A song of ascents. Of David.
1 My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
3 Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.
(Psalm 131:1-3 NIV)
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, said of this psalm, “It is one of the shortest Psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn.” [C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, 3 vols. (reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, n.d.), 3/2:136.]
In this psalm, David focuses on contentment and security and abiding in relationship with the Lord. As we look at verse 1, we see David humbly coming before the Lord, having already confessed his sin, repented, and found forgiveness in Psalm 130.
So what did David repent of? Verse 1 gives us his list:
- Self-righteous judgment of others
- Unbridled ambition
- Managing others for the sole purpose of self-promotion and achievement
George Washington Carver, the great scientist and researcher, told a similar story of his humbling and life calling before the Lord:
“One day I went into my laboratory and said, “Dear Mr. Creator, please tell me what the universe was made for.” The Great Creator answered, “You want to know too much for that little mind of yours. Ask something more your size, little man.” Then I asked, “Please, Mr. Creator, tell me what man was made for.” Again the Great Creator replied, “You are still asking too much.” So then I asked, “Please, Mr. Creator, will you tell me why the peanut was made?” “That’s better,” God answered, “what do you want to know about the peanut?” “
(William Federer, George Washington Carver: His Life and Faith in his Own Words, (St. Louis, MO: Amerisearch, 2002). p. 35.)
So what propels us forward? Is our purpose to honor God and His calling, or to selfishly seek our own fame and fortune and power? Why do we do what we do? What is our inner motivation?
Please note that David’s comments do not give us the freedom to do nothing and depend on others, nor do his comments allow us to run away from our problems, either physically or mentally or through self-medicating addictions like drugs, alcohol, work, pornography, or co-dependent human relationships.
In verse 2, David compares his contentment to that of a weaned child leaning against its mother. Note that this contentment is learned and not instantaneous. David says that he had calmed and quieted himself – he was no longer anxious and restless and demanding.
When a child is still on a milk diet, nursing from its mother, the child runs on instinct and self-seeking fulfillment. When babies are hungry, they get fussy and cry and have a fit until their needs are met. And newborns quickly learn where that nourishment comes from if they are being nursed by their mothers. If the child is hungry, it begins rooting around and clamoring for nourishment from its mother’s breasts.
When the weaning process takes place, the child’s world is turned upside down. The child’s source of nourishment changes from its mother’s breast to its mother’s hand. The child cries, lifts up outstretched arms to its mother, and feels betrayed and denied. And yet the mother knows that this is in the best interests of the child.
As we noted above, contentment is learned and not instantaneous. We should also note that contentment is also learned and formed in a relationship. The child has moved from nutritional dependence on its mother to relationship with its mother. The child is at peace with simply sitting and resting beside its mother, content in knowing that its mother’s love and provision is sufficient to meet all its needs.
And how David’s description of a child with its mother so aptly pictures our relationship with the Lord as we grow and mature in our walk with Christ. Our relationship with the Lord changes as we mature in Christ. We no longer demand that God meet our needs, what we want from God. We are now simply content to be with God, fully trusting that He knows our needs and loves us and will provide for us.
David concludes the psalm by instructing Israel to likewise put their trust and hope (dependence) on the Lord, both currently and forevermore (the unforeseeable future). David knew the history of the Jewish people, how they had been dependent on Moses rather than God; David knew that he wanted to point the Israelites to the Lord as their great King who would be their provider and protector long after he was gone.
May we take David’s words to heart:
- Confessing our pride before the Lord and seeking forgiveness
- Asking the Lord to teach us contentment and dependence on Him
- Praising the Lord for His protection and provision He gives now and forever
- Pointing others to His sufficiency and love, not trying to be “god” to them
May this old hymn be your mindset and prayer today:
Be Still My Soul, sung by the group Selah