Hope is a spring of human action. We do what we do because we hope to accomplish something by our actions, and when we are truly hopeless we do nothing at all. Scripture teaches us that we raise our children in hope, as well as in faith and love. But what should we hope for in our families?
“Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you . . . .” (Psalm 128).
The Psalm is structured in two panels. Each begins with a reference to fear of Yahweh (vv. 1, 4), then continues to describe the blessing that comes on the one who fears Yahweh (vv. 2, 5a). Verse 3 begins with a reference to the man’s fruitful wife, and verse 5b extends this to the bride of Yahweh, Jerusalem. And each section ends with a reference to children (v. 3b, 6a). The Psalm ends with a pronouncement of peace upon Israel.
Psalm 128 describes blessings that the Yahweh brings to a home. But the presumption of these blessings is stated in verses 1 and 4. These blessings are not for everyone, but for the man who fears Yahweh. Proverbs tells us the fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). Fearing Yahweh means turning from evil (Proverbs 3:7; 16:6) and walking in uprightness (Proverbs 14:2) without envy for the wicked (Proverbs 23:17). The Lord promises to reveal His covenant to those who fear Him (Psalm 25), and also promises life (Proverbs 14:27).
The main blessing promised to the man who fears Yahweh here in Psalm 128 is fruitfulness in his home. He will prosper from the labor of his hands, with no one plundering or taxing away his goods. His wife is fruitful, and fruitful like a vine, which produces grapes that produce wine. A wife at the heart of the house is like having a feast of wine at the heart of the house. His children are olive shoots, flourishing young trees that will grow into productive fruit-bearing trees. Olive oil is used for burning; children like olive trees are lights in the world. Olive oil is for anointing; children are priests and kings in training. The overall portrait is of the home as an orchard, a restored garden. The man who tends his garden in the fear of Yahweh will enjoy its produce. And in verse 5, the Lord extends the promise to Jerusalem. If Jerusalem and Zion fear Yahweh and walk in His ways, they too will prosper, flourishing like a garden.
But this is not always the way it seems. Teeming with small screaming needy children, a home doesn’t always appear to be a garden. When your wife is frazzled at the end of a long day, she doesn’t appear to be a fruitful vine in the heart of your house. A man who gets testy at his kids doesn’t look like the man who fears the Lord. This is where hope comes in: The Lord gives us a portrait of a flourishing home, and we are to muck around in the mud in hope that the Lord will produce a harvest. Persevere, and he will.
HELP FOR HOPE
The older, established families at Trinity have an important opportunity for ministry to the many younger families here. You have been through it. You’ve had the bad days; you’ve dealt with the discipline challenges; perhaps you’ve felt despair that your kids are going to come out OK. But you also have seen the Lord fulfill His promises. You are living illustrations that hope does not disappoint. Look for opportunities to encourage the younger families in hope.