Psalm 131 - Hope in God!
On our series of Walk It Out Wednesdays we usually just do a summary of the Sunday messages and link you to the audio file and end with application questions.
This time, we are going to do something a little different. Lynn's message was timely and profound and we would love for you to have a transcript of the sermon as well as the audio. We think that what was shared is timely and vital for our growth in God and personal sanctification.
This is a message that we can go back to, listen again, study through, and meditate on.
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.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. 3 O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.
Prop statement: A humbled, resting heart puts all its hope in God
Anti prop statement: A proud, exalted, complaining, grasping, discontented heart loses all hope
This Psalm is being sung by worshippers as they go ‘up’ to the temple to worship. It represents the only proper attitude to have in going up to worship our holy, all-powerful, sovereign God; humility, meekness, dependency,
This is the heart cry from every believer ascending to worship God….O God My heart is not proud!
There is only one reason to feel you are without hope. Pride. You think too highly of yourself
Keil & Delitzsch translate God as JAHVE. “JAHVE, My heart is not haughty…”
JAHVE is in the word order that makes it emphatic. It is a cry before the Lord. It is why most translators make it “O God”
The Psalm begins with an emphatic cry to God; JAHVE. This is vital to see. It’s an emphatic, emotional, pleading cry to God. “O God…my heart is not proud…”. As if to say if I were to take my heart and eyes off you I would instantly become proud and self-aware. If I don’t actively recognize myself and my life always before you there is no hope for my wicked heart and wayward eyes.
Spurgeon said, “It is one of the shortest Psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn.”
This is because it is all about dethroning self and enthroning God. This is sanctification in a nutshell.
Until Ps. 130 all the Psalms have been directed horizontally towards fellow travelers. Now we shift to very personal Psalms directed specifically to God.
Here in 131, David is having a very personal interaction with God. He is humbling himself before God. ' not a discourse before men. In a way, David is expressing how wonderful submission is to this great and awesome God as opposed to being burdened down with all the weight of great matters or things beyond him. The proud person looks, compares, competes, and is never content. “What can I do to outperform, or outdo others”. Why do I care so much that people see my contributions or that I get credit for my ideas or observations? Why is it so important to appear to be somebody important?
In essence, David is saying; “I don't think too much of myself”
As we speak this out loud, it is speaking to us. God (with a sigh…) my heart is not proud. Can we say this without evaluating our own hearts and wanting them to be in agreement with the spirit of this Psalm? My heart is not proud and where it is I want to be quick to humble it before you.
This Psalm covers 3 things: The Heart of The King, The Soul of a Child, and The Hope That Endures
THE HEART OF THE KING
- This Psalm is more amazing when you consider who wrote it — the King
- It is interesting to note this Psalm was written by the greatest King in the history of Israel.
- He was a gifted leader
- arguably one of the greatest military generals in human history,
- an excellent musician,
- a man of profound character
- He knew and understood hardship, failure, challenges, and opposition
- Had to run for his life for 10 years; enduring harsh conditions
- Often times within a hair's breath of losing his life
- Often lost close relationships and experienced betrayals
- Has to endure people cursing him to his face
- Forced to wait long periods of time before God moved
- His wife and kids stolen from him at one point
- Lived in his enemies homeland because his own was more dangerous
- His best friend is killed
- People are killed because of his involvement in their lives
- More than once must grieve the loss of a child
- Unjustly loses his job
- His own son tries to kill him
- Experiences significant consequences of his own sin
- Yet here instead of pride or cynicism or bitterness he expresses such a profound humility that he desires not to “occupy himself with things too great” for him and is calm and restful as a child. Amazing!
To understand this Psalm, you must know and understand David.
- I think David represents the prototype OT Christian.
- This man’s heart for God and the way he lived his life were the OT version of what a born again christian would look and act like, including his sin and how he dealt with it.
- We can see this most clearly in the proclamation by Paul in Acts 13:22 citing the Lord’s opinion of David as a “man after my own heart who will do all my will”.
- Yet with all his position and power he was incredibly humble
- Part of David’s life story is his unwillingness to grasp at position or authority. This was true in his relationship with Saul.
- David acted differently that both Saul before him and Uzziah after him who sought to elevate themselves to priesthood and suffered God’s judgement
- David is proclaiming his humility in the face of the clear reality that he knows God knows the condition of his heart far better than he (Ps. 139).
- He cannot hide his heart condition from God and so would say this with the complete awareness that God knows him intimately.
- David knows he is not without pride at work in his heart, but he also knows, and has demonstrated in his life that he genuinely does not want anything that God has not given him and will gladly give up anything he currently has for the Lord’s sake.
This great King starts with his own heart. vs.1 “O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty” NASB
- A key aspect of humility is beginning with yourself: Who can know his own heart. It is “deceitfully wicked”. Only the Spirit of God can help us see our own hearts
“What the heart desires the eyes look for. Where the desires run the glances usually follow.” Spurgeon
- When the heart is right the eyes are right, and the whole man is on the path to a healthy and beneficial condition
Follow your ‘eyes’ (desires) back to your heart.
- This is not a Psalm you want to take lightly. Better not to say this without being sure your own heart actually reflects it. There is no worse pride than that which claims humility with out possessing it.
- He only wants to do what God has given or called him to do; vs. 1 “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me
- There is something intriguing and refreshing about a person who wants to be aware of their limitations. Who wants to avoid trying to do things they are not equipped to do. Who want to keep themselves limited to their own sphere of capacity. Who want to avoid the glare of the lights or the applause of men, or the honor of position.
- President Reagan’s plaque: It amazing how much you can get done when you don’t care who gets the credit.
Like David, Paul understood this reality:
- Rom. 12:3 - “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
- This takes real grace to recognize your limitations and stick within them
- David or Disney?
- Not like today’s culture where we are given the Disney philosophy; you can be anything you want if you just believe enough
- Instead of God determining our boundaries we strive to determine our own.
- The inscription to this Psalm seems to indicate that this Psalm may have been an “echo” of the sentiments in relation to Michal’s mocking comments when David danced before the are when bringing it back to Jerusalem.
- 2 Sam. 6:21-22 “And David said to Michal… I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes.”
David models this attitude all his life:
- In refusing to take the Kingdom from Saul even though anointed by Samuel (10 years)
- In waiting on the Lord remove Ishbosheth, Saul’s heir for 71/2 years before uniting the Kingdom
- In receiving the taunts of Shimei while leaving Jerusalem
- In leaving the city and giving it over to Absolom instead of fighting for it.
- He demonstrated a submission to God in all aspects of his life. An unwillingness to “take matters into his own hands” so to speak
- The heart of this King is truly humble - but he goes a step further
THE SOUL OF A CHILD
This great King saw himself as a little child
- “My soul is like a weaned child…” vs. 2 This has many implications:
- In the far east, and especially when this Psalm was written, children continued nursing much later than they do now.
- As you can imagine, the older the child the more difficult the process of weaning.
- There would initially be much fussing and demanding until the process was over and the child could rest on his mother without demanding immediate satisfaction.
- The expectations of instant gratification and attention (with their subsequent petulant, demanding, complaining spirit) are now replaced by contentment, patience.
- Now his mother is a true comfort even though she has denied him the comfort he is used to.
This has spiritual Implications as well;
- Paul faced this problem among the churches he planted and cared for:
- Heb. 5:12 “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food”
- 1 Cor. 3:2 “I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready”
- These scriptures indicate that this process is not necessarily easy or speedy. Some fight against the discipline the heavenly Father is trying to bring about and so remain nursing babes.
- As immature believers it’s all about our desires and feelings. Our need for gratification. The natural spills over into the spiritual.
But as we grow older, the Father (Heb. 12) weans us off of “milk”
- “Blessed are those afflictions which subdue our affections, which wean us from self-sufficiency, which educate us into christian manliness, which teach us to love God not merely when he comforts us, but even when he tries us.” Spurgeon
What exactly is a weaned child like?
- Just as the child gradually breaks the habit of seeing his mother as only a means of satisfaction, so we no longer look to God only for what we can get from Him, but trust in his grace and provision.
- We desire God for himself, not as a means for satisfying our wishes.
- There is a mature trust that is aware God knows what he is doing and knows what is best for me.
- To be a weaned child is to rest contentedly, patiently, and hopefully in the Lord
- Am I content with knowing God’s knows my heart? Yes, but I want people to see
- Am I looking to get affirmation from people? Yes, but I want God’s affirmation
- Am I looking for recognition and acknowledgement? Yes, but I want to grow
- The Christian life is not neurotic dependency, but childlike trust.
- We do not cling to God out of fear, insecurity, or panic, we come freely out of faith and love to a Father.
- “God does not reduce us to a set of Pavlovian reflexes so that we mindlessly worship and pray and obey on signal; he establishes us with a dignity in which we are free to receive his word, his gifts, his grace.” Peterson
How does this look in our lives now?
- We can respond negatively in either of two ways:
- We can see a challenge, take control (take matters into our own hands), use all the resources at hand, and attempt to become master of our situation…
- or…melt into whining, complaining, overwhelmed, infantile responses that leave us paralyzed.
- Rebellious runaways or whining babies?
- We have no lack of counsel coming from our culture telling us that we should take control or play the victim card.
- We can choose to respond in a humble, childlike trusting, restful, patient attitude that releases us to do the one thing that will bring security and health to our lives: HOPE!
THE HOPE THAT ENDURES
This Psalm has helped us see where our focus should not be.
- Our hope firstly is not to be in ourselves:
- Proud, overreaching hearts
- Eyes are often a symbol of pride in the Bible and follow the heart
- It is not to be in striving for greatness, honor or position
So what is our focus? What is David’s logical conclusion to adopting this childlike attitude and faith? =HOPE! vs. 3 Oh Israel….HOPE IN THE LORD
- Another translation: “Wait, Israel, for God. Wait with hope. hope now; hope always!
- Again, it’s like David is sighing and pleading all at once. OH Israel…
- It’s like the beginning of this Psalm where he cry’s and appeals to God. There is a brokenness and yearning that is coming thru here.
- Oh Jehovah…..Oh Israel….
David didn’t come to this hope by accident. It was all the various dealings in his life that drew him to and deepened his need to hope in God alone.
- As we said earlier, you choose how you will deal with life’s challenges
- Will you try to control or whine and complain or will you rest and trust with childlike faith?
- Israel is to renounce all boasting and self-sufficiency and wait in lowliness and quietness for God, not only in the present but for all time and eternity. To HOPE!
- This hope is not a passive, hand wringing, nervous, fidgeting effort to “buck yourself up” or make yourself “believe”
- It is a settled, restful, humble expectation in a God who you know and trust.
- The “forevermore” in our hope referenced by David, can only be a prophetic reference to the one who would sit on the throne of David forever…the Lord Jesus Christ!
- We have the testimony of another even greater King who, like David, refused to be proud, but submitted himself fully to do only what the Father wanted him to do.
- He refused to grasp for what was rightly his.
- He refused to be proud but made himself a servant. He was willing to do this even in the face of death.
How can we have any hope before a perfect, holy, righteous God?
- Only in the sure knowledge that the savior has not only purchased our own forgiveness and cleansed us, but given us his perfect, holy, righteous life.THIS IS HOPE! We have, in Christ, the only hope possible.
- Because Christ died for you, you have confidence
- Because Christ died for you, you have no fear
- Because Christ died for you, you have assurance and safety
- Because Christ in now alive, you have hope!
- This gives us true hope. Resting humbly, secure in the Father’s love and provision. Satisfied in Him!
There are situations in life that defy explanation. Conditions for which there are no obvious solutions, that seem so profound and complex that you cannot absorb or contain them. At times like this you can try your best to control them, whine, complain and sulk, or you can humble yourself and look to God in hope.
Then there are those things that we know God has been dealing with for years. The things we know about ourselves we wish were different but haven’t changed yet. But we know God is at work. So let him work. Allow him to bring change, Rest and trust.
When your soul is all stirred up to respond in all the old ways….rest and trust.
Psalm 131 nurtures “…a quality of calm confidence and quiet strength that knows the difference between unruly arrogance and faithful aspiration, knows how to discriminate between infantile dependency and childlike trust…” Peterson
What is it that is causing you to strive and try to control or manipulate?
Are you whining, complaining, and struggling with the Father?
Which afflictions are subduing your affections?
How can our view of discipline help us become like a weaned child?
What steps do you need to take to change your focus, humble your heart, and rest in God?
What scriptures can you memorize or meditate on that speak to your circumstance and help you change your focus, humble your heart, and hope in God?