A Picture of the Kingdom – Psalm 128

Psalms BonhoefferWe’ve been studying the Psalms. Originally following Bonhoeffer’s little book, but breaking off toward the end to look at a couple of Psalms of the day or those incorporated into the introit. But I’ve been casting around for a way to wrap up the study. For the one group I settled on the Songs of Ascent.

The Songs of Ascent were sung as you went up to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage feasts. You have one scriptural picture of such a pilgrimage in the story of the 12 year old Jesus in the temple in Luke 2:41-52. There are a bunch of psalms so labeled right around number 128. And we imagined their catechetical use in the vein of Deuteronomy 6:7. Instead of answering “are we there yet?” and “how much further?” questions (although I sure those came up as well), as you walked by the way Dad might say Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD. And there are all kinds of questions that could be asked or suggested. We happened to look at what does ‘to fear’ mean in class, but what does blessed mean or who is included in everyone are just two others off the top of my head. Son, what do you think the blessing of the LORD looks like? Then sing the rest of the psalm and it answers the question.

Psalm 128:1-6
A Song of Ascents.
Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways!
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.
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.

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!

The blessing of the Lord is: 1) peace, 2) useful and profitable labor, 3) Fruitful family life, 4) Good times for the people of God. Son, if you want to walk in the way of the Lord and live a good life, seek these things.

One of the things that I brought up was to what extent does that describe now and to what extent is the psalmist calling for the coming kingdom? Bonhoeffer’s key thought remember is that the psalms are OT prayers that reflect the Lord’s Prayer. And one of the points, taken by the class to greater or lessor degrees, was eating the fruit of the labor of your hands. My grandfather did this explicitly. He was so blessed. But this is something that at least from my perspective has been disappearing from our society. It is not even the goal often anymore. The goal is more to find a place to erect a toll booth or game the system by taking pieces of the labor of others. This is not a criticism of real capitalism. The trader buying for x and selling for y performs labor of either transport, discovery or just taste. It is a criticism of taking from x to give to y. If y is poor and needy, x should be moved to Christian charity. But to have z take from x, while taking a slice for himself ever bigger, in the name of y is not a blessing. And it eventually erodes that first blessing of peace as x, y and z all queue up to argue instead of doing useful and profitable labor. This can be fulfilled here to a greater or a lessor extent, but its true fulfillment is in the New Jerusalem. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Pastor Wilson looks at the effects of this in a “News this morning” way by way of Cyprus. A perfect example of not eating the fruit of your labor but losing peace arguing over other people’s labor.

Then the Cyprus debacle happened. The European Union demanded that bank accounts in Cyprus take “a haircut” in exchange for the next bailout, though they are now signaling “flexibility” on the issue because their stealing appeared to be stealing to too many people. We shall see what happens. I suspect that flexibility simply means slippery. Now bank accounts used to be private property, pure and simple, but not any more — whatever happens.

And you probably don’t need to be reminded that the money that was going to be used to bail out Cyprus was money that was stolen from somebody else, oh, weeks ago, and so we will not let that detain us. So the Cypriots wanted this bailout, see, paid for by some German sap or other, and they had a bunch of plump bank accounts of their own just sitting there. What did you expect?

When you attempt to govern a society of thieves with an elite corps of thieves trying to manage the whole affair, sooner or later a fight is going to break out over the swag. We are probably past the point of no return, and Europe most certainly is.