Psalm 128 (NIV)
1 Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
who walk in obedience to him.
2 You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
4 Yes, this will be the blessing
for the man who fears the Lord.
5 May the Lord bless you from Zion;
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
6 May you live to see your children’s children—
peace be on Israel.
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The entire Psalter opens with the statement “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked” (Ps. 1:1). Psalm 128 hearkens back to that fundamental truth: “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways” (v. 1). That blessing is fleshed out with many different descriptions throughout the psalms. Psalm 1 describes that blessing as being like a tree planted by the waters, yielding fruit in season with leaves that don’t wither, and prospering in whatever is undertaken.
Psalm 128 also recounts that blessing as fruitfulness—eating the fruit of your labor, and knowing great prosperity and blessing (v. 2). Then, like the previous psalm, it goes on to point to the relational blessings of family (vv. 3–4). Family is the basic creational unit of community—from those relationships flow our first awareness of belonging, well-being, trust, and acceptance. In family, we find that we are loved, even before we can do one thing to earn that love. We are simply loved just by being born. In family, we find that we are part of a communal identity beyond ourselves. And together, the members of family become a reflection of God’s triune nature, and his unconditional love. God’s own fruitfulness is reflected in the gift of reproducibility, which is granted to marriage through the bearing of children. Even if we have experienced brokenness and pain in our family relationships, we still recognize what family was designed to be, and we long for that. Moreover, we rejoice that we have been adopted into the family of God.
Psalm 128 virtually explodes with a celebration of family, because covenant-keeping is fruitful. Whether it is our covenant-keeping with God (vv. 1–2), or our covenant-keeping in family relationships (vv. 3–4), the blessing of God rests upon those who fear him and walk in his ways (v. 1). The prayer of the psalm is that our lives will be characterized by well-being and fruitfulness, because we are in covenant with a God whose nature is to pour out blessing and fruitfulness. The psalm ends with a benediction: “Peace be upon Israel” (v. 6). It is a confident statement of God’s blessing upon those in his family, upon whom he has set his unconditional love.