This summer Todd and I began a new journey – we became grandparents! We’ve anticipated this for a while (let’s be honest…as soon as both my girls were married, I began thinking of how cool it would be one day for those babies to start arriving!). We really did try not to be the pushy parents always talking about “When are you going to have a baby?” but we did our share of teasing and gentle hints. Hopefully they were taken in the right way; we were basically saying, “We love how you turned out and miss those days because they went by too quickly, so we’d like a second chance!”
While we LOVE holding and snuggling and kissing our grandbabies, and can’t get enough of the videos and pictures on the family shared photo stream, we want to give these precious little ones MORE. We want to pass on to them the blessing of a life lived for the pleasure and worship of God.
The writer of Psalm 128 must have been a grandparent themselves. I’m only speculating, but I can picture him sitting in his home, enjoying a noisy, chaos-filled family event, with adult children and grandchildren all around him. He is filled with joy, as he reflects on the blessing that God has bestowed on his life, and pens this psalm as a way of expressing what is in his heart.
What can we learn from this psalmist, that will encourage us as we influence our children, grandchildren and great-children? How does a person come to the latter end of life, with a grateful heart of blessing?
Here are five bits of wisdom I see in this Psalm, that teach us how to build a life that ends well. These are the things that we have tried to teach our daughters, and now intend to teach our grandchildren, both by example and by word.
#1 – Fear the Lord.
How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord.
The word “fear” is exactly that – dread, terror. We soften its impact when referring to the believer’s response to God by interpreting it as “holy awe,” but I think we miss something of God’s character when we do this. God is holy and just. He is all powerful, sovereign. As New Testament believers on this side of the cross, we stand in His grace and love, but we should not forget that He is not a God to be trifled with. He is not our “buddy” even though He calls Himself our friend.
Acts 9:31 gives us a New Testament perspective on the fear of the Lord: So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.
To live a life in the fear of the Lord is to recognize His power over me and the circumstances of my life. It is to identify with His hatred of sin, and the impending judgment of His wrath on sinful men, but as we see in Acts, it is in conjunction with the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Yes, we have sinned, but God’s Spirit comes alongside us and reassures us that He loves us and, in Christ, we are a forgiven people.
How does this help me live a life blessed by God? It motivates me to stay far away from sin. It encourages me not to take the gift of His grace and mercy lightly. Just as child learns to behave in a wise and godly manner to avoid the discipline of a loving Father, we learn to “behave” spiritually through a biblical fear of the Lord, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
# 2 – Walk in God’s ways.
How blessed is everyone … who walks in His ways.
Walking is simply our way of life. In the course of our day, we make many small decisions (when to get out of bed, what to wear, what to eat, whether to go to work or school) and often are faced with much weightier decisions – decisions that impact the course of our life. To walk in the ways of God is to make a commitment to live a life directed by the instruction we find in His Word. God is VERY practical.
Ephesians 5:6-10 – Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things [the unrighteous behavior listed in the previous three verses] the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
I find it funny that we have no trouble seeking directions for every aspect of our life, except our spiritual life. If we want to be a good cook, we research recipes, and follow food bloggers. If we want to be a mechanic, we go to trade school and learn how to work on cars. If we want to be an engineer, or a doctor, or a teacher, we expect to have to learn what to do, and what not to do. We place ourselves under the tutelage of experts, and we study the textbook or manual of our chosen profession. In the same way, God has given us a textbook to study, and teachers to place ourselves under. We can learn to walk in His ways. We discover what scripture says (and trust me…it has an answer for every question!) and simply follow directions. Obedience to God (in the small things as well as the big things) is the recipe for a blessed life!
#3 – Work hard.
When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, you will be happy and it will be well with you.
Hard work is a foreign concept to many people. Growing up, they called it “having a work ethic.” In other words, you expected to have to work hard for the things you wanted. You did not expect life to hand you things easily; the opportunity and possibilities were endless, but you knew it would cost you – your time, your energy, your passion, and your talent. My generation was taught that you must work hard.
Did you know work is actually a gift from God? God gave Adam and Eve a job to do, long before sin entered the world. They were to care for the things that God had given them: the garden, and the animals that populated it. Likewise, our work is to be good stewards of what God has given us.
Paul set a great example in his own personal life of a biblical work ethic, and gives us practical instruction:
I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:33-35).
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need. (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12)
For you yourselves known how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. (2 Thessalonians 3:7-12)
He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. (Ephesians 4:28)
In summary, there is blessing in working hard to provide for our own needs, to keep ourselves out of trouble (an undisciplined life), and to provide for the needs of the poor. A person who learns to work is one who realizes the blessing of God on their life.
#4 – Make family a priority.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children like olive plants around the table.
I realize that it is not in God’s plan for everyone to have children. And there’s no greater spirituality attained by having lots of children! God has a plan for each of us, and it will look different for us than it does for others. But there is a spiritual principle here that is worth considering.
Jesus came to make us family. God invented marriage. He calls us His bride, as well as His children. I believe family is important to God, and that we should make it a priority – whatever your family looks like. It may look like a husband, wife and three children. It may be a single mom. It might be a person who never marries, but connects with other believers in a close relationship, and invests their time in children who may not have parents to care for them. The issue is not what our family looks like – it’s that we have a family at all, and that we make them a priority in our life.
The imagery in this psalm speaks of fruitfulness. That fruit may be in actual little bodies around your kitchen table, or it may be in the way you spend your time and energy to pour into others’ lives. Whatever your particular family unit looks like – make it a place where you sow the seeds of the gospel, water the spiritual growth of others, and enjoy the fruitfulness of those relationships.
#5 – Make worship a priority.
The Lord bless you from Zion, and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
Zion is used many times in the Bible, and refers primarily to the place of worship. It speaks of the City of David, and the Temple, where the children of Israel came to meet with God and offer their sacrifices. Jerusalem is their beloved city, the center of the nation, and their religious capital. It is the city that is loved by God.
As Christian believers, we are called to worship together with other believers (Hebrews 10:25), and to worship Him with our whole being:
The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that ‘He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself,’ is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. (Mark 12:32-33)
Making worship a priority is a spiritual principle, in which we focus our heart, mind and strength on serving and loving God. It doesn’t stop there, however. It is practically applied to our life as we commit to being part of a local church, and structure our life to make corporate worship a priority.
The blessed life is one that is centered on the worship of God. He is the One who calls us to Himself, and pours His Spirit into our life. If you want to enjoy a life that is blessed by God, and look back in gratefulness on a joy-filled journey, then make God the center of it all.
To sum it all up…
Fear the Lord.
Walk in His ways.
Make family a priority.
And worship God with all your mind, heart and strength.
And may you also see your children’s children, indeed!