A devotional on Psalm 131
This sweet little psalm packs a powerful punch and is a great delight to memorize and meditate on routinely. I use it to calm my soul when it is upset, and to turn it Godward when it is inward focused. My friend Spurgeon says, “It is one of the shortest Psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn.” Remember that the heart and the soul and analogous and refer to our WIE- the Will (desires), the Intellect, and the Emotions.
1 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.
I’m reading a marvelous book called With by Skye Jethani. It makes a compelling case that man attempts to live ‘over God.’ Modernism has written God off and even as Christians we can adhere to the Bible and its tenets but effectively leave God out of it. Someone asked, “if the Holy Spirit left your church, would anyone notice?” What a chilling and sobering question. I’m afraid the answer might be, “not really.”
Even a heart that confesses Jesus as Lord can be lifted up beyond Jesus. Our perceptions of his role and power can be diminished as we walk in our flesh and capacity. Self-sufficiency can mark our Christian walk while we pay lip-service to his lordship. A submitted heart is a rare thing indeed. Is yours one of those? Are your desires aligned with his? Is your thinking intertwined with his – your plans, your way of solving problems, your memories, your focus and attention? What about your emotions? Are they godly and constantly submitted. Is what makes you mad what makes God mad or are you internally fixated and driven by personal comfort? Do you delight in what he delights in? Do you fear man or do you fear God?
Have you taken up the role of trying to control your life, people around you, and outcomes? What things are you occupying yourself with, your finances? World peace? Your health? Relationships?
To what is your selfish ambition driving you? “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility let each esteem others better than himself,” Phillipians 2:3. Again, Spurgeon admonishes, “Fill your sphere, brother, and be content with it. If God shall move you to another, be glad to be moved; if he move you to a smaller, be as willing to go to a less prominent place as to one that is more so. Have no will about it.” To which Guzik adds, “He [David] did not set his focus on promotion or position above what God had appointed in the present season.”
Believer, the church and individual that desires to do great works for God may be easily misled by selfish ambition. Jesus already did the great work. Rest in that, love God, and serve man. The work is his, you are co-laborer. Find contentment in being a servant. Our culture values intellectual gymnastics and elevates knowledge. We forget that “… “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know,” 1 Cor. 8:1b, 2.
Father, help me value love as much and more than I value knowledge. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands,” 1 Thess. 4:11. Then we can say with Jesus, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work,” John 4:34. Is that your food, beloved?
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.
Our soul is a regular barrel of monkeys. It is silly and excitable for any old reason. We must train this spiritual organ to submit to God and his ways. I liken an untrained soul to a seven-year-old behind the wheel. It is like a stubborn three-year-old who wants what she wants now. She is a danger to herself and others and needs strict, hands-on training. This volatile entity flares up and gets agitated, only making things worse. It is like running in a field of dry grass with a lit torch.
We must learn to soothe and shush our soul. Sometimes the solution is to hold it close and firmly till it calms down, not to give it what it wants or thinks it needs. Tell it it is well fed. Tell it all its needs are met in Jesus and that it can rest. Soothe it enough to lock eyes with Jesus and there find solace. It needs quiet, not more rousing noise and agitation. Lock those out. Sit in a rocking chair and speak quietly to it, slowly, meditatively, repetitively. Speak scripture to it and watch its tension dissipate. Watch it relax into the arms of its maker.
Guzik notes, “We regard the process of weaning as natural, but the child likely regards it as a battle. What David wrote of here was contentment with God that did not come naturally, but through victory over what comes naturally and the habits associated with previous experience.” Wow! Contentment does not come naturally. We have to override our desires in the training of our souls. We even have to override past experience. Morgan adds, “The weaned child with its mother is the child who has learned to be independent of that which seemed indispensible, and indeed was so at one time.”
Friend, this is your job. Don’t depend on outside agents to quiet your upset soul. Substances and habits can promise to soothe our seven-year-old for us. Don’t let them. The world and its ways will offer to calm the soul. Don’t let them. You take the reins. You tell it what to desire. You tell it what to think. You tell it what to feel. You wean your own child.
3 O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.
When God allows things or circumstances in our life that wean us from things we have relied on, we should never despise it. “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.”Charles Spurgeon
Hope in God believer. He is your all in all.
Three verses never packed such a powerful punch…