Title: The Blessings of God
Text: Psalm 128
Introduction: I could say something – a phrase or a word – and for many here, it would trigger thoughts of times past. Someone would come to your mind and there would be a feeling of nostalgia that would fill your senses. I have my own, but I’m sure we share some together. Do you remember who used to sign off: And that’s the way is…? Yeah, Walter Cronkite. You hear it and you’re taken somewhere. Here’s another one that’s very special to me: And now you know, the rest of the story. I always loved Paul Harvey, not so much for the news, but more for the story at the end of his short broadcast. Do you remember he would say the page number as he made his way through his reading?
For those who don’t know, Paul Harvey would tell these wonderful stories and just leave you wondering all the way through where he was possibly going with this bit of information. And then, in the final couple of seconds, it would all come together. It was like: Oh, I didn’t know that! Now that makes more sense.
In our text today, Psalm 128 picks up where Psalm 127 leaves off. It’s like, here’s the rest of the story.
Psalm 127 review: God is sovereign over every aspect of our lives. He is the source from which our blessings come. And, which flows naturally into 128; Where 127 reminds us of the source of all blessings (the Lord), 128 teaches us where we need to be to receive those blessings. Where you might ask (you see it in v1): walking in the fear of the Lord.
At first, it looks like there are two commands or points of reference here: (1) fearing God and (2) walking in his ways. However, I think they are one in the same. So let’s begin here.
What you do demonstrates who you are. Your fear and reverence of Yahweh (or lack thereof) will be evident in your actions and behaviors. Many people may say they have reverence for the Yahweh, but their hearts are far from him because of what comes out in their lives.
I say that to say that the author’s first statement about fear and walking is really just one reference point. Put that down as a foundation for what we’ll build upon this morning and let’s launch into the heart of the Psalm and the sermon from there. What you do demonstrates who you are. From that point of reference, from that application, upon that foundation now, allow me to build upon that thought and give you a thesis statement that comes from this Psalm:
For the man who walks in the fear of the LORD, the LORD blesses his life: His Work, His Family, and His Church.
I think the scene is easy to picture. The pilgrims have journeyed from afar and have arrived in Jerusalem. They’re coming to the Temple to worship. They’re inside the gates and near the Temple. There is joy. There is laughter. There is excitement. There is … singing.
Maybe the priest sings this song to the pilgrims. First, he preaches and then he blesses. He declares:
1 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. (There is food in their pouches; the streets are lined with people selling more food, fruits, and vegetables).
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. These people are standing around him. I picture him even pulling them close to him. It would be a photographic moment if cameras existed in those days.
4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. This creates a sort of bookend to the preaching. You see the blessing begin in v 1 and bookend here at the end of the sermonette.
Now, the priest changes his tone and voice and pronounces a blessing upon the people.
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!
And for sure, Israel would experience peace if the people walked in the fear of the Lord all the days of their life.
So you see the two parts of the Psalm from the outline of the priests Preaching and Blessing. I would divide this psalm into three parts. These three are the same areas or aspects of one’s life from last week:
- Work (1-2)
- Family (3-4)
- Husband (His Wife)
- Father (His Children)
- Church (5-6) (last week we said community because the context is community, but the application is the church).
Don’t worry, I’m not going to preach last week’s sermon again. Instead, let’s look at a few words and maybe make those the columns we use to build up our house. Do you remember our foundation? What you do demonstrates who you are.
Rd v1: 1 Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!
- Blessed:: is Asher, it means happy. Genesis 30.13: 13 And Leah said, “Happy am I! For women have called me happy.” So she called his name Asher. When you hear that word Asher, think of the beatitudes (Mt 5.3-11). This word appears in v 1, 2, 4, and 5. It really is a continuation of Psalm 127.5; Question: Would you say you are blessed? Would you say you are happy (in the Biblical sense)? The 2nd column is…
- Fear: v1 & 4; bookends; All of Proverbs is dedicated to teaching one how to walk in the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 1.7 is the thesis of the book and it reads: 7The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
When you see this word fear in the Bible, just as you do with happy, I don’t want you to think about it in terms of today’s use of that word. It doesn’t mean to be afraid like Friday the 13th afraid. Sure, there is that aspect, but it means so much more. I like the word reverence. It means to have a deep respect and honor for someone or something (like a tradition or practice). To revere someone or something means to show devoted deferential to; to regard as worthy of great honor.
Ephesians 5.33 – 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. See that word respects? That’s the word phobia in the Greek. You know phobia means fear, but not exactly. This translation really brings out the meaning. Respect.
I wonder if many Americans and even people from around the world really understand that. Devotion to God isn’t just a verbal assent to his existence. It means walking in his ways out of reverence. And, it isn’t just having reverence for the traditions of the church. Some traditions are wonderful, but some are not God-honoring. Some are probably even wicked and evil.
Some churches light candles to start the service. Is there anything in the Word of God about lighting candles before worship? Should a pastor be fired or should a family leave a church because they stopped lighting candles?
I said: Some traditions are not God-honoring. Some are probably even wicked and evil. Let that sink in for a moment. You might be offended at that statement. Ask yourself: are there traditions in my church that I value more than the commandments of God?
Jesus confronted the Pharisees on this very topic and they didn’t take it very well. Do you want to upset people: attack their traditions. I’m in Mark 7, beginning in v 6:
6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
“ ‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
app.: As a Jewish man, his responsibility to care for his parents was established by the commands of God. But, the Pharisees saw a way to get that some of that money and they used their religious practices and traditions to get their hands on it. So they voided the commandment of God and established this new practice, this tradition. A man could claim “Corban” – and devote what should have gone into caring for his elderly parents to God. A loophole was created in the commandment of God to benefit the Pharisees and the man himself.
So, ask yourself: are there traditions in my church that I value more than the commandments of God? This is hard to answer and you have to be brutally honest with yourself. Your tendency and my tendency is to see your traditions as commanded by God. So, ask yourself and then answer: are there traditions in my church that I value more than the commandments of God?
t.s.: Solomon, Son of David is saying through his proverbs to his sons and his people, and to us: The Beginning of Wisdom is the Fear of the LORD. Blessed, Fear and
- Fruit: fruition is evident in v2, 3a, (3b), possibly 5; Fruition is the heart of this passage and each aspect of the man’s life deals with the man being fruitful.
ill.: Ligon Duncan points out that his passage is directing us back to the garden – that is, the Garden of Eden.
By the way, this psalm has clear allusions to the Garden. You see them in the three blessings that we’re going to talk about in a few moments — work, wife, children. Rule — work the land. Here is Eve — God gives her in marriage. Be fruitful and multiply — children. This psalm is deliberately taking us back to the Garden and we see that in the battle to understand the blessedness of the fear of the Lord in the very first verses. Because in Genesis 3 what did the serpent say to Eve and to Adam? “If you want to be like God, disobey, disobey God. Take of the fruit of the tree of which He commanded you not to eat.” And what did the serpent say? “You will be like God. You will find true blessedness. You will know true fulfillment. You will have true satisfaction. You will find true happiness. You’ll be free. You’ll be doing what you want to do. You’ll have everything that you’ve always wanted to have and you will be like God.” That is the temptation of Genesis 3 from the serpent to Eve and to Adam. What is the serpent doing? He is deliberately separating holiness and happiness and he is saying those two things are incompatible. “You will not be happy, you will not be like God as long as you obey, as long as you are holy. You’re going to have to separate those things in order to experience true happiness.”
And what is the psalmist doing? He’s putting those right back together and he’s saying, “Wrong, Satan. The place in which true happiness is actually enjoyed is in the fear of the Lord.” He is responding to the world and the flesh and the devil and he is saying, “No, holiness is the sphere in which the happiness that God intends for every one of His children is enjoyed.”
What a great lesson for us! Satan isn’t doing anything different than he has always been doing in his cunning and deceitful ways. It’s the same old lie, just packaged with a different wrapping.
Conclusion: Friday night we left my mom’s and went by to visit Lisa’s mom. Our mothers live about an hour away from each other. Lisa’s sister came out and joined in the visiting. Mom pulled out some genealogy papers as the girls were talking about family and the past. I wasn’t paying too much attention because I usually can’t get into their conversations. I don’t mean I can’t get ‘into it’ by the fact that it is boring. What I mean by that is they have an intuitive, an instinctive ability to know when the other is going to stop speaking. And so, one or the other will continue the conversation without a drop in the flow. After 35 years of marriage and watching these ladies do this, I know to just sit back and enjoy. It truly is a beautiful work of art when these ladies are at maximum power. First of all, I can’t interject something when the flow is happening. I would have to interrupt the flow. And men, you probably know what I’m talking about – you just don’t do that. And 2nd, if there is a lull, it means that part of the conversation is over anyway. Finally, what I have to say was a part of the conversation three or four topics ago and is no longer applicable.
Well, in the flow of that evening, someone was mentioned. I don’t think he was family, per se, he was just someone who had the same last name as the family. Maybe he was just a friend of the family. It was mentioned that he was a pastor. I heard pastor and I was drawn into the conversation. But my heart sank when that part of the conversation concluded with him leaving his wife and children and running off with another lady. He left “the ministry.”
I don’t know what generation that was in. I don’t know what part of the family was affected by his actions and behaviors. I only know that it must have been devastating. And that Satan was victorious in that battle. Like Eve, he fell for the lie. And in their conversation, his life relegated to a footnote. No real work in ministry done, just a footnote…
Next week, as we come to Psalm 129, we’ll see this. The point of next week’s Psalm is just the opposite of this week’s point: those who do not walk in the fear and ways of the Lord will not be blessed.
Application: Wouldn’t you like to know what it feels like, what it means to be blessed by God? Wouldn’t you like to guard your life and your walk and protect it in such a way that you can experience his blessing? I do!
I love the picture here of these people coming to Jerusalem. They’re here in Jerusalem to bless the Lord. But before they get to do that, the priest speaks a blessing over them. Take that in for a moment. Rd v 5-6: 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!
What a blessing! For the person who walks in the fear and reverence of the Lord will experience the blessing of God in his life. Here in this Psalm, the writer limits the topic for the moment to these three spheres: his work, his family (i.e.: his marriage, and his children) and his church (community).
Some here today might be asking why they haven’t experienced this fulfillment in their life. It might be in the sphere of work, or marriage, or with children. Maybe you’ve haven’t experienced this in your church. Can we go back to the Garden for a moment? This garden theme flows through Scripture. We see it in Genesis 1-3. We see it in the Israelites inheriting a land flowing with Milk and Honey. We see it in the New Jerusalem in Revelation.
There is a taste of heaven here on earth, but not in its total fulfillment. This is how it once was and this is how it shall be one day. It is the day that we look toward. It is our hope.
In this life, we cannot walk perfectly in the fear and reverence of the Lord. Sin gets in the way. Just as it marred the garden experience for Adam and Eve, so we’ve been affected. But there is hope, and that my friend, is what Paul Harvey would say is the rest of the story.
But there is hope for you, and that hope comes through Christ. There is hope for your life, for your labor, for your lineage.