A time to be humble – Ecclesiastes 3:16-22

As we have seen so far, the book of Ecclesiastes is a book of questions. Solomon’s goal in writing Ecclesiastes was to make people think, and that’s why we see over 30 questions in his book. And believe me, by the time you think through all of these questions, if you take them seriously, it won’t leave you hanging, but will foster in you convictions on how to live and how to think.

The way we answer his first question, “is there gain in earthly labor?” defines much of how we live. By having a right perspective on work, we understand better our place on earth before God. By seeing how short-lived the results of our labor are, we have but one application: to depend on God through faith.

The way we answer his second question, “is there gain in human wisdom?” defines much of our thinking. By understanding how limited human wisdom is, we are drawn to the same application: to depend even more on God and on His revelation.

The way we answer his third question, “is there gain in pleasure?” defines much of our attitude and priorities. As we understand how many diverse pleasures God has given for man to enjoy righteously, we are reminded that our God is good even in the simple things of life, and that excesses are not necessary to find happiness. And so we are lead to the same application again: to be dependent on God and His Word to know what pleasures should rightly be enjoyed and in what measure, keeping in mind what is the most important.

Finally, the way we answer Solomon’s fourth question, defines if we understand the first part of the book or not. This fourth main question, “is there gain in independence?” defines the level of submission and dependence that we will be willing to give. See, Solomon was a king. He thought he could do whatever he pleased, whatever his heart desired. And he did so, only to realize after the fact that all his excesses, all his pursuits, and his mad schemes, were only what were expected from kings. To accumulate riches, to have many wives, to build nice buildings and gardens and to enjoy nice food…that’s what kings do. And he thought he had grasped some kind of freedom only to look back and see that he was caught in a system that was much bigger than him. There was nothing new that he could do. He only had the freedom to do what the system let him do.

You know, gangsters might think there are free in their rebellions. But believe me, when you are a gangster, you do what gangsters are supposed and expected to do. Your rebellion to one system only makes you the slave of another system. Gangsters walk like gangsters, talk like gangsters, and act badly like gangsters. There is no such thing as a freedom of independence. We are all trapped into a system in which we have absolutely no control.

And so the application becomes once again the same: because we are powerless to create our own freedom, we must submit to God to enjoy the real freedom that He has given us.

And this pattern continues through the whole book, and we know there is a common thread because there is a conclusion that ties everything together: to fear God, living by faith and dependence, and to obey His commandments.

So first Solomon starts provoking us with those questions, but then he slaps us with a question even more difficult to answer: if we are not in control and God is in control, then why the world is messed up like it is? That’s a fair question to ask, isn’t?

And so he begins to answer this question in chapter 3. There is a time for everything, he says. God has a plan that is beyond our understanding and that will work for good. And this plan encloses everything, from the best to the worst.

Well, this might sound good, but when you are caught in the middle, what lesson is there to learn? I mean, who cares if a movie has a happy ending if we don’t get what’s happening from the beginning to the end, or if we can’t relate to any of the characters?

And so Solomon pushes the issue. How should we live, knowing that God is in control?    

And Solomon answers: Live with humility. Live with humility because God is bigger than anything you could ever imagine, contain or measure; and live with humility because by yourself, without God, you are more insignificant than anything you can imagine, contain or measure.”

Ecc 3:16  Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. [17]  I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. [18]  I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. [19]  For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. [20]  All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. [21]  Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? [22]  So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?

And as we look at this passage today, we will investigate 3 realities that should lead us to a humble attitude.

I.                    The Reality of God’s Retribution

The first reality is that of God’s retribution. Solomon writes:

Ecc 3:16  Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. [17]  I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. [18]  I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts.

The reality of our world is that often, evil comes from a place that is expected to uphold what is good. Very often wickedness comes from the place where we should expect righteousness. We live in a world filled with injustice.

There are things that are happening now and that happened in history that are unjust and evil.

God has given me a big heart for the country of France, and often when I think about the country, I wonder why God let the evils that happened there take place. 400 years ago there were more believers in France than there are now, even though the population might have been 3 times smaller!

And if you know anything about the history of the Huguenots, it is sobering. When you take into account the massacre of St Bartholomew when the houses of believers where assigned to mobs who killed entire families, thousands of people, in just a few days for political reasons. And the great exodus of the Huguenots happening in France 2 centuries later because of Louis the XIV. Some speculate that the king decided to overthrow the Huguenots after a civil war broke out. A seditious group rose against the king, and the Huguenots sided with the king to protect him. Seeing how strong and powerful they were, after he used their help he saw them as a threat and in one generation the number of believers in France fell from half a million or a one million to one thousand only, according to the king himself.

And France never recovered from this blow.

Injustice is what defines our history. We look at the last centuries and the world wars, and the millions of killings based on unjust philosophies and ideologies.

Not only history shows us how much injustice takes place, but the reality of our own government.

How can we justify 55 million babies aborted in the US? While justice should rest in the arms of the government, it is often the opposite.

I have a friend who is a cook in the area. He has worked in all sorts of context and has done quite a bit of catering. Once we were working on preparing a meal together for a church event, and I asked him what had been the worst place he ever had to go serve. He told me that the scariest events he ever catered for were for the police, because of the amount of drugs that was consumed and the fact that many used their guns to randomly shoot in the sky. I mean, who breaks the traffic law more than anyone else? The police does it all the time.

Not only that, but the way the government spends money is often an insult to those who pay their taxes.

And it’s the same all around the world. I had a friend in who was working for the government in France. He told me that it would only take him 1-2 hour a day to complete his task. He spent the other 6-7 hours of his time studying the Bible or surfing on the web.

Once I saw him at church and he looked really tired. And so I asked him, “what happened?” He answered, “I got a new boss!” “Does he make you work?” I replied. “No, he snores.” That’s just a joke of course, but too often true of those working for the government.

And not only in the government, but even in the church and within Christian families. So many fathers and elders abuse their authority and give to people injustice instead of righteousness.

And we could keep going, of course. But that’s not too helpful. And we know these things are happening, and as Solomon said, God will judge everyone for these things.

But why does he let these things happen?

Ecc 3:17  I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. [18]  I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts.

God allows these things to happen to keep us humble. To keep us at the right place. At a place of dependence, and of humility. So that we can see with our own eyes that we are but beasts.

Not this is an interesting statement for Solomon to write.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, again and again, Solomon speaks of searching to see what is going on in the world.

Ecc 1:12  I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. [13]  And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. [14]  I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.

 Solomon searched to see anything that he could find with his human senses to make sense of this world. You can trace the verbs such as “searching” “seeing” “perceiving” “considering” “seeking”…it’s all over the book. Solomon was on a quest to find out the depth of life. And this is what he finds out:

God has already made plain for us what he wants us to see. Namely that God is testing the children of man that they may see that they are but beasts.

Compared to God, we are but beasts. Compared to His greatness and His glory, we are nothing but insignificant mosquitos, dirty worms, brainless birds and foolish fishes.

Answering the question of evil is not an easy one. But one thing is certain. When we go through suffering, injustice, or oppression, there is one good thing that can always be produced from these circumstances, and it is humility.

This is why the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 119:71 “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.

But here is the truth: the reason why suffering still exists in our world is because for God, this temporary suffering creates humility. And the height of blessing that comes from this humility is worth it, becomes in light of eternity it makes any well of suffering look like a kiddy pool.

And in the context of Ecclesiastes, the humble person is the one understood as the one who accepts God’s sovereignty and control in obedience, joy and faith.

To be humble is not to be weak and lazy and without conviction like the world often portrays it. To be humble is to live a life fueled and energized by a dependence on God in faith that is not satisfied until God shows up in all His glory. Because when we understand how weak we are and how strong He is, then of course we want to see more of Him and less of us. And that’s what humility does.

II.                  The Reality of our Feebleness

God has planned for man to go through these seasons of life, that there would be a time for everything, because God wanted man to see how little control he had and that humility was the correct path. The reality of God’s retribution points to that, and secondly, the reality of our feebleness points to this.

Ecc 3:19  For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. [20]  All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. [21]  Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?

Solomon reminds us in this passage of the reality of our feebleness. We are made of the same dust that the animals are made of, and the dust that constitutes our frames will all end up in the same place. We are made from dust and we will all return to dust.

Now this is where Solomon as a scientist helps us a little bit. When God created Adam and Eve, He created them out of dust says the Word. But never before was it written that animals were created from the dust. But Solomon has seen enough animals and eaten enough of them to know that they were made of the same stuff that constitutes our beings. Like us most of them have some sort of skin, and blood vessels, and organs, and now with modern science we can even know that the DNA information that shapes our beings is made of the same kind of code.

At the end of the day we are made of the same molecules and the same dust as the animals are.

By constitution we are not that different. And not only that, but our end is also the same. We die just like they die, we breathe just like they breathe, and Solomon eve writes, “man has no advantage over the beasts.”

I mean, think about it. Who works harder, the men and women of this world, or the cats and dogs? Who do you thing has it easy? I can guarantee you there are plenty of dogs in this world that are much happier than you are.

But not only that, Solomon even adds: Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?

So yes, on one side some animals live well and peacefully on earth, but then, do you even know what happens after death? Do you know if the souls of animals go to hell or to heaven or stop to exist? You don’t even know that. But if God welcomes the souls of dead animals, and then on the other side some other humans go to hell, then I can guarantee you that some animals will for eternity be much happier than humans.

And yet we boast! And we are prideful! And we think so highly of ourselves, so much that we often think that our ways are even better than God’s ways! And we can be so prone to look down on others, and to exaggerate our abilities and convince our own minds that we are worth more than what people are ready to pay for.

Do you know how to get rich quickly? You buy a human at his true value and you sell him at the value he estimates himself.

Our frame is so feeble, it’s not even funny. Do you know that the human body starts dying around 18 years of age? It spends less than 2 decades growing, and the rest of the time it is dying and there is no turning back. I mean what a sobering truth. We spend more time dying than growing.

And guess what. God has willed it that way. Because in this fallen world, if we can’t understand what dying is, we will never understand what it means to die to self. Without the reality of that barrier of death, how could we ever understand the immeasurable breach created by sin and the need to get rid of it?

That’s why Solomon says that it is better to go to a house of mourning than to a feast. Because death is one of the best teachers that we have on earth. It is direct, solemn, unequivocal, and universal.

And it teaches this: that we need to be humble. We need to find our place on earth, which is one of submission and dependence towards God, and elevate God with as much energy as possible to give Him the glory due to His name.

Because one thing is certain: if there are many points of convergence between us and animals, there are none between them and God. While our resemblance with animals may suggest that we are feeble, it should also remind us that God is completely different. He is spirit, immortal, invincible, without weakness, in perfect control, and He will reign forever!

III.                The Reality of our Lot

So first: we must learn humility from the reality of God’s retribution, secondly from the reality of our feebleness, and thirdly from the reality of our lot.

Ecc 3:22  So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?

Listen. There are things on earth that you can do and others that you can’t. Some of my friends can play music well enough to make a living off of it. Some others, no matter how much they’ll try, will only make money with music if they start singing when people pay them to stop. God has given to each one unique and diverse abilities, and there are things that we can do and be good at it, and others things we will never be able to do. For me, I know I would never be able to be a good business man. I am horrible at making money, it’s just not my gift.

But God has given to each one to work according to the abilities He has given, and that is our lot. We can accept this lot with resentment, when we are prideful and believe we deserve better, or else we can embrace humility and accept our lot with joy.

Do you know what the hallmark of a humble person is? Solomon tells us here: it is a thankful heart and a joyful spirit.

Being humble and dependent to God does not necessarily make life easier or simpler. But it creates within people a spirit of contentment and joy that this world is incapable of imitating.

And I have already shared this with you, but it is one of the reasons why I respect and admire my wife so much. When I met her she was on a wheel chair and she didn’t know if she could ever walk normally again because of her joint problems. But yet I would see her at church in her wheelchair encouraging people, worshipping with all of her heart, and challenging the younger generation with love and perseverance. And I am telling you, we’ve been married over two years by now and never had a single fight, even when physically things are not easy, because she has learned to accept her lot with joy, even being married to a crazy Frenchman.

But the truth is that we are not really in control of our lot. Who knows whether poverty or wealth will strike? Who knows whether there will be health or illness? Who knows whether there will be fruit or division in relationships? We are not in control of these things. All we can know that there is a season for everything. And if we can accept this with humility, it will create joy.

As a well-known pastor often says, the cheapest package you could ever find is a man all wrapped up in himself.

I mean on a scale of 7 billion men and women walking on earth, where do you think you fall? Even if you were a little above average in terms of intelligence, there could still be another 2 billion people smarter than you in any given area. And as a friend of mine often says, for every gift or ability that you may have, there is a 10-year-old Asian kid somewhere that is 10 times better than you at it.

Conclusion

So yes, because of the reality of God’s retribution, of our feebleness and of our lot, all things outside of our control, we must be humble.

And why does God do that? Why did he make us so close to beasts that we should be so insignificant without Him? Simply so that we would find our significance in Him. And as we depend on Him, once more, we become bearers of His greatness.

Listen. There is no competition between our greatness and God’s greatness. It would be like trying to have a death match between an angry elephant and a sardine out of water. You can fight that battle if you want, trying to be in control of your own life, or otherwise humbly accepting God’s lot for you with joy.

And yes, hard times will come, I am sure for many of you hard times are already here, but truth is that you don’t have to be alone. And if you learn to trust the God who is in control, you will find joy, no matter what your lot is.

Psalm 131 – Childlike Trust

How many of you have people in your family tree that are just…different?

Recently I got to see one of my uncles. I hadn’t seen him in over 10 years. All I remembered of him as a kid was that he was a very funny man. Well, I was in Maine some time ago and I got to know him a little better. Now, the guy is incredible. He started being interested in earthquakes when he was a student and with the years he developed a way to predict them. He is probably one of the only ones in the world with that knowledge. He used to get phone calls from all around the globe. One time, when my family was still living in Quebec, Canada, he called us and told us we would have an earthquake. Sure enough, the next day it came about. He worked in research most of his life. He has 3 or 4 masters in physics, geology, and all that stuff and also a phd. So the guy is really smart.

But the thing is that he never did much else than just study all his life. And you all know that students are not very rich. In fact, he never really had the money to afford to pay for a home.

Talking to him, I realized that the house he inherited from my grandmother a couple of years ago was the first house he had lived in since he left home for college. He had lived most of his life in a trailer that had been given to him and it had a huge whole in it with no running water or electricity. He used to live in Colorado in the woods and used to hang out with coyotes. They actually became his friends and he would play with them and walk with them. But before that he lived in the building he used to work at. It was very high-security governmental building with very restraint access. He told me, “it was pretty hard to get it, but it was pretty easy to stay.” He found a wall that was kind of empty with a lot of electric wires inside and there was enough room for a mattress in there so he lived there 3 years and no one ever knew. He said all these electric connections would make him feel bizarre at times. Before that he lived in some abandoned tunnels underground. But the last one he told me was the hardest one to believe. He mentioned that while he was in college he found a little cave somewhere outside and lived there for two years.
And I thought about it for a while. How would it be to live in a cave? That would be though, wouldn’t it? No comfort, no security, no warmth of a home. Now, if you truly had to live in a cave, how much would you look forward for each day? But then, what if I had to live in a cave for five years, for ten years? How would you feel? And let’s say that in the same time Bill Gates and Obama got together and decided that they wanted to kill you and were going to combine all of their power to do so? How excited would you be for each day? What would be your first words when you wake up?

Now I’m sure many of you can see where I am going. Let’s turn to Psalm 57: 7-11

When David wrote this, he was living in a cave, fleeing away from Saul, the richest and most powerful man in the country. David spent about 10 years of his life like this. Yet, this is what he writes:

7 My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
8 Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
9 I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
10 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.

What a challenge does David offer us. For 10 years he would wake up every morning knowing that the king of the land wanted to kill him and that he would have to live as a fugitive. And yet, here, David awakens the dawn to praise God and meditate on Him. When is the last time you awakened the dawn for no other reasons but to sing to God?
Even in the hardest times, David would wake up early to rejoice in his God. Why? Because he knew his God, and He knew he could trust him. He could rejoice because he had learned to quiet his soul before God. He had learned to humble himself before God, giving up even the thought that he could be in control of anything that would happen during the day. He had learned to wait on God, embracing with thankfulness even the most difficult circumstances. Yes indeed, he had learned to rest in God like a weaned child with its mother.

Today we are going to look at a different psalm of David, Psalm 131. In it we see David, a king, coming to God with a humble heart, putting his trust in God and finding hope in Him. And this is what I hope that we will all remember at the end of the story: a humble heart is expressed by trust and blessed with hope. No matter how hard the days can be, if we have a humble trusting heart, our days will be filled with blessed hope.

Let’s Read Psalm 131

A Song of Ascents. Of David. 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.

Background

Back in the days of Moses, God had commanded all the men of Israel to meet together and celebrate three major festivals every year. When David was king, this took place in Jerusalem. People from all around the country would walk miles and miles to gather together and celebrate feasts dedicated to God in remembrance of his faithfulness, past and present. During the journey, people would sing some particular psalms to prepare their heart for the worship of God, the psalms of ascents, that we find in the Bible from Psalm 120-134. It is very likely that these songs would also be sung in order.

This is very important in order to understand the meaning of this psalm. Psalm 131 is very short and very rich, but it is even more significant when we understand it light of psalm 130. In psalm 130, the psalmist cries to God for mercy and for forgiveness of sins and then praises God for the fact that He has the power to forgive sins. He writes (130: 3-4):
“If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.”

At the end of Psalm 130, the reader is left at the altar of God, at the only place in the entire world where forgiveness can be found. And this is why God must be feared: He is the only One who can forgive sins. And so we finish Psalm 130 at the foot of the cross, in the arms of God, the only place for us sinners, to be at peace. s

Now, the compilers were really wise to put those psalms together. Psalm 130 describes the sinner, humbled by the greatness and mercy of God, running in his arms; and Psalm 131 describes how it feels once there, at peace, in the embrace of the loving God.

I. David Rejects Pride

And so we start Psalm 131 and this is what we found in verses 1 and 2: a humble man in a very intimate relationship with God, rejecting pride, and resting peacefully.

David begins his Psalm: LORD!
Now, as most of you know, the English translations have two different ways to spell Lord, one with all the letters capitalized, and one with only the L capitalized. The first one will all letters capitalized refers to Yahweh, which is the name God gave to Moses when he revealed himself in he bush, and the second one is Adonai which means Lord. Even though they both are very similar, the one with all capitalized letters, Yahweh, is a lot more personal. It is a name of God that is only attributed to God.

During his life, David went through many trials. But David had understood something very important. In order not to be consumed will all the problems he was facing, he started his days facing the Lord, not facing his problems. And he knew that if he started his day facing God, he would not remember his problems at the end of it, but would remember what he saw: the living God rich in steadfast love and faithfulness.

And so we see David approaching God, getting close to him, putting his worries aside. He knew that he couldn’t approach the day with his wrists closed saying, “I’m going to do it!” I’ll take all my problems one by one and fix them all.” No, he knew that the only think he could do was to come to God and say, “God, I can’t do it, but I know you can, and I want to stay close to you and be with you.”

And once in the arms of God, David realizes how meaningless pride is. Once he finds comfort in the arms of God, the concept of pride “grows strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace” as the song would say. Once in the arms of God, David understood that he had absolutely no reason to look at himself. All he needed was there, found in God. He could just let go the rest.

And so he says:
“O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised high.”

In other words, David states: “God, I need you. I know I need you and I need you desperately. I cannot find in me anything that would grant me happiness or lasting comfort. My peace is in you, not in myself.”

It is the exact opposite of what the fool would say: “The fool says in his heart there is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

Foolishness it to believe that we can live without God. True wisdom is to believe that we cannot live without God. And it beings with humility. No one can last in the presence of God with a heart and eyes that display pride. God told David in Psalm 101:5, “Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not endure.”

God does not care about our achievements. He does not care about all our efforts. And that is why David did not occupy himself with things too great or too marvelous for him; or too difficult for him we could also translate.

Now this is an interesting statement. A little paradoxical I would say. David had a lot of responsibilities. He was the leader of a whole nation. He was their protector, their judge, their spiritual leader. He was doing a lot of “great things.” But what he understood was that God’s calling for his life was limited, and that he did not have to worry about things beyond it. His role was to be faithful where God had put him, not to have everything under control. Now, that’s a difficult one at times. As humans, we love control; and we love it because it allows us to live by sight. But David knew that his role was not to get in every household and make sure they had no idols there; but simply to be faithful and content where God had placed him. What David was burdened to do was not to give himself a great name but simply to be in the will of God, close to God, in his arms at all times.

Even Jesus had a limited calling. Jesus was God. He had the power to get rid of all the sicknesses in the world by just snapping his fingers. He could have stopped all the wars of his time by just speaking a couple of words. But he knew that he didn’t have to worry about these things. He was here for a specific calling and the rest was in God’s hands.

We don’t need to look for things too great or too difficult for us. Maybe God did not call you to become affluent in the workplace. Maybe God did not call you to be popular or recognized in what you do. Maybe God did not call you to be as busy as you are. There is no doubt that we have to give our best, but there will always be a point where we will reach the limit of influence and impact we can have on people, and beyond that point, we have to trust God. If we are truly doing his work, then he’ll send other people to complete our shortcomings. It’s a humbling thing to accept, but that’s where God wants us to be.

II. David Rests Peacefully

In verse 1 we saw that David rejected pride, and now in verse 2 we see how he rests peacefully in the Lord. “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.”

This is one of the most vivid pictures of the relationship that we have with God that we can find in the Bible. Think about a weaned child. In Bible times, it would refer to a child of maybe four or five years of age. At that age, the child already has a decent sense of consciousness. Now, how would he feel in the arms of his mother? How attached to you think he would be to his mother who nursed him for so many years, every single day? How much peace would he find in this mother that had provided for his physical needs all his life?

This is the picture that David tries to communicate to us. Every single need that was ever met for him, he attributed it to God. And throughout the years he had learned to develop a very intimate relationship with His God, he had learned to be dependant and God had shown himself so faithful that David had no reasons not to trust him.

Now, I don’t know how you picture David in your mind, but he sure was not a wimp. David was a mighty man. He was a warrior. This man killed a lion with is bare hands. He went on dozens and dozens of battlefields, and he was probably still lifting the sword all the way to his fifties. He certainly had killed a lot of people. And yet, here, he compares himself to a weaned child. Now, have you ever seen a weaned child on a battlefield? That is very strong paradox. But the truth is that David did not put his trust in himself. After he had humbled himself, he was out of the picture. All the room was left to God. Now, there is biblical word for abandoning oneself in the hands of someone else. It’s called trust. And the first sign for trust is quietness.

Do me a favor please. Close your eyes and start thinking about everything you have to do for next week. Think for a minute. All right. Now tell me, when you started thinking about all these things, was there noise in your mind, or was their calm?

When Jesus said “come you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest” he did not say that he was going to give some rest. How much do we actually trust him with our worries and all our busyness? But how wonderful that we can, like David, come to God, and truly find rest.

I don’t think there is any picture as vivid as a weaned child to illustrate David’s point. A weaned child can do nothing on his own. He is entirely dependent. And that’s how we are spiritually. Spiritually speaking, we are all children. We cannot do anything spiritual independently from God. But what kind of children are we? Are we noisy children or have we calmed and quieted our souls? Is our life characterized by complaint, or by praise? How much do we truly trust God?

Now, how many have ever seen a book on the 12 virtues of worrying? Seriously, what are the advantages of worrying? Think about the times you’ve worried in your life. Any good memories? That’s why Jesus asked in the sermon of the mount, “Why do you worry?”

And that’s also why Solomon wrote in Proverbs 17:27, “He who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” Actually, we could also translate the word ‘understanding’ for ‘intelligent’. And it’s true, there is nothing smart about worrying. There is no point in it. But the fact is that we cannot get out of it unless we replace our worries by a trust in God. And it’s not always easy because we’d rather be mighty men than weaned children. It’s hard to get out of the picture and to leave the room for God. But what if we could really have the peace of a baby in the arms of his mother?

I remember a couple of years ago going through Exodus and being struck by Exodus 14:14. There you have Israel, trapped between the Red Sea and the army of Pharaoh riding after them. On a human perspective there was absolutely no hope. And this is what God tells to Moses, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
How often do we start the day and ask God to fight for us? It’s not worth worrying, it’s not worth getting tired because we try to do things with our own efforts. It’s not.

During the times of Isaiah Israel was getting crushed by the Assyrians. Yet this is what God tells the people in Isaiah 30:15,
“For thus said the Lord the Holy One of Israel,
‘In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’”

Hard circumstances will always come. Trials, suffering, responsibilities; these things will never cease to come. But there are two ways we can approach them. Like a calm and weaned child in the arms of God, or like a noisy child. Because the truth is that we are like little children anyways. We can’t control our circumstances. But we can either accept them in trust, or reject them with worries.

The thing is that we are not on earth to accomplish our works. We are here so that God can accomplish his work through us. We are his workmanship and he has works that were prepared even before we existed for us to do. All that God demands of us is to rest in his arms and wait in silence. And at the end of the day, if we are faithful, we will have no regrets. Seriously, what would you rather see: God at work, or yourself?

III. David Resides in Hope

In the beginning, David displays humility by rejecting pride and resting peacefully. Secondly he exhorts Israel to hope in the Lord.

“O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.”

After David humbled himself before God, he found rest. Then hope follows. Why? Well, the reason is simple. If you seek God, you find him. And when you are with God, you have everything that you could hope for with you.

Now, what is the object of hope that David encourages his people to follow? Is it a better life? Is it a good looking spouse? More money? More French food? No, of course not; he says, “Hope in the Lord.” Our hope is not a place or a condition. It’s not to be away from sin, it’s not to be done with suffering, it’s not even to be out of hell. Our hope is to be with God, in the presence of God. Is that your hope?

There was a time where hope did not exist. There was a time when hope was not necessary. When Adam was in the garden, he did not need hope, he had everything he needed. And then one day he fell short of the glory of God. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to understand what Adam went through at that time. Imagine being in heaven and all the sudden getting kicked out of there. I don’t know if I could have survived that.

But then as Adam loses all the meaning of his life and of his identity God does something completely amazing. For the first time in the Bible, God makes a promise. For the first time, he gives hope. He says to the snake in Genesis 3:15,

“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
between your offspring and her offspring,
He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.”

The first promise of the Bible concerned the coming of Christ. Now, what is the last promise of the Bible? In Revelations 22:20 Jesus says, “Surely, I am coming soon.” What was the last promise of Jesus before leaving the earth? “I am with you always.” Now, what happened when Christ was born? Angels came on earth to sing. But what is interesting is that throughout the Bible you never see angels singing on earth. They always sing in the presence of God. Except when Christ came.

Christ is our hope because Christ is the presence of God. Adam had fallen short of the glory of God, but now, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” wrote Paul in Colossian 1:27.

We often say that the greatest gaol of the Christian is to glorify God. But what is interesting is that in Hebrew the root for ‘glory’ comes from the word ‘weight.’ The glory of God is the weight of God, it is the heaviness of his presence. For us to glorify God is to bear the weight of God, the presence of God. It is simply to get out of the picture to let God do his works through us. And that happens when we humble ourselves and rest in Him like a weaned child with its mother.

Now I hope you see the meaning of Colossian 1:27. Christ in you, the hope of glory. If the object of our hope is Jesus Christ and we have his Spirit within us, how much hope should we have? All of it. It does not matter anymore how hard the circumstances of life can be, we have God living in us. What do you expect when the living God is working? When we wake up every morning, we should have hope, because we should expect to see the living God at work. Do we realize what it means that we have a God that is rich in steadfast love and faithfulness? It means that God loves us, and that he does it all the time and with the same intensity. Now we know how deep is the love of God. He manifested it at the cross. And that is the same love with which he loves us every single moment of every day and it is the same love with which he prepares every single circumstance of every day. Every moment of every day, God planned them with the same intensity and passion that he showed at the cross.

That should motivate us to wake up early in the morning, shouldn’t it?

If we truly come to God with a contrite heart, casting on him all our cares and surrendering our lives in his hands with trust, then we are out of the picture. And at this point it is no longer us who live but Christ who live in us with the fullness of his glorious presence. Christ in us, the hope of glory. Steadfast love and faithfulness everyday.

What God requires of us is to walk humbly with him. He wants us to walk with him, to do life with him. To be mindful of him all the day long. Every moment is a gift, and it is also a test, to see if we can truly recognize the source of our hope, as Job wrote in Job 7:17-18,

“What is man, that you make so much of him,
and that you set your heart on him,
Visit him every morning
and test him every moment?”

Our hope is that God is here and that he will always be here. Every morning, he will come again to test us, to see if our trust is truly in him, to see if we are truly resting in him and letting him accomplish his work in us and through us.

Conclusion


Psalm 131 is a very intimate Psalm. David beings by calling the most personal name of the Lord, then he compares his relationship to him as the one of a weaned child with its mother. And at the end, David encourages his people to find hope in the living God that he has learnt to trust.

And that is my call for all of you today as well. Run away from pride, reject it. Find rest in the Lord, and hope in his presence. Our God is a loving God who desires us to rejoice and to be blessed. But in order to be blessed by him, we must learn to quiet our noise so that we can hear his voice. The voice of a nursing mother caring with all her might for a child as if it were one of the most precious things in the world. The voice of a loving shepherd calling his sheep by name, telling them how much he cares for them.

Zephaniah 3:17,
“The Lord God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.”