Psalm 128 A song of ascents. (1) Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in obedience to him. (2) You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. (3) Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. (4) Yes, this will be the blessing for the man who fears the LORD. (5) May the LORD bless you from Zion; may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life. (6) May you live to see your children's children- peace be on Israel.
Psalm 128 is the ninth of fifteen psalms referred to as the Song of Ascents, sometimes called the Song of Degrees, Song of Steps, Gradual Psalms, or Pilgrim Songs. Jewish pilgrims sang these songs as they travelled to Jerusalem for the three annual festivals as required by God in the Old Testament,
Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles. No one should appear before the LORD empty-handed. Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you. Deuteronomy 16:16-17
Psalm 128 is titled: Blessings of Those Who Fear the LORD. A Song of Ascents (NKJV); The Happy Home. A Song for going up to worship (ICB); Blessedness of the Fear of the LORD. A Song of Ascents (NASB); and The Reward of Obedience to the LORD (GNT).
Charles Spurgeon compares Psalm 128 to the previous psalm,
There is clearly an advance in age, for here we go beyond children to children’s children; and also, a progress in happiness, for children which in the last psalm were arrows are here olive plants, and instead of speaking “with the enemies in the gate” we are done with “peace upon Israel.” Thus, we rise step by step and sing as we ascend.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Psalm 128:1-2 ESV Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for. You will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128:1-2 ICB
“Happy” and “blessed” are believers who walk the walk with the Lord. Many believers talk the talk, but do not walk the walk. Psalm 128 is teaching that God’s blessings are upon those who “walk” in His ways- who fear Him, who work hard, and obey His Word. These “blessings” do not mean that life is perfect. A true believer of the Lord knows this is not His promise. But throughout life’s normal ups and downs, the believer who has a relationship with the Lord is blessed by His presence, by His promises, and by His faithfulness.
What does it mean to fear the Lord? What does it mean to walk in His ways?
Fear of Lord means two things. One, God as the Creator of the universe is able to smite all of humanity with one word from His mouth. He created all and by Him all things work. A healthy dose of “fearing the Lord” in all His might and glory is not a bad thing and can keep human pride in check.
Secondly, to fear the Lord is great respect and awe at who He is. His faithfulness throughout time. His presence, even now. And the fact that all things were created by Him, yet all things are still held together by Him.
Fear of the Lord- awe and reference, great respect, mixed with a bit of terror and loads of humility.
May we fear the Lord and walk in His ways.
Here are a couple of examples from the Old Testament. Oh that God would say this of us as well,
Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. Genesis 5:22b-24 Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. Genesis 6:9b
God calls us to walk with Him. He calls us into relationship with Him. To “walk” with someone is a close friendship, an intimate relationship.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? But to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
Blessed and happy is the one who walks in fear of the Lord. This does not mean that all goes well all of the time. But there is something different about experiencing trials with the Lord on our side. He truly is all that we need.
You wife will give you many children. She will be like a vine that produces a lot of fruit. Your children will bring you much good. They will be like olive branches that produce many olives. This is how the man who respects the Lord will be blessed. Psalm 128:3-4 ICB Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD. Psalm 128:3-4 NKJV
A wife and children- vines and olive branches. This is a metaphor that ancient Israelites would understand. Today, we too can read these verses and understand that marriage and children are blessings from God. Good and honoring to God.
A helpmeet was needed in Paradise, and assuredly she is not less necessary out of it.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Life was not meant to be walked alone. Even in the Garden of Eden, God wanted Adam to have a companion.
While ancient Israel had rules and expectations around early marriage and families, that is not so today. The couple that does not have children can also be blessed by God. The wife who does not bear children can still be the pride and joy of her husband. The man or woman who remains single throughout his or her life will still be blessed by God for walking in His ways. After all, Jesus was single. He had no children.
The LORD bless you out of Zion, and may you see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life. Yes, may you see your children's children. Peace be upon Israel! Psalm 128:5-6 NKJV May the Lord bless you from Mount Zion. May you enjoy the good things of Jerusalem all your life. May you see your grandchildren. Let there be peace in Israel. Psalm 128:5-6 ICB
What a beautiful blessing to end this song with. Yes, may the Lord bless His children, those who walk in His ways. Yes, may we watch our grandchildren grow up.
But this is also a blessing upon Jerusalem. God’s Holy throne resides on Mount Zion and according to the Bible He will someday literally rule from that throne. But until that day, Psalm 128 ends with a blessing to the children of Israel, that they will see good come out of Jerusalem. And as the pilgrims made their way into Jerusalem for the annual festivals, this would on their minds.
Peace and good things be upon Jerusalem.
The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26
Father in heaven, thank you for this beautiful song. Thank you that we can have a relationship with you, that you walk with us as a friend. That you are the Creator of the universe and yet you care enough to walk with your children. Thank you for your faithfulness throughout time and even now. As we enter this Christmas season, we praise you and we thank you for Jesus and His birth, His life on earth and His great sacrifice of redemption. Give us strength and joy and love today. Amen.