Wednesday, September 24, 2008

When We Walk With the Lord...

Since I received such a rousing response to my question regarding feedback about this blog, as you can see from the comments posted on the previous post, I will nevertheless continue in my study of the Psalms of Ascents since it is, as the very least, somewhat therapeutic for me.

In the last post, I noted that Psalm 127 seemed to be the pivotal point of these 15 psalms. This does not mean that Psalms 128-134 all spiral down into despair. Instead, it seems there is a shift of focus in the last half of these psalms than from the first half. The first seven Psalms of Ascent seem to about the anticipation of going to Jerusalem, the praise of being there, and worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Even though there are aspects of lament and supplication in these first seven psalms, the major thrust seems upbeat.

Starting in Psalm 128, the Psalms of Ascent seem to go another direction. Playing off the last half of 127, Psalm 128 is concerned about the family and spiritual health of his people. In Psalm 129-132, the psalmist cries out to God about different concerns he has (we will address them as we continue on through our study).

I am not sure if this shift in focus is correct, but it seems like the tone changes after 127. Any insights on this would be helpful. Nevertheless, lets look at Psalm 128.

Read Psalm 128 (NASB, NIV, KJV)

I am really struggling on an outline for this psalm. I am getting closer but I really need help with this. If you are reading this, please put your two-cents in.

Still working on a title

I. Personal Blessings (1-4) ??
          A. Our work will be blessed (2)
          B. Our families will be blessed (3)
                    1. They will be prosperous (3a)
                    2. They will be stable (3b)
          C. Certainty of blessing (4) ??

II. Spiritual Blessings (5-6) ??
          A. God will bless you wherever you go (5a) ??
          B. The worship of God will continue (5b)??
          C. The people of God will be whole (6) ??

This outline needs serious help but I thought I would post it in its current form to get help and to show the development of thought. The main thing I am struggling with is the two main points. It seems obvious to me that the psalm has two main thoughts: the blessings one has when you live a life obedient to God and the thoughts about Zion, Jerusalem, and Israel. This second set is harder to nail down a thought which encapsulates what the author is saying. I will cover that in a minute.

I summed up the first thought with "Personal Blessings." Verse one is clearly tells the qualification of these blessings. When a person walks in God's ways, lives a life habitually obedient to God and His Word, then God will bless that person. It should always be in the forefront of one's mind that the psalms are not promises. This may put a bur under someone's saddle but that is the case, nonetheless. Therefore, this is the psalmist saying a lot of the time, when a person walks with the Lord, that person will experience these blessings. It goes without saying that a single person who is walking with the Lord, will not have a spouse or children, but they will still be blessed. However, this psalm refers to these things. This does not nullify the blessings for anyone who walks obediently.

The first blessing the psalmist mentions is that the work of one's hands will be productive, satisfying, and will be enjoyed. He continues to move from work to family. He says one's wife will be fruitful like a vine. Many will say this has to do with bearing children, but it has more a thrust of a Proverbs 31 woman. One who is industrious and does whatever is necessary to provide for her family. Staying with the theme of family, the author says that the children of one who is faithful will be like olive plants. This is a picture of stability. When olive trees are young, they do not produce fruit. When an olive tree ages to about 14 to 15 years old, it begins to produce fruit and can continue to do so for an extremely long time. One who faithfully obeys the Lord will be blessed with children who will be stable and produce fruit for a long time. Again, this is not a promise but a condition that usually is the case. He finishes this section by restating what he did in verse one, these blessings are for those who revere the Lord (4) and thus live in accordance to His ways (1).

The next section moves into a spiritual realm of blessings. It may be this is not personal blessings but more communal blessings. However, verse 5 does not indicate a communal aspect (maybe you can convince me otherwise). He begins to pray that Lord will bless his reader from Zion. The issue here is that God's presence was understood to be in the temple on Mount Zion and blessings would be issued out from there. This indicates that wherever the faithful would travel, God would bless them from Zion. It is more about the source of blessing then where the person receiving the blessing is located.

Second, the psalmist prays that the reader would see Jerusalem prosper all the days of his life, and he prays that the reader would live a long, long life. He is praying for the city which was the center of worship for his people. There is a direct relationship between the welfare of Jerusalem the the welfare of the worship of God. If Jerusalem was doing well, then the worship of Yahweh was doing well. If Jerusalem was ransacked and the enemy had taken residence, then not only was the author's worship interupted, but the entire people's worship had stopped. Thus, he prayed for Jerusalem so that the worship of God would continue. The first half of verse six is part of this request. If the reader would see Jerusalem prosper all the days of his life, then the psalmist is also asking God to let the reader live a long life.

Finally, the psalmist asks for the peace of Israel. "Peace" here is the word "Shalom" and it means much more than "lack of war." It connotes the issues of "completeness, wholeness, wellness, peace." In short, the psalmist is praying for the well-being of those who worship the one true God. He not only wants the worship of Yahweh to prosper (above) but he wants the worshippers of Yahweh to be well, too.

As I say at the end of all these posts, any suggestions you give would not only help me, but would also help many who have been looking at and reading through the Psalms of Ascents posts.

As with the rest of these particular psalms, I have been trying to match a song we sing today which would relay the same heart as the psalmist for that individual psalm. The Baptist Hymnal uses Psalm 128:1 for the basis of the hymn "Would You Bless Our Homes and Families," but I do not know that hymn. When I think of this psalm, the hymn "Trust and Obey" comes to mind. The psalm begins by essentially saying, "if you trust and obey the Lord, then He will bless you." This is the same message of this hymn (click here to listen).

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.


Mark said...

I have enjoyed reading them, but I have not posted anything so that you don't get a big head! Only looking out for your best interests!

Rolland said...

Thanks for looking out for me. What would I do without you. :-)

Any suggestions you have for improvement on any of them would be great. I have already taught through 120-122 at Heritage. I have enjoyed sharing them with others and am looking forward to going through the rest of them.