Psalm 131

Psalm 131

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I Have Calmed and Quieted My Soul

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

131   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.

(ESV)


Psalm 131 Commentary

by Hank Workman

Pride – a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.

Arrogance – having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities.

There are 2 different occasions given to what provoked such a prayer by David as he asked for his pride and arrogance to be in check.  Some believe this was when Saul was on the hunt for David throughout the years as he was accused of having an ambition to take the throne.  The second thought is when David brought the Ark of the Covenant back into Jerusalem and danced with all his might.  His wife Michal accused him of being vulgar and undignified and this psalm was David’s response as he sought God to see if his heart was right.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what provoked the prayer.  David sought God to make sure and remove any pride, arrogance and selfish ambition that may have been there.

As Charles Spurgeon notes, “It is one of the shortest Psalms to read but one of the longest to learn.”

In the first verse alone, David rejects pride as he comes before God with humility.  He also rejected arrogance, which follows closely after the first.  David knew God resisted the proud but gave grace to the humble.  Conscious of his relationship with God he wanted to make sure he did not overstep as he sought out God for issues that plague humankind.  He did not want to fall into the trap.

Selfish ambition is a dangerous thing to which David learned to reject.  His heartfelt prayer was that his focus would be on what God had willed for his life, not what others told or even what his own heart may have desired.  But the question becomes, how do we know our ambition is of God which He’s put in our hearts or it is self-motivated?

On many notes as complex of an answer this may be, it comes back to who gains what through whatever we’re desiring to happen.  For as we know many a selfish ambition is cloaked in religiosity and even sweeping comments about God himself.  But underneath the surface is our own desire for the recognition as leader or one who came in and saved the day or even one who fought our way to the top.  We must be careful with such ambitions.  We must determine if it is God who is drawing the strings together for it to take place and not ourselves.

As Peterson notes, It is difficult to recognize unruly ambition as a sin because it has a kind of superficial relationship to the virtue of aspiration.”

Here is where we should take note of David.  He sought God for answers and asked for his heart to be in check.  We should do the same – again and again.  We should seek out our God to humble us if we are on track with selfish ambition or our ways are driven by pride and creating a name for ourselves.  Such a prayer of humility God will answer, possibly in ways we may not have expected.


Psalm 131 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

“Here we find the description of a humble, a broken and contrite spirit. It has well been said, ‘All virtues together are a body of which humility is the head.’ How many Scriptures teach the great importance and value of such true humility.” 

Dr. Arno C. Gaebelein

Pride is such a faith killer. Not only that, it consistently flies under the radar, duping even the most dedicated Christ-followers into following their own hearts.

Author David Powlison has written the anti-psalm to Psalm 131. It serves to contrast the real thing in order to teach us exactly what kind of heart and attitude oppose God. This is what he writes…

Self,

my heart is proud (I’m absorbed in myself),
and my eyes are haughty (I look down on other people),
and I chase after things too great and too difficult for me.

So of course I’m noisy and restless inside, it comes naturally,

like a hungry infant fussing on his mother’s lap,
like a hungry infant, I’m restless with my demands and worries.
I scatter my hopes onto anything and everybody all the time.

David Powlison

How many of us (just this week) have been absorbed in ourselves? How many of us have looked down on others? How many of us have or are currently chasing after things that are too great or difficult for us?

There is a direct connection between humility and peace. I have seen it firsthand. Not only in myself, but in others as well. Have you ever noticed that the most prideful people are often the most restless and busy? They are constantly trying to find significance in their achievements. They go above and beyond to try and prove their spiritual value to others. When they receive praise, their pride goes into overdrive, grasping for more and more “ladders to nowhere”.

“Psalm 131 is holy eavesdropping on the thought processes of a man at peace inside. 131:1 reveals how our proud self-will is our biggest problems, and causes the noisy static inside. 131:2 describes the process by which we become quiet and composed, and vividly likens it to the weaning of a child. 131:3 gives the reason for quiet in compact form. Examines a series of particulars, “ladders to nowhere” that pride erects: achievement, acquisition, appetite, and avoidance. Shows how Jesus reconfigures our inner mindset to become like His own.”

David Powlison
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