A Song of Ascents.
How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
Who walks in His ways.
When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands,
You will be happy and it will be well with you.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
Within 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!
No doubt almost everyone reading this is familiar with the phrase “What goes around comes around”. The Bible says it in a different way: “You reap what you sow.” I once heard a preacher who took the truism a bit further. He said, “You reap what you sow; you reap more than you sow; you reap later than you sow”. All 3 of these statements have proven very true in my life experience.
What many tend to miss, however, is that this Truth cuts both ways. People are quick to use the phrase “you reap what you sow” to judge those around them who are engaged in something they consider wrong. How many of us have nodded our heads when someone experiences negative consequences to their bad actions, saying, “Yep, could’a told them THAT was comin'”.
“You reap what you sow” … “What goes around comes around” … these truths are almost always cast in a negative light. Yet, in the middle of our ascent to worship we are encouraged to remember them positively.
How blessed …
What you do in the positive, the good choices, the decisions motivated by a desire to imitate and walk with God, these will be met with good reward: blessing.
Because what goes around comes around.
Sure doesn’t feel that way sometimes, does it? Many times in my life, even having tried my level best to sow goodness, I have looked around negative things going on and been able to draw the parallel back to a bad choice I made some 10 years prior. I see clearly that I am reaping what I have sown, later than … more than … sometimes MUCH more than I care to chew or swallow.
And yet, God meets us on our journey toward Him with a different promise. It’s a promise of good coming out of our good choices. Sure we make bad choices, probably every day. But the Psalmist isn’t talking about that right now. He’s promising blessing on our way up. He’s reminding us that it might not always look it, but our good choices carry with them rewards – too. Our commitment to hard work will bring about good things – too. And our trust in the goodness of God will lead us into blessings – too.
I need this message today, more than I care to admit. Quite recently heartache and frustration rewarded me for choices I had made some 20 years prior. My year of sowing some wild oats had grown into a 5-yr. pasture of painful consequences, heartache, and what felt like devastation. In the midst of those years I knew full-well I was seeing the truth of reaping and sowing played out in my life in ways I had never before imagined. When that season came to an end, I began to see another truth: Reaping and Sowing goes both ways.
Thankfully, I had spent those 20 years doing my best to sow goodness and faith into the lives of my children, teaching them about His love, grace, and the consequences of our choices. Through this process I learned that God’s love, His promise for blessing, really does win out over every imaginable evil in our lives. The restoration of the incredible relationship I have now completely overshadows the pain of those years when it was lost. In fact, the relationship on the other side of the pain is beyond anything I ever had on the front side of it. Incredible grace – beyond my imagination!
Yet here I am facing the same truths again. Same song, second verse, I guess. Only this time the crop is not from my choices or actions, but my judgments have come to fruition. It is a painful thing when you have opportunity to eat the bitter fruit of your own words. I remember hearing someone say once:
Make sure your words are sweet … one day you might have to eat them.
Might, no. WILL, yes. Because what goes around comes around.
But here’s the real kicker: what you sow doesn’t just come back to you, but to your progeny as well:
Moses rose up early in the morning and went up to Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and he took two stone tablets in his hand. 5 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the Lord. 6 Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” Exodus 34:4-7
Now, I have come to believe that it’s possible the Old Testament is a picture of Israel trying to figure out how their life experience related to God, more than a literal account of things God actually said or did. In other words, I don’t know if I buy it that God Himself causes sin to be passed down generation to generation like some vindictive judge punishing every bad choice we make. What I do know from experience is that this passing down of sins and consequences generation to generation is a reality. Just as health issues (heart disease, cancer, diabetes) run down generational lines, so does sin, and therefore sin’s consequences are reaped generationally as well.
I remember one day – having failed miserably as a mom – I began lamenting this truth, knowing the tainted oats I had sown would one day manifest themselves negatively in the lives of my kids – perhaps 3 or 4 generations down the line. In the middle of my pity-party I heard the still, small voice of the Spirit in my soul. You’ve forgotten the first part of the verse. What? The first part: “lovingkindness to thousands“.
I believe I began to understand something at that moment about what the Psalmist is attempting to communicate here: God’s grace outweighs my sin and failure Every. Time. The difference between thousands and 3 or 4 is as vast as the difference between the grace of God and the miniscule consequences of my miniscule sins!
I needed to think bigger.
We need to think bigger. The people of God need to think bigger thoughts about God’s ability and desire and willingness to forgive, change, and bless us. More than that, we need to think bigger thoughts about our ability to bring about blessing on generations to come. We have the capacity to sow seeds of greatness in the lives of our kids. We have a responsibility to make sure that much more of what’s coming ’round to them is going to be blessing and not cursing.
The Psalmist is reminding me not to minimize the power I have to bless and to teach my kids to bless. Because my actions and my choices really do matter – to thousands more than just me.