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The Lord’s Pilgrim’s Child-Like Repose

The Lord’s Pilgrim’s Child-Like Repose

a brief study of Psalm 131, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 10 Nov 2011


Psalm 131 is another Pilgrim Psalm, which I am sure is a favourite of many covenant children. We often sing this psalm to the tune named ‘Humility’ and what a fitting tune, for humility is the theme of this psalm. As there are psalms for us to express our faith (e.g. Ps 46) and hope (e.g. Ps 71), and love (e.g. Psalm 116) so here is a psalm to express our humility. Here is the “The Lord’s Pilgrim’s Child-like Repose.”

This is a short psalm with only three verses. Verse 1 is a declaration of humble submission or contentment. Verse 2 is a reflection on the same. Verse 3 is a call to Israel to hope in the Lord.


1. Declaration of Contentment

1  LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.

Although this psalm was written by David, who can deny that only the Greater David can in full measure and in deepest sincerity of heart take these words in His lips. “Pride is the shirt of the soul, put on first and put off last,” says George Swinnock. Only Jesus has no sinful pride in his heart! David, a man after God’s own heart, was only in some measure like Him.

But if this is so, how shall we who are full of pride take these words in our lips? Well, we may for 3 reasons. First, we sing this Psalm in union with Christ who is our head. Secondly, we have been imputed with the righteousness of Christ. Thirdly, we have been given the Spirit of Christ so that we may indeed disown pride and look forward to the day when pride will be eradicated. The Lord Jesus says: “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3). Those of us who are in the kingdom are converted, and have become little children. We hate pride. We hate our sin. Thus we may indeed own these words in testimony of what has begun to be our experience in our heart of hearts.

But let’s meditate on the words a little. To be ‘haughty’ is to be proud and lifted up. The righteous heart is not proud in his opinion of himself. He does not look down on others, nor is he self-righteous. He is does not boast about his past or glory in his present. Nor is he over-confident about his future.

His demeanour reflects his attitude for his eyes are not lofty. To have lofty eyes is to have an arrogant carriage and disdainful look. This by itself is, of course, not evidence of humility for many a proud person knows how to appear humble so as to win the esteem of others. But there is no guile or deceit in our Lord’s appearance. What we see of Him is a true reflection of His heart.

But did not the Lord know everything? How then could He have said “neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Well, yes, as the God-Man, Jesus could choose to know everything—if He wanted to. But amazingly, He chose not to know everything. For example, He knew not the day of His own glory or when He would come again. He was content not to know.

The children of God must cultivate the same attitude as the Lord. We must not only be content in regard to our outward estate, we must be content in regard to our knowledge. Of course, the pursuit of knowledge is never wrong. Indeed, the pursuit of biblical knowledge is required of us for we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.

But, we must never allow knowledge to puff up our minds and make us proud, so that we look down on those who know less than we do. Nor should we seek to know what the Lord has chosen not to reveal to us. We must rather be content to believe and to trust the Lord. This we must do in regard to the future. This we must do in regard to the deep things of God which transcend our understanding such as the relationship between God’s absolute sovereignty and the thoughts of man.

It is in this way that our lives can reflect a true God-honouring child-likeness as described in verse 2.


2. Reflection of Child-likeness

2 Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.

The word ‘surely’ carries the force of an oath in the original. Humility can be faked before man, but God cannot be fooled. God knows everything. He knows us even better than we do.

As we sing these words of strong affirmation with our Lord, we are compelled to make sure that what is on our lips truly reflect the reality of our heart and life.

Now, “a weaned child” is essentially a young child that has been weaned off his mother’s breast. For the Hebrew people around the time David wrote this psalm it would be around three years old. Now, many of us when we think of a three year old child will think of a little, boisterous, and demanding spoilt brat.

But we must remember that we live in a different time. The picture that is painted in this psalm is that of a quiet and contented child leaning against his mother’s breast. He knows that his mother could, but would no more allow him to suckle, and so he does not demand his way. He is well behaved and submits himself to his mother’s provision, trusting that whatever she provides will be best for him.

Now, this is how our Lord was, and how every child of God should be. Our Lord is the eternal Son of God. He is very God himself, but He counted it not robbery to be equal with God, but took upon Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of man (Phil 2:7). It was in this estate that our Lord was content to suffer and die for us. Like a weaned child, He was content to cast himself into the hands of His Father.

Like our Lord, we must learn the same. Nothing is impossible with God. He is able to provide all that we need, but we must understand that in His sovereign wisdom, He would not give us everything that we may crave—including what we may think to be good for us.

May the Lord grant that we will indeed be like a weaned child in our soul.

Indeed, may the Lord grant that as a church we may have the same attitude. This is the desire expressed in verse 3.


3. Call to Hope in the LORD

3 Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.

The psalms are designed for corporate worship. This remains true even when the theme of a particular psalm revolves around personal, heartfelt issues. Psalm 131 is no different. This is why the last verse of this psalm seems so out of place.

In this psalm, we express humility and contentment in union with Christ our Saviour. But this attitude is not merely a nice attitude to have. It is not even merely a necessary attitude. Rather it is an attitude that is necessary for the people of God who would enjoy and glorify God as His people. For it is with this child-like attitude of humility and contentment that God’s people can place their trust and hope in the LORD through all the trials and changing scenes of life.

The more unlike a weaned child the church is, the more God’s people will be frustrated, discontented, and disillusioned. The more the people insist on their way rather than the way of the Father, the more they will murmur and grumble, and the more they will live without hope, joy and peace.

Therefore, it should be our hope and prayer that a Christ-like spirit of child-likeness becomes more and more evident in the church. The more this attitude is prevalent, the more the church will hope in the Lord, and the more we shall glorify and enjoy God in our generation. And thus we sing as we conclude this psalm of yearning for humility and contentment: Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.”


Conclusion

Psalm 131 is a simple and beautiful psalm. May the Lord grant us that we can sing it with sincerity and yearning in our hearts. May we encourage one another in the cultivation of this Christ-like attitude of a weaned child as we sing this psalm together? Amen.