Expositor's Bible Commentary
A Song of degrees. Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways.Psalm 128:1-6THE preceding psalm traced all prosperity and domestic felicity to God’s giving hand. It painted in its close the picture of a father surrounded by his sons able to defend him. This psalm presents the same blessings as the result of a devout life, in which the fear of Jehovah leads to obedience and diligence in labour. It presents the inner side of domestic happiness. It thus doubly supplements the former, lest any should think that God’s gift superseded man’s work, or that the only blessedness of fatherhood was that it supplied a corps of sturdy defenders. The first four verses describe the peaceful, happy life of the God-fearing man, and the last two invoke on him the blessing which alone makes such a life his. Blended with the sweet domesticity of the psalm is glowing love for Zion. However blessed the home, it is not to weaken the sense of belonging to the nation.
No purer, fairer idyll was ever penned than this miniature picture of a happy home life. But its calm simple beauty has deep foundations. The poet sets forth the basis of all noble, as of all tranquil, life when he begins with the fear of Jehovah, and thence advances to practical conformity with His will, manifested by walking in the paths which He traces for men. Thence the transition is easy to the mention of diligent labour, and the singer is sure that such toil done on such principles and from such a motive cannot go unblessed. Outward prosperity does not follow good men’s work so surely as the letter of the psalm teaches, but the best fruits of such work are not those which can be stored in barns or enjoyed by sense; and the labourer who does his work "heartily, as to the Lord," will certainly reap a harvest in character and power and communion with God, whatever transitory gain may be attained or missed.
The sweet little sketch of a joyous home in Psalm 128:3 is touched with true grace and feeling. The wife is happy in her motherhood, and ready, in the inner chambers (literally sides) of the house, where she does her share of work, to welcome her husband returning from the field. The family gathers for the meal won and sweetened by his toil; the children are in vigorous health, and growing up like young "layered" olive plants. It may be noted that this verse exhibits a home in the earlier stages of married life. and reflects the happy hopes associated with youthful children, all still gathered under the father’s roof; while, in the latter part of the psalm, a later stage is in view, when the father sits as a spectator rather than a worker, and sees children born to his children. Psalm 128:4 emphatically dwells once more on the foundation of all as laid in the fear of Jehovah. Happy a nation whose poets have such ideals and sing of such themes! How wide the gulf separating this "undisturbed song" of pure home joys from the foul ideals which baser songs try to adorn! Happy the man whose ambition is bounded by its limits, and whose life is
"True to the kindred points of heaven and home"!
Israel first taught the world how sacred the family is; and Christianity recognises "a church in the house" of every wedded pair whose love is hallowed by the fear of Jehovah.
In Psalm 128:5-6, petitions take the place of assurances, for the singer knows that none of the good which he has been promising will come without that blessing of which the preceding psalm had spoken. All the beautiful and calm joys just described must flow from God, and be communicated from that place which is the seat of His self-revelation. The word rendered above "mayest thou look" is in the imperative form, which seems here to be intended to blend promise, wish, and command. It is the duty of the happiest husband and father not to let himself be so absorbed in the sweets of home as to have his heart beat languidly for the public weal. The subtle selfishness which is but too commonly the accompaniment of such blessings is to be resisted. From his cheerful hearth the eyes of a lover of Zion are to look out, and be gladdened when they see prosperity smiling on Zion. Many a Christian is so happy in his household that his duties to the Church, the nation, and the world are neglected. This ancient singer had a truer conception of the obligations flowing from personal and domestic blessings. He teaches us that it is not enough to "see children’s children," unless we have eyes to took for the prosperity of Jerusalem, and tongues which pray not only for those in our homes, but for "peace upon Israel."