Blessings for Those Who Fear the Lord

I. Introduction
I want you to think back, remember yourself at a young age.

Who or what did you want to be when you grew up?

What qualities of that person or job did you like that attracted you?

Do you still sometimes think of what it would be like to be that person?

Our lesson today is from Psalm 128, and we’re going to study about growing up in the Lord.

II. Psalm 128
First, let’s take apart our scripture. When I study scripture, I heard a simple three step process that really helps me understand life applications from the bible.

First, what does the bible say? Word for word, understand what the bible stays, who it’s being said to, why it’s being said, basically, read it and understand the context.

Second, what does the text mean? Sometimes, like in the parables, it’s very easy to see that the verse says one thing but means something different. The scripture on sowing seed on rocky soil is not necessarily instruction on agriculture and how to manage a successful farm. The scripture on the adulterous woman is not instruction on how to throw rocks. The verse says one thing and means something more.

Third, what the text mean to me? God placed these words in the bible and now I’m reading them. What does God want me to understand? How should it affect me? How should this scripture change me?

Psalm 128 is only 6 verses, so let’s see first what it says.

1 Blessed are all who fear the LORD,
who walk in his ways.
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 sons will be like olive shoots
around your table.

4 Thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.

5 May the LORD bless you from Zion
all the days of your life;
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem,

6 and may you live to see your children’s children.
Peace be upon Israel.

I don’t think it’s any surprise that this Psalm is often taught during Father’s Day. Most of the commentaries I read on this Psalm focus on the obvious, what it means to be a family man, a father, and how to raise a family that pleases God.

Our class has a couple of fathers, but there’s a bigger picture here that applies to all of us. First, let’s talk about what the scripture says, and we’ll spend most of the lesson on just the first 2 verses, so don’t panic if we’re still on verse 2 when 12 o’clock rolls around.

III. Blessed are all who fear the Lord
Blessed. The Hebrew word for this can be translated as “happy,” and it’s not as easy to understand as we might think. Does God want us to be happy? Of course He does, who wants to see their children unhappy? But it’s not the same happiness that the world might teach us. The world teaches us that it’s our happiness that’s most important, and we should seek happiness. Buy this and it will make you happy. Drink that and it will make you happy. If your spouse or your family or your friend makes you unhappy, you should leave them, because it’s your happiness that’s most important.

But God doesn’t tell us to do that. God doesn’t tell us to seek our own happiness as a goal. Rather, happiness is a reward for living His way. I can tell you this – the times in my life I spent seeking happiness, I didn’t find it. I found a whole range of other emotions – shame, depression, unhappiness. Many years ago I divorced my wife; I was unhappy at the time and I believed divorcing her would make me happy, or at least happier. I found no happiness there, nor have I found happiness in any place other than living righteously by the word of God. And believe me, I’ve looked in enough other places to know that happiness isn’t something you can seek.

This verse says this happiness is available to all who fear the Lord. Are you happy? If a follower of Christ says there is no happiness in their life, what advice could you offer?

James 4:9 says “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.” Ecclesiastes 3:1,4 says, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” And Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Is it wrong to mourn and weep?

Weeping, mourning, sadness are an integral part of our lives, and it’s healthy to weep and cry. The shortest verse in the bible is John 11:35, after Jesus arrived at the tomb of Lazaras, “Jesus wept.” But we find ultimate happiness in the Good News of Christ, that our sins have been paid in full. Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

This blessing of happiness isn’t reserved for a select few, but it is available to everybody. I don’t know about you, but I’m comforted by the fact that others struggle with life just as I do, that I haven’t been singled out somehow for mistreatment. As people, there are very few statements we can make that apply to everyone. Sometimes I hear, “Take all things in moderation,” and I always think, “whoa, *all* things? Let’s not go overboard here.” Romans 3:23 was an integral part of my Christian walk because I once felt that I had made so many mistakes that somehow I was damaged goods, that I understood if God no longer wanted me. But Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I realized that my feelings were not unique and recognizing that I’m a sinner was important to understanding God’s grace.

Same thing here; God says that all those who fear Him are happy. Fear and happiness aren’t usually two things that go together in my head. “Hey I saw Friday the 13th Part 30 last night and scared me so bad I’m happy.” So even though scripture says “fear,” what does scripture mean by “fear?” We’ve talked about this a lot the last several weeks about the fear of the Lord.

There’s a passage in the book, The Chronicles of Narnia, that illustrates this very well. Mrs. Beaver is describing Aslan, the Christ figure in the book.

“If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly,” said Mrs. Beaver.

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

A healthy respect of fear for the Lord recognizes the awesome power of the Lord. But the Bible is clear, though, that we can approach God in His love and mercy. The fear of the Lord is the recognition that God has the ability and the right to punish us for our transgressions. Fortunately for us, the mercy of the Lord saves those who place their faith in Him; in Luke 1:50, Mary says, “His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation.” But we should never forget that God’s mercy, God’s blessings, are extended to those who acknowledge the sovereignty and holiness of the Lord God almighty.

So we’ve read, “Blessed are all who fear the Lord.” We’ve understand it to mean that the Lord grants happiness to those who acknowledge Him in all they do. Let’s bring it to a very personal level. What does it mean to me? What does God want specifically from you and from me?

That’s something only you and I can answer to God. G.K. Chesterton, the English author, once wrote, “We fear men so much, because we fear God so little. One fear cures another. When man’s terror scares you, turn your thoughts to the wrath of God.” Psalm 128 reminds me that my fear of God should extend to all areas of my life, not just to bible study or church, but to my family and my office and anywhere I may go. G.K. Chesterton also once wrote, “Just going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.”

IV. You will eat the fruit of your labor
Verse 2 of Psalm 128 describes this happiness that God provides. “You will eat the fruit of your labor.” How many think this is instruction to eat organic food?

The Psalmist is explaining the reason for the happiness in verse 1. It’s a positive reinforcement of Galatians 6:7-8 –

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

I wish we had time to study all the nuances of reaping and sowing. I found a great article called The Seven Laws of the Harvest that discusses reaping and sowing from a biblical view. Here’s the list of the Seven Laws:

  • Law #1, we reap only what has been sown. The sower may be us, it may be others before us, it may be God who has sown on our behalf. We reap the good that others have sown, we reap the bad, too.
  • Law #2, We reap the same in kind as we sow. If you sow watermelon seeds, you reep watermelon seeds. If you sow selfishness, you reap selfishness. If you sow anger, you reap anger.
  • Law #3, we reap in a different season than we sow. Many believers sow wild oats all week and then on Sunday pray for crop failure. What we sow, we reap in the future.
  • Law #4, we reap more than we sow. Seeds bring forth entire crops.
  • Law #5, we reap in proportion to what we sow. If we sow sparingly, we reap sparingly. Abundant seed grows abundant crops.
  • Law #6, we reap the full harvest of good only if we persevere. Evil comes to harvest on it’s own.
  • Law #7, we can’t do anything about last year’s harvest, but we can about this year’s.

We usually think of reaping and sowing from a negative sense, but Psalm 128:2 says our happiness comes from what we sow.

Ephesians 5:15-17, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” We reap only what has been sown; either from what we have sown or what those before us have sown. The biggest positive is that we are reaping what God has sown on our behalf, the blessings of salvation and grace and Jesus Christ and all the believers in this world that have passed the message of the gospel to us over the ages. Likewise, the choices we make today will have far reaching consequences. If we are sowing good seed of sharing the Word and loving our neighbors, we will reap the benefits of those choices.

It’s important to realize there is no middle ground. Our time is a gift given to us by the Lord, and we sow with every minute. Are we using those minutes wisely? With every passing minute we are sowing. And if we choose to ignore the world around us, focus on our own pleasures, our own hobbies, our own entertainment, those are minutes not sown productively. In my own life, I’ve learned something of this principle. I like time alone occasionally. But time alone is not sowing seeds. Psalm 128 specifically talks to fathers and husbands to spend appropriate time with family. By myself, I enjoy reading the news, financial websites, and playing games. But I must always be mindful that the most productive seed I personally can sow revolves around my wife, around my family, around my church, around my job. Watching a funny video on Youtube sows no productive seeds. We are either sowing, or we’re letting the seeds go unsown.

And reaping productive seeds in accordance with God’s will brings blessings and happiness, happiness that eludes us if we’re seeking it for our own pleasure. I can read a book; I am entertained. I can read a Christian book, I grow. I can read the bible, and God will speak to me. Which sows the better seed?

I can play a video game, I am entertained. I can play a board game with my spouse, we grow together. Which sows the better seed?

We always have the option of choosing the better choice. What are you reaping now, what is the biggest joy in your life, and what was sown to make that happen?

2 Corinthians 9:6-8,

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

V. Conclusion
So, now we’re all adults, it doesn’t mean we’re done growing. Now who do you want to be when you grow up? And what sort of seed should you be sowing?

1 Blessed are all who fear the LORD,
who walk in his ways.
2 You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.

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