Reflection on Psalm 131

Distraction. Busyness. Restlessness. Discontent.

It seems these are the default settings of my soul. But Psalm 131 paints a different picture.

“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great or too marvelous for me.”

Psalm 131:1

Too often in this modern world where we can have access to an overabundance of information about people and places and events we would have never encountered a hundred years ago, we believe the lie that we should have access to it. That to be a responsible person, we have to be aware and be up to date on everything.

But David – who is the King, who should be ‘in the know’ about most if not all things – confesses here that there’s a limit to his knowledge. He humbly acknowledges both that he doesn’t know everything and that he is not going to strive to know everything. He’s learned the lesson of Deuteronomy 29:29 – “The secret things belong to the Lord…”

A striving after all knowledge is not only pointless, but it leads your heart in the wrong direction. David learned this at the end of his reign, when he requested a census of Israel. He wanted a measure of his might. We don’t know when he wrote this Psalm, but it may act as a kind of confession. There’s no way to be sure, but we do know that in David’s desire to account for his strength, he was only acting as his ancestors did, as Adam and Eve did when they distrusted God and sought a kind of knowledge that was forbidden. That selfish ambition is also echoed in Isaiah 14:13-14 by one of whom it was said: “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'”

Ascend.

Above the stars.

On high.

The far reaches of the north.

Above the heights of the clouds.

David understands the perils of that ambition. Instead of seeking to ascend, instead of a frantic grasping for knowledge and significance, he paints a picture of humble diminishment.

“But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.”

Psalm 131:2

Instead of stretching upward, David has instructed his soul to assume the posture of a weaned child with its mother. A weaned child. Think on that.

Those of us who’ve nursed babies may recall those days, especially the days before your child was weaned. Whenever you held them close to your chest, they knew by smell, by instinct, where their nourishment was coming from. Your baby would impatiently seek and reach until they latched on.

But soon enough your baby grows and her palate matures. She begins to eat solid food and graduates from her mother’s milk. When held close in her mother’s arms, her restive instinct to get nourishment is replaced by a feeling of comfort, contentment, security. She’s been weaned.

Which picture represents your soul? Striving, reaching, impatient? Or restful, trusting and content? One is a picture of restless craving and self-reliance where the other is of humility and dependence.

“O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.”

Psalm 131:3

Three verses. That’s all. The first two present contrasting pictures. The third, I propose, gives us a key to how we get from striving and straining to trusting and resting.

Hope.

From this time forth and forevermore, hope in the Lord.

Reset your soul with hope. When we hope in the Lord, when we actively and continually place our trust in our God who names the stars and keeps count of the hairs on our head, when we day by day practice abiding and remaining in him, reminding ourselves of his complete care and faithful love, we too can direct our souls to this place of rest, to the very bosom of God.

One thought on “Reflection on Psalm 131

  1. Thank you, Meredith, for such a powerful word. This is the perfect message for the New Year! Rest and rejoice with your new adventure beginning!
    Love and blessings to you!

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