The Songs of Ascent, Text: Psalm 128, Title: A Holy Family

Introduction

Having left the strange land where they could not sing the Lord’s song, and traveled up to the city of God singing His song with rejoicing, the psalmist now contemplates the settled life that will characterize their move back to their ancestral home. Ask your local teachers why most students fail in school. They will tell you that the cause is the home. Ask your local police why most kids get in trouble, again they will tell you it’s the home life. You can  even ask pastors why most kids drop out of church, and though the church often gets blamed like the school and the police, they will also say, it’s the lack of training in the home. The rebuilding of the nation after the captivity will have at its heart the home, and the psalmist reflects on the holy families that he envisions in  the holy city. He says if you examine them you will find three characteristics. They will be characterized by fear, fruitfulness and future.

I Fear

The first characteristic of a solid family that contributes to society and the church is the fear of God as in verse 1, Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways. God-fearing is another way of describing a true believer. It is not the fear of a condemned criminal before a judge. It is the fear of offending; a reverence for majesty, gratitude for mercies, dread of displeasure, and desire for approval. It is not the fear of being cast off, but the fear that we should deserve to be cast off by sinning and offending. A home where there is no discipline is a home that will never see the grace of forgiveness and repentance. A Christian school teacher wrote, "I personally recall many boys and girls who were arrogant over the Christian background. One often wondered if the shell of these immature lives had ever been punctured at home by frank, honest and loving training to grasp the fact that they are sinners in the process of conversion, and that church or school was to be used as a means of grace to deal with the deep perversity of our natures, not as a public preening place of our goodness.” Historically it was the unbelieving humanists of the Renaissance who fostered formal education while the Reformers like Luther and Calvin and Zwingli, though themselves intellectual giants, promoted training in the home producing truth in order to holiness, and not truth for truth’s sake. The fear of the Lord in the  family leads to children who are treated like children, and not like little gods who get everything they want. Then when the children grow and become tyrants parents run for help to control the idols that they have fashioned. They have created refined pagans without the fear of God. It is the nature of God’s covenant of grace that he chooses everyone of us like Abraham, of whom He says in Genesis 18:18 and 19,  Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.

II Fruitfulness

Many Christians equate fruitfulness with witnessing and personal evangelism, but fruitfulness has to do with holiness and fulfilling our God given roles as described in verses 2-4, You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. Thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD. I remember the visit of a traveling evangelist to our church, and the following story. In one church where he was preaching he was put up in a private home and had the opportunity to observe the behavior of the husband who did not love his wife as Christ loved the Church. He was a difficult man. However, because his wife had not made a profession of faith he unceasingly talked about the Lord and he left gospel tracts all over the house including as the evangelist reported it, even in the bathroom. Before the preacher left the man drew him aside and said that he couldn’t understand why his wife did not want to become a Christian. The evangelist said, ‘Maybe it’s because she’s never seen one.” A holy family is one where the husband and wife understand and fulfill their God-given roles as we see in this Psalm. Ordinarily, the primary area of the husband’s work is outside the home, and the wife’s in the home. There may be variations on this, but it remains true because this is the way God made us according to Genesis 3:16-19. The curse on the woman for the first sin is in the realm of childbearing, and the cruse on the man in the area of his labor in tilling the ground. We may alter these roles somewhat, but we cannot change the way we are made by God. Consequently, fulfilling these God-given roles is the secret of a holy family. This in turn will become a home in which the children are properly trained and cared for. Thus we see not only the man and the woman prospering, but also their children who are compared to young olive trees around the table. The olive was a symbol of the fruitful promised land as in Deuteronomy 6:10 and 11, When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant, and Deuteronomy 8:8 which says the land was a land rich with olive oil and honey. The children here are gathered around the table and C. H. Spurgeon wittily comments, “The wife is busy all over the house, but the youngsters are busiest at mealtimes. The table is a picture of fellowship, the fellowship of the family, and it is a picture of sustenance, symbolic of spiritual sustenance as well as physical.”

III Future

In verses 5 and 6 the psalmist envisions the future of the city of God. May the LORD bless you from Zion all the days of your life; may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem, and may you live to see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel. This prosperity is described in the prophecy of Zechariah, chapter 8:3-13,  This is what the LORD says: “I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.” This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.” This is what the LORD Almighty says: “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” declares the LORD Almighty. This is what the LORD Almighty says: “I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west. I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God.” This is what the LORD Almighty says: “You who now hear these words spoken by the prophets who were there when the foundation was laid for the house of the LORD Almighty, let your hands be strong so that the temple may be built. Before that time there were no wages for man or beast. No one could go about his business safely because of his enemy, for I had turned every man against his neighbor. But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as I did in the past,” declares the LORD Almighty. “The seed will grow well, the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will produce its crops, and the heavens will drop their dew. I will give all these things as an inheritance to the remnant of this people. As you have been an object of cursing among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.” We know that the final and ultimate restoration is in Christ and the new Jerusalem, as described in Zechariah 9 but Zechariah also speaks of the same restoration as the psalmist. This is the forerunner to the final restoration in Christ. Only holy families have a future. The blessing on the homes brings blessing on the city because the holy family is the source and stability of the people of God, and of any society. Therefore, Peace be upon Israel.