As a Child (Psalm 131)

In order to make our journey into the presence of God with faithfulness, we need to trust the Lord.[i]  In fact, the kind of trust we need is the faith of a little child.  Listen to the words of our Savior, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”[ii]

King David expounds for us the qualities of the child that make our journey a success. His life also portrays what can happen when we fail to live as the child of faith in Christ.[iii]  Perhaps he is looking back over the course of his life and confessing that he became too dependent upon himself.  Too enamored by his own fame.  Too brilliant for his own good.  And now, he sees how the simple faith he had as a shepherd-king led to the best in life, while his self-importance and pride led to disaster.

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.” (Psalm 131:1–3, ESV)

The lessons we learn from this psalm helps us on our journey into the presence of God. Our commitment is to have the attitude of a child.

An attitude of humility

With the psalmist, we must open our heart to humility.[iv]  Humility is the confession of our heart that we are insufficient for the journey and we need the help of the Lord God.[v]

We recognize that God is Boss of our lives. The psalmist first acknowledges that his heart is not haughty and his eyes are not lifted up.  David has come to realize the necessity of submission to the Lord God.[vi]  It is only through the submission of our will to the will of God that we find the best in life.[vii]

We recognize that God has the answers. The psalmist recognizes also that he does not have all the answers to this life’s questions.  He has worked to understand himself and his world through the lens of God’s instruction.  He has not attempted to outstretch his finitude with lofty thoughts about things beyond him, but has trusted that God has the answers and leads him to the best place in life.[viii]

An attitude of peace

When we stop striving to elevate ourselves through our own efforts, we find peace of mind, body, and soul as humble worshippers before God. We are at peace just as a child is at peace in the care of his loving mother.[ix]

We are confident in God’s provision. The picture of the peace and tranquility that pervades this psalm is one of a child who has been weaned.[x]  It is the portrait of satisfaction in the provision that has already been provided.[xi]  When we have been fed by God’s grace, we are satisfied completely.  We become more and more confident that He will take care of us.

We aren’t consumed by our needs. Like a child weaned, we are free from the burden of self-satisfaction.  We no longer fight and cry for our needs to be met.  We are at peace in our soul because we trust that God will care for us.[xii]  We are at peace because of our close connection to God.[xiii]

An attitude of confidence

The psalmist concludes this song of trust by assigning to Israel the status of the child who trusts his Care-Giver completely.  In the same manner, we must turn to the Lord God to take care of us with complete confidence.  When we journey as a child into the presence of God, we must trust Him with absolute trust and confidence.

God is the object of our hope. When we stop striving to have our own way and submit ourselves into the plan and parental care of our Heavenly Father, then we have the confident expectation that He will take care of us.[xiv]  Only when God, and not ourselves, is the object of our hope will we experience the freely given gifts of blessing and provision from His hand.  We commit to trust Him always.  Therefore, we make the final commitment to trust God forever.  To take Him at His Word and trust His heart of love for us.

O Father, I come before You as a child. Completely dependent and absolutely abandoned to You.  I trust You to take care of me and my needs as I humbly submit myself to Your purposeful plan.  Thank You for loving me!

____________________________

[i]See, M. Dahood, Psalms III: 101-150, AB (Garden City: Doubleday, 1970), 238.  He suggests that this psalm is a song of confidence and trust in God.  Generally, this is the position taken by most commentators.   Interestingly, G. Quell [“Struktur und Sinn des Psalms 131,” in Das ferne und nahe Wort. FS L. Rost, ed. F. Maass, BZAW 105 (Berlin: A. Topelmann, 1967), 181-85] posits that this psalm represents a song of personal devotion at the gates of the temple by a mother pilgrim with her child.

[ii]Matthew 18:3-4, NASV.

[iii]Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150, TOTC (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1975), 447.  He writes: “The name of David at the head of this psalm exposes his character to comparison with the profession he makes.  This has its ironies in the light of his middle and later years, but it also wakens memories of his early modesty, simplicity and lack of rancour [sic], among the qualities which helped to make him great.”

[iv]Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150, trans. H. C. Oswald (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 470.  He writes: “In the presence of Yahweh the singer of the psalm opens his heart.  He presents a declaration of loyalty.”

[v]Walter Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms: A Theological Commentary (Augsburg: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1984), 48.  “The speaker has not thought too highly of himself (cf. Rom. 12:3), which means he understands the proper relation to God.  It is not a relationship between equals, but is one of subordination, submission, trust, which this speaker gladly accepts.”

[vi]Leslie Allen, Psalms 101-150, WBC (Waco: Word, 1983), 199.  He writes: “Tantalizingly brief though this psalm is, it evidently originated in an individual’s profession of an active trust in Yahweh.  He has come to realize the value of submitting to him.”

[vii]Leslie Allen, Psalms 101-150, 199.  He writes: “This state of spirituality has been attained only by struggling with his head-strong self.  Many an outburst of self-will has had to be quelled.  Eventually he has learned the lesson of dependence upon God.”

[viii]Walter Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms, 49.  Brueggemann reveals the distinction between this psalm and the myth of modernity.  He correctly concludes that the “myth of modernity believes that real maturity is to be free of every relationship of dependence.”  It is this myth that exalts the individual to god-like status.  This psalm pinpoints the necessity of child-like status.  Modernity concludes that the individual can plumb the depths of all wisdom and understanding through the evolution of science and the human mind.  This psalm declares that there are subjects to lofty for us to reach, and we must depend upon God to give us the answer.

[ix]James Crenshaw, The Psalms: An Introduction (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 21-22; Kraus, Psalms 60-150, 470.  Kraus writes: “The picture of the child that lies in the arms of its mother, contented and sheltered, illustrates the complete confidence that silently looks up to Yahweh.”

[x]Kraus (Psalms 60-150, 470) suggests that gāmŭl “in the OT metaphoric connection before us most often has the meaning ‘wean.’”  He, however, concludes that the term here means “to quiet.”  Allen (Psalms 51-100, 199) takes the verb to refer to the time of weaning in which the parent carries the child as Yahweh supports and cares for His people.  He writes: “The psalmist individualizes this communal caring (cf. 23:1), whether glancing at the child he was even now carrying or merely thinking of the welcome burden that was at other times his own or his wife’s.  Such was his relationship to God, the mother and father of his soul.”  Quell (“Struktur und Sinn des Psalms 131,” 178-79) takes `ăl to mean “upon,” rather than “with.”  In this sense, Quell suggests that the mother is carrying the child on her shoulders or in a sling around her back.  This interpretation gives deeper meaning to the support and care of God for His children.

[xi]Bernard Anderson, Out of the Depths: The Psalms Speak for us Today, 3d ed (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2000), 179.  He writes: “The child is described with a word whose root (‘weaned’) means ‘to deal with bountifully, fully or adequately’; thus the child is satisfied.  Such a child has given up the need to suckle because it has been ‘dealt with’ in a bountiful manner, rather than being forced to give up nursing for some arbitrary reason.  The feeling of contentment derived from God’s bountiful provision is the overriding feeling of the psalmist when approaching the Temple.”

[xii]Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150, 448.  “It is freedom (in the light of verse 1) from the nagging of self-seeking, and, as verse 3 would add, from the bondage of delusive frets and fears.  In terms of the New Testament again, it embodies the lesson of both Philippians 2:3ff. (‘Do nothing from selfishness or conceit’) and 4:11ff. (‘I have learned . . . to be content’).”

[xiii]W. A. VanGemeren, “Psalm 131:2—kegamal: The Problems of Meaning and Metaphor,” Hebrew Studies 23 (1982): 51-57.  The point of the psalm is not the age of the child, but the contentment he feels because of the close connection between himself and his mother.

[xiv]Walter Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms, 49.  “The image of Israel is then of one who has ceased to insist on its own way and has submitted to the trustworthy will of Yahweh.  That kind of submission is exactly what makes it possible for Israel (or any other) to hope.  Unless there is submission, there will be no hope, for autonomy and self-sufficiency are finally postures of hopelessness in which free gifts are excluded and one is left to one’s own resources.”

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