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.
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.
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.
“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.”