Today’s reading continues the the Songs of Ascents, the psalms traditionally sung on the trip to Jerusalem for the holy days. They are upbeat themes except for the one calling upon God to punish those who hate His people, but even here, if you’re one of God’s people, it’s still sort of upbeat as it anticipates a time when persecutors will repaid. Let’s dive in…
Blessed while you sleep (Psalm 127:2) — What a great reminder about the real source of the good things in our lives. Although we may contribute to obtaining good things with our jobs and efforts, the reality is that every good thing comes from God. Unless the LORD builds the house, unless the LORD guards the city, all human effort will be in vain. You can rise up early and work late, the psalmist declares, but you will never be any better blessed than the man that the LORD favors, because God will bless that person while he’s sleeping, doing nothing. Solomon observed this, when he said, “I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.” Ecclesiastes 9:11, NAS95. The blessings go to God’s choice. The secret then is to be favored by the LORD. Having said this, it is important to realize that blessings come in lots of other forms than money — close family, children, real friends, meaning in life, spiritual treasure, opportunities, and more. The trick here is seeing the blessings for what they are, isn’t it? The definition of blessing is not just “what I want” — frequently blessings are really more about what I really need or what adds value to my life or my eternity. And for the man who God seeks to bless, He gives grace upon grace, even while he sleeps.
And by the way, let’s not overlook the section here about children; they are a part of what the psalmist is talking about as he speaks of blessings. Sadly, we tend to see money as blessings, not children. In our urban culture, we tend to see children as a liability rather than an asset; in an agricultural culture it was the other way around. Consequently we, in urban settings, usually seek to limit our family size. But children are an asset whether in the city or the farm. Let’s never lose sight of this important truth — “How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them (children).”
A weekly Sabbath blessing for children (Psalm 128) — This psalm continues to often used by Jewish parents at the Sabbath evening meal, and what a great blessing it is. It contains two parts. The first part teaches and the second part offers a blessing. It begins by telling the hearer (Jewish children at Sabbath) to fear the LORD and walk in His ways, and then when you eat the fruit of your hands (you have to live with what you’ve done), you’ll be happy and well. You’ll be blessed to have plenty of children and grandchildren (see the above psalm). And then it calls upon the LORD to bless from His footstool, Zion, His holy temple. It offers a hope that the hearer (the Jewish children at Sabbath) see nothing but Jerusalem’s prosperity as you live to a ripe old age and see your children’s children grow up.
Shame on those who despise Zion (Psalm 129) — There will always be people who hold the good in contempt, who want to see good defeated and evil triumph. In some of the Old Testament stories they were simply greedy nations who wanted to plunder God’s people; in other cases, they simply despised the moral commands and choseness of God’s people; and in some New Testament stories they simply lusted so much after power and money that they were willing to attempt to cover up or erase the truth. I’ll leave the motives for such people alone for another discussion right now; the focus of this psalm is that one day they’ll be find the judgment that this psalmist calls down up them. This isn’t about revenge; it’s about not letting evil triumph against God or His people — Israel at one point and the church at another. Happily God is still giving those who persecute His people a chance to repent (“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9, NAS95.), but a day is coming when their arrogance, pride, and bravado will be turned to shame and profound regret.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.