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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:Covenant blessings in the family
Text:Psalms 128 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Marriage
 
Added:2016-02-14
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Old Book of Praise (2004):

Ps. 100: 1 – 4  

Ps. 119: 1 – 3

Hymn 13: 1, 3, 6 (baptism)

Ps. 127: 1 – 3

Ps. 128: 1 – 3

Ps. 102: 6, 11

 

Scripture reading:       Ps. 127 and Ps. 128

Text:                         Ps. 128

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Covenant blessings in the family          

Old Book of Praise (2004):

Ps. 100: 1 – 4  

Ps. 119: 1 – 3

Hymn 13: 1, 3, 6 (baptism)

Ps. 127: 1 – 3

Ps. 128: 1 – 3

Ps. 102: 6, 11

 

Scripture reading:       Ps. 127 and Ps. 128

Text:                         Ps. 128

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

This morning the sacrament of baptism has been administered to three children.

We heard and we saw how God established and sealed His covenant with them.  

It is a blessing of infinite magnitude to be adopted by God as His child, and to have the sure promises of His covenant sealed to us, and to our children.     

 

It is also a blessing bestowed on the whole congregation when the Lord, in this way, adds new members to His church.   Yes, we see before our eyes how Christ is gathering and building His church.

 

It is also a covenant blessing bestowed on the parents who received these children.  

We receive each child as a blessing – a covenant blessing – from the Lord’s hand.

 

But, brothers and sisters, you will also know that the world in which we live has a different view about children, and about receiving children.   The world does not know about God’s covenant, and therefore also does not view children as a covenant blessing.

In the eyes of the world it is not a blessing to receive many children.   When they hear that you have more than three or four children, they say: “O my …!” – and they swear, using God’s Name in vain to express their shock.   Or they ask you whether you do not have a TV.

We are used to these kind of responses from the world.

The danger is, of course, that we ourselves may also start to think and do as the world.

Also in many churches the average size of families is shrinking.  

 

Do we still see it as a means by which we do our share in building the church of Christ, when we receive and raise children for Him?

Do you still see it as a covenant blessing when the LORD gives you a wife that resembles a fruitful vine, and children around your table like olive shoots?

Psalm 128 surely proclaims these as blessings from the LORD, covenant blessings on those who fear Him and walk in His ways.

And so, from this text, I proclaim God’s Word you with the theme:

God’s covenant blessing manifested in marriage and family

 

We will note…

  1. That those who fear the Lord are truly blessed
  2. God’s covenant blessings on marriage and family

In the first place we note that…

Those who fear the Lord are truly blessed

 

Verse 1 gives us a summary of the whole psalm:

 

            “Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways.”

 

If there is anything in this life that may truly be called a blessing, then it comes from God alone.   He is the fountain of all good.   God alone is the source of every blessing.

Those who fear Him and walk in His ways will be truly blessed – blessed with all the heavenly and spiritual blessings which He has promised us in His Son Jesus Christ.

 

Here in verse 1 God is called the LORD, with four capital letters.   It is the Hebrew word Jahve, the One who keeps His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob throughout all generations.  

Blessed is everyone who fears Him and walks in His ways.

 

To walk in the ways of the LORD means: to keep His covenant.   “His ways” is His holy will as revealed in His covenant law.  

There are indeed many who say that they believe in God and that they love and serve Him, while they do not serve Him according to His Word.   There are many who serve God their own way as they see fit, while they either ignore His commandments, or twist it to suite their own desires.   And therefore this qualification is added: those who fear the LORD, who walk in His ways.  

They are truly blessed with all the blessings which the LORD, Jahve, has promised us in Christ, and sealed to us in the covenant with the blood of Christ.

 

Yes, it is still the same God, and the same covenant word, that comes to us this morning.   You who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are children of the same covenant.   We receive the same promises which God once made to Abraham.   The promise of complete salvation and the fullness of eternal life in our Lord Jesus Christ has been proclaimed and sealed to us.  

The apostle Paul says in Gal. 3: 29 that everyone who believes in Jesus Christ is counted as the seed of Abraham, and that through faith in Christ we are heirs of the same promises which God made to Abraham.   We inherit all God’s promises to Abraham as our possession through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Holding on to these promises, our hope is focused on the future fulfilment of all God’s promises.   Holding on to these promises we are infinitely rich and truly blessed.

But these promises also relate to God’s favour and blessing in this life.

We are now already, in this life, truly blessed – not blessed in the eyes of the world, but truly blessed according to God’s definition of blessedness.  

 

The blessings which God promises us here and now in this life is not great earthly riches, or popularity, or a life of ease, fun and prosperity.   No, His covenant blessings in this life may seem very common and ordinary: to eat the fruit of your labour, a wife that resembles a fruitful vine, children around your table.   It is not the world’s definition of blessedness, but it is indeed true blessedness in God’s eyes.   It is great riches, a heavenly inheritance, when we perceive it through the eyes of faith.

 

But before we look at the covenant blessings of which this psalm speaks, before we look at the blessedness of the man who fears the LORD and walks in His ways, we must first ask the question whether these blessings also apply in the New Testament.

Dear congregation, we receive no blessing apart from Christ.   Every blessing we receive is a covenant blessing through the blood of Christ.   Apart from Christ we can receive nothing but curse.  

Yes, the ungodly also receive bread to eat, but without the blessing of the LORD.   The ungodly also marries and has children, but without the blessing of the LORD.   The ungodly may receive many things, and even enjoy great earthly riches, but it is all without the blessing of the LORD, and all in vain.   No matter how prosperous and happy the ungodly may seem to be; he is not blessed.   All his labour comes, ultimately, to nothing.   His marriage is not in service of the Lord and his children are without God and without hope in this world.

On the other hand, the man who fears the LORD and walk in His ways, may seem very small and miserable in this life, but he is truly blessed!  

 

Yes, God’s covenant blessing includes also physical things such as bread to eat, a fruitful wife, and children assembled around your table.   The bread that you eat may look exactly the same as the bread that your unbelieving neighbour buys in the shop, but your bread is accompanied by the LORD’s favour and blessing, your wife is a godly wife who raises godly seed, your children are covenant children who fear the LORD and keep His ways – heirs of the world to come.

 

And thus, although the covenant blessings include also all physical blessings in this life, we can only see its worth through the eyes of faith.   And then, in faith, we say amen to this psalm.   Then we see that the man who fears the LORD and walk in His ways are truly blessed – even when he suffers under many afflictions and experience many trials.

 

When we think of the gospel of our Lord Jesus, we think first of all of spiritual blessings – and rightly so!   We live by faith, and not by sight.   We await a future glory.  

But we may also expect God’s covenant blessings in this life as described here in this psalm.

 

Through faith our eyes are indeed focused on the things above, where Christ is.   And there our focus shall remain.   But a godly wife and children are indeed heavenly blessings that flow from Christ and His throne.

Yes, those who fear the Lord and walk in His ways are truly blessed, in this life and in the life that is to come.

 

“…the commandments of the LORD are pure…in keeping them there is great reward” – Ps. 19:11

 

There is a great reward in keeping the LORD’s commandments – a great reward both for this life and for the life that is to come!

 

Dear congregation, this teaching applies also in the New Testament.   The apostle Paul writes to Timothy, saying…

 

“…godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is and of the life which is to come” – 1 Tim. 4: 8.

 

The promise “of the life that now is and of the life which is to come”

 

When the apostle uses the word “promise” he has the promise of the covenant in mind.   He has in mind these passages in which the covenant blessings have been spelled out to all who fear the LORD and keep His commandments.  

And without any tension he upholds these promises which were given in the Old Testament when he reminds Timothy of them: those who walk in the ways of the LORD have the promise of the life that now is, and of the life to come.

 

So also here in this psalm.  When it says: “Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways”, then the psalm proclaims the promise of the life that now is, and of the life which is to come.

 

As we said, verse 1 gives a summary of the whole psalm.   The rest of the psalm only elaborates on this blessedness, and illustrates this blessedness with examples that relate to the labour of our hands, our daily bread, marriage and family.  

But now, when we turn to the description of the blessings, we see that the blessings are quite different than many would expect it to be.    The blessings are almost something that the world will laugh at.   The world has its own idea of happiness.   Speak about happiness, and the ungodly will immediately look for things such as: great riches, the applause of men, and the pleasures of this world. 

The description of happiness looks quite different in this psalm.   It speaks of things which men count very ordinary and common.   It speaks of eating your own bread.   It speaks of a fruitful housewife.   It speaks of children like olive shoots around your table.

 

Now, most men do marry, and most men do have children; and yet, something is missing.   While the ungodly receive all these things, they are still not happy; and they are not blessed.    They miss the most important thing: the favour and blessing of the LORD.  

A man may marry the most beautiful lady, but a few years later he may divorce her in bitterness.   A man may have healthy children, but when they grow up they may become a burden to him. 

He may have a wife and children and sit with them at the kitchen table, but experience frustration and strife.   He may even stay away from home and try to seek some happiness elsewhere.

 

Jokes about wife and children are very common, not only in bars, but even in family magazines – jokes by which men try to hide their disappointment and the pain and the sorrow which they experience in marriage and in broken families.

 

Yes, the ungodly also marries, but not in the LORD, and without the blessing of the LORD.   They may also marry in church-buildings, and they may go through the same motions.   What then is the difference between their marriage and the marriage of the believer?   What is it that makes the home of the godly blessed?

 

The man who fears the Lord and walks in His ways may not have much to boast of.   His earthly possessions may be few; he may even be a poor and humble man.   And yet he is truly blessed!   His happiness is a mystery to others, because: it cannot be seen in terms of that which the world would count as riches and prosperity.  

 

Yet, this man is truly blessed, and truly rich!   The Lord has given him a wife.   And therefore his wife is different.   The Lord has given him covenant children.   And therefore his children are different.   His home is different.   Yes, everything is different, because: the blessing of the Lord rests on him. 

It is the blessing of the Lord that makes us happy.   It is the blessing of the Lord that gives you a wife – a humble and submissive wife, and God fearing children.  

No, she may not be skilled in the secrets of outward beauty and make-up; she may even be common in the eyes of the world, but she is adorned with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quite spirit.   

Your children may be very ordinary, yet they are covenant children, princes and princesses of God’s kingdom.  

 

Yes, it is God’s covenant blessing that makes all the difference to things that may seem very ordinary outwardly.  

 

By His blessing your wife resembles a fruitful vine, by His blessing your children are an inheritance from the LORD, a great investment for the future.

 

Only His blessing makes your house a home filled with peace and joy.

It is the blessing of our covenant God who fulfils His promise to those who fear Him, to those who walk in His ways.

 

How then does this divine blessing relate to the marriage of a godly man with a godly wife?

And how does it relate to having and raising children?

We note that in the second place…

The blessings of the covenant on marriage and family

 

“When you eat the labour of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you”

 

Dear congregation, these words are very sober.  

The Hebrew word that is here used for “labour” expresses real toil.   You will enjoy the fruit of your hard work; the fruit of your toilsome labour.   You will eat the bread which your hands have sowed, and eat the fruit of the trees that you have cultivated.

It is a great blessing to eat the labour of your hands.   It means that God will establish the work of your hands, and that you will enjoy the fruit of all your labour.

 

The Lord does not promise us in this life excessive wealth to satisfy the greed of our flesh.  

You will have bread on your table which you receive through hard and honest labour.  Yes, through the blessing of the LORD you will be able to enjoy the fruit of your hard work.

 

It is a blessing from the Lord when a man is able to care for his family by honest and hard labour, when he can care for his wife and children in an honourable way.

 

The blessing of the Lord is then not seen in extraordinary riches, but in the simple life of a humble family, where a God-fearing man cares for his wife and children through faithful and hard labour.

 

Yes, this psalm gives us a different understanding of happiness, and a different description of riches than the glitter of this world by which many are deceived.  

 

God’s Word teaches us not to seek happiness in the things of this world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

All the things that the world can offer us cannot make us happy.   It is only the presence and the favour of God that makes us blessed.

 

While the world will count it a common thing to care for your family with honest and hard labour, and will laugh at the blessing to receive a fruitful housewife, the God-fearing man, on the other hand, rejoices in these blessings, and finds in them a foretaste of heavenly joy, thanking our covenant God for His covenant blessings.

 

Throughout this psalm God reveals Himself as the LORD, Jahve, who stays faithful to His Word, fulfilling the promise of His covenant to all who fear Him, to all who keep His covenant.

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When this psalm was written, it was already preceded by a long history in which the LORD revealed Himself to Israel and made a Name for Himself.   The Name “Jahve” is loaded with majesty, power and riches.   i

He revealed Himself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty.  

It is an amazing history – a history in which God has done great wonders.   Nothing could stop the almighty God to fulfil His promises.   The mighty Egypt was brought down on their knees.  Israel walked through the sea on dry ground.  The Lord provided water from a rock; the heavens provided bread.   The Jordan River stopped in its track.   The mighty walls of Jericho collapsed.   And the Lord gave them that good and fruitful land that overflows with milk and honey.   

It is a history of great wonders; a history in which the LORD fulfilled all His promises.

 

It is the history of God’s faithfulness in dealing with His covenant children.  

Brothers and sisters, this wonderful history, the history of God’s faithfulness throughout all generations, is not a history that came to an end somewhere long ago with the history of ancient Israel.   No, the LORD, Jahve, has established the same covenant also with us, and with our children.   In His faithfulness He will execute His power and fulfil His promises also to you – no less than He did in that amazing and wonderful history of Israel.  

 

In fact, that amazing and wonderful history is now overshadowed by a much greater glory than ever before.   That wonderful history was only a shadow of what we now see and hear!   Because: all the covenant promises of God find their fulfilment in and through our Lord Jesus Christ.   In Him all God’s promises are “Yes” and “Amen”, sealed with the blood of Christ.

 

It is through our Lord Jesus Christ that we are reconciled to God.   It is through Him that we know God as our Father.   It is in Christ that we are blessed with every spiritual and heavenly blessing.   All the blessings of the covenant flow to us in Christ.  

It is Christ who sanctifies us.  

It is our Lord Jesus who renews and restores us to walk with God in the fear of His Name.  

It is through the resurrection of Christ that we too were raised to a new life of obedience, to walk in His ways and to keep His covenant.  

It is through Christ that we execute our daily task and labour and eat the fruit of our hands with contentment; and are blessed in doing so.  

 

Also our earthly blessings are qualified and determined by the spiritual riches that we receive in and through Christ.   The blessings of the covenant are not described in terms of worldly pleasures, or wealth, or worldly honour.   Every blessing, small or great, that we receive from the Lord is described in terms of our relation to God – the God who adopted us as His children through Christ, who promised never to forsake or leave us; who, as the Almighty, is also able to do what He has promised.   And He will do so in this life in such a measure as is profitable and useful for our eternal good.

 

In the light of this gospel, as it has been revealed to us in the New Testament, we now understand Psalm 128 all the better.   Now we see in this psalm how our salvation in Christ restores every aspect of our life, and also restores our homes. 

The psalm applies God’s blessings to our daily life and speaks about the wonderful blessing of receiving a wife from the LORD.

 

“Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table.”

 

The vine and the olive tree were in Israel symbols of joy and wealth.   And thus these symbols are used also in this psalm, to illustrate how the God-fearing man receives God’s covenant blessings also through the wife and children God gives him. 

 

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favour from the LORD” – Prov. 18: 22

“Houses and riches are an inheritance from the fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD” – Prov. 19: 14.

 

The man who fears God receives a wife from the LORD, a wife who can be compared to a fruitful vine.   In this regard we are reminded of passages such as Prov. 31 where we find a description of the virtuous wife.   She fears the LORD and she is in every respect a blessing and a joy to her husband.    Her fruitfulness in your house refers both to the faithful way in which she performs her home duties and to the children that she bears and raises.

 

When children are born from such a godly marriage on which the blessing of the Lord rests, then the children may be compared to olive plants or shoots, small olive trees, which are a great investment for the future.    

Psalm 127 says: “Sons are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.”   The same idea is expressed here in Psalm 128 in the fruitful vine and the olive shoots around your table. 

 

Now, this does not mean that the wife of the God-fearing man is in herself more gifted than the wife of the unbeliever.   In herself she is no super being.   And she will not necessarily have more children than the wife of the unbeliever.   But through the blessing of the LORD she will be a great blessing – a wife equipped for every good work.   Through the gracious blessing of the LORD her children will also bring such joy as the heathen will never know.

They will truly be an inheritance from the LORD, great riches to be enjoyed forever on a new earth, when you will see your offspring fully multiplied and in glory!   Yes, also this fruit of your labour will be blessed and established by the Lord, and stand, and be enjoyed forever.

 

Congregation, you will have noticed how this psalm views children to be a blessing from the LORD.   It presupposes also that such children, such godly offspring, are cultivated like olive plants.   It is God-fearing children who are brought up to keep the covenant of the LORD, children who are taught by their parents to fear the LORD and to walk in His ways.  

Such children are described as a covenant blessing.  

 

            “Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears Jahve”

 

The blessing of the LORD shall surely hover over his household and fill his humble home with heavenly joy.

 

In the last part of this psalm we note that marriage and family are not separated from the church and the communion of saints.   The psalm places the God-fearing man and his family within the context of the church, the LORD’s covenant people, whom He gathers for Himself.   The blessings flow from His temple and is seen in the prosperity of Jerusalem.

 

“The LORD blesses you out of Zion; may you see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life.   Yes, may you see your children’s children.  Peace be upon Israel!”

 

We see in this psalm how family and church are interwoven.  The covenant blessings are for the church as a whole and for each family in particular who fears the LORD.

We see also how he directs the God-fearing family to seek the wellbeing of the church.   For, the blessings will proceed from Zion, and you will be blessed in the prosperity of Jerusalem.  

 

On the one hand the God-fearing family shares in the covenant blessings that belong to the church as a whole; on the other hand the God-fearing family is itself also a blessing to the church, and contributes to the wellbeing and peace of Israel.  

The psalm mingles together domestic blessings and the blessings of the Church, for they belong together.

Domestic blessings, ecclesiastic blessings, and heavenly blessings form one line.  

 

Brother, sister, your marriage stands in service of the LORD and of His congregation.   Also when it pleases Him to bless you with children, such children are to be raised as living stones and pillars in the temple of God.

It is a blessing to see your children sitting like olive trees around your table, and to see your grandchildren multiplying even more.   What riches to see God’s covenant grace at work through the generations, and to see it multiply and grow!

 

Brothers and sisters, you who fear the LORD, who walk in the ways of the LORD, you will surely be blessed.   Already in this life when God establishes the work of your hands, and gives you a blessed marriage and children.   His blessing will hover over your household.   Your home will be a foretaste of heavenly joy.

Jahve, the almighty and faithful God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, will also be your God.

 

Yes, in this life the glory of God’s promises may still be covered under many burdens.   We will surely experience the struggles of faith.   And yet – in the midst of many sorrows and afflictions – you will know and experience the peace and the joy which this Psalm proclaims.  

 

Brothers and sisters, “The LORD bless you out of Zion, may you see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life.   Yes, may you see your children’s children.   Peace be upon Israel!”

 

The LORD speaks these words also to us.   Also this morning He has proclaimed and sealed these promises to us, and to our children, through the blood of Christ.

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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