This is Day 10 of writings to encourage us to CLIMB out of pits of despair, worry, and hopelessness. It starts hard... but like any time of improvement, we will get better. Slow down and ponder what the Lord has for you today....
These writings are inspired by an amazing book-A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society by Eugene Peterson
You can get it on Amazon
Blessed is every person 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!
In theological circles, we spend a lot of time warning people to not be deceived by the 'prosperity gospel'- one that tells people to trust God and watch their 401-k's blossom and their homes and cars multiply. Yes, we have to be careful about that one. There have been too many wolves fleece too many sheep to the dishonor of Christ over that false reaching.
But we also have to be careful that we don't go too far the other way as well. This Psalm is LOADED with blessings.... where do we find the balance?
The greatest misconception about the road of Christian discipleship is that it is dour and sour. Too many, including Christians, see God as the COSMIC KILLJOY who works overtime to make sure his followers don't have any fun.
Many stay away from Christ with the fear that following Him means giving up the 15 things you like to do and having to start doing the 15 things you hate doing. My old friend, Pastor Keith Pugh used to say, "I thought becoming a Christian meant you had to marry a girl that doesn't kiss, go to a far away country, and die of mosquito bites."
Now, we do have to be very careful here... we do not come to Christ to get an easy life. We don't come to Him under the guise of a commercial- "Party with Jesus".
But at the same time, there is NOTHING wrong about the motivation to receive all the benefits of following God. Reward and blessing IS an incentive to carrying on when the climb seems tough.
Some followers of Christ are too monastic- they think that turning down a time of rest, leisure, or joyful experiences is a mark of their rugged commitment to the King. No doubt, my tendency is more likely to get worldly, lazy, and distracted. But there are God-ordained moments where we are encouraged to dance and celebrate and enjoy the fruit of life when it is presented under the allowance and pleasure of the King Himself.
It is so interesting the timing of this Psalm.
Psalm 120- distress
Psalm 121- crying to God for help
Psalm 122- worship
Psalm 123- cries for mercy
Psalm 124- past struggles and hope in God
Psalm 125- staying steady in the storm
Psalm 126- bring back the blessings
Psalm 127- labor in the Lord
and now- Blessed- fruit- olive oil- full table- prosperity.
SUSTAINED BY A SMALL SLIVER- BUT THE SLIVER IS A BOUNTIFUL BLESSING
There have been seasons where my family and I have been through tangible trials by fire. We have felt squeezed in every way imaginable- inward distress and outward pressures. There were times it seemed like God was distant and silent. Was He there? Did He care? It seemed like one trial on top of another. We were tired, depressed, and defeated. Our nerves were frayed and our home was filled with more conflict than comfort.
But we hung in there.
God does sustain- but rarely is it easy and, a lot of the time, victory is in doubt.
It has to feel like a fight or it really isn't a fight. Courage is only shown in the presence of fear. Strength is only gained in the strain against resistance.
In most cases, it gets darkest right before the dawn... and then we see the ray of light. I sense the winds shift. I feel the pressure lift- God has held us in the storm and we made it... albeit by a sliver.
But this Psalm shines a great truth- God's small sliver is a beautiful and bountiful blessing. The crumb of God's table is better than all of the world's best together. And one day, we will be seated at that table of His royal wedding feast and we do not have the capacity to dream large enough in anticipation of that reality.
So for now... when a time of rest from the storms come your way.... CELEBRATE.
He has called a rest break... take time to sip and soak in God's good gifts.
There have been times during our climb together where we are down to the bare bones. But even then, it is so good to share laughter and hope! It doesn't mean that the daily duties and life concerns aren't there. But the Proverbs ring true:
Better to have little, with fear for the LORD, than to have great treasure and inner turmoil. Proverbs 15:16
"Taste and see that the Lord is good". Psalm 34:8
As I look into Psalm 128 I am reminded- God defines blessing and prosperity in different terms and categories than we often do.
This is one of those moments where I think.... do I want to write all of this out and might it make the devotional too long.... but I do believe God wants me to express this.
FEARING THE LORD- WALKING WITH HIM- FEAR THE LORD
The blessings of this Psalm come from a lifestyle..... Fear the Lord which is paralleled as "the person who walks in His ways".
This has always been such a challenge to me, because I am such a Romans 8 guy.... grace, grace, grace, grace, grace....
I am not able to EARN my salvation by good works.... but sadly, my sinful and selfish nature is to act entitled and just live life by every whim of MINE.
Before long, I am NOT a Romans 8 guy.... I am actually a Judges 21:25 guy:
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
The two phrases go together.... Fearing God means: He is my king and I actually feel a weightiness to be found faithful and obedient... my fate is in His hands. So I bow to Him and I serve Him.
Walking in His ways: I am not living and serving at MY GOOD PLEASURE, I am walking and serving at HIS pleasure.
In other words.... that 'obedience' thing keeps popping up in there....
So in this shutdown, I was SO HELPED by a Look at the Book video by John Piper on Philippians 2:12–13
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (ESV)
And the THEREFORE points back to TWO important truths:
1) The mind and model of Jesus.
2) The result of the mind and model of Jesus
The mind of Jesus: in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Look not only to your own interests, but also the interests of others.
The model of Jesus: emptied Himself, let go of His rights and status, humbled Himself, obeyed even to the cross.
The result: God exalted Him and gave Him the name above every name.
I need to take on the mind and model of Christ.
That is what is meant by: work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
And I too will experience great blessing.... just like right here in Psalm 128.
But don't miss the POINT here...
By obedience... it isn't really a check off of rules and regulations.
It is a lifestyle.... in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Look not only to your own interests, but also the interests of others.
But God knows that His commandments create the best circumstances to love others.
What is more loving? To steal or not steal? To lie or not lie? To be faithful or not to be faithful?
God's rules aren't there to take away our fun.... NO- they are a canopy of protection and the good soil of blessing to others first and THEN ourselves.
He is NOT A COSMIC KILLJOY- He is our source of salvation and blessing.
That is why I have to keep firing myself as King and keep seeking to bow to Him as King... He is a good King because He is my good father!
Thank you Lord for this 'shut down'... I have been too busy to see that I had started following ME and not YOU. I was living an entitled life... selfish... thank You for Your grace!
Thank you Lord! Help me climb in joy today, because I am walking with you!