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Blessings of those who fear God (Psalms 128) February 18

Psalm 128, the third song of ascents in the third set of three, returns to the theme of blessing and peace in Zion-here as a continuation of the focus on the wonderful blessings of family in the previous psalm. True happiness in this regard is part of the reward of those who fear God-those who have an appropriate sense of awe and respect for Him and His ways, fearing the consequences of disobeying Him (verses 1, 4).

The previous psalm spoke of laboring in vain without God and eating bread of anguish as a result (127:1-2). Here the labor of those who obey and rely on God results in eating (experiencing the fruit of one's labors) in happiness and well-being (128:2).

As part of this blessing, the godly man's wife is described as "a fruitful vine" (verse 3). This refers in part to her being the mother of his children, as the lines that follow and the mention of children as "the fruit of the womb" in the previous psalm imply (see 127:3). Yet it probably also more generally means that she is a source of great joy and happiness for him, as noted below. Likewise their children are likened to promising "olive shoots" (NIV). "Ever green and with the promises of both long life and productivity (of staples: wood, fruit, oil). The vine and olive tree are frequently paired in the O[ld] T[estament] (as, e.g., in Ex 23:11). Both were especially long-lived, and they produced the wine and the oil that played such a central role in the lives of the people" ( Zondervan NIV Study Bible, note on Psalm 128:3).

The Expositor's Bible Commentary states: " The imagery of vine and olive tree are reminiscent of the eras of David and Solomon (1 Kings 4:25) and the blessings associated with the messianic era (Mic 4:4; Zech 3:10) [-a period symbolized by the Feast of Tabernacles]. To sit under one's vine and fig tree was an expression of a state of tranquility, peace, and prosperity. Even when the country faces adversity, the man who fears the Lord is insulated against adversity by wife and children as the blessings of the Lord are found under the roof of his house. The metaphor of the fruitfulness of the vine extends, not only to the bearing of children, but also to everything the wife contributes to the welfare of family (cf. Prov 31:10-31).

"The children, who are likened to olive shoots, are strong and in due time will continue the work that their father has begun (cf. 52:8; Jer 11:16; Hos 14:6). Though the olive tree may not bear after it has been planted for forty years, it is a symbol of longevity and productivity. So are children within the household of faith! They are not like grass, which is here today but is gone tomorrow. Rather, they are olive trees that in due time bear their fruit. The blessedness of the godly man will extend to other generations. What a privilege God bestows on his children in this life that we may already taste the firstfruits of our heritage!" (note on Psalm 128:3-4).

It is noteworthy that the wife is "in the very heart of your house" (verse 3), showing that she is faithful-not like the unfaithful wife whose "feet would not stay at home" (Proverbs 7:11)-and that she is in a protected position and central to the successful functioning of the family. The children are "all around your table" for meals, implying that the family eats together in fellowship and that the children are pleased to be responsible members of the family (Psalm 128:3).

Verse 5 then remarkably states that these blessings are to come out of Zion-in connection with seeing the good of Jerusalem over the course of life. So we see that godly and truly blessed families are not just automatic with an initial commitment to follow God. Rather, this is speaking of the whole family coming together to Jerusalem to learn and grow in God's ways, clearly relating this psalm and its great blessings to the annual pilgrimages to keep God's feasts. Today, we can understand Zion in a spiritual sense as representative of God's Church-as well as looking forward to life in God's Kingdom.

The blessing of verse 6 concerns both the longevity of the righteous and the desire for their posterity to continue to experience the blessings of the psalm-implying their continuance in God's ways, especially family worship and learning at His festivals. This is the key to the concluding call for peace on God's people in the same verse-repeated from the end of Psalm 125.

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