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.
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
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4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
who fears the Lord.
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!
Reality Doesn’t Live Up to the Promise
Psalm 128 is a poem of admonition that discusses the happy family life enjoyed by those who fear the Lord. The whole psalm overflows with blessings from beginning to end. It paints a picture of a beautiful and happy family, and leads us to yearn for a good life such as the one it depicts. The reason for this good life is made clear in the first verse: “Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways!” The “fear of the Lord” means we have a good personal relationship with God. Our relationship with God affects our futures: as individuals, as families, and even as an entire country.
Let’s consider some of the issues we encounter today in light of these verses. We begin with the personal: verse 2 talks about the impact our job has on us. We expect that, if we work diligently and hard, we will be rewarded and will be able to enjoy the fruits of our labor. The past year or two has shown me that no matter how hard we work, when the pandemic hit and we faced strict lockdowns, the fruit of our labor became a moot point. Many small businesses closed down, some people lost their jobs, and others lost income. We were forced to worry if there were any guarantees at all about the future. Even though we still worked hard during the last year or two, we were not able to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
Now we turn to the verses about family. In verse 3, the psalmist uses the analogy of the grapevine and the olive tree because both of these are lush, fruit-bearing plants which are commonly used to symbolize a prosperous family with many children and grandchildren. The psalmist shows us a blessed scene, as children and grandchildren happily gather about his knees. But for those of us living now, the one-child policy of 20 years ago or the financial pressures of raising children today has rendered having children as burdens. Some of us have health problems, which have led us to have only one child. Others among us suffer from the pain of choosing not to have children, or struggle with an inability to have children. Some sisters have chosen to serve the Lord with their singleness and not having a family. Taken altogether, it seems this blessed vision of living together happily with children and grandchildren has become an unrealistic and extravagant hope.
Finally, let’s talk about our nation. The psalmist ends this poem by saying, “Peace be upon Israel!” (v. 6) We desire peace in our country, but the reality is contrary to our desire. We live under a regime that persecutes the church. From the top (officials who have no guarantee that they can hold onto their job) to the bottom (ordinary people who fear losing their jobs, their houses, or their cars), none of the people experience peace. What is more, the returned city of Hong Kong has no room for freedom; across the Taiwan Straits looms the threat of military reunification; and our neighboring countries arm themselves to defend against us. All of these realities reveal that we have no peace. Even Christians are inevitably affected as we live within this larger environment, and asked, “Where is peace?”
A Future Hope
But when we again read the entire psalm, our hearts can be comforted. The psalmist has clearly revealed that the key to solving this host of problems is to “fear the Lord” and to establish a good relationship with him. Blessing comes from Zion:
“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” (Psalm 2:6)
“Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.” (Psalm 14:7)
“The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.” (Romans 11:26)
God sent Jesus into our sin-ridden, broken, wicked, and fallen world. On the cross, he brought us the grace of salvation and gave us hope of a future glory. His finished work of salvation shows us God’s gracious mercy and righteous judgment. We can go to him to repent and confess our sins; we can draw near to him and trust him. Through Jesus, we have fellowship with God and experience his presence.
We no longer need to worry about the security of our personal lives, for “the Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.” (Ps. 16:5)
Those who do not have families or children can freely enter the family made up of the bloodline of Jesus: “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35)
We no longer have a narrow, nationalistic worldview, because our hope is not in this earthly kingdom. Through Jesus, we have entered God’s kingdom, a kingdom where Jesus reigns. Living under his rule we have true happiness and peace. May we all come and draw near to him!
Keziah (a pseudonym) was called to be a preacher in 2002. She studied theology from 2002 to 2006, and then returned to her coastal city of southeastern China to pastor.
Dear Heavenly Father, our Savior Jesus Christ, comfort our hearts in this troubled world. God. Please help us remember to rely on you, not our own abilities or talents in our labors. May we be satisfied with what you have given us, and not be driven by the values of the world to earn more for ourselves. Change our mindset, that we may work for you and not for ourselves, for you are the Lord of our lives, and we trust you will provide what we need. As Christian parents, let us raise our children according to your teaching and work hard for their salvation. May those without children or families receive many spiritual children through evangelism, and experience the real joys and sorrows of raising children through the life growth of their spiritual children.
When we look at the country we live in, we know that only under the reign of Jesus do we have blessedness. Therefore, O Lord, raise up more preachers with a burden to plant new churches; expand your kingdom by planting churches wherever you lead. Bring people to Christ and train them to become followers of Jesus Christ. May someone preach the gospel of peace in every corner of our country!
May the Lord hear our prayers and fulfill our hearts’ desires in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.