The Blessings of Honest Work and Christian Family

What do you think of when you hear about a “community?” Do you immediately picture your gated neighborhood or the geographic area where you live? During my year in England, I learned that people in a community are more commonly those who have common interests, nationality, or socialize together—it implies more than just geography. For example, those who participate in their church’s ongoing ministry get to know each other and depend upon them. They see members as a community and even a family. But those who attend church worship on Sundays without becoming involved in church life won’t consider the congregation their families. It’s a blessing to have a family of faith and mutual concern. Many people in my two communities took an interest in my swollen, bruised face this week after my recent tumble onto the curb. I appreciate the families God has given me; mine are Christian communities. In Psalm 128, the psalmist writes that those who walk with God are blessed with honest work and good family relationships, as well as eternally, living as a family in peace together. Perhaps, through meditation on Psalm 128, we may develop a deeper appreciation of God’s blessing of honest work and Christian families, who bring us peace and further blessings. 

The Blessing of God’s Providence

“Ancient Israel was called to view secular life as sacred. Daily life was to be lived under the eye of God and each activity squared with the divine will…it was the Israelite’s prime duty to relate every human concern to Yahweh. The good things of life were traced back to His generous hand in praise…it proved a good working principle for life, and so it can be still…[Psalm 128] has much to teach the restless, individualistic modern westerner.” (1) “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 blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, 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 be upon Israel!” (Psalm 128) “This psalm…shows that all things depend on the providence and goodness of God; and that all blessings, particularly children, are the gift of God.” (2) Children remind us of the future, giving us hope and sometimes a completely different, simplistic view of life here on earth. Young children, who focus on the moment, who are engaged productively and joyfully, bless us with their optimism and energetic curiosity. Our church family celebrates the birth of children because of this blessedness; our family rejoices together as we encourage their parents and them to walk with God in Christ. Being united in faith in Him, we strive to show our children God’s faithfulness in our lives. Psalm 128 says those who walk with God reverently will be blessed temporally and eternally as his family, living in peace together.  

The Blessing of Good Spiritual Work

“Blessed [is] everyone that fears the Lord, that walketh in his ways: which God has prescribed and directed his people to walk in, his ordinances and commands; which, to walk in, is both pleasant and profitable: it supposes life, requires strength and wisdom; and is expressive of progression, for continuance in them…a good man may have a comfortable enjoyment of the good of his labour; than which, as to temporal blessings, there is nothing better under the sun, Ecclesiastes 5:18; and, in a spiritual sense, good men labour in prayers at the throne of grace, there lifting up holy hands to God, wrestling with him for a blessing, which they enjoy; they labour in attendance on the word and ordinances, for the meat which endures to everlasting life; and they find the word and eat it, and Christ in it, whose flesh is meat indeed; and feed by faith on it, to the joy and comfort of their souls;…happy as to temporal things, and well as to spiritual ones: such having an apparent special interest in the love, grace, mercy, and delight of God; in his providence, protection, and care.” (3) How are you participating in gospel labor for your family, be it your biological family, extended family, or church family? As we work together we become more Christ-like, because of his grace and the Spirit’s empowerment. We bless each other through God’s provision of something good to do, rather than being and feeling like an outsider. May we grow to have a deeper appreciation of God’s blessing of work and Christian family, which produces further blessings. Last night, as I returned from walking GG (my dog), I came upon a friend and two couples whom I enjoy. Besides our friendly and personal conversation, including prayers for one, I had the opportunity to help assemble some programs for the Wednesday vesper service. I enjoyed helping my neighbor put together the programs and our dialog as we worked. I was blessed.

The Blessing of Family is For Everyone

I love my biological family members, but we are far from perfect. We have a heap of negative history in our past, affecting our relationships. And, my extended family members have no spiritual commonalities, so our life views are radically different. When I read what the psalmist writes, I could feel shortchanged. “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.” (Psalm 128:3-4) Tim Keller’s comments are helpful. “A loving spouse and growing children are a great blessing. But sin in the heart and evil in the world have disrupted the life of the human family. Many wish to have families who don’t and many who have families wish they had very different ones. There are also people who have suffered terrible abuse within their families. Jesus said that his family did not consist of his biological relatives: ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.’ (Matthew 3:33-35) The church must not only support and repair families but also find a way to become the family of God, where everyone, married and single, childless or not, can flourish in love.” (4) 

Blessings From Zion

Psalm 128 ends with a benediction for Israel: “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 be upon Israel!” (vs. 5-6) The writer of the psalm has the temple in mind when He mentions Zion; God’s grace is the source of Israel’s blessedness: “the goodness of God in Jerusalem (another name for the church of God); the beauty of the Lord in his house and ordinances; his power and his glory in the sanctuary: or…the church of God in prosperous circumstances all his days; true religion flourish, the power of godliness in the professors of it; the word and ordinances blessed to the edification of saints, and many sinners converted and gathered in, [and] peace upon Israel: all kind of prosperity, temporal and spiritual; peace, and abundance of it; as will be in the latter day, in the spiritual reign of Christ.” (5) Those who walk with God reverently will be blessed temporally—with honest work and good family relationships—and eternally as his family, living in peace together. Work takes many forms. My neighbor’s husband moved to memory care, so now it’s her job to walk their older dog—that’s her “work.” She blesses my dog and me whenever we meet. This morning she told me that a gentleman who was petting her dog had tears in his eyes when he looked up at her and said, “I used to have one just like him and I miss him so much. Thank you.” We should grow a deep appreciation of God’s blessing of honest work, whatever it is, and for our Christian families, who bring us peace and further blessings. Being “like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.” (Psalms 52:8-9)

Related Scripture: Deuteronomy 8:6; 28:1-6; Job 42:16; Psalms 52:8; 112; 118:26; 127:3; 133:3; Isaiah 3:10; Matthew 5:2-14; Galatians 6:14-16; James 5:11; 1 Peter 3:14.

Notes:

  1. Zondervan Bible Commentary, F. F. Bruce General Editor, Psalms 127-128, One-Volume Illustrated Digital Edition.
  2. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalm 128, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-128.html
  3. Gill, Ibid.
  4. Keller, Timothy with Kathy Keller, “The Songs of Jesus,” Psalm 128, Viking, New York, 2015.
  5. Gill, Ibid.

February 17, 2022

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