Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways.
Psalm 128 is chanted at every wedding service in the Orthodox Church. It paints a picture of the ideal married life. It prays for the wife to be like a fruitful vine, giving birth to children who will gather like young olive shoots around the table. (Psalm 128:3) It prays for the couple to see their children’s children, in other words to see grandchildren (v. 6) Oftentimes, we feel cheated for someone when they die, let’s say, at age 70. We think that it young. They have young grandchildren. Or we hope for a little longer at age 90, when a person already has great-grandchildren. The prayer in this Psalm is for a couple to see their children independent, and married, and with children of their own. Thus, if we get into our 60s and see our children married with their own children, the prayer from our wedding service has been answered.
This Psalm is not only for married people, as its verses are a prayer for all people. First, the Psalmist writes that everyone who fears the Lord, who chooses to walk in the way of the Lord is blessed. (v. 1) It is true that the word translated as “fear” is the from the Greek word “fovo” which really does mean fear. Rather than think of this as fear of a vengeful God, who is ready to punish us, I think of the word “fear” applying to a life without God. In other words, we might say that “I’m afraid that a life without God is rather meaningless.” This then is not a paralyzing fear but a motivating fear. It’s like the college student who says “I’m afraid I won’t graduate if I don’t study harder.” This again is not a paralyzing fear but a motivating fear. So, blessed are all those who fear a life without the Lord, who are motivated to walk in His ways.
The person who follows after the Lord, who recognizes, appreciates and uses their talents, will “eat of the fruit of the labor of (their) hands.” (v. 2) This verse doesn’t promise riches, but it promises sufficiency. It also puts a value on the labor of our hands, on work. Part of the “walks in His ways” includes using our talents, to serve others, and to provide for ourselves.
Verse 2 continues “You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.” Those who labor for the Lord will be happy. Those who labor only for themselves will base their happiness on their income. Those who labor for the Lord will base their happiness not on income but on using their God-given talent to serve others.
Verse 3 pertains more specifically to married people. While verse 4 again applies to everyone: “Thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.” This reiterates the point of verse one. Verse 4 also reminds the husband of the household to be the spiritual leader. The man who fears the Lord and who leads his household in the fear of the Lord will also be blessed.
Jerusalem was called the Holy City in Biblical times. It was the place where the temple was located. It was a place where people made pilgrimages to the temple. It was a place of commerce and prosperity. While most people lived an agrarian existence, Jerusalem offered refuge from the daily grind. Trips to Jerusalem were causes for celebration. Think going to New York, for fine food, good shows, and overall luxury. Verse 5 asks for God’s blessings on all people, whether they are married or not. And asks that God’s faithful followers know the “prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of (their) life.”
Whether a person is married or not, whether they have children or not, the happy and blessed home is based on walking in the ways of the Lord, working hard, and using our talents. The final blessing bestowed by the Psalm is that of peace, that all of God’s followers, descendants of the children of Israel, may know the peace of God, which as we read in Philippians 4:7 is a peace “which passes all understanding,” a peace that can come in the midst of conflict. This peace has the power to keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, something we must strive to do even in these times of uncertainty.
Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine on the walls of your house; your children will be like young olive shoots around your table. Lo, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. The Lord bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! May you see your children’s children! Peace upon Israel! Psalm 128
Walk in the way of the Lord today!