miss the appetizers. But you still are there for the banquet. If the appetizers are that good, the banquet will be even better. You may or may not enjoy the appetizers of this life. But the best is yet to come! 


    H.B. Charles Jr.

    Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.