Description / Transcription
Father, like a river, glorious is Your perfect peace, over all victorious in its bright increase, perfect yet it floweth, fuller and fuller every day, perfect yet it groweth, deeper all the way. Lord, those whose hearts are stayed upon Jehovah are fully blessed, finding as You promised, perfect peace and rest. We pray, Father, that this would be true of us, that our hope would be in the Lord, that as we stand upon You promises, as we find You an all sufficient God, that we would know Your perfect peace and rest, that our souls would be quieted and calmed, trusting in You. Grant us that, we pray, and we ask these in Jesus’ name . Amen.
Let’s turn together in our Bibles to Psalm 131. Psalm 131. The title of the psalm is “A Song of Ascents,” and written by David. Here now God’s Word.
“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.”
Well, dear people of God, it can be very, very hard to wean yourself off from certain pleasures and passions. To be weaned means to grow accustomed to managing without something that you have been fond of or something that you’ve been depending on for a long time.
So increasingly, you’re drawn away from that thing you’ve been depending upon and you find your dependence, your hope, in something else.
Let me give you some examples. I’ve never smoked, but people tell me, and people tell the rest of us, how hard it is to quit smoking, to go around with a cigarette in your hand, to wean yourself from it. Painful.
Or think about somebody who has been addicted to pills and how painful it is to break your dependence upon the pills that you think you need to make it through the day, to be weaned from those pills is hard. Or you can think about screen time. It’s hard to limit your screen time when that has been your go-to for entertainment, for fighting boredom, for feeling accepted, and to work yourself away from that to find those things in someone else is not always very easy.
Psalm 131 is an experiential psalm. In other words, it is telling us about David’s experience of learning to put his hope in God. He’s moving from pride to humility, from arrogance to trust. He had been weaned from self-reliance to dependence on the Lord. From having to be in control to learning to let God be in control and to quiet his soul in the Lord.
Friends, this is a great psalm for power people, for people who are used to calling the shots in life. This is an important psalm for people like that. This is a great psalm for self-made people, people who are used to relying on their talents, their looks, their accomplishments, as a means for reaching the so-called good life. This is a great psalm for anxious people, for people who want to manage their life and are frantic when they can’t manage it the way that they want to manage it. And this is a great psalm for afflicted people, for people who can’t see how God can be working in the events of their life and they’re preoccupied with finding out what God is up to and they struggle to find it. The psalm says learn to put your hope in God and live like a satisfied child.
There are three things in this psalm that David does for us. The first is this, that David calls us to do something and that is to put our hope in the Lord. This is the heart of the psalm. But it’s not at the very heart of the psalm, meaning it’s not right at the middle of the psalm, it comes at the end of the psalm, and so we start with the end.
Look how David puts it in verse 3. He wraps it up, he brings the application. He says, “O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.” In other words, this is what we are to do. We read the psalm and we’re saying, “God, how would You have me respond? How would You have me act?” Well, hope in the LORD now and always.
David takes here his testimony, his personal experience, and he applies to all of Israel, makes it a teaching lesson. David says, “O Israel, learn from the transformation that has occurred in my life.” And of course this isn’t just a lesson for Old Testament Israel, this is a lesson for all of us. This is a lesson for the Church, for God’s people.
To hope is to put your confidence in God. To hope is to trust in Him. It is to be confident that God will give you what you need and don’t yet have. It is to believe that God will keep His promises. It is to rest, rely, and be quiet in God’s loving, sovereign, and providential care over your life. It is to say, as we often sing, it is well with my soul, because I know that I have a faithful Father. That’s what it means to hope in the Lord.
There’s a connection between this psalm and psalm and the psalm that goes just before it, Psalm 130, and you can see that at the very end of Psalm 130, verses 7 and 8, where we find an echo, actually Psalm 131 is an echo of what we find in this earlier psalm. The psalm writer there says “O Israel, hope in the Lord!” Same words. “For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption. And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”
Psalm 130 is about putting your hope in the Lord for forgiveness, for redemption, for the cancellation of your sins, and Psalm 131 follows that up and talks about putting our hope in God in the circumstances of life. Finding hope in God for salvation, Psalm 130, ought to lead to a humble trust in God in the everyday circumstances of your life. If you know that you have a faithful Father who cancels your sins, you can trust Him to be a faithful Father in all the nitty gritty things that you experience day by day. Put your hope in Him.
We’ve already mentioned that this psalm is a psalm of ascent. It was a psalm that was sung by Israel as they ascended up the mountains to Jerusalem for the annual feasts. This cluster of psalms, Israel would sing as they made their way to the temple. And the pilgrimage here in Psalm 131 is not just a physical one. It isn’t just about making your way to the temple, but is a pilgrimage of transforming grace in which we learn to trust God more and more and deeper and deeper.
And that’s what David is calling us to, especially in the circumstances of life that we face that are difficult, that are painful, that are mysterious, things where we’re scratching our head and saying, “Lord, what are You up to in my life?”
That’s what David is talking about in verse 2. He says “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.” What are those things that are too great, too marvelous? Well, things that God is up to that are beyond our comprehension. Circumstances that we face in life that we don’t get the ways of God that are higher than our ways. The paths of God in our life that are beyond tracing out, and there are those kinds of things that happen to us, aren’t there? Those things that are too great, too marvelous, too wonderful for us.
Reminds us of what Moses says in Deuteronomy 29:29, that the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
The revealed things, they belong to us. The things that God has revealed, the things that God has spoken of in His Word, the things that God has clearly told us in the Scriptures, they belong to us. God’s commands.
We wonder sometimes, “Lord, what is Your will for my life?” And on the one hand, we can say, well, we know what the will of God is. God, for example, tells us that we are to be truth tellers. That is His will for the people of God. We are to have no other gods before Him or beside Him. That is the will of God. We are to be people of prayer. God has revealed His will to us in His Word, His revealed will and these things belong to us.
But there are those things, as Moses says, that also belong to God, the secret things. His will that we don’t get to see into, what He might be accomplishing in our life, why we may have to suffer the way that we do, why God doesn’t answer prayers always the way that we would hope He would answer them. We’re saying, “Lord, what is Your will? What are You doing? What are You accomplishing? What are You up to in my life?” and God doesn’t always give us an answer to those things, does He?
A longing to have a baby, for some of you, that remains unfulfilled. Why, Lord? Our hope for healing that hasn’t come, our desire to be married that the Lord hasn’t granted yet. Many, many other things. And those are the things that belong to God, Moses says, not us. These are things that, the kind of things that David’s talking about here, “I do not occupy myself with things that are too great or too marvelous for me.”
But in the middle of all that, again David is saying, where do you put your hope? You put your hope in the Lord.
Well, how do we learn to do this? Well, we learn, secondly, from David didn’t do. So first of all we have what David is calling us to do, but then we see what David did not do, and this is the very beginning of the psalm. He was not proud or presumptuous, he was not arrogant or overly ambitious. Look how he says it in verse 1: “O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; and I do not occupy myself with things too great or too marvelous for me.”
He’s describing a move away from pride. There’s spatial descriptions here, aren’t there? My heart, my eyes, they’re not going up, they’re not being raised too high, and the image I think here is they’re not rising up to where God is. God is on the throne, God is sovereign, and David is saying here my eyes and my heart are not rising up to rival God. They’re not rising up to compete with God. Letting God be God.
It’s interesting in this cluster of psalms, the Psalms of Ascent, earlier the psalmist says I do lift up my eyes. Right? That familiar psalm, Psalm 121: “I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.” There it’s a lifting up the eyes in humility. I’m not in charge, my help comes from the LORD, it is not me, it is God.
But here it is a looking up of things too great, too wonderful. And so here’s David resisting pride, to think too much of himself, pushing back against presumption, to go beyond the limits of his understanding and to press too deep into the ways of God. I don’t occupy myself with those things, he says.
He doesn’t have things all figured out, and he knows it. He doesn’t know the ways of God and he’s content with that because his hope is in God. He doesn’t try to force the painful issues of his life to fix them, to solve them through his own understanding and perspective, but he waits on God. He’s fighting here, you see, to stay small and let God be big, to let God be God alone.
And this was a transforming experience for David. There’s a movement, a dynamic, of moving away from what could have been thought of as pride to humility. That’s why he writes in the first person here, because he’s showing us the place that he once found himself.
This psalm doesn’t give us, does it, an immediate context. So sometimes when we’re studying the Psalms, part of the title of the psalm is a situation that is referenced, and then we get to know the situation, the context that the psalm was written out of. We don’t have that here in Psalm 131.
But a natural fit might be David’s experience of coming to the throne. He was the youngest of Jesse’s sons. David had defeated Goliath, the women of Israel were singing his praises, “Saul had slain his thousands, David had slain his tens of thousands,” and if there’s ever a moment where you think you’d be given over to pride or arrogance, it might be a moment like that.
But when it came to the throne, David relied upon the Lord. Samuel had come along from God’s promises, through Samuel David, you are going to sit upon the throne. The throne will be yours.
Do you remember that from the time of that promise to the time when David actually sat upon the throne was about 10 years? Ten years of waiting, ten years of holding onto the promise of God, ten years of saying, “Lord, but you promised. Lord, when is it going to happen? Lord, is it really going to come true?”
And you think about all those opportunities that David had to take out Saul; there he is I in the cave, and Saul is with him, he can take him out of the way, the throne can be his. David says my hope is in the Lord. He did not jump ahead of God’s timing when he had these opportunities, he waited upon God, learned not to be preoccupied with things too wonderful for him, how the Lord is at work.
Someone said is like this, that spiritual pride is the illusion that we are competent to run our own lives, achieve our own sense of self-worth, and find a purpose big enough to give us meaning in life without God. Let me say it one more time: Spiritual pride is the illusion that we are competent to run our own lives, achieve our own sense of self-worth, and find a purpose big enough to give us meaning in life without God.
When spiritual pride takes over, our heart is lifted up, our eyes are raised too high, we have become like gods over our own life. Setting our course, being in control, defining our own existence, determining how things are going to happen, I have it in my hands.
Friends, you know that there’s hardly anything that God opposes more than pride. Pride is right at the top of the list of the things that God hates.
2 Samuel 22, verse 24: You save the humble but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.
Psalm 101:5: Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart, I will not endure.
James 4:6: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
And you see God’s hates pride because it rivals His glory, and God will not share His glory with another, least of all us. He will not share it, He will not let us find our contentment in anything other than Himself, so we’re called to hope in the Lord alone. Put your hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.
Finally, one more point, what did David do? If fighting pride is what he did not do, he would not be proud or presumptuous, what did David do? We see the answer to that in verse 2, the very heart of the psalm.
Verse 2: But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.
You know what a weaned child is. A weaned child is a child, a baby, that is no longer nursing. So a nursing child obviously is quieted by its mother. If that were a part of the psalm, we’d say, we’ll that’s obvious, right? Because the child is getting everything it needs from mom – nourishment, food, feeding, everything it needs and so it is quieted.
But here, David says, I am quieted like a weaned child, a child that was accustomed to feeding from its mother but no longer does that. I am quieted like a weaned child.
Well, how is a weaned child quieted? How is David quieted? Well, they’re quieted not by what the mother gives, but they are quieted by the mother herself. It isn’t what the mother is feeding the baby that quiets, the nursing milk that the baby receives that quiets the baby, but a weaned child is quieted by mom herself, her presence, her reliability, her faithfulness, her care, the lap that the baby lays in, having mom is all that that weaned child needs to be quieted.
And this is what David had learned. He was weaned from pride to trust, from being preoccupied with great things to leaving things with the Lord, from arrogant control to quiet rest in God. I have learned to be quiet and still like a weaned child, David says.
Now, friends, that is not without pain, is it? To be weaned is painful. There’s resistance. The baby resists, there’s tears, there’s flailing, there’s tantrums, I want it, I want it, I want it, the baby is crying out. Sometimes even the mother resists. And so it is hard to be broken of our independence and self-reliance.
When God is weaning us, we want to go back to being in control. We want to return to the comfort of our life, our circumstances, our plans for the future, all these things that we felt like we had in our hands, Lord, I want those things back. It is painful, it is difficult, to be weaned.
As one author said it, “This is one of the shortest psalms to read, but it is one of the longest psalms to learn.”
This is hard. One of the shortest psalms to read, but this is one of the longest psalms to learn in life.
How does God do it? How does He wean us? Well, He often does it through suffering and trial. Through loss, things are taken away from us. He’s weaning us from the things that we have relied upon and drawing us to lean on Him. He opens the grip of our hands so that we cling to God and we put our hope in Him.
This past week Sheri and I were in Michigan visiting our children and grandchildren and we got to spend an evening with some friends from our old church a week ago Sunday night. At the end of our time with our friends, we gathered and we prayed over one of our closest friends, this man lived on our street, also worked for the church, 50 years old, and he was just diagnosed with stomach cancer this past Friday. He began chemotherapy for 16 weeks and then after that to have his stomach removed. We laid hands on this brother and we prayed over him, along with some other friends, and this brother sobbed in his wife’s lap, and he said Jesus died in untimely death as well, but I won’t have to face a judgment like He did, and he said I don’t want to leave my family.
There’s a weaning. This brother’s not proud, by the way. But there’s a weaning. And it hurts and it’s painful and it’s hard.
I had someone ask me just this past week from church here, they said, “What have you learned through your accident?” and I said, “Well, I’ve learned a lot of things.”
But one of the things that has come to my mind in the last, within the last three weeks, is we’re embarking on this Capital Campaign and remember our theme verse from Philippians 1 that He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion, and that verse struck me and I began to think to myself, was I laid there on that sidewalk and I woke up, I didn’t die, I woke up, there’s not completion yet. I’m not complete. The Lord will bring me to completion, but the Lord was saying that day, “Not yet.”
I’ve been meditating, “Lord, okay, then what is it between today and completion that yet needs to be complete? What is it, Lord, between now and then that You need to work on in my life?” Because your good work will continue on, and then one day it’ll all be finished. And I’ve been thinking about this psalm and the Lord has said, “Tom, you know, there’s not very often that your soul is quiet and still. It is agitated. It is so agitated. Agitated over money, agitated over your job, agitated over this, over that. Would you put your hope in the Lord?”
Friends, there’s only way, only one way as a path to a quieted soul, and David says the thing that brought quiet to his soul was when he learned to trust in God, not for what he could get from God, like a nursing baby, but for who God is, for God Himself.
You see, it’s when we learn to love God for Himself and find our soul’s satisfaction in God, not in all that God gives us, but to be like a weaned child, and it’s enough, God, You’re enough, then He gives us the quiet and the calm.
Charles Spurgeon says there comes a time when the weaned child is no longer angry. He’s over being weaned, but he buries his head into the mother’s chest. He is weaned on his mother rather than from her. He’s weaned on the mother rather than from the mother.
Stilled, quieted, resting, in the presence and love of our God. How do we know Him this way? How can you trust Him to be one that you settle into and say, “God, you’re all that I need”? We come to know God this way through the cross. Not only, you see, does God wean us through suffering and trial, but He also weans us through the cross and maybe we could put it this way: He actually woos us through the cross. Through the cross He seeks to feed us with Himself, to wean us from whatever else we might draw comfort from.
Remember the food, the milk of Christ, He said is to do the will of My Father in heaven. This is what I came to do. This is the food, this is the milk that I drink from. It is to do the will of My Father who sent Me.
And do all the way to the cross He went for us. Soon we’re going to be there, aren’t we? Ten days or so, less than two weeks, we’re going to be there, Good Friday, at Calvary, suffering, forsaken, condemned, crucified, shouldering the wrath of God against our sin, Christ bore it all so that we can know God as our Father.
So that it is true that God is like a mother to us, as Isaiah says in 66:13: “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you.”
Friends, God is saying to us this morning, “I’m enough.” God is enough. Jesus is enough. His grace is enough. Will you rest your soul in God alone? Will you put it there from this time forward and forevermore, wherever you are, whatever you are facing?
Again, Spurgeon. He said, “When we cease to hanker for the world, we begin hoping in God.” And then he gives this prayer, may this be our prayer: O Lord, as a parent weans a child, so wean me, and then I will fix my hope on You alone.
May that be your prayer.
Let’s pray together. Father in heaven, we do pray for this. We do pray, Lord, as a parent weans a child, so wean me, so that I might fix my hope in You alone. Father, with all the other things that we hold onto, that we grasp for, that we put our hands around, to find hope in, we pray Lord that we would learn to be like a weaned child, to grow accustomed away from those things, to put our hope in God alone. Help us with that by your grace and your Holy Spirit. Forgive us when we turn back; we want milk again. And Father, may we know You as our loving Father, our all-powerful savior, and we pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.