June 25, 2021
This reflection on Psalm 128 was published earlier this year, but I thought it deserved another day. I hope you do too. 🙂
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 128 which some describe as a blueprint for a happy home.
Happy are they all who fear the Lord,Psalm 128, Canadian Inclusive Psalter
and who follow in the ways of God!
You shall eat the fruit of your labor;
happiness and prosperity shall be yours.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
within your house,
your children like olive shoots
round about your table.
As lovely as it is, this interpretation may be overly simple.
Psalm 128, written in the post-exilic period, is the people’s song of gratitude for the chance to return to their homeland after the Babylonian captivity.
For Israel, the captivity was the result of their faithlessness to their covenant with God. The core sentiment of the psalm is awareness, repentance, and conviction to live life more intentionally – to live in fear of the Lord and thus preserve oneself from future calamity:
Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
who walk in the Lord’s ways!
I think that word “fear” is a tough one. It seems to contradict our desired relationship with the God who is Love, the God we have met in the person of Jesus Christ. How do we reconcile the contradiction?
But Proverbs tells us this:
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,Proverbs 9:10
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
So this “fear” is significantly different from the emotion we might feel when, for example, we hear an unfamiliar noise in our darkened house.
Thus the ‘fear of the Lord’ is a relational term signifying the Israelites’ response to God’s grace displayed in salvation (especially the Exodus). As Walter Brueggemann has aptly written, it means: to take God with utmost seriousness as the premise and perspective from which life is to be discerned and lived. That ‘utmost seriousness’ requires attentiveness to some things rather than others, to spend one’s energies in response to this God who has initiated our life.Mark J. Boda, Professor of Old Testament, McMaster Divinity College
This, in fact, is the rich sentiment underlying Psalm 128, and that will yield the security of an intimate relationship with God
May the LORD bless you from Zion;Psalm 128:4-5
may you see Jerusalem’s prosperity
all the days of your life,
and live to see your children’s children.
Peace upon Israel!
The psalmist’s “fear” might be more akin to awe, reverence, glad obedience to our God who loves us and wills our good. It is a virtue rooted in our search for a holy awe and wisdom as our life unfolds in God’s Grace:
Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann, says we live in a technological society that has grossly confused knowledge and wisdom. He says wisdom is the mystery, held by God, about how and why life works…how creation holds together…and how human reason has its limits. Wisdom is God’s secret and even our bold Enlightenment expectations barely lay a finger on that secret. Wisdom involves recognizing limits before the mystery of God. Knowledge has to do with control, says Brueggemann. Wisdom has to do with awe.Walter M. Klein, Pastor, Lexington Presbyterian Church
Poem: I Am Bending My Knee
Originally from the Carmina Gadelica I, 3. Taken from Esther de Waal, editor, The Celtic Vision (Liguori, MO: Liguori/Triumph, 1988, 2001), p. 7.
I am bending my knee In the eye of the Father who created me, In the eye of the Son who purchased me, In the eye of the Spirit who cleansed me, In friendship and affection. Through Thine own Anointed One, O God, Bestow upon us fullness in our need, Love towards God, The affection of God, The smile of God, The wisdom of God, The grace of God, The fear of God, And the will of God To do on the world of the Three, As angels and saints Do in heaven; Each shade and light, Each day and night, Each time in kindness, Give Thou us Thy Spirit.
Music: The Fear of the Lord – First Baptist Dallas (Wow! How about this music ministry!)