Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord . . ." (Psalm 128)

A Song of Ascents

How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways.
When you shall eat the fruit of your hands,
You will be happy and it will be well with you.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the innermost parts of your house,
Your children like olive plants around your table.
Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.

The Lord bless you from Zion,
And may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
Indeed, may you see your children's children.
Peace be upon Israel!

- Psalm 128

What happens if you fear the Lord but your wife divorces you and marries her psychologist? Is the psalmist mistaken, or have I really not feared the Lord after all?

This too is a song of ascents, and as always the road of ascent is to humble myself. Like others, I might imagine that I fear the Lord - every way of a man is right in his own eyes. But to fear the Lord is to "walk in his ways." I certainly haven't always done that, so I haven't always feared the Lord, however I may feel or think.

She had us meet with our two older sons to discuss throwing them out of her place. That was no problem for the one, who is 20 years old and now has a job, and who can get his own place. But she wants to throw out the other one, too, for "trying to sabotage" her relationship with her new husband.

She didn't want to talk about the past, but as we pointed out, the past gives meaning to the present and enters into what we do about it. This psychologist spent ten years working to destroy our marriage and wreck the family of these boys, seduced her, and even got paid for doing it. Why exactly are they supposed to accommodate his relationship with their mother at their own expense? Shouldn't he compensate them for having robbed them in so many ways?

All that is true, and the boys made it clear that they're ready to hire a lawyer to make that happen if he and their mother want to play it that way.

But more can be said. It might well be that if I had feared the Lord more and therefore walked more in his ways this all might have been averted. It's a snare to think that the iniquities and follies of others prove that I'm right. I did need to rebuke the lunacy that the boys have the duty to absorb punishment so as to shield the psychologist who seduced their mother from every consequence of his behavior. But I'm not thereby proven right myself. I too contributed to this mess. If I had feared the Lord and walked in his ways more all those years, would it have happened?

Who can tell? The prophets feared God and walked in his ways. Did they see the prosperity of Jerusalem all their days? Jesus feared the Lord and walked in his ways, and having prayed for Jerusalem had to say, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those that are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling."

If we fear the Lord we will eventually see these blessings. But if the prophets did not always see them in their day, can I count on doing so? In every circumstance, it's best to fear and to consider my ways. And if it's my job to rebuke folly, it's not because I'm so free of it myself. At the Lord's right hand are pleasures for evermore, but feeling superior to others is not one of them. That pleasure comes from elsewhere, and it leads back there.

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