Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
In our Psalm this week we are given a chance to reflect on the blessings of God. This is a common topic. It doesn’t take a very long look at American Christianity to find the twin emphases of obedience to God’s Law and reception of God’s blessings. And, after all, who wouldn’t want to receive blessings from God? By definition blessings are a good thing. We ought to want things that are good to show up in our lives.
Sadly, much of the preaching we hear about God’s blessings is ill founded. It focuses on the Christian cultivating a spirit which will provoke God’s blessing. In this system, we are told we need to step out in faith, dream something that is great and mighty, and trust that the Lord will make it into reality. We are told that any lack of divine blessing must be due to our own failure to believe well enough. God never fails, but if our faith is found deficient we will suffer from all manner of troubles - financial failure, illness, family strife, and rejection by our society.
This isn’t the picture we find in Psalm 128. It couldn’t be farther from a biblical view of life. What is God’s blessing in Psalm 128? Everyone who fears the Lord and walks in his ways is blessed. Yes, there’s an element of trust, of obedience, and even an open door to failure. Not fearing the Lord might just lead to a lack of blessing. But let’s look at what the blessing is. In verse two, our labor brings gain which will sustain us. God’s blessing preserves prosperity, at least on some level. In verse three we find that our family will thrive. There will be health and we will have children “like olive shoots” - springing up and bringing prosperity, a future crop - around our table. God’s blessing is to surround us with a family that has enough for today and a hope for the future.
Many in our society seem to view family as an evil, possibly a necessary evil, but definitely as something burdensome. We dream of the freedom of the empty nest days. Some families work hard to avoid having children, out of fear that they will be a burden to the couple. The Bible sees family quite differently. It’s a blessing. It’s a gift from God. It brings a future and a hope. The blessed life is one where there’s family around the table. This is a gift from God, not a curse, and not something that we managed to dream up or have faith enough for. It seems quite regular and mundane, but, then again, most of God’s blessings are pretty normal.
Let us rejoice in the Lord who brings plain and simple provision through a family gathered around the table. This is a sign of his blessing. It is true prosperity.
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