Songs for the Road: The Psalms of Ascent: Day 11

The Happiness of the Straight Road

by

Today's Text: Psalm 128:1-6

Scripture Reading: Psalm 128

The Christian life is a climb—a journey of constant growth, sacrifice, and trusting God for what we cannot see. As Eugene Peterson said, we are pilgrims, but we are also disciples—always moving and always learning. The Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120-134) were sung by worshipers as they made the journey up to Jerusalem for the annual feasts. In this 3-week reading plan, we are digging into these traveling songs with the help of short summary essays and thoughtful, reflective questions for each psalm. Take your pack on your shoulder and walk with us as we pursue God together.

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Psalm 128 (CSB)
BLESSINGS FOR THOSE WHO FEAR GOD
A song of ascents.

1 How happy is everyone who fears the LORD,
who walks in his ways!
2 You will surely eat
what your hands have worked for.
You will be happy,
and it will go well for you.
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house,
your children, like young olive trees
around your table.
4 In this very way
the man who fears the LORD
will be blessed.

5 May the LORD bless you from Zion,
so that you will see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life
6 and will see your children’s children!

Peace be with Israel.

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A Happy Song
The pilgrim-disciple sings a happy song about how living according to the wisdom of God brings joy, peace, and prosperity.

We all want these blessings in life—the confidence that our work matters, that our home is a happy place, and that what we leave behind will continue to affect change long after we’re gone. We are not passive in this process. This song calls us to work diligently, to love self-sacrificially, and to train the children in our lives to know and walk with God. We don’t just think about God; we live in response to His Word to us. Obedience is a path to joy.

Reflect
1. This happy song celebrates prosperity. What sort of prosperity helps us know and love God better? What sort of prosperity makes it hard to know and love God? What sort of prosperity does this psalm value, and how do we obtain the “blessedness” described here?

2. Why is obedience to God’s commands a path to joy? Do you believe it is? Where do you struggle to accept this idea? Why?

3. On what basis do we have hope for receiving God’s eternal blessings? What are those blessings?

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  • Erin Crissman

    I really enjoy this passage, especially as it follows Psalm 127 when it speaks of the Lord building our homes and family, that unless it is done in God we are laboring in vain. I love how this passage follows suit in expressing that our greatest blessings are in the ones we love, and following the Lord’s daily provision for our lives we will receive His amazing blessings. His plans are far greater than our own when we let Him be in control!
    -Erin
    gracefullymessy.com

  • This is so beautiful and profound. I believe with everything in me God knew that intrinsic to our truly being happy, we need to work and I believe have a fruitful purpose. That may be child rearing, office, home beautification, volunteer work or productive employment in any form. As unique as our fingerprint, it can be an infinite number of things in which we are able to share with the world our unique gifts and talents. Often the most unhappy people have not identified their purpose. This along with obedience truly garners a life overflowing… with His love and joy!

  • Melody Suarez

    There have been times when I have had 1 dollar in my account and no food in my fridge and other times where my fridge was full along with my bank account. I was no more “happy” with no money versus a lot of money. I’ve learned to be content in both situations. And i loved seeing how God always provided for me.
    I struggle with understanding the “blessings” of God, because as I have read so far, they can take on so many different forms, not just monetarily.
    However, i have grasped the joy of staying near to God and being obedient versus living in disobedience and living with depression. It’s only because I’ve gone through depression and disobedience that I have been able to savor the fullness of joy by abiding in Him and His Word..

  • jessiechatchat

    I echo all the other thoughts on monetary prosperity. Have been on all sides of that coin. What I’m wrestling with is whether any kind prosperity at all drives me to God: for example, wealth in relationships can sometimes be a challenge in closeness to God. When my husband and I are feeling super connected, or me and my kids, it’s almost too easy to let them slip into the “bae” position ;) Like they can become a surrogate god, more important than anything else. Same with good health. It’s a daily thing, checking my posture toward prosperity. Am I grateful for it? Using it as a platform to live out God’s kingdom? Or am I using it as a life source? From where do I draw my strength and build my life?

  • I feel compelled to share my story of prosperity this morning.
    Before our second child was born, we were a two-income family, living very comfortably….Doing well *for ourselves*.
    Then our second son was diagnosed with a birth defect before he was born. Our entire world was turned upside down and rearranged. Fast forward to now, and I work (very little) at home so I can care for our son. I don’t make extra money anymore, though I still have plenty of student loan debt. I certainly don’t have faith in what I can provide anymore.
    But the rewards have been beyond anything I ever imagined. We have real faith, real love, and real joy. I thank God for bringing us down this path and I am certain that a detour of this magnitude was the only way I would have learned to depend on Him. We are prospering, and it has nothing to do with health and wealth.

  • For question one my response is similar to previous comments. The questions reminded me of these verses: “12 I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content — whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. 13 I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Phil 4:12-13. This is my definition of prosperity in God’s eyes. Also the verse in James saying Every good gift is from above. I pray that fearing God and loving him will grow my heart and soul to be content and joyful in any circumstance. After several years of asking God why for one thing or another, I am not even close. But He continues to mold and shape me.
    I do believe that in today’s society having much (which I do) can hinder my relationship with God. When we went through the Beatitudes (I think), there was a day we talked dealing with poverty. And how having less can help us rely more on Him than on ourselves.
    Just thoughts swirling in my head. God bless you Ladies. :)

  • Our passage today really convicted me. I fall into unbelief often concerning God’s sovereignty over my life. I sell him short & live in fear and doubt over His plan. Is it glorious? Is it enough? Yet He meets me in my doubt by a simple whisper of his promise or a huge wave of blessing and love. Whether simple or big, these reminders humble yet strength me. May I, we, lean into him. Amen.

    • Rachel

      Thanks for these thoughts – I think I’m much in the same boat: “I sell him short and live in fear and doubt of his plan.” Yet, I’m afraid that I’m not being met in my doubt. I don’t feel strengthened. I simply feel emotionally exhausted and weak. I’m still looking for those reminders of His promises and blessings, and I’m afraid that I’m not doing enough, that I could never deserve…anything (which I already know I don’t, not really). I’m afraid I’m never really going to figure things out to the point where I can simply rest in His grace. Yet…it’s a process. It just feels like a very long process, and I want to be further along the journey than I am. May He grant me patience as I walk the road of learning to fear the LORD. Amen.

      • Rachel

        Hey Rachel, ironically enough I (Rachel as well :) ) am going through the same fears and doubts. I will be praying for you through this journey that God meets you with His grace and overwhelming sense of His love and Peace.

  • Keri McCue

    “You will surely eat what your hands have worked for.” – This reminds me of “you reap what you sow” and it’s so convicting to me this morning. I’m going through things that I’m ready to wash my hands of but this verse urges me to really think, “Have I done all I can do? Have I really actually put in 100% effort? Or am I being lazy and chosing to give up as soon as it gets difficult?”

    http://www.littlelightonahill.com

  • I am glad and reassured to know by scanning through some of these responses that I am not the only one a bit uncomfortable with today’s study. Not necessarily the Scripture, but the phrasing and leading of the reflection questions.

    I am due ANY MINUTE with my first child. But I don’t see that as a direct piece of evidence that I am blessed by God. Especially because I dealt with infertility for four years before getting here, and this logic feels a bit like it is saying I haven’t been blessed up until this point. I’m uncomfortable with this idea not only for myself but for every woman who will never be a mother.

    The prosperity of knowing we are fully and perfectly loved and known every day by the God who called us into being helps us know and love God better. Temporal, earthly prosperity – be it through jobs/finances, relationships, physical safety and security – CAN make it more difficult to know and love God because these gifts can lead us to believe we are in charge, that we earned these gifts on our own.

    Just because we are known and loved by God does not mean we also will receive every gift the world calls good. Hopefully, our greatest blessing will be the fruit of our relationship with God spilled out and available to all who know us.

    (My response to this particular study today may just be my knee-jerk reaction to the word “prosperity” and what it has unfortunately come to mean in American Christianity. This very well may just be my own hangup!)

    • Valerie

      I came on the website to try and gather some inspiration and direction for today’s reflection. I too am struggling with prosperity and loving God. Thank you for your words as they are very encouraging for me to continue to seek the truest of prosperity, life in Jesus. It is easy to get caught up in the worldly explanation of prosperity, which is immediately where my mind went, but worldly treasures are a temporary and will all fade away. His word says to seek first the kingdom of God and HIS righteousness and all these things will be given to us. This Psalm is a reminder that fear and love of the Lord is real prosperity because it is the only thing that will last forever.

      • Bonnie

        Well said, Valerie!

      • Jennifer

        I’m struggling through this today, asking God to show me what He means here. It’s easy to read this swimming in my American abundance, but what does this Scripture mean to a woman starving in South Sudan or a homeless woman on the streets of my city, unable to catch a break? How does she read this? How do I read this Psalm in light of this?

    • Samantha

      Amanda, thank you for your real, gut checking post. I love your honesty and it charges me to check my own perspective on prosperity! Thank you! ❤️

  • kathryn macleod

    But,my child died. I am struggling with Mother’s Day. I will not have childrens- children.
    I am not a fruitful vine.
    Here I go back to the guilt of my childhood. God blesses those who fear him.
    Tough Psalm for me so close to Mother’s Day. Likely a tough one for more than just me.
    If I take it as a “symbol” I can think of the many ways my life is blessed and fruitful.
    I can think that my legacy of kindness to children and animals will be something people remember.
    But,with an open heart. This is a tough one for me.

    • Victoria

      You are not alone. We are here with you in this place. We will see our children again in heaven.

    • Michelle

      Prayers for you Kathryn. I thank you for the awareness that Mother’s Day is not a happy occasion for all and I am sorry for your loss.

    • Kelsey Wissel

      Kathryn, you are still a mother this Mother’s Day. You are indeed a fruitful vine and God didn’t take your child because of bad choices you made. You are so loved.

    • She Reads Truth

      Kathryn, I am so sorry for your loss and pain this Mother’s Day. Thank you so much for sharing – I know these words will touch the hearts of many this morning. So grateful to have you in this community.

      – Stormye

    • Emily B.

      God sees you, and He loves you. I’m so sorry for the pain you’re feeling, but keep your hope fixed in the Firm Foundation. He makes beautiful things out of the dust.

    • Karen

      So sorry for your loss, Kate! I saw your FB and you’re in my thoughts and prayers. I lost my first baby and know that pain. That child will forever be in your heart. Sending you lots of love!
      Karen VP (from Blythefield)

  • Some of these psalms are difficult to ponder, with their emphasis on children being a sign of God’s favor. I imagine the pain felt by those who have struggled with infertility and who may wonder if they are doing something wrong in God’s eyes. Perhaps it is helpful to remember that in the past, and even today in the third world, having children was/is essential to having basic needs met and being cared for as people aged. When I think of the psalm that way, then it is more about God’s promise that He will provide us security and contentment through our whole lives.

    • truthseeker

      My husband and I have never had children yet our lives have always been filled with children. Many nephews, nieces, neighbors children, children of single moms who desperately need some help, Sunday School and Awana and youth group children and other children God so chooses to bring into and out of our lives as He wills. We are content with that.

  • Diane Huntsman

    *cant make a deal with God… not can! Oops!

  • Diane Huntsman

    In this world you will have tribulations but take heart, I have overcome the world! That might be paraphrased a bit, but we are gonna have trials.. life is going to be full of challenges.. it doesn’t mean we are screw up parents or people.. sometimes we do bring on our own storms and we need to own our wrongs, repent and get back on track following the blue print we’ve been given in scripture.. but sometimes we are doing all the right things and life seems to come apart at the seams.. we are not promised a life of roses without thorns.. we can make our secret deal with God that as long as I do all the right things You have to bless my life with all my hearts desires.. when our son entered a period of rebellion against God though he had been prayed over, taught the Word of God and was home schooled and raised in a loving home with two very involved parents.. I immediately defaulted to the “it’s all our fault, what did we do wrong” mode of thinking.. we were not perfect by any means.. we did plenty wrong in those 15 years.. but the reality was, my son was a sinner.. he had a free will.. he chose a bad path due to his sin nature.. he needed to find out through experience over our words that he could not be good or do good on his own.. he needed a Savior because he was a sinner not because his parents told him he needed one. It was 2 long years of hell in our home.. heroine addiction is demonic to be sure..but he finally came to the end of himself and surrender his life to Jesus.. and even if he was still battling.. it wouldn’t be because we were blow it parents.. it would boil down to free will as it always does.. we can pray and never stop praying but every living person has to choose to respond to the invitation to dine with Christ.. no one is ever manipulated or forced into the kingdom.. it’s based on that free will.. keep praying for those wayward loved ones friends! Hugs!

  • 1 How happy is everyone who fears the LORD,
    who walks in his ways!
    2 You will surely eat
    what your hands have worked for.
    You will be happy,
    and it will go well for you.

    What does it mean if it doesn’t go well? Did it go well for Job? I suppose eventually it did. Do I just cling to that eventually it will go well?? Honest questions looking for an honest encouragement…

    • Susie Palensky

      Kimberly – It is so hard to cling to this promise when things are not going well and we feel lost and alone. I try to remember that, though we sometimes walk through the fire, He has promised that we are NEVER alone. He is with us – and, ultimately, all will be well. I can’t even begin to imagine what eternity with my Creator will be like, but I KNOW that it will surpass even my wildest dreams. I know that, however good or bad life on earth might be, eternal life with Jesus will most definitely go well for me. I cling to a Savior who keeps his word. I just need to trust and be patient. Even that can be a struggle. You are not alone! Lifting you up in prayer today. ;-)

  • My study bible says that a good family life is a reward for following God. I do not believe this to be true. Some families follow God and still do not have “good” family lives. They may face the stresses of things like infertility, unemployment, disfunction, children with addictions and or mental illness, etc. Under this thinking, it is easy for those families not prospering by having a good family life to feel they are doing something wrong or are not loved/blessed by God. I am not referring to material things at all.

    • Emily B.

      We must have the same Bible, because my note said that, too. I’m in total agreement with you. :)

  • May I suggest a book? Happiness by Randy Alcorn goes into the depth of Scripture looking at God’s perspective on happiness. He shares the Hebrew words for happy, blessed and joy explaining the differences and how we find true happiness in Christ!
    Enjoy this happy day!

  • Churchmouse

    Yes! I’m raising my hand here because I surely desire confidence that my work matters, that my home is a happy place and that my legacy is more one of Faith than material success. This Psalm reminds me that this kind of prosperity comes only from the fear of the Lord and obedience to His Word. My prayer today is that in my work, my home and my legacy – in all and through all – God is magnified and glorified. Amen and amen!

  • Yes Jesus! Believing for fruitfulness + abundance!

    “3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
    within your house,
    your children, like young olive trees
    around your table.
    4 In this very way
    the man who fears the LORD
    will be blessed.”
    http://Www.in-due-time.com

  • It has been striking me lately how we’ve be culturally conditioned to think of prosperity in terms of consumption (taking in more and more – the American Dream?), contrasted with how the scripture often talks about prosperity in terms of fruitfulness or pouring out myself as an act of obedience and faith that in the Lord’s economy, I will always have enough, both physically and spiritually. I am raised with Christ and empowered by his Holy Spirit! Water flows from dessert rocks, barren women bear children in old age, the oil in the jar somehow never runs out… As a *very tired* mother of three small “olive shoots,” I have been taking the Lord up on Proverbs 11:24-25 lately:

    24There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more,
    And there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want.

    25The generous man will be prosperous,
    And he who waters will himself be watered.

    • Emily B.

      That comparison is interesting. Thank you for sharing!

    • Hannah

      Thank you for your thoughts! I needed to read those proverbs today. I am also a very tired mama of two “olive shoots” :)

    • Paula S

      I love that Proverbs verse. As a woman traveling to help care for grandkids and home serving a mom and brother with special needs, I too am weary and thirsty. Thanks for sharing

      • Carla

        My own children are now grown, but I too was a tired, stay at home mom, and found encouragement from The Knights of the Shining Shield. I was reminded to “guard my castle.” Praying that as you read this very short story you are encouraged in your current calling as you tend to your precious olive shoots. https://talesfromthepilgrimsjournal.blogspot.com/2012/04/knight-of-shining-shield.html

        • Michelle

          “DID YOU FIGHT GIANTS TODAY?” Love it!! Great story. Thank you so much for sharing that Carla.

          • carrie

            Thanks for sharing a story on faithfulness and obedience to authority – severely untold and under-celebrated character traits, especially in our American context of rebel cowboys. I’m so tired of every storyline my kids are being told being about how the authorities were wrong and rebellion saved the day.

    • Ashley Motes

      This study has made me reflect on how well of a job I am doing in raising my one little “olive shoot.” I find that I beat myself up sometimes because I feel that I am not being the adequate spiritual role model that she is needing. However, last night was the Awana’s last night for the semester and she used all her “money” on gifts for her dad and her friends. She has such a giving heart. We must be doing something right. That Proverbs verse spoke to me and help me realize that we are indeed reaching her and God is doing something in her life/heart. Thank you for that sweet encouragement!

  • Christina

    The prosperity of obedient work helps me know and love God, while the prosperity that results from slavery to work (the desire for more and more, idolatry of things and power and meaning that all lead to too much work, no rest, no relationship, relying on self and not on God) makes it hard to know and love God better. That overflow which comes from the obedient reliance upon the Lord to do the work He has called me to do and to do it with dedication and hard work is the value and source of blessedness here. Way too often, I want to move ahead of God. Sometimes I think I wait too long to act in obedience, and I think if what I want to accomplish/feeling called to accomplish here is from the Lord, He is going to bless it and guide. If not, He will pull me back. Ultimately, though, even when it is difficult to step back from something I may have felt called to do at one point, obedience to the Lord’s guidance brings peace and rest, even when circumstances are swirling and moving around me. The basis for our hope is faith. All things done in faith result in the blessing of God’s presence for eternity. And not just faith in ourselves or faith that we are following God’s plan, but faith that Jesus accomplished what none of our work here can accomplish. What is done in faith is the only thing that will last.

  • So much comes to mind with this Psalm. I really believe it was a Psalm specific to Israel? In today’s world, God is not promising prosperity as He did to the pilgrims returning to the promised land after years of captivity (Jer 29:11). He needed them to prosper for the benefit of the land and their securing of it. “How happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways.” Can’t even make the relate to this day and age. If it said, “How happy should everyone be” then maybe?? So I am believing the promises in verses 1-4 were meant for the nation of Israel long ago? Fruitfulness to women these days: not so much. It is so important to read the Old Testament in context. But so hard. Takes a lot of prayer, thought and cross referencing, but sometimes it just makes sense in light of Israel and not Gentile nations today??

    • April Heather

      Thank you for your insight and perspective!

    • Christina

      Good word! I take the prosperity discussed here as less being given more and more (today’s definition of prosperity) and more a promise of care, being provided what we need. If we don’t have it, we must not need it if we are being obedient. Even if we are barely squeaking by by the skin of our teeth, as long as we have paid the bills through our hard work, have kept a roof over our heads, etc., we are truly prospering. We just aren’t outlandishly prospering. I did not study this definition I’m using of the word, but it has been how I read this.

    • Sheila

      I appreciate your deeper look and study of context. Figuring out which promises are for me and which ones are not is confusing sometimes. When we were having children I really struggled with the verses that talked about having lots (fruitfulness to women) because I knew paying for them and protecting them by being closely involved (in our culture) was important and a struggle. Is Jeremiah 29:11 for us in your opinion?

    • Leslie

      Walking with the Lord for 50 years I’m a testimony to a link between obedience to His ways and blessing. Psalm 37:4-6 reminds me that my ‘delighting in Him’ and ‘dwelling in the land’ bring blessing. Submission to Him shapes my ‘wants’ and that helps me truly enjoy what He gives.

      • Melinda

        Amen, Leslie! Your words (and His) greatly helped me today. It’s all about His glory shining for all to see! Bless you for imparting this wisdom!

    • Cindy

      We live in such prosperity now (as I sit in my comfy bed reading this on my thousand dollar connected-to-anything-in-the-world phone)!
      Definitely these same promises are ours today. It is still a step of faith to fear the Lord and walk in His ways which always has been a counter-cultural path. But once that path is taken and only if that path is taken as we hear God speaking to us “Here is the way, walk in it” or Jesus saying “I am the way, the truth, and the life”, and “Follow me”, these are for us today and we find when we do walk and follow and fear that we land on promises lands of our deepest happiness
      (even if that means having five “olive shoots” while our culture and work places maligned us for doing so).

    • Missy

      And yet aren’t we prospering even more? We have the Truth of the gospel, and the power of Jesus working in us, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and direct access to the Father! Wow! I think our view of prosperity has unfortunately been messed up. If I’m in right standing with Him, I am absolutely prospering!

    • Jenn

      Whether or not this psalm is a specific promise to Israel or not, the theme of blessing and joy through our obedience and fear of the Lord is woven throughout the Bible. But in my opinion, it says blessed is EVERYONE who fears the Lord and walks in his ways. The fruit God produces as we abide (obey) Him, we will enjoy. We will be blessed and it will be (whatever it is) well with you (well with my soul).

    • Pascale

      Thank you for bringing the context back! Whether this psalm was authored before or after the return of the exiled, I am certain Israel sang this song throughout all ages as an encouragement and reminder of their covenant with their God Yahweh, motivating them to play their role in that God and his people relationship.

  • Happiness first stems from our relationship with God, then all else flows out from there. The psalm doesn’t mention becoming wealthy, but having food because of hard work and a good family life. A strong relationship with the Lord comes first, then taste joy flows down the way we relate with our spouse and children. This is what I hope and strive for! When my relationship with God is rocky, so are my relationships with my family. When I have a strong relationship with God, I am more patient and kind to my family.

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