How a man lives well
Many believe it’s entirely within their power to create the life they want: to work gainfully, marry, have kids who grow up to lead happy lives, etc. This psalm tells us all these things are gifts from God.
A song of ascents.
1 Blessed is the man who reveres YHWH
who walks in his ways.
2 You’ll enjoy all the benefits
of what you work for.
You’ll be content
and all will go well for you.
3 Your wife will be
like a beautiful vine in your home
richly laden with grapes.
And your children will thrive around your table
like young olive shoots.
4 This is how the man who reveres YHWH
will be blessed.
5 May YHWH grant you
this blessed life from Zion!
May you see Jerusalem prosper
your whole life long!
6 And may you live to see your children’s children!
May Israel flourish
under God’s gracious rule!
This psalm presents the good life and how to men can attain it. Such male-oriented guidance may seem out of place in the modern West, where we may deem models of women’s achievement more needful. But men need God’s guidance no less than women, especially men in male-dominant societies like the psalmist’s.
While the psalm presents the life male believers may seek from God, that life isn’t necessarily guaranteed to every godly man. As many other psalms show, serving God often involves self-denial, hardship, and suffering. Akin to Proverbs 31 for women, the psalm presents the norm for men when picturing them providing for their families through their own labor, leading to their contentment and prosperity. The psalm’s agricultural images convey the idea of a home bursting with life and blessing. The previous psalm pictured a man with many supportive sons. This one pictures his wife as a vine bearing the children they long for, children thriving around their dinner table.
The psalmist prays for blessings cascading from God in Zion down through the generations. Clearly, the blessings she describes are for men who partner with God. Together, the God-blessed lives of such men produce their society’s wholeness. Thus, the psalmist concludes with a prayer for Israel’s well-being and peace.
Jesus, I would aspire to whatever success you have in mind for me—whatever it looks like. Help me to fulfill your will in every way, benefit from my work, and know the fullness of joy. Make me gratefully dependent on you till the day you fill the whole earth with blessing. Amen.
During your free moments today, meditate on these words:
Blessed is the man who reveres YHWH
who walks in his ways.