Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Highs and Lows of Faith part 2

Jeff Jackson (Ministry Intern, and my husband)

Psalm 128

Jeff spoke about the Christian response to blessings in our lives. Firstly, he explained the probable historical background to this psalm, of the Jews returning from exile and looking forward to once more living under the blessing of God in their Promised Land. He explained that the Jews were looking forward to living a life of freedom instead of slavery, a life where they were able to raise their children within the Jewish faith without interference from foreign rulers.
Jeff showed us that a right attitude enables us to perceive that the good things in our lives come from God, even when a worldly perspective would tell us that they were simply the reward of hard work or good luck. All good things are a gift from God. In the agrarian society of post-exile Israel, eating the fruit of their labour (v2) was a blessing from God because they had been given their freedom from slavery in exile by God and their farm land was given to them by God. Likewise, the simile of the fruitful vine and olive shoots (v3) show the recognition of current blessings of being able to raise one's own family and the promise of future blessings as children are raised within the Jewish faith and are brought up to maturity in the family where they too, can be a channel for God's blessings to parents and even grandparents. Today, we need to look for God's hand of providence in blessing us. We need to acknowledge that it is God who is the source of the good things in our life, even if our own efforts have contributed towards the end. The success of any venture is up to God to provide.
In all this, it is essential to realise that it is "all who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways" (v1, cf v4) who are blessed. We are blessed in and through our Christian faith, rather than apart from it. God blesses us because He is our Father and He loves us and desires our good. In recognising this aspect, we should come to value our responsibility to bring up our children in our Christian faith. We need to bring our children up in the Lord in order that they might be the blessing to us that is promised within the simile of olive shoots in this passage. We seek His blessings through our obedience to His word, our conformity to the path that He has called us to walk.
Finally, the proper response is thankfulness. Not just gratitude (ie, happy recognition that we are, indeed, blessed) but an actual response towards God to give Him glory for what He has done in our lives. As with the 10 lepers that Jesus healed (Luke 17:11-19), we can respond to God's loving kindness towards us in two ways. We can run off and enjoy the blessings that God has given to us, or we can turn to Him and thank Him for them, even as we enjoy them. The latter, is, obviously, the better choice!

I love this psalm. I especially appreciate its reminder that I can be the source of blessing to my husband through being like a "fruitful vine" in his house. As I seek to serve my husband as his "suitable helper", I am acting as a channel for God's grace to flow into the life of the man I love. This is a very precious opportunity.

I also needed this reminder to be thankful for what God has given me, the tangible blessings in my life rather than the spiritual. God has given me a wonderful husband who also loves Him, four children who are also growing to know and love the Lord, a home that abundantly meets our needs, friends and family who are a source of encouragement and support to us, the opportunity for Jeff to study theology full time for three years and for me also to study part time along with him, a fantastic church family who love to serve us and are grateful for our ministry to them... my list could go on. Thank You God for these many blessings you have poured out on my life as I have sought to walk in Your ways. You are my Heavenly Father and I know that all I have comes from Your hand. Amen.

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