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There is progression of blessing in this psalm: first for the individual God-fearing, then for his family, and finally for the whole people. This wisdom psalm – which we can call such because it speaks of “everyone who fears the LORD” (Psa 128:1), which is the principle of wisdom – describes an Israelite family during the realm of peace. The importance of the family according to the LORD’s mind is evident from the description of the realm of peace in Isaiah 65 (Isa 65:21-24).
The theme of this psalm is blessedness (Psa 128:1-4) and blessing (Psa 128:5-6). The ‘blessedness’ applies to everyone who fears the LORD. That is the message of this section, which begins and ends by stating “who fears the LORD” (Psa 128:1; 4). Fearing the LORD is at the same time the basis for blessing (Psa 128:4), which is elaborated in Psa 128:5-6.
Blessedness of the God-Fearing
This ninth “Song of Ascents” sings of the blessedness of “everyone that fears the LORD, who walks in His ways” (Psa 128:1). This is how the Israelites are described in the realm of peace. The fear of the LORD is evident by walking in His ways (Pro 14:2). The “blessedness” associated with it is the highest happiness, the true and lasting happiness. It is the fulfillment of the priestly blessing (Num 6:24; cf. Psa 128:5).
In Psalm 127, the Israelite is blessed because of the blessing of children. Here in Psalm 128 he is blessed because of the blessing in his work and in his family. Psalm 144 makes it clear that he is blessed because the LORD is his God (Psa 144:15b).
Therefore, happiness does not consist of transient things like money and goods, prestige and power, but the receiving of the LORD’s lasting blessing in work and in the family, as it will be enjoyed in the realm of peace. This is the full Old Testament blessing of the righteous (cf. Deu 28:1-5; Job 1:1; 8; Job 2:3). In the case of unfaithfulness, others eat the result of the work (Lev 26:16b; Deu 28:33a).
The word “when” (Psa 128:2) indicates that what now follows is what the “blessedness” of fearing the LORD and walking in His ways consists of. The first thing promised to the God-fearing is that he will “eat of the fruit” of his hands (cf. Isa 3:10). The LORD will bless his work. This is a huge difference compared to the man who works hard but without regard to God (Psa 127:2). The promise that it will be well with him does not imply prosperity in things that make life pleasant, but implies the joyful delight of the favor of God in life on earth.
Blessing of the God-Fearing Family
Time and again, the songs of ascents show that God blesses the life of the God-fearing precisely in the sphere of his family (Psa 128:3). This is the fulfillment of the blessing God promised at the creation of Adam and Eve (Gen 1:27-28). In the realm of peace, this original purpose of God with marriage will be fulfilled, to the great blessing of the whole earth (cf. Gen 15:5; Gen 22:17; Gen 32:12).
The great blessing of the family is expressed in the vine and the olive tree. The age of Solomon and the realm of peace are characterized by these two trees (1Kgs 4:25; Mic 4:4; Zec 3:10). The vine is a picture of joy (Jdg 9:13) and the olive tree of the power of the Spirit (cf. Psa 52:8). The wife of the God-fearing “shall be like a fruitful vine within” his house. She will give him many children (cf. Eze 19:10) and he will rejoice in them. She will be there for the children and by her upbringing ensure that the children are a joy in his house.
Around an olive tree, a host of young olive trees spring up from the root shoots. Thus, “children” are “like olive plants” (cf. Psa 52:8). They are still young olive trees. They still need to grow or be raised. To do this, they are sitting “around your table”. A table is a picture of fellowship, of enjoying the same thing together. There the father will teach them about living to the glory of God (cf. Eph 6:1-4).
With the call “behold” (Psa 128:4) the psalmist points to the man he has described in the preceding verses. He says, as it were: ‘Look at that man, how he sits at the table with his children and eats with them of the fruit of the effort of his hands.’ This domestic scene, characterized by joyful fellowship, is the tremendous blessing the man receives “who fears the LORD”.
In addition to the blessing enjoyed in the present, there is also the promise of blessing in the future (Psa 128:5). The blessing comes from Zion, the sanctuary where God dwells and from which grace flows to His people. The priestly blessing of Numbers 6 now comes upon the common Israelites as well (Num 6:24). Those who fear the LORD live in accordance with the covenant with the LORD. Therefore, they will surely receive the blessing of the covenant (Lev 26:1-9; Deu 28:1-14). These are exactly the blessings we find in Psalm 127 and Psalm 128.
Added to this is the fact that he will see the prosperity of Jerusalem, which means that he will share in the peace of Jerusalem. The God-fearing will experience the blessed reign of Messiah from His throne. This blessing continues “all the days” of his life in the realm of peace.
He will “see the children” of his “children” (Psa 128:6; cf. Isa 59:21), which means that he will see a numerous and happy offspring. They will populate the land in the realm of peace. The psalmist therefore concludes this trio of psalms with the wish that “peace be upon Israel”, that is, the entire nation of the twelve tribes, just as he concluded the previous two triples of psalms (Psa 122:8; Psa 125:5).
There can be no peace for the people if there is no peace of the Holy Spirit in the families. So it is also in the church. The families are a community and are the building blocks of the church. What is shared there characterizes the church.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 128". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19