A Family Blessing
Almighty God, Your power is greater than I could imagine; Your compassion is greater than I could ever experience. Hallelujah!
Consider: "Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?" "Everything is all right," she said" (2 Kings 4:26). Is it well with your family?
This psalm forms a pair with Psalm 127. It continues the themes of work and family, and the word "house (Psa. 127:1) is repeated in verse 3. It begins with a proverb in the third person and expands on this with a blessing in the second person addressed to the father of the family. The blessing is for "all who fear the Lord." There are different aspects to the fear of the Lord in the Bible. It is rooted in a sense of awe before the power and luminous presence of God (Exod. 14:31; 20:18-21). This should lead to a loyalty and love for God that is expressed in obedience to his commands (Deut. 10:12-13,20).
The blessing begins with a promise of the enjoyment of the fruit of hard work. There is no encouragement of idleness here! "Well-being" is a better translation than "prosperity" in verse 2 (the NRSV reads "it shall go well with you"). What is being promised is not just material wealth. The blessing then focuses on the family. The vine was a symbol for fruitfulness and the picture of "olive shoots" conveys the idea of promising tender growths which need careful nurture. The family is gathered together for a meal.
Shared meals are an important family-building activity. This song of ascents was probably used during pilgrimages to Jerusalem. It may be a priestly blessing given to families as they set off homewards. It is a reminder that the well-being of family and community are interdependent and also that the commitment to God expressed in the sanctuary must affect daily life, including family life.
Proverbs and liturgies often express things in black-and-white terms. However, Proverbs and the Psalms (e.g., Prov. 16:8,19; Psa. 73) recognize that a godly person can go through hard times. If we trust that God will ultimately bless us, this will give us strength to endure.
We sometimes end a phone call or letter with "God bless you." What does "blessing" mean to you?
Loving Father, I thank You for Your numerous blessings. I pray for the well-being of my family and of my church family. Thank You for Your strength that sees me through hard times.