Friday of 3 Lent

The Blessing of God upon our Labors – Psalm 128

“Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways!”

Psalm 128:1

Take a moment and read Psalm 128. 

Psalm 128, like Psalm 127, is a wisdom Psalm in the tradition of Solomon.  Psalm 127 is attributed to the wise king, but that attribution is most likely a nod to the fact that the content of the psalm is in keeping with the content of the wisdom literature of the Solomonic books.  The basic message of Psalm 128 is also in keeping with the wisdom literature of the Bible.  The message is essentially practical instruction on how to live a life of reverence, regardless of your place within the community.

The Psalmist declares that blessings belong to those who practice reverence as the basis of the good life.  Whereas Psalm 127 uses poetic imagery to illuminate the directives of the Lord, Psalm 128 is more like utilitarian prose than creative poetry.  What we find here is practical instruction for entering the Promised Land.  This psalm speaks to the common man.  It would ring true for all of the laborers who have made the long pilgrimage to their homeland.  Be it a shepherd, or the craftsman, the farmer or the merchant, all would hear the call to place the Lord first in their work, then watch the blessings flow.

There was no expectation that the exiles would find happiness in their journey, nor in their labors in reestablishing the homeland.  They knew it would be hard, sometimes grueling work.  What they would find is blessing.  The cause of happiness, according to the Psalmist, is found in the blessedness of our walk with the Lord:  “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways.”  Fear, as it is used here, is not terror, but rather reverence.  It is the sense of standing in awe of God.  The work in which the returnees were to engage was to be immersed in their worship of God.  They were called to do the work as if for God alone: to “walk in His ways.”  What we do in daily life must be done in awe of God, with hearts knit to God.  The wisdom writer of the Book of Ecclesiasticus in the Apocrypha states this clearly, saying that these workers “will maintain the fabric of the world, and in the handiwork of their craft is their prayer” (Ecclus. 38:34).  Would that we could all see our work as prayer to God.

Childbearing and childrearing is also a part of the work of these laborers in the Lord.  But the fruitful vine mentioned in verse 3 is more than childbearing.  It is all the ways a wife blesses her husband as listed in Proverbs 31.  She is faithful, not just fruitful.  She is not like the adulterous woman in Proverbs 7:11, whose feet do not stay at home.  She embraces the dignity of marriage and motherhood with contentment.  The picture the Psalmist paints is one which depicts that the basis for peace and tranquility within the home is nothing less than the fear of God.

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