PSALM 128 OVERVIEW
Title. -- A Song of Degrees. There is an evident ascent from the last Psalm: that did but hint at the way in which a house may be built up, but this draws a picture of that house built, and adorned with domestic bliss through the Lord's own benediction. There is clearly an advance in age, for here we go beyond children to children's children; and also a progress in happiness, for children which in the last Psalm were arrows are here Olive plants, and instead of speaking "with the enemies in the gate" we done with "peace upon Israel." Thus we rise step by step, and sing as we ascend.
Subject. -- It is a family hymn, -- a song for a marriage, or a birth, or for any day in which a happy household has met to praise the Lord. Like all the songs of degrees, it has an eye to Zion and Jerusalem, which are both expressly mentioned, and it closes like Psalms 125, 130, and 131, with an allusion to Israel. It is a short Psalm, but exceedingly full and suggestive. Its poetry is of the highest order. Perhaps in no country can it be better understood than in our own, for we above all nations delight to sing of "Home, sweet home."
Verse 1. Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord. The last Psalm ended with a blessing, -- for the word there translated "happy" is the same as that which is here rendered "blessed": thus the two songs are joined by a catch word. There is also in them a close community of subject. The fear of God is the corner stone of all blessedness. We must reverence the ever blessed God before we can be blessed ourselves. Some think that this life is an evil, an infliction, a thing upon which rests a curse; but it is not so; the God fearing man has a present blessing resting upon him. It is not true that it would be to him" something better not to be." He is happy now, for he is the child of the happy God, the ever living Jehovah; and he is even here a joint heir with Jesus Christ, whose heritage is not misery, but joy. This is true of every one of the God fearing, of all conditions, in all ages: each one and every one is blessed. Their blessedness may not always be; seen by carnal reason, but it is always a fact, for God himself declares that it is so; and we know that those whom he blesses are blessed indeed. Let us cultivate that holy filial fear of Jehovah which is the essence of all true religion; -- the fear of reverence, of dread to offend, of anxiety to please, and of entire submission and obedience. This fear of the Lord is the fit fountain of holy living: we look in vain for holiness apart from it: none but those who fear the Lord will ever walk in his ways.
That walketh in his ways. The religious life, which God declares to be blessed, must be practical as well as emotional. It is idle to talk of fearing the Lord if we act like those who have no care whether there be a God or no, God's ways will be our ways if we have a sincere reverence for him: if the heart is joined unto God, the feet will follow hard after him. A man's heart will be seen in his walk, and the blessing will come where heart and walk are both with God. Note that the first Psalm links the benediction with the walk in a negative way, "Blessed is the man that walketh not", etc.; but here we find it in connection with the positive form of our conversation. To enjoy the divine blessing we must be active, and walk; we must be methodical, and walk in certain ways; and we must be godly, and walk in the Lord's ways. God's ways are blessed ways; they were cast up by the Blessed One, they were trodden by him in whom we are blessed, they are frequented by the blessed, they are provided with means of blessing, they are paved with present blessings, and they lead to eternal blessedness: who would not desire to walk in them?
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. Psalm 128 follows Psalm 127 for the same reason as Psalm 2 follows Psalm
- In both instances they are Psalms placed together, of which one begins with ashre (happy, very happy), and the other ends with ashre. In other respects Psalm 128 and 127 supplement one another. They are related to one another much as the New Testament parables of the treasure in the field and the one pearl are related. That which makes man happy is represented in Psalm 127 as a gift coming as a blessing, and in Psalm 128 as a reward coming as a blessing, that which is briefly indicated in the word rkv, saka, reward, in Psalms 127:3 being here expanded and unfolded. There it appears as a gift of grace in contrast to the God estranged self activity of man; here as a fruit of the ora et labora. --Franz Delitzsch.
Whole Psalm. -- It is to be observed, that here all men are spoken to as wedded; because this is the ordinary estate of most people. See 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 . At this day every Jew is bound to marry at about eighteen years of age, or before twenty; else he is accounted as one that liveth in sin. --John Trapp.
Whole Psalm. This Psalm is an epiqalamio logos, written for the commendation, instruction, and consolation of those who are either already married or are about to enter on that kind of life. It enumerates, therefore, at the commencement, as is usual in songs of this kind, all those things which are regarded as burdens in the married life, such as the labours in seeking to provide for the whole family; the spouse, and that marriage bond, which, as it were, binds a man and seems to make him a slave, just as that character says in the comedy, "I have taken a wife; I have sold my liberty:" lastly, the education of the children, which certainly is most laborious, and requires the largest expenditure. To lighten the burden of all these things, there is added to each a blessing, or a promise, so that they might appear slight. And at the close, it subjoins in general, a spiritual promise, which easily makes light of all the labours and disquiets of the married life; even if they should be the very heaviest. The blessing comes from Zion or the Church: for there is nothing so burdensome and difficult, but what it can be easily borne by those who are the members of the true Church, and know the sources of true consolation. --D. H. Mollerus.
Verse 1. Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD, etc. Here we have the living fountain of the blessing which rests upon the conjugal and domestic state. When worldly prudence attempts to choose a wife and form a household, it can apply its hand only to so much of the work as has its seat upon earth, and is visible to the eye of sense. It builds, so to speak, the first and the second story, adds cornice and pediment, and the fabric presents a fair appearances but it has no foundation. Whenever you see the household of a married pair continuing to defy every storm, you may be sure that it rests upon a sure foundation, lying beyond the reach of human sense, and that that foundation is the fear of the Lord. To the fear of the Lord, therefore, the holy Psalmist has wisely given a place in front of this beautiful Psalm, which celebrates the blessing that descends upon conjugal and domestic life. --Augustus F. Tholuck, in "Hours of Christian Devotion", 1870.
Verse 1. Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD. There is a fear of the Lord which hath terror in it and not blessedness. The apprehension with which a warring rebel regards his triumphant and offended sovereign, or the feelings of a fraudulent bankrupt towards a stern creditor, or, a conscience stricken criminal to a righteous judge, are frequently types of men's feelings in regard to God. This evidently cannot be the fear which the "blessed" of this Psalm feel. Nor can theirs, on the other hand, be the tormenting fear of self reproach.
Their fear is that which the believed revelations given of him in his Word produce. It is the fear which a child feels towards an honoured parent, -- a fear to offend: it is that which they who have been rescued from destruction feel to the benefactor who nobly and at the vastest sacrifice interposed for their safety, -- a fear to act unworthily of his kindness: it is that which fills the breast of a pardoned and grateful rebel in tile presence of a venerated sovereign at whose throne he is permitted to stand in honour, -- a fear lest he should ever forget his goodness, and give him cause to regret it. Such is the fear of the Christian now: a fear which reverence for majesty, gratitude for mercies, dread of displeasure, desire of approval, and longing for the fellowship of heaven, inspire; the fear of angels and the blessed Son; the fear not of sorrow but of love, which shrinks with instinctive recoil from doing aught that would tend to grieve, or from denying aught that would tend to honour. Religion is the grand and the only wisdom; and since the beginning, the middle, and the end of it, is the fear of the Lord, blessed is every man that is swayed by it. --Robert Nisbet, in "The Songs of the Temple Pilgrims", 1863.
Verse 1. Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord. Let us take a little of the character of the blessed man. Who is it that is undaunted? "The man that feareth God." Fear sounds rather contrary to blessedness; hath an air of misery; but add whom. He that "feareth the Lord"; that touch turns it into gold. He that so fears, fears rot: he shall not be afraid; all petty fears are swallowed up in this great fear; and this great fear is as sweet and pleasing as little fears are anxious and vexing. Secure of other things, he can say -- "If my God be pleased, no matter who is displeased: no matter who despise me, if he account me his. Though all forsake me, though my dearest friends grow estranged, if he reject me not, that is my only fear; and for that I am not perplexed, I know he will not." A believer hath no fear but of the displeasure of heaven, the anger of God to fall upon him; he accounts that only terrible; but yet he doth not fear it; doth not apprehend it will fall on him, is better persuaded of the goodness of God. So this fear is still joined with trust: -- "Behold the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy": Psalms 33:18 . --Robert Leighton, 1611-1684.
Verse 1. Blessed is every one, etc. There is a stress on all ("every one"), teaching that no disparity of sex or condition, of rank or wealth, affects the degree of happiness granted by God to every one of his true servants in their several stations. It is to be observed, further, that whenever the fear of the Lord is mentioned in Holy Writ, it is never set by itself, as though sufficient for the consummation of our faith, but always has something added or prefixed, by which to estimate its due proportion of perfection, according as it is stated by Solomon in Proverbs 2:3-5 . --J. M. Neale and R. F. Littledale; in "A Commentary on the Psalms from Primitive and Medieval Writers", 1860.
Verse 1. Blessed is every one, etc. It is a precious promise, but perhaps thou art tempted to say in thy heart, not meant for every one. Wilt thou answer against the Lord? Hear him speak in the song. He says, "every one." "Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD." None are excluded but those who will not walk in his ways. --Edward Jewett Robinson.
Verse 1. Blessed, etc. The, adage, "That it is best not to be born at all, or to die as soon as possible", has certainly been long since received by the common consent of almost all men. Carnal reason judges either that all mankind without exception are miserable, or that fortune is more favourable to ungodly and wicked men than to the good. To the sentiment that those are blessed who fear the Lord, it has an entire aversion. So much tile more requisite, then, is it to dwell upon the consideration of this truth. Farther, as this blessedness is not apparent to the eye, it is of importance, in order to our being able to apprehend it, first to attend to the definition which will be given of it by and bye; and secondly, to know that it depends chiefly upon tim protection of God. Although we collect together all the circumstances which seem to contribute to a happy life, surely nothing will be found more desirable than to be kept hidden under the guardianship of God. If this blessing is, in our estimation, to be preferred, as it deserves, to all other good things, whoever is persuaded that the care of God is exercised about the world and human affairs, will at the same time unquestionably acknowledge that what is here laid down is the chief point of happiness. --John Calvin.
Verse 1. That feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways. The fear of the Lord is the internal principle; but unless there be a corresponding expression in the outward life, what reason is there to suppose that it has any existence at all?
Observe also, that there is no walking in the ways of the Lord, until his fear be established in the heart. There can be no genuine morality apart from the fear of God. How can a man obey God while his affections are alienated from him? --N. M'Michael.
Verse 1. That walketh in, his ways. God makes blessed those that walk in his ways, because he himself walks with them. This is said concerning David, and it is explained how that companionship blessed him, 2 Samuel 5:10 : "And David went on, and grew great, and the Lord God of hosts was with him": where the "and" may be taken as the causal particle "because." That God does indeed join himself to those who walk in his ways as companion and leader we have in 2 Chronicles 17:3-4 : "And the Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; but sought to the Lord God of his father." --Thomas Le Blanc.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. -- The universality of the blessedness of God fearing men. Circumstances, personal or relative, cannot alter the blessing; nor age, nor public opinion, nor even their own sense of unworthiness.
Verse 1. Consider:
- The union of a right fear with a right walk.
- There is a wrong fear, because slavish; this never can lead to genuine obedience, which must be willingly and cheerfully rendered. 2. But the fear of reverence and filial love will surely turn the feet to God's ways, keep them steadfast therein, and wing them with speed.
- The blessedness of him in whom they are united.
- It is blessedness of life; for that is prospered. 2. It is blessedness of domestic happiness; for where the head of a family is holy, the family is the home of peace. 3. It is the blessedness of a holy influence in every sphere of his activity. 4. It is deep felt heart blessedness in walking with God. 5. And all is but a prelude to the everlasting blessedness of heaven. --J. F.