READ | SERMON NOTES
Summary | Psalm 128 expresses the hope of blessings by the ancient Hebrews. Today, on the first day of the Chinese New Year, the blessings we give to others contain similarities with those stated in Ps.128. Rewards as we reap the fruit of our labour (vs 2) is seen in the Chinese blessing 富贵吉祥. Wishes for a bountiful marriage and a plentiful family (vs 3) is expressed in Chinese as 早生贵子; 子孙满堂. A prosperous and peaceful community and nation (vs 5) can be found in the Chinese idioms 国家繁荣; 人民祥和. The blessing of longevity is found in 长命百岁. To be blessed is to have a sense of fullness and well-being. However, the emphasis of Ps.128 is not on the blessings but on the spiritual posture of fearing the Lord (vs 1).
The fear of the Lord is the starting point and basis for us to be blessed. What is the “fear of the Lord”? The Hebrew word “yare” means to deeply revere, to stand in awe of, or in dreadful fear of. Contemporary Christianity downplays the complete holiness of God. Thus, to fear the Lord is to have a proper regard for who He is, His character and His awesome deeds. God must take the first and central place in our lives. As believers, the Gospel gives us every reason to fear the Lord, for out of His love, He gave His only Son to save us through His death. Through Christ, we can approach an absolutely holy God – in fear and trembling, though not in a cowering manner. We approach God as His sons and daughters. Reverence is usually associated with respect. But Biblical reverence is not just respect. It must lead to transformation in our lives. Three transformations that are needed in our lives are:
- Hate evil thoroughly (Prov. 8:13; Prov. 3:7). Just as God hates evil, we must be:
- Ruthless and be intolerant of sin – get rid of anything that encumbers or entangles us to sin (Heb. 12:1).
- Flee and do not flirt with sin (1 Cor. 6:18).
- Pursue righteousness (1 Tim. 6:11,12). Make an intentional effort to turn the other way to pursue godliness by standing up for justice and to bless the least and the lost. Act upon the burden God has placed on your heart.
- Obey sacrificially (Deut. 17:18; Is.50:10). Fear is closely associated with obedience. “Just as obedience to the Lord is an indication of our love for Him, so it is also the proof of our fear of the God” (Jerry Bridges). Is our obedience sacrificial? Does our obedience cost us something? Our obedience should not be confined to what is easy but what is necessary. Abraham obeyed God’s command even though his son’s life was at stake. Abraham proved his fear of the Lord through sacrificial obedience (Gen. 22:12). Who or what are the “Issac’s” in our lives that we are unable to let go of? Will we lay what is dear to us at the altar for God?
- Depend wholly on God. Grow in dependence of God (Ps 127:1). Recognise the centrality of God in our lives. Ps 25:14 reveals that God confides in those who fear Him. Prov 9:10 shows that wisdom and insight are from Him. Ps Ray learnt this lesson about depending on God recently. God had preserved him from the Covid virus through the past 3 years, enabling him to serve without disruption. God humbled him at the start of the New Year through a bout of Covid. He has learnt more about depending on God and relying on Him for his family, ministry, and life.
The Chinese character for “Blessed” is 福. The character consist of 礻(associated with worship), and 一, 口, 田 (literally one, mouth, field, signifying that we are fed through the harvest). Combined, 福 reminds us that we are blessed when God is at the centre of our lives. He meets our every need.
As we visit relatives and friends during Chinese New Year, let us testify that we have been truly blessed by God. Let us fear the Lord, for it means we will have God’s peace and strength through the New Year, come what may.
(Sermon notes by Angela Goh)
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
- What are the blessings highlighted by Psalm 128 for the ancient Hebrew? Do the blessings resonate with you?
- If the Psalm is not about blessings, what is the spiritual posture that is highlighted?
- In your own words, what does the fear of the Lord mean to you? How has Christ given this a fresh understanding?
- What are the three transformations highlighted by the preacher that must flow from the fear of the Lord?
- What does it mean for you to hate evil thoroughly? Give practical examples.
- Is there something that you need to do or surrender in order to obey sacrificially? Share honestly as the Lord leads.
- This year, how can you depend on God more wholly? What are the areas in your life you struggle to do that?
Take time to pray for each other.
In line with the directions this year, let’s seek to go deeper in our sharing to strengthen and encourage each other as we desire to journey together as a church family.