Psalms 131–133: Humility & Trust

Read the Bible in 2011Week 46: Wednesday

“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.”

Psalm 131

Wednesday’s Bible reading is Psalms 131–133. These three psalms are in Book V of the Psalms, and are part of the group of psalms known as the ‘Songs of Ascents’: Psalms 120–134.1 David wrote four of them: Psalms 122, 124, 131 and 133.

David’s words of humility and trust in Psalm 131 speak directly to our pride and desire to control. Charles Spurgeon wisely commented:

It is one of the shortest Psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn.2

Those of us with “Elephant’s Child Syndrome,” can have a hard time relinquishing our desire (or demand) to know why. In his sermon on Psalm 131, “The Weaned Child,” Spurgeon discussed going after controversies (cf. 1 Timothy 6:3–5; 2 Timothy 2:14, 23) and our restless whys of affliction:

“Prove all things”—do not run after their novelties till you have proved them. But what you have proved hold fast. Be conservative in God’s Truth, and radical too, by keeping to the root of the matter. Hold fast what you know and live mainly upon the simplicities of the Gospel, for, after all, the food of the soul does not lie in controversial points—it lies in points which we will never have controverted…

The same evil comes up in another form when we want to know all the reasons of Divine Providence—why this affliction was sent and why that? Why Father died—why those two children that we loved so well were taken from us? Why we do not prosper in our various enterprises? Why? Why? Why? Ah, when we begin asking, “Why? Why? Why?” what an endless task we have before us! If we become like a weaned child we shall not ask, “why?” but just believe that in our heavenly Father’s dispensations there is a wisdom too deep for us to fathom, a goodness veiled but certain!3

I don’t think Spurgeon meant we are to avoid diligent study and having a mature understanding of our faith and the teachings of Scripture, but he is discussing, as Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:4, having “a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions.” Spurgeon certainly diligently studied the Bible. Nor did he mean we are to avoid confronting lies—he firmly upheld the truth of the Gospel even when it meant controversy.

Trusting God with the whys of affliction can be so difficult. When I was writing on Job, I quoted from a chapter in Os Guinness’ book, Doubt, “Keyhole Theology,” described in the chapter’s subheading as, “Doubt from insistent inquisitiveness.”

When a Christian comes to faith his understanding and his trust go hand in hand, but as he continues in faith his trust may sometimes be called to go on by itself without his understanding….

…A Christian does not say, ‘I do not understand you at all, but I trust you anyway.’ Rather he says, I do not understand you in this situation, but I understand why I trust you anyway.’

…Face to face with mystery, and especially the mystery of evil, the faith that understands why it has come to trust must trust where it has not come to understand….

Can faith bear the pain and trust God, suspending judgement and resting in the knowledge that God is there, God is good, and God knows best? Or will the pain be so great that only meaning will make it endurable so that reason must be pressed further and further and judgements must be made?…To suffer is one thing, to suffer without meaning is another, but to suffer and choose not to press for any meaning is different again.5

We are called to trust in God even when we cannot begin to understand what He is doing in our lives. Guinness goes right to the heart:

The real temptation to doubt does not come in not believing God but in believing what is not God.6

Do you understand what he’s saying? This is why it is crucial that we know God’s Word because there God reveals Himself to us, and we see Him as He is. It is crucial to know God as He is so that in our suffering we can trust Him with the whys, rather than let our pain distort our understanding of Him. Guinness gives us this help.

A Christian doesn’t know why…, but (and here alone is the difference) he knows why he trusts God who knows why.

And how is this? …a Jew not in his youth, but in his prime…suffering in our place he might restore us to his Father, that then we might be sure that God is there, and God is good.

…Not surprisingly it is those whose faith in God is anchored in the incarnation—God become flesh, crucified, risen—whose faith can pass through the fires of suffering. For there is no question however deep or painful which cannot be trusted with the God who is the Father of Jesus Christ.7

Spurgeon concludes on the last verse of Psalm 131:

Hope on, hope ever.

1. For the past warrants such confidence.
2. For the present demands such confidence.
3. For the future will justify confidence.4

“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.”
Psalm 131


_________
Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1Leslie S. M’Caw, J. A. Motyer, “Psalms,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., p. 529.
2, 4Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Psalm 131.
3Charles Spurgeon, The Weaned Child, spurgeongems.org
5, 6, 7Os Guinness, Doubt, Lion Publishing plc, England, 1976, Third Edition,1987, pp. 199–200, 202, 206; 203; 211–212.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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