Church and the Family
December 15, 2013 / No. 3702
Dear radio friends,
With today’s broadcast we have reached the third section of Psalm 128. In connection with the first four verses we have addressed the place of husband, wife, and children in the home. Although more can be said on this subject, the psalmist does not pursue this anymore. Instead he pursues a different avenue of equal importance. In verses 5 and 6 of this Psalm, the psalmist addresses the believing family as it stands intimately and inseparably connected to the church. We read: “The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel.” It is this relationship between family and church we wish to explore today. God-fearing families are what make up the church of Jesus Christ in this world. God-fearing families cannot do without the church. Neither can the church exist and continue to exist without such families. With no exaggeration, that is exactly the point of the passage we consider here in Psalm 128.
I. Blessed out of Zion
There is that word, “blessing,” again. It shows up throughout this Psalm: in verses 1 and 2, again in verse 4, and now in verse 5. What we may not realize is that there are two words used in the Hebrew that are translated as “blessed.” The first term actually means “happy,” as we noted in connection with verses 1 and 2. The psalmist uses a different Hebrew term, however, in verse 5. That word literally means “to cause to prosper.” So, the idea expressed here is this: Jehovah will cause you to prosper out of Zion. Now, the first question that arises in connection with this is: How will God cause this God-fearing man to prosper? What will God give him to cause him to prosper in Israel? Will God make him rich because he lives a quiet life in his home and family? Will God give him luxuries and comforts? Will God make everything go easy for him?
We all know that is not necessarily true. That a man follows the Word of God in this Psalm does not guarantee prosperity and ease. The blessing spoken of here is the blessing of God’s covenant. God’s covenant is that relationship of love and friendship God establishes with His people in Christ. Well, the blessing of the covenant is that God gives us the assurance of the friendship that He shares with us.
Now, we must realize that the psalmist describes a God-fearing family. The man, his wife, and children all know who God is and love God. But let’s face it, fellow believers, there are many times in life that we run up against hardships and trials. There are many other times in life that we become so busy and caught up in this life and its pursuits that the assurance that God is our God and we are His people is not before our hearts and minds. In fact, how often our sin can rob us of that assurance and joy freely given us by God.
Well, the more we share properly in the life of the home and family and the more we achieve the goal presented in this Psalm, the more intimately we live with our God! When a believing father comes home at the end of the day to enjoy his family, when the believing wife labors hard in the home caring for that family, when believing children are under the care of father and mother, God dwells in that home! God is a part of the intimacy being shared in that family. They are assured of His love and care, His favor and protection. And that is a blessing! The finest blessing a man and his family can ever discover!
But there is something else that we must understand about God’s covenant and its blessings. God administers that covenant out of Zion. “The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion,” we read in verse 5. Zion was the mountain on which the city of Jerusalem was built. The very next phrase in verse 5 is “and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem.” Mt. Zion and the city of Jerusalem refer to the same place. Now, it was out of Zion, or out of Jerusalem, that God would send His blessing upon godly families. This means that a believing home and family stood in close connection with Zion, or Jerusalem. The blessing they received as members of the family would come to them out of Zion. Obviously, the city of Jerusalem, or the mountain of Zion, could not dispense any kind of blessing on anyone. They were inanimate objects: a mountain, a city. Still, it was out of Jerusalem that God’s blessing would be bestowed on a believing family.
How was this the case? Well, what was in Jerusalem? The temple was there. The place where God had chosen to take up His abode. Also found there was the palace of David—out of whose royal line the Messiah was to be born. And further, the people of God, the children of Jacob, believers lived there together enjoying the life of the covenant found in worship and community. The blessing of God’s covenant and the riches of salvation were not given by God to just one family and household. God’s covenant was established with Zion, with Jerusalem, and that as a whole. God’s covenant and its promises were given to the church at that time. And it was out of that church that God dispensed the blessing of His love and fellowship. It was only as a family dwelt with other families together in the confines of the church that they could enjoy the intimacy of God’s fellowship. Out of Zion came the blessing. Out of Zion God commanded His blessings of grace, even life forevermore, to shine on His people and the families of Israel.
Today, too, it is in the church that God blesses families as they sit under the Word of God and the preaching. They are given the fatness of God’s house as they sit beneath His feet listening to Him as He addresses them as His children. That is how the man who fears God together with his family is blessed—always and ever in connection with the church.
Again, I cannot help but quote John Calvin on this verse, “It would be a very unreasonable thing for each member to desire what may be profitable for itself, while in the meantime the body is neglected. From our extreme proneness to err in that respect, the Prophet, with good reason…mingles together domestic blessings and the common benefits of the Church in such a way as to show us that they are things joined together, and which it is unlawful to put asunder.” In other words, the God-fearing family, just as the individual, may not exist apart from the church! God commands His blessing on our families out of the church.
There is a huge trend today that sees no value in the church institute and the worship that is held there. Just as many homeschool, they feel they may home church too. Worship in the family is all that is needed for them and their children. They look at the apostasy that reigns in many of the Christian churches of today and think they can do without the church. Well, that is not true. The church institute and her ordinances are necessary for the life of a family. Where a true church is found, families will find the official preaching of the gospel that is vital for spiritual life and growth. They will find the rule of Christ over them through officebearers. They will enjoy the sacraments that are given to the church alone. Further, they will enjoy the communion of the saints. All these are the blessing God gives to a God-fearing man and his family. And this will truly prosper such a man and his family spiritually!
But there is yet another aspect of this relationship of a family to that of the church as a whole. This is expressed in the next phrase of verse 5, “and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life.” Here is the idea of this phrase: the God-fearing man, his wife, and his children shall see the beauty and the welfare of the church throughout their life. A believing family will view the church and its place in it as a beautiful thing! Not a curse, not something they have to belong to, even if it is grudgingly. The church will be a blessing to the believer, but the believer will also see his need to be a blessing to the church. The church is a beautiful place in which to spend one’s life. A God-fearing man does not need to find friendships with other men at the bar. He will not need to join a lodge or a union to find brotherhood with other men. He will not have to hang around with unbelieving men (and women) at work. His spiritual home and family is found in the church. The church is all glorious to him. And he will contribute his time and talents to the church. He with his family will make a life for themselves in the church. He and his wife and children will find their friendships in the church. The church will become a place in which to look for a wife or husband. In other words, the church and God’s covenant implies a fulfilling communal life together with fellow believers and their families.
Do you understand the picture that that psalmist is drawing for us here? I know it is oh so foreign to many in our modern church world. But that is the good, the beauty, the prosperity, the welfare of Jerusalem.
And this will be seen all the days of our life—as long as believing families live in such a way in their home. Not just one family, mind you, but all the families of the church will see the good of Jerusalem. They will have a lifetime of joy in the church where they are members. But when we begin to lose what we have already described in the former verses of this Psalm, when husbands spend their time away from the family, when wives do not see the important role God has given them in the home, when children would rather be on the fly with friends than in the home, then the good or welfare of the church will begin to wane. It is more than likely, then, that a man will not see the good of Zion all the days of his life. On the contrary, he will begin to see it crumple or fray and perhaps even disappear. The church of Jesus Christ in any given place will be only as strong as the families that make it. If families are weak, so also will be the church. If we are not faithful in our homes, we cannot expect God to cause us to flourish in our church. Such is the reality. The God-fearing home and the church are intimately joined together by God.
II. Saved in Generations
It is this truth, too, that ties what the psalmist writes in verse 5 to what we now read in verse 6: “Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children and peace upon Israel.” “Yea,” that is, of a surety, you will see your children’s children—your grandchildren. Another generation is not mentioned because not all would live long enough to see great-grandchildren—although that is certainly not an impossibility. But why mention this? What is so special about seeing grandchildren? It all comes down to God’s church and covenant again. You see, there was a promise given to Abraham when God established his covenant with him. God said that He would be a God to Abraham’s children in his generations. In other words, God would gather His church from one generation to the next in the generations of believers. And with that church God would establish His covenant in generations. He would establish His love and friendship with the children of believing families in the church.
What a beautiful truth! Oh, there are those who would claim that God does not save in the line of generations in the church. They will ignore the gospel message of Scripture and say that with each new generation God begins a new work. The promise of God’s covenant, they say, is not in effect anymore today. With this, they also refuse to acknowledge the work of regeneration in the heart of an infant or to view the children of believing parents as heirs of heaven. What a sad way to raise children!
Neither does a denial that God saves in the line of the generations of the church acknowledge what the psalmist teaches us here in our text. God does promise the God-fearing man that he will see his children’s children. Not just live long enough to see them before he dies. Even the unbelieving man lives long enough to see his grandchildren. No, the idea here is: You will see your grandchildren believing in the God of the covenant too and enjoying the same blessing that you do! Your children will believe and your grandchildren will believe! What a beautiful promise we receive here. The children that you have carefully raised in your home in the fear of God will go out into the streets of Zion or Jerusalem and find a God-fearing wife or husband. Your son and daughter will go out into the church to look for other believing daughters and sons who will be their friends. They will then find a believing man or woman whom they will marry and with whom they will begin families of their own. Then the cycle begins anew. They will pattern their families after the Word of God in this Psalm.
But we may not overlook the truth that God fulfills this promise by way of God-fearing families. That God continues His covenant in the line of the generations of the church is inseparably connected to what goes on in the homes and families of the church. We may not simply assume that our children are automatically saved on account of their being born into the generations of the church. When that is assumed, then it will be true that children will take a complacent and lazy attitude toward things spiritual. They will begin to think that by walking in the traditions of the church and belonging to this exclusive social club their salvation is secure. Believing parents who fail to nurture their children, instructing and disciplining them in the fear of God, will merely raise up children who float along in the church because that is where they were born and all their friends are there. Then the church falls apart too. This happened in the nation of Israel.
But when a man fears God and his wife fears God and they raise their children in the fear of God, then God will bless them out of Zion. This is true because fearing God, as we already noticed, keeps them on their knees in prayer and always looking for forgiveness in the cross of Jesus Christ. When father and mother fear God, then they are careful to teach their children about sin—not just about sin in general, but about specific sins children commit. Then they will teach their children to take their sins to the cross of Jesus Christ in true sorrow over sin. In other words, Christ will be at the center of that home and family. Parents will instruct their children on the basis of God’s covenant and its promise. Parents will take comfort in—especially when everything seems to go wrong—the truth that God remains faithful to us and our children for Christ’s sake. They will then push on, they will persevere in their labors to make their home fit the description given in this Psalm.
God remains faithful to His promise in the way of godly homes, and He will save His people in the generations of the church. For proof just look at the church that has existed from the beginning of time until now. Always and ever it was gathered in the line of generations. But then look at the homes where God performs such a work in the midst of His church. Where the God-fearing family is busy in the home experiencing the life of the family, and when that family lives and enjoys its life in the midst of the church and its worship, God will preserve His church! We need to see that for ourselves. We must always be deeply aware of this while we are busy in the midst of our families. There is a purpose of God in the way He does things.
III. Peace Upon Israel
The result of a God-fearing family? Peace upon Israel. Notice: not just peace on your family. A family that lives apart from the communion of the church and other believers soon reaches a dead-end. The children are scattered, the grandchildren even more so. Within a generation or two they are absorbed by our corrupt society and world. Many who see no need for church in our society today were, only a generation or two ago, loosely affiliated with the church but became lax in home and family and in church attendance. The family alone in itself is not the end-all. It is not the goal. It is not the purpose of God for the family. The purpose of God for the family is that it be a part of Israel. And Israel today is indeed the church of Jesus Christ. The purpose of God today for the family is to be a part of the church. Godly families are the building blocks of the church. Families exist for the church of Christ. So it is that the conclusion of this entire Psalm is wrapped up in the few sweet words: and peace upon Israel! Peaceful homes make for a peaceful church. The reasons for this are self-evident.
Peace in Zion! There is nothing like peace, is there? No one enjoys attending a church filled with contention and strife. Fathers and mothers who are always complaining about the church and their fellow saints defeat their own purpose. They serve only to drive their children away from the church. Such parents may think they are doing their children a service. They may think they are going to keep themselves and their children pure. But that is not what happens in these homes and families, sad to say. The way of peace is prescribed for us: pray for the peace of Zion. Happy is that people where there is peace. Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed who serves the Lord. Peace—blessed peace.