Dear Radio Friends,
We continue today our study of Psalm 128. This Psalm teaches us of the joy a God-fearing man experiences when he establishes a home and family. When we considered verses 1 and 2 of this Psalm we focused our attention on two matters. First, what it means to be a person who fears God. And second what the function of a husband and father is in the family, that is, to labor with his hands in order to feed and support his family. Today, we are going to consider in the next two verses of Psalm 128 the beautiful setting of the home and family itself. This we find in verses 3, 4 of this Psalm: “Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord.”
Bear in mind, once again, that this Psalm is written from the perspective of encouragement. The psalmist does not lay down for us a set of rules and regulations and then command us to follow every one of them. The establishment of a godly home varies from one family to the next. There is a certain measure of latitude in the way that different godly homes conduct themselves. The approach of the psalmist is very positive and is meant to incite us to holy service in the home. He sets before us a thing of beauty. He appeals to our sanctified hearts. “Here,” he says, “is a beautiful picture of the home. Do you see how desirable it is? Covet after it! Seek after it! Because if you do, you will be truly happy and satisfied in this life. Why will you be happy? Because God has ordained this kind of life to fulfill His purposes in establishing His church and people in this world. He has chosen this way to carry on His covenant in your generations. Establish a God-fearing home and you will see your children’s children and peace upon Israel.”
I. A Godly Home
There are in our text two comparisons the psalmist draws for us to direct our attention to the family and the home. The first of these is that of the wife. Notice: “Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house.” The second picture is that of a man’s children: “thy children like olive plants round about thy table.” We need to consider these two comparisons if we are going to understand what the psalmist is trying to say in our text as a whole.
The first comparison that is made for us directs our attention to the wife. A man’s wife, we are told, is like a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house. The picture drawn for us by this is that of a house plant—a plant that was planted inside of the house. That is not a strange matter. Many of us have our house plants too. But this plant was unique in that it was a vine. And the vine was allowed to grow up and cling to the sides of the house. Some say this vine grew on the inside wall. Others say it was common that though the vine was planted in the house it grew through a hole in the wall to cling to the walls on the outside of the house. It really makes no difference as far as the meaning of this verse is concerned. We would, perhaps, not conceive of that in our homes, but the homes of the Israelites did not have fancy wallboard or plaster walls. Their walls were, no doubt, rough and more ragged. A vine on the wall would help beautify the wall.
There are a couple of characteristics of this vine that are brought to our attention by the psalmist. First, it was a vine that indeed clung to the side of the house. It was tender and weak and needed the walls of the house to uphold and strengthen it. Secondly, this vine was a fruitful vine. It was not merely an ivy, but a plant that brought forth fruit. In fact, that was, in part, its purpose—to bear fruit. This figure the psalmist applies to a godly wife—a wife found in a covenant home and family. She is as this vine, the psalmist writes.
Before proceeding to explain this figure let me issue a warning: the picture we are about to view is not appealing to most today. It is considered old-fashioned and out-of-date. It is deemed to be a relic of the past and ought not to be applied to a modern woman. Many will say that this Word of God is downright offensive! These forget, however, that this is indeed God’s Word and that God’s Word always transcends time and culture. It applies as much today as it did then. But the content of our text may contain material that is offensive to our sinful flesh. So, beware!
The wife in a believing home and family must be like a vine that clings to the side of her house. In other words, a wife and mother must be a keeper of the home. Her task in the family is not to go and eke out a living for the family. It is not to be constantly on the fly, coffee klatching here and there or pursuing her own pleasures and activities. Her place is in the home. She is as a vine that grows by the sides of her house. This is the Word of our text and elsewhere in Scripture. To put it positively, the wife and mother of a family must understand her inestimable value to her family! She fills the home with her beauty and presence. She makes the home! Her husband and children find their joy in her. Much of the success of the family unit rests on her shoulders. What a glorious place the wife and mother has in the home! It is far more glorious than any career she may find in this world. Her work is not menial, as unbelief tries to make it out to be. On the contrary, her work is invaluable to her home and therefore to society at large.
That is the principle of God’s Word that governs a wife and mother in the home. Does that mean that a wife may never leave the house but is a slave there? Does that mean that a wife may never visit another in the church or be seen in the city? That is not what God’s Word says here. The Word of God sets forth a solid principle of a wife who fears Jehovah: she is central in importance to her family. “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels!” Now the Word of God comes to you, wives, and it says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling!” Here is the Word of God. You have the grace of the Holy Spirit in you. Take this Word of God and apply it to the utmost of your power! Use your liberty as godly women not to fulfill the flesh but to obey the Spirit! Follow the principle of God’s Word in your lives.
The same goes for the next truth that is set forth in this picture of the vine. The wife shall be a fruitful vine! One aspect of her calling in the home, according to the Word of God before us, is to bring forth children, as well as raising those children in the fear of the Lord. That is a full-time job. And God views the place of the wife in the home in this way too. I Timothy 2:15 tells us that she shall be saved in child bearing. I refer you back to Psalm 127.
That is one part of the Christian home and family. The second is described for us in this way: “thy children like olive plants round about thy table.” Here is a description given of God-fearing children. They are as olive plants round about a man’s table. Here we have another picture of plants—this time specifically an olive plant. The olive plant was considered one of excellency and worth. It was praised for its fruit and oil. In Scripture the olive plant was oftentimes used to denote royalty or victory. The olive plants of our text here are also young, tender shoots. Such is the picture that is drawn of children. Our children are seen to be plants of vigor and strength—of victory and therefore of excellency and worth. At the same time, they are live shoots—young, tender, easily-influenced, needing care and attention, love and discipline. Notice again the high value that the Scripture places on our children. They are of great worth to the home and family. And notice too that children make up an important part of home and family. These are born and raised up in a home where there is the husband and his wife and their offspring. So we have the second picture drawn for us by this Psalm.
II. Life in the Home
But there is more that these two verses teach us. These figures present to us a picture of the life and fellowship that go on within the home and family. It is this life of fellowship that a man and his wife must seek to establish in their home if it truly is going to be a God-fearing home. It must be a covenant home, that is, a place where there is shared between family members an intimate love, concern, and fellowship. A home where members of the family seek to share every day in a type of communion and love that cannot be found anywhere else.
Notice the figures of our text. The wife is as a vine by the sides of the house. The children are round about the table. These are places within the realm and confines of the house. That is where the covenant family lives: in the house. The wife is found there. The children are found there. And it is there that the husband returns after his day’s labor. Why? To carry on the covenant fellowship that God has intended for the home and family. Now, what does that say to us as far as application is concerned? This: that the family ought to be found in the home!
That stands in direct contradiction to what the world desires and what Satan is working to inculcate in the hearts and minds of young people today. The home and the family are the last place many a young person wants to be found. But then this is far too often true of parents too! No one cares to be home anymore. Home is no longer where the heart is. No longer is it said: “There is no place like home.” Now we find that family members want to be anywhere but home! Husbands and wives are so busy fulfilling their own agendas, that they have little time for one another, much less their children. Already when their children are small, parents are shipping them off to different places. Friends seem to have taken the place of family and home. Children today do not know what it is to stay at home and find their pleasure with parents and siblings. Because they are being taught otherwise when children grow up they do not even know how to establish a home and family. Everyone in our society is always on the fly. And the upshot of it all is that the family is destroyed! This has been an effective tool of Satan in his battle against the church.
In fact, when Satan sets out to destroy our homes and families, the first thing he attempts to do is to destroy the fellowship that we find around our tables. I do not bring this up arbitrarily. The psalmist speaks of children round about our table. What is it about a table that makes it so special to the home? It is around the table while we eat that we share most intimately in fellowship with each other as members of the same household. That surely is a scriptural concept to. When God came down to fellowship with the 70 elders at Mt. Sinai, God prepared a table for them. The Passover feast culminated in the eating together of the Passover feast. We find Jesus and His twelve supping together in this way. Believers fellowship with God when they come to the Lord’s Supper. That is true of our families too. When we have company from the church to visit us, then we set out food and drink. Gathering around the table for food and fellowship go hand in hand.
That is true in the home especially! There is nothing more beautiful than to sit back after we eat and enjoy good conversation around the table. Sometimes it is silly. Sometimes it is serious. Sometimes it is joking, sometimes it is a heated debate. There are tears shed and laughter shared.
But what makes all this fellowship worthwhile is when the family all quiets down and we listen to God speak to us out of His Word. The Bible is read, and together we as a family fellowship with almighty God. And then we together respond to Him by speaking to Him in prayer. We share in fellowship with the God of the covenant. And it is in this that we find the importance of family dwelling together in the home. It is there that a child’s spiritual priorities are developed. It is there that quiet study in God’s Word can be spent. It is in the home that parents are able to shape and mold their children for their place in the church and in society at large.
It is often argued that there is no longer so much a need for this when children become teenagers. Their spiritual values have already been shaped. But do you realize, parents, that the teenage years are some of the most difficult years in a person’s life? Some of the weightiest decisions of their lives take place then. And these decisions will affect them for the rest of their lives. Whom they will marry, what and where will be their future work, to what church will they belong. If young people are seldom at home, when do they spend time discussing these all-important aspects of their lives with mother and father? Are we, parents, going to allow the peers of our children to give guidance in these all-important areas of life? If we are busy with our own lives, when will our children approach us with their questions? If you have never been there for them, do you really expect them to come to you for answers? If you do not make time for them now, do you really think they will turn to you for advice on whom they should date, or when they should make confession of faith, or what vocation to pursue? Life in the home and around the table is vital for their spiritual lives!
Even unbelieving sociologists and counselors conclude that the only way to maintain a marriage and family is communication. When communication breaks down between husband and wife or parents and children, what becomes of these relationships? Communication is possible in the family only when there is time spent together as family in the home. Not because it is just a convenient place. It is the God-ordained place for such fellowship and communion. We do not simply receive good advice in this Psalm. This Word of God has everything to do with the establishment of God’s covenant in the line of our generations! We will speak more of this in our next broadcast, the Lord willing. But let us not forget, God is a God of means. He does not simply save arbitrarily in the line of generations. He does not preserve His church when we are careless about the ways He has established for us in the home. God preserves His church in the way of good sound homes and families. Why is a father required to labor by the sweat of his brow? In order that he might maintain his home and family. Why is a wife and mother called to be a keeper of the home? In order that her family might be instructed and cared for. Why are children round about the table? Because they are tender shoots that need to be cared for and nurtured carefully by father and mother.
Is such a family only an ideal? Is it one that only a few are capable of attaining? Of course not! We are called by God’s Word to sit back and take serious inventory of our lives. Nothing is going to cure the problems and heartaches that go along with a dysfunctional family. The church cannot cure them. Worldly psychiatrists and counselors cannot cure them. Parents must cure the problems! That is done by repentance and a return to the Word of God. The family that prays together stays together. That may be a quaint little phrase, but it is so, so true. Life and love and fellowship in the home produce the most wonderful of fruits! All this produces happiness—a blessedness that is beyond description.
III. Blessed Satisfaction
“Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord.” There is a certain emphasis in verse 4 here of this Psalm. Here is the emphasis: “Behold,” that is, take a hard look at what I am about to say! Take note of it because it ought to be of vital concern to you. Behold! That thus shall a man be blessed. In this way, by means of such a family and household shall a man be blessed. Do not deceive yourself into thinking that satisfaction and joy will come in some other kind of way. Do not think that you have better answers than God to what will create happiness in your life. Do not think that life outside the home and family will give you that kind of satisfaction.
When and if the Lord chooses to give a man a wife and children, then this is the way God will fill his life with satisfaction and contentment. Not another way. This way: Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed.
That does not mean that there will not be hard knocks along the way. Neither does it mean that life in the home is always exciting and fun-filled. Life in the home is work! Life in the home can become hum-drum at times. Life at home can even become quite trying. Sin is always there threatening to rob us of our happiness even in the home. But we speak of a family that fears God. Of a man but also of a wife and of children that fear God. May that fear of Jehovah be found in our homes. And may we discover the joy that is found in home and family.