“I’m a big kid now…”
I know, I know – it’s a commercial jingle, but it’s been stuck in my head the whole time I’ve been thinking about this psalm.
It’s my gift to you. You’re welcome.
(That Moana reference? It’s just a little bonus 😉 )
Okay. Stop singing already and check this out. That’s pretty much what King David is saying in Psalm 131.
1 O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things to difficult for me.
2 Surely I have composed myself and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me.
3 Oh Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forever.
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? David says, “I’m grown up now. Be like me.” Easy enough, right? But David isn’t talking about something quite so easy. He’s talking about conquering some big hangups in life: pride, arrogance, selfish ambition, and contentment. Charles Spurgeon puts it so well: ”It is one of the shortest Psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn. It speaks of a young child, but contains the experience of a man in Christ.” I’m pretty sure it refers to us women too, so let’s take a deeper look.
Verse 1 — “O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things to difficult for me.”
We’re so used to assuming those who swear they’re humble, are actually anything BUT humble, that this verse seems odd at first. When we realize David is talking to God Himself, though, it changes the flavor. To actually be prideful and tell God you’re not would be crazy! Does it mean David never had another prideful thought in his whole life? Probably not, but he has submitted himself to God and come before Him in humility. This verse also shows us that David has put aside arrogance – “nor my eyes haughty”. Some translations use the phrase “my heart is not lifted up”. Either way you put it, arrogance comes from a stance of being higher than others and looking down on them. David knows who he is in relationship to God, and has the right stance because of that knowledge.*
The last phrase in this verse is unusual isn’t it?
“Nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things to difficult for me.”
It flies right in the face of our “I can do all things” attitude, doesn’t it? Especially when you remember David was king! How could he NOT be involved in great matters? This is a time when commentaries are a huge help! Take a moment and look it up. Even searching Google for “Psalm 131:1 commentary” should do the trick.
I appreciate Tesh and Zorn’s take on this verse. (Full disclosure, Walter Zorn was a professor of mine. He is a brilliant theologian, incredibly tough as a prof, and consummately passionate about right understanding of Scripture. I love that his work on the Psalms is published for all to enjoy.) Anyway, here’s what they have to say…
“Apparently the psalmist looked upon life itself as a gift from God with which he had been entrusted, and he chose deliberately to accept that trust in a spirit of childlike humility….I do not fix my sight on the lofty goals determined by the world. Instead, he has deliberately chosen for himself an outlook on life that finds both fulfillment and contentment in whatever role may be his. There will be no envy of others who may handle great matters with comparative ease.” Psalms vol. 1 pg 439
A whole giant post could be done just one this one phrase, and if you want to dig in for awhile, it would be a great study! But since that’s not what is happening here I’m going to end it with this quote from Spurgeon:
“Frequently, too, we exercise ourselves in great matters by having a high ambition to do something very wonderful in the church. This is why so very little is done. The great destroyer of good works is the ambition to do great works.”
Ouch! I know I miss doing the good God has put right in front of me to do because I want to do something greater. Something “better”. Something that’s going to have more impact. But friends, He really does know what He’s doing. Today taking care of my home and family and talking to you are what God has given me to do. If I’m not faithful in these things, why on earth would He ever give me something more? And really, how do I know that “more” is actually better?! Trusting that He knows more about my good than I do isn’t always easy, but it is very, very necessary.
Verse 2 — Surely I have composed myself and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me.
I love this picture! You probably don’t know, but I’m a mother of three and exclusively nursed all of them. It wasn’t exclusive because of me really at all. It was more because not one of them would take a bottle in any reasonable fashion. They’d rather starve and were VERY clear about that. When you’re a nursing mother you are wanted and needed at all hours of the day and night. But when that child weans it becomes a whole different relationship. When you little one crawls in your lap for a good snuggle just because you’re you, and not because you’ve got something they need and they can’t get it anywhere else, it’s a whole new thing! I’ve laughed over the years and said it must be what being a dad feels like, but it’s sort of true! David has turned away from what he thought he needed, and instead is content with his heavenly Father.
What are we clinging to that we actually don’t need anymore? What is God trying to wean out of our lives? Pride? Arrogance? Self-sufficiency? Our flawed definition of success? Meyer says, “At first we passionately resist with outcry and strife. But the Comforter comes and hushes us as on the very lap of God.” What a beautiful picture! That’s the moment we no longer come to God only with our needs and wants, but simply because we want to be with Him. The relationship changes and can become deeper than it ever was before. Change is painful, but the result is life-altering.
Verse 3 — “O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forever.”
Most of us aren’t a part of Israel, but as believers we have been grafted into this family and can cling to this hope just as much as the original audience. “Hope” here is a command. Just do it already! And it’s also a word that is filled with expectation, not doubt. So often we say things like, “I hope this all works out,” which is just a nice way of saying, “I don’t think it will, but it would be nice if I’m wrong.” That’s not what David is saying at all! This hope is a confident expectation. The Lord is worthy of our trust. He will come through, and we can count on that, from this time forth and forever.
*David was King of Israel and was called a man after God’s own heart, but had more than his share of humbling moments. If you’re not familiar with David or it’s been awhile, take some time and learn more about him. 1 Samuel 16 – all of 2 Samuel tells David’s story.