Psalm 131

Written on: July 29, 2020

Article by: David Nickele

A Song of Ascents, of David.

“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” (vs 1-3)

Psalm 131, in the New American Standard Bible, begins by telling us it is a Song of Ascents of King David, the twelfth of fifteen, likely sung to God by the writer as a song of praise or prayer.

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“O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;”

David begins his song by addressing his Lord, Jehovah. He explains that his heart is not proud, he tells his God that he is not vain in what he seeks, but rather that he is content in what he has. Haughty could be translated as “lofty,” “arrogantly superior” or “disdainful.”

“Nor do I involve myself in great matters,”

David tells God that he stays out of what is going on and doesn’t actively seek to put himself in the middle of important matters. Depending on when David wrote this it could have been before he was made king, or after. Before he was made king he would not have been too involved with matters of state or what is expected of a King, however after much of what he would be involved in would be “great matters.”

“Or in things too difficult for me.”

Humility: either before or after becoming the king of Israel, David shows a proper amount of humility and a desire to stay out of the great matters around him, being cautious for those concerns of difficulty that he could face. Prior to becoming king his most dire situations involved protecting the lambs of the flock he herded, against grave threats from lions and bears (1 Samuel 17:34–36). This would have taught him not to get too involved with situations beyond his abilities. During his fight with the giant Goliath he knew God was on his side. He could face Goliath and trusting in God to overthrow him with the sling and a stone (1 Samuel 17:37-50). During his time in the wilderness fleeing from King Saul, he did only what he had to to survive, while still honouring God (1 Samuel 23:14–29). As King of Israel, David would be met with almost constant war and political unrest, even after gaining peace. It would begin to unravel after Uriah and Bathsheba, first with his son Absalom and then with many others (2 Samuel 11ff).

“Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;”

David here says that he has composed and quieted his soul. The “surely” implies that he strongly believes his position. With some aspect of certainty David is sure that he is composed, which could be translated as having one’s feelings under control or a calmness. Having a quieted soul could allude to overcoming strife, perhaps directly after the wilderness when he began piecing his life back together, or later in his life when he faced grave situations and overcame struggles. Soul here doesn’t mean literally his soul, but rather an inner calm of his heart, mind and body. It could also be about his passions, that they are under control, calmed.

“Like a weaned child rests against his mother,”

David here focuses on both the beauty and the innocence of a situation where a baby “rests” or is upon its mother’s chest. In this case the child is content. Above all because it is not an image of struggle or crying, but rather weaned and resting, a sense of complete contentment and finality. It is important to note that this is not a weaning child, but rather a weaned child. Though still dependent on mother for food, baby is done with milk and ready to be given a diet of solids (1 Corinthians 3:2).

“My soul is like a weaned child within me.”

Coupled with the previous sentence, David likens his inner soul to that of the weaned child. The image given is that of completed satisfaction. Without needing anything further. And perhaps ready for a new chapter in his life, as a weaned child begins to eat solids, David could be ready for the next step of God’s guidance which he trusts completely in.

“O Israel, hope in the Lord”

The previous sentences have been a measure of child-like trust in God, but what David is asking the people of Israel to do is not just to trust but to hope in God. Throughout the Old Testament there are plenty of examples of the Israelites literally seeing God’s wonders and turning to worshipping false gods, such as at Mount Sinai (Exodus 32), when the people saw Moses “delayed” they went to Aaron and had him build them a golden calf. Trusting in God seemed to come and go, but perhaps what David is focusing on here is don’t just trust in God, but hope in him. “Hope” could be defined as a desire or expectation for something to happen, “trust” is based on a confident belief. David conveys the need for his country to hope in the Lord, perhaps not just hope, but to trust as he himself trusts in the Lord.

“From this time forth and forever.”

No better way to say from now and into eternity. There is immediacy here; not tomorrow or sometime next week or month, but from this very moment and without end.

General Application

The image that David, King of Israel gives us in the 131st Psalm is that of child-like trust, hope and faith in God. Not just an example of it, but a plea from him to his people, as inheritors of the promise God gives to his people, we are inheritors of this plea to “hope in the Lord” from that time and forever.

David focuses on a few themes in this short Psalm, to name a few: humility, peace and growth. I would have us focus on humility, peace and growth in addition to the focus of trust achieved in this Psalm.

Humility can be defined as a modest view of one’s own self. In accordance with the psalmist here, he gives attention in the first verse to not wanting to be made important or have high standing, but rather seemingly content with what he has. Something we can learn from his example is the need to be humble and appreciate what we have, even if it is not want we may want for ourselves. Not having the most important position at work or the new car, allows us to appreciate what God has given us and respect those gifts more.

Peace can be defined as tranquility or serenity, the example of the Psalmist here is that of fulfilment and contentment. A weaned soul, doesn’t need anything more. Now of course there is always more to be learned and aspired to, at which God can begin to offer something more than milk to those of us who can overcome the lesser spiritual lessons and move on to what comes next.

Growth can be defined as maturing physically, mentally or emotionally and spiritually. This example of the Psalmist is one weaned from spiritual milk and ready for spiritual meat. If written in David’s earlier life, or a retelling of his earlier life, God takes him at his word and does give him the next spiritual piece of meat to bite into. We too will constantly be developing ourselves and God will continue to let us grow. How much we bite off will help or hinder but ultimately if we are trusting in God, we will grow.

Waterloo, Ontario