It’s been a month or so since our series on the Book of Psalms ended. I hope it was as positively life-changing for you as it has been for me. This journey through the psalms has been a blessing in so many ways, particularly in terms of how it has enriched my devotional times with God. There’s a simple joy in coming to God like a child, and learning how to say to him ‘sorry’, ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘I love you’ with the very words He has breathed out for us in his divine wisdom. But for today’s praiselines, my focus will be on how one particular psalm, Psalm 131, taught me to say to God, ‘You are enough’. This Psalm has been on my lips on many a sorrowful night, and has been such a comfort to me. I hope that as we walk through this short psalm, that you too may share in the peace, hope and joy in God that the Spirit yearns to fill us with.
A song of ascents. Of David.
1 My heart is not proud, LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
3 Israel, put your hope in the LORD
both now and forevermore.
On my first reading of this psalm, I hesitated a bit at the first verse. On what basis am I to say to God that my heart is not proud and my eyes are not haughty? God knows the depth of my sinful pride, and he knows the deceitful thoughts in my mind. Surely the one who claims to be humble is the one who is furthest from being humble! How could I pray this psalm when I know and you know and above all, God knows what a proud person I am?
The answer is that we do not pray this psalm from a position of self-righteous false humility. We pray this psalm like the man who, recognising his own weakness, said to Jesus, “I believe. Help my unbelief!” As Christians, we pray this psalm trusting not in our merit, but in the full forgiveness that Jesus won for us. We pray this psalm only from the security that our undeserved adoption in Christ offers. We pray this psalm as those who are no longer held by the power of sinful pride, but we pray as those who by the Spirit are commanded and enabled to put sin to death in our lives (Romans 8:13).
And so as we speak verse 1 to God, what we are really saying is this: “My heart is not proud, Lord. My eyes are not haughty. How could I be proud standing before the cross of your Son? How could my eyes be haughty when I see the costly price you paid to free me from my sin? How can I see your cross and not pour contempt on the pride that put Jesus there? Yet, you know where pride continues to dwell in my heart, Lord. By your Spirit, humble me. Kill my pride that it may be true of me to say I do not chase self-glory by concerning myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. Instead, help me to live as one who submits to your rule and your will, seeking only your glory.”
And just in case this all seems quite abstract, the psalmist gives us a very vivid illustration in verse 2 to help us see what it looks like be proud and what it looks like to put pride away. Those of us who have taken care of little nursing babies who clamour for their mother’s milk know that this is a picture of pure agony. The child is wailing away, as if to say ‘Waaa….Give me milk NOW!NOW! NOW! waaaa.’ What is implied in verse 2 is that the one who is proud is in some ways like such a child. But instead of clamouring for milk, we clamour for other things.
‘Waaaa……give me respect and glory NOW! NOW! NOW!..waaaa’
‘Waaaa……give me love and attention and affirmation NOW! NOW! NOW!…waaaa’
‘Waaaa….treat me the way I demand to be treated NOW! NOW! NOW!…waaaa’
Now of course, most people don’t cry and scream like this when they don’t get what they want. But this picture of agonised wailing is simply a representation of what happens in the prideful heart. When we feel we have not gotten what we deserve, when our pride rears its ugly head to demand what we believe are our rights and entitlements, do we not lose sleep? Do we not angrily bite and tear at each other to get what we want? Do we not exchange peace for anxiety and endless rumination? Perhaps your pride leads you to behave in some other way, but a prideful heart will certainly not overflow in a life marked with contentment. Instead, it will be marked with bitterness, complaints, and a general lack of the saltiness that should characterise the life of redeemed saints.
Yet, contentment is exactly what verse 2 is about. As we pray verse 2 along with the psalmist, we are saying to God that we have taken the step of faith to move away from the anxious tussle for self-glory. The picture that verse 2 provides of the one who is content is that of a weaned child, no longer squirming and fussing for his mother’s milk, but resting peacefully in her arms. Where does this peace come from? Is it just something we generate internally with our flagging force of will? Is it something that rests on the quicksand of our circumstances?Verse 3 tells us that this peace stems from the sure and certain hope that comes from God. And as we say these words, we say them by faith in Christ. “Lord, help me to put my hope in you both now and forevermore. Help me to find my contentment in you. Help me to see that in Christ, I have been given so much more than I deserve. Would you help me to be content in Christ alone, Lord? Would you help me to find in Christ my all-in-all? Help me therefore to relate to others, not in a grasping way that demands something from them to fill my emptiness. Rather, help me to reach out to others as one fully satisfied in Christ, that I may sincerely love and serve those around me, giving my life for them, and in so doing point them to the Saviour who did so in the most wonderful way imaginable.”
This is just one little example of how the psalms have been a blessing to me in my time of prayer with God. I would like to encourage all of us to explore more deeply the riches of the Book of Psalms and to use the psalms as a repository of divine prayers we can say to God by faith. How rich our prayer lives would become if we would just turn to the resources that God has blessed us with! It is my prayer that our journey with the psalms would not end with the sermon series, but that through the psalms, God would continue to speak to us and help us speak to him to strengthen our faith in him and help us to walk closely with him in every season of life. May we continue to obey God’s command to let the message of Christ dwell among us richly as we teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in our hearts.