We usually associate fear with the anticipation of something unpleasant or the expectation of our safety being threatened. We think of fear in terms of what we’re afraid of. Scripture teaches about another kind of fear—the fear of the Lord.
Psalm 128 addresses the fear of the Lord in terms of the reverence and awe we have for God and his majesty. Martin Luther described this kind of fear as filial, meaning the kind of fearful respect a child has for his father. His obedience is not motivated out of fear of punishment, but fear of displeasing the father he loves so much. The child’s respect and love for his father produce in him the desire to obey in all things.
This is the fear of the Lord. And there is a reward for the God-fearing: “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways” (Ps. 128:1).
The 128th Psalm is one of the Psalms of Ascents, made up of Psalms 120-134. Each year, the Jews would travel to Jerusalem, the city on a hill, for religious festivals. As they made the upward journey, they sang these psalms to encourage one another. Psalm 128 encourages a specific audience—godly husbands and fathers who fear the Lord.
Charles Spurgeon writes, “It is not to be inferred that all blessed men are married and are fathers; but that this is the way in which the Lord favours godly people who are placed in domestic life.”
While the Bible teaches that everyone who fears the Lord invites his blessings into their lives, Psalm 128 is the application of that blessing specifically to husbands and fathers. Consider the blessings intended for such a man who fears the Lord.
HE WILL BE BLESSED IN HIS WORK
“You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you” (v. 2). This man invites God’s provisional and occupational blessings into his life. He is blessed with labor. Despite the commonality of men in our culture having jobs to go to each day, we must never forget that our careers are an evidence of God’s grace. The Lord blesses him with work.
This man is blessed as his employment provides for his needs. He works hard and enjoys the financial rewards from his hard work. He has the means to care for his family. God blesses the work he has already completed.
This blessing of eating the fruit of his labor is not to be confused with the prosperity “gospel.” This is not a blank check theology—this is the promise of provisional blessings. Some of the dearest saints in church history were among the poorest in their cities, and yet this blessing is applicable to the materially poor as well.
God sets the terms of our blessings according to his pleasure and generosity, and we humbly accept what he offers for our good as he fulfills his desire to bless.
HE WILL BE BLESSED IN HIS FAMILY
“Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord” (vv. 3-4). This man invites God’s familial blessings into his life.
He is blessed with a fruitful wife who brings joy. She is fruitful in good works. She gives birth to his children and welcomes the orphaned into his family. His children surround his table as they engage in the formative liturgy of family mealtime. Like olive shoots, they represent life and energy. They are a blessing for his future welfare. He will have heirs to care for him in his old age.
The godly husband and father who fears the Lord will enjoy blessing in his home. Spurgeon says, “Family blessedness comes from the Lord, to the Lord alone we must look for it.” All efforts to trust in ourselves for blessings must be rejected. Favor doesn’t come from a healthy bank account, an attractive wife, a Paleo-lifestyle, or well-behaved children. The Lord is the giver of this blessing.
HE WILL BE BLESSED IN HIS VISION
“The Lord bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! May you see your children's children! Peace be upon Israel” (vv. 5-6). These blessings are corporate and multi-generational. The blessings apply to the larger welfare of the family of God. And God blesses this man by expanding his vision beyond himself and his biological family.
We are blessed to bless others. As this man’s own family is blessed, they, in turn, are a blessing to their city, their future lineage, and beyond. This godly man will be blessed with a vision that extends beyond his lifespan of God’s blessings in his own family and in the family of God. Our enemy doesn’t want us to see God’s covenantal faithfulness to us. He seeks to destroy what God blesses by directing our focus to our hardships.
But look deeper. Look upward. You were meant to behold God’s blessedness.
Husbands and fathers, are you God-fearing men? Do you walk in his ways?
When you fear the Lord, his ways become your ways. And it will be well with you. Scripture says you will be blessed, and you will be able to see the blessings as they extend beyond yourself.
Imagine the Jewish people singing this Psalm together as they climbed the hill to Jerusalem. While meant to encourage the husbands and fathers specifically, consider the joy of the mothers and children as they realized how their husbands’ and fathers’ godly living resulted in their blessing as well. Imagine how the single men and women might have rejoiced as they were reminded of how this blessing extended to them as part of the family of God.
God’s people are blessed when they fear him. And when they do, they have nothing else to fear.
We need to reclaim a gospel view of fear. Fear is good when rightly aimed at our Father. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10). Husbands and fathers, be wise. Fear the Lord. Walk in his ways and be blessed. The blessing is yours. Seek it.
Fear God and receive your reward, knowing that if you are not experiencing these blessings currently, you have greater rewards to look forward to. The rewards of Jesus Christ and the eternal blessing of a heavenly home.
Christy Britton is a wife and mom of four boys. She is an orphan advocate for 127 Worldwide and writes curriculum for Docent Research. Her family worships at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. She writes for several blogs, including her own, http://www.beneedywell.com/. You can follow her on Twitter.