The Expository Files

 An Ideal Life
(Psalm 128)

1 How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, Who
walks in His ways.
2 When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, You will
be happy and it will be well with you.
3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine, Within your
house, Your children like olive plants Around your table.
4 Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed Who fears
the LORD.
5 The LORD bless you from Zion, And may you see the
prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
6 Indeed, may you see your children's children. Peace
be upon Israel!

The rewards of God for righteousness are not all consigned to the next life. The true and righteous servant of God will be abundantly rewarded. There is ultimately, and most surely, the future afterlife. The spiritual progress one makes in knowledge and purity of heart is also a sure reward. But there yet remains the possibility of vast blessings of a more temporal nature. I say that these are a possibility because the actions of evil men may rob us of all physical things, including life itself, or one may live in a time and place that is under the curse of judgment from on high due to widespread evil. But in normal circumstances the faithful will be able to construct lives that are not only in accordance with the will of God, but also richly blessed.

The Blessings In An Ideal Life

Fruitful Labor in Contentment. It is the blessing of God that we can enjoy the fruits of our labor. From the very beginning man has worked to this end. Work is not a curse, but is good for us. Certainly the curse has greatly increased the difficulty of our work, but work and its fruit are for our good. A man in a decent home with enough good things in it is content - if he worked to build it and paid for it with the wages earned by his own labor. Heirs of fortunes are very often lost souls, especially if they never do work of their own to add to or preserve what they have received. But the man of God who works patiently, gratefully receiving and building industriously in small increases, will not only do well, but will be rightly content in his accomplishments.

When Solomon considered all of life ("under the sun" as it is styled in the book of Ecclesiastes), he concluded the same thing. "Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one's labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward." (Eccl. 5:18) The ideal life does not necessarily consist of the things that the world thinks is important; rather, it consists of work blessed by God, no matter what the net worth of the estate a man leaves behind.

Husband, Wife, Children and Grandchildren. The blessings of "Home, Sweet Home" are given by God. The family was the first institution God gave to man. Very quickly (probably on the first day of man's existence) God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone." (Gen.2:18) The coming of man and woman together is still "too wonderful for me" (Prov. 30:19,20) and "a prudent wife is from the LORD." (Prov. 19:14)

The children that result from this union are a blessing of God. This passage calls up the imagery of the olive plant. The olive plant would produce new shoots all around it. The new shoots were produced and sustained by the same root. This common image is used to picture parents surrounded by their children at home around their table.

"Behold, children are a gift of the LORD." (Ps. 127:3) They are a blessing to us because they call forth in us our best affections and purest feelings. Here is a most sacred charge to uphold - to properly rear "in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4) those whom the Lord has given us. This endeavor is not for their benefit alone; it also makes the parents better. The proper patient rearing of children, with regard for God, so fundamentally improves us that one is not qualified to lead the people of God without having successfully and fully done it. "He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity." (1 Tim. 3:4).  God does not picture us building a solitary lonely home, or even being in one in our older years. Our children should recognize the great blessings they had in their home, grow up, and strive to produce the same thing for their children. The grandparents will have the double blessing of seeing yet another generation progressing in the Lord. Raising another faithful generation is part of the return children make to their parents.

Spiritual Progress of God's People. David's description does not leave out the spiritual things. David spoke of "bless[ing] you from Zion" and "the prosperity of Jerusalem" during the course of our lives. When God's people live a life that He can bless, they and their religious institutions (Israel in the Old Testament, the church in the New) will be greatly blessed. Fellowship with others who are striving to have blessed lives is great encouragement to do the same, and builds up the whole people.

Achieving The Ideal Life Through Fear Of The Lord

What a life this would be. A fruitful, contented life at work, at home and at church. What more could one rightly ask for? This is what we're all to seek. Yes, this is the ideal and we may fall short of it, but this is not an unobtainable utopia. We can confidently direct our lives
toward it.

The fear of the Lord is the very root of the ideal life. It is so basic and important that it is actually stated twice in this short psalm, (verse 1 and 4) The fear of the Lord is reverence, dread to offend, anxiety to please, complete submission and obedience. In other places is it said to be "the beginning of wisdom," (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 9:10) and "clean, enduring forever." (Ps. 19:9) His compassion (Ps. 103:13) and His lovingkindness (Ps. 103:17) and His favor (Ps. 147:11) are on those that fear Him.

This fear of the Lord is very practical. It will cause us to walk in the way of God. When we live the right way, the way that God directs, good things flow as a matter of course. So the "the fear of the LORD leads to life," (Prov. 19:23) and is "a fountain of life" (Prov. 14:27) which "prolongs life." (Prov. 10:27) If the life we want is the life He wants for us, then our faithful labor and His continual blessing will cause it to happen for us.

Do you want a life like this? Then consider the admonitions of David: "You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD; He is their help and their shield," (Ps 115:11) and "O fear the LORD, you His saints; For to those who fear Him, there is no want." (Ps. 34:9) Walking in the fear of the Lord is very blessed life indeed. In fact, its almost ideal.

By Jay Horsley
From Expository Files 11.4 April, 2004