A Certain Way to Return to Joy – Psalm 128

Peter Eng

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A Song of Ascents, of Solomon.

Psalm 128

1 How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
Who walks in His ways
2 When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands,
You will be happy and it will be well with you.
3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
Within your house,
Your children like olive plants
Around your table
4 Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed
Who fears the LORD.
5 The LORD bless you from Zion
And may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
6 Indeed, may you see your children’s children.
Peace be upon Israel!

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We are reading the Songs of Ascents, songs sung by Jews returning to the land of Israel from their exile in Babylon, or pilgrims visiting the holy city on a special occasion. So what have they to do with us?

They are more relevant for us than for them!

Zion is more than a place. Jesus told the woman at the well “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain [Mt Gerizim] or in Jerusalem.  … But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. (John 4:21,23, NLT).

There is a New Jerusalem; it is the Kingdom of God. In the consummation, we will see the New Jerusalem come from heaven to earth figuratively (Revelation 21:2). It will be the fulfillment of our prayers when we say “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

The blessings expressed here for OT saints are ours in fuller measure because we are called to return from a more deadly exile to a more glorious city. From the kingdom of death to the new heaven and the new earth.

Therefore, Jesus reminds us to “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). In this psalm we have a description of the life of one who lives in acute consciousness of God. In the OT the term “fear of the Lord” is used. We find this call to “fear” God alien and say it is “reverence.” But when we do that, we water things down. We water down how we ought to live before God (in fear) and then expect a full measure of blessing from him.

The fear of the Lord is the consciousness, awareness, accountability to God who is able to take away our life in a moment if he so chooses. We are totally dependent on him for life, health, and every single joy in life.

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There is a certain way to live so that we appropriate the fullness of what the Jews experience only in part. They return from national exile; we return from the kingdom of sin and death to everlasting life. The Lord blesses them out of Zion, that is, through the good administration in Zion. The blessings of God will flow to us through the growing realization of the Kingdom of God on earth, and most fully when he brings in the new heaven and the new earth! Kingdom blessings are here now, and will be hereafter.

This psalm looks at God’s blessing from a husband’s perspective, and from a family with grown children. He will have a fruitful wife. She will bless the home with children and with many other good things. The children will be like olive trees around the table, meaning that they will help supply the need of the home. They will grow up strong, independent, and bless the home when they are grown up. And the mature couple are at that point in life when they are about to become grandparents and see their children’s children.

This bucolic picture of prosperity and happiness can be easily adjusted to an urban lifestyle. The point is that there is a certain way of life that brings in God’s blessings. It is the life that is lived in a healthy “fear of the Lord,” and when we “walk in his ways.”

Many of us are so blind to our own faults that we do not even know when you are not walking in the way of the Lord, and then wonder why we are deprived of blessings others seem to have.

Many of us are also blind to the blessings that God has already bestowed on us, and we do not realize that even hardships are blessings from him. Hardships as blessings are hard to understand, but they come from the same loving hands that give us the blessings we do understand.

There are years of plenty and years of leanness. The patriarchs of old were not spared from drought or famine regardless of their spiritual condition. But even in lean times, there is a blessing for God’s people that others cannot have.

In times of plenty, when we leave the kingdom of death, we can expect blessings of plenty from the Lord, under ordinary circumstances. Many of us are not counted worthy to suffer for Christ, and if we should be called to this great blessing, it purifies us and prepares us for the eternal kingdom as nothing else can.

We do not seek the blessing of persecution, but let us then seek that blessing of peace and plenty from our sovereign Lord. We do so in the fear of the Lord, knowing that we don’t even deserve what we have. We seek the blessings in humility and not as spoilt children. We seek the blessing always checking on the condition of our heart.


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