Whether it is the depths of despair, pain of betrayal or the ecstasy of joy and wonder, the book of Psalms is candidly honest about the turmoil of human life. Yet it also declares that God, in his creative majesty and supreme righteousness, is ever present; his “lovingkindness endures forever”. His love overcomes, overarches, intercepts and permeates every human activity. God is not put off by our difficulties. He is ever-present to help and to comfort.
Delicately poised, after 130 expressions of life’s big emotions and just before a grand finale of 5 joyous praise-filled declarations, is Psalm 131 – three little verses so easily skimmed over that they hardly make an impression yet, if given attention, become stunning and timely.
Psalm 131 (NAS)
O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters, or
in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever.
Swirling motion marching towards a final great Hallelujah suddenly stops. There’s revelation; a summation of our relationship with God in the picture of a child, a “weaned” child, calmly resting against its mother.
Take a few moments to think about each of these questions:
- What are the qualities of a “weaned” child?
- Regarding a weaned child, what does neither having a proud heart nor haughty eyes mean to you? Apply it to your eyes and heart.
- What does it mean to not involve yourself in “great matters” or “things too difficult”? Is there a personal application?
- Who is doing the composing and quieting?
- What are the conditions that make this sort of composure and quietness of soul possible?
I offer three words in answer to the last question.
Humility (verse 1): I can get pretty worked up about my understanding of right and wrong in the world. But Jesus said that if we learn from him who is “gentle and humble” we will find “rest for [our] souls” (Matthew 11:29). He also asks, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27). To find rest I absolutely must acknowledge that I am just a weaned child, old enough to walk but not old enough, strong enough or wise enough to know how to get there without help.
Choice (verse 2): Whether the child rests or squirms in its mother’s arms is up to the child. Mom can’t force the child to stillness. Isaiah 30:15 says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” Israel chose not to sit still and lost her blessing of peace. To compose and calm my soul is to forsake all agendas, even my prayer agendas, and to soak in God’s enfolding presence.
Trust (verse 3): The child knows that in the crowd of big people, mother is safe. So also, we can trust that, “though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly” (Psalm 138:6). Some of us have experienced unsafe parents, but God is the ultimate strong, safe, gentle parent who loves and gives generously. He says, “Let the little children come to me … for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these (Mark 10:14).”
The weaned child has learned to wait for its food, to trust that it will be provided at the right time. The weaned child is not frantic about things that are overwhelming. The weaned child is autonomous yet dependent. The weaned child can rest and be comforted.
This week as we are positioned between an incredibly emotional and tumultuous election season and the build up to exuberant holiday celebrations, I encourage you to stop! Stop to absorb God’s tender grace and presence; stop to rest your head quietly upon God’s great shoulders; to climb into the lap of the “God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). Let him kiss and caress you. Let him sing songs over you.
O _________ [insert your name], hope in the Lord! For with [him] is steadfast love and plentiful redemption for you! (Psalm 130:7).