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 128:1-6 NIV)
Psalm 128 is another Song of Ascents, a psalm for those on the pilgrimage of life. Psalm 128 picks up where Psalm 127 ends, with the blessing of family. Like many other psalms, the author is not named, and there is no indication as to when it was written.
The psalmist begins by listing the reason for blessings – fear (healthy respect) of the Lord and living obediently according to His commands (v. 1). The psalmist uses the word “walk”, which involves action and intention. The psalmist did not say “run”, which can only be kept up for short periods of time, nor did he say “sit”, which implies passiveness or inaction.
The psalmist’s use of the word “walk” also shows direction toward the Lord. The person’s will, their heart, is pointed toward the Lord. This is the inner life of the person, their desire to obey the Lord. The person walking shows the outer life of the person, their taking action to be in agreement with their inner life, to move toward the Lord.
It’s easy to write these words, but hard to live them, isn’t it? At least it is for me. I feel the Apostle Paul’s pain and struggle in Romans 7:14-25, where he says his will and his actions are often not aligned. Paul wants to do the right thing but doesn’t (sins of omission), and the bad things he doesn’t want to do, he ends up doing (sins of commission). The struggle is real, friends!
The Lord will manifest these blessings on those who walk with Him in multiple ways:
- The psalmist was in an agrarian economy; they were farmers. Their hard work will pay off – their crops will flourish, and there will be enough to eat and some to sell for profit (v. 2).
- The family will flourish like a garden (v. 3):
- The wife, like a grapevine, will bear the fruit of her womb and have children.
- The children will grow like new shoots sprouting up around an olive tree. Olive trees send out underground roots that sprout up as new olive trees. The old olive tree in the middle eventually dies at a very old age, but is now surrounded by young and fruitful olive trees from its roots. A wonderful analogy for the continuity of life across generations, isn’t it?
In verse 4, the psalmist stops to ponder and meditate, to think about the blessings of walking with the Lord. Sometimes, like the psalmist, it’s good to stop and consider the goodness of God, and the blessings of walking with Him. We see God’s hand of provision and protection on our lives, and we simply say “thank You, Lord” for all that He has done, all that He is doing, and know that we can trust Him with the future as well.
In verse 5, the psalmist shares his thoughts – the blessings, the result of walking with God in his family – with the city of Jerusalem. The psalmist is encouraging others to walk with the Lord and partake in the blessings the Lord offers. As families walk with the Lord, the larger community (city) prospers.
In verse 6, the psalmist extends the idea of generational blessing as his children walk with the Lord and teach their children to walk with the Lord. The psalmist desires to see (and for others to see) the Lord’s blessing on the future generations who walk with Him, to see grandchildren walking with the Lord. The blessing then extends from families to communities (in their example, Jerusalem), and from communities to the entire nation (in their example, Israel).
May we, no matter which generation, young or old, have this same goal, to walk with the Lord, and to pray faithfully for our children and our children’s children to walk with the Lord as well.
That single olive tree, if well tended over many generations, can become an entire grove.