Psalm 131
Psalm 131
It is possible to waste our lives. But as we choose to live well, scripture says it is still possible to do that in a way that serves self.
Published November 24th, 2021
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Main point summary
Main point summary
I have made myself rest in You, Lord, rather than living the anxious life of sinful ambition.
Psalms 131:1-3
O Lord, my heart is not a proud,
O Lord , my heart is not s lifted up ;
O Lord, I don't think too highly of myself
nor my eyes 1 b haughty;
my eyes are not t raised too high ;
and I don't look down on others;
Nor do I 2 involve myself in c great matters,
I do not u occupy myself with things too great
and not / therefore I don't get involved in things that are too big
Or in things d too 3 difficult for me.
and v too marvelous for me .
and not in things that are beyond what I should aim for
Surely I have a composed
But I have calmed
Instead , I have chosen to be content
and quieted my soul;
and quieted my soul ,
and to quiet my ambition;
Like a weaned b child rests 1 against his mother,
like a weaned w child with its mother ;
in the same way that a child that no longer breastfeeds is able to rest against his mom's chest without rooting for milk
My soul is like a weaned child 1 within me.
like a weaned child is my soul within me .
so I've caused my soul to not be restless with ambition... I've weaned myself from these oversized projects.
O Israel, a hope in the Lord
x O Israel, hope in the Lord
Like a weaned child (and like me), you people of God, be content and hope in God and not yourselves through lofty ambition.
b From this time forth and forever.
from this time forth and forevermore.
at the present time and always
Two ways to live The Holy Spirit reveals in this chapter that there are two ways to set goals. Look at how they are contrasted: Verse 1 gives us the wrong way: Wrong attitude: arrogant thoughts, looking down on others (vs 1a), and hoping in self (contrast of vs 3). Wrong action: going after big things or things too difficult for me (vs 1b). Verses 2-3 give us the right way: Right action: stopping the anxious striving, and resting in the Lord (vs 2) Right attitude: this is actually hoping in the Lord (vs 3) We might think that this means we should just avoid "biting off more than we can chew." And it may include that (as in "things too difficult for me"). But it is more; we see this in several places: the attitude of our heart (vs 1a) the perspective of our eyes (vs 1b) whether our soul is calm or restless (the contrast of vs 2) whether our hope is in the LORD or not (vs 3) And there is the key: t his "rooting" (like an unweaned child) for greatness is actually a hope issue ( vs 3 )... hope in self vs hope in the LORD. Why hope in the Lord Interestingly, the most explicit reason this passage gives for why to hope in the LORD rather than ourselves doesn't have to do with His ability but with our limitations ( vs 1b , cf. also John 15:5) . We can bring in other passages to see positive reasons for hoping in Him: He is "the only wise God" (Jude 1:25) " power belongs to God" (Psalm 62:11) "His lovingkindness is everlasting" (Psalm 100:5) Or, as one pastor has put it, He is both "caring and capable." Pushing back (questions for clarification) Is the answer just be a moderate... to set goals that are not too low and not to high? No, David involved himself in some pretty "great" and "difficult" things (1 Sam 17). Does this mean having no goals and just watching Netflix all day? No. Scripture says elsewhere that we should work (2 Thes 3:10). This chapter is against working for the goal of self. Does it mean avoiding things that require faith - for those are great things? Obviously no, God wants us to live a life of faith ( Heb 11:6 ). But big things can seem more exciting than the mundane, faith-requiring tasks of everyday life and discipleship. Don't give up! God rewards (again, Heb 11:6). What if other people expect us to have exciting goals or accomplish great things? They are not our master (Prov 29:25, Rom 14:4). Should we not cast vision as leaders? Yes, still do that (Prov 29:18). Should we never fill out a performance evaluation? Still do that, but giving credit where credit is due (1 Peter 4:11). What if our situation requires a hectic pace (e.g. ER doctor or parent of several young children)? Sometimes our hectic schedule is our own making (such as Martha in Luke 10:38-42 ), but not always: t he language in vs 1 is volitional... the choosing to seek greatness. Applications How do we know if we're hoping in self or resting in God? How do we know if we're involving ourselves in things that are "too marvelous" for us? Here are some possible diagnostic questions... Are you running hard after a career advancement? To what end? And where is your hope? If you're certain your goals are of the LORD, what does it look like to trust Him rather than self to get there? Are you working toward marrying the perfect person? In our goal of finding someone who loves the Lord, are we still content when we see they have flaws (...since we have them, too)? Are you stressed out about your kids? In our good aim to see them walk with God, are we taking responsibility / ownership for their minds & hearts in a way that belongs only to God? Is an area of ministry floundering? Should we automatically swoop in and fix it or is there a time to disciple and mobilize? If it's of the LORD, can He not raise up His people in His time? Application: thinking about our to-do list What does "great or too marvelous" mean? or what could it include? goal of tasks? number of tasks? strength/means for tasks? timing of tasks? How to train ourselves David he's made a choice (vs 2). How can we? Here are 3 ideas 1. Wait on Him wait... rest... not do... be still. This may even mean to let something (seem to) flounder or fail. God values our waiting on Him: "you have only to be silent." (Exodus 14:14) "be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10) "in quietness and rest is your strength" (Isaiah 30:15) "...a God who works for those who wait on Him" (Isaiah 64:4) Practically, p erhaps this approach would help: before we add it to to our do list, add it to our prayer list. Perhaps, at times, try not go faster in things than you can and still practice the presence of God ("What next Daddy?"). 2. Rest on Him Making the most of the Lord's Day in worship and physical rest. This is actually a gospel attitude... resting from our works to rest on Christ Heb 4 Gal 3 Matthew 11:28-30 3. Share Sharing power, sharing responsibility, sharing decision making authority with others in the body of Christ can be a way to hope in the Lord. He is more likely to get the glory. For further meditation: Josh Wilson - "Dream Small" (Lyric Video) The hymn Jesus Cast a Look on Me and it's reference to our "busy pride"
Brent Karding
Why hope in the Lord
Good use of cross-references in this and the next section. I especially liked this section's use of cross-references, because you're supporting the main point of the psalm: "Hope in the Lord!"
Brent Karding
Why hope in the Lord
As I read, I found myself wishing you had spent a little more time on 3a: that's the main point of the whole psalm according to your bracket. The emphasis isn't "here are two ways you could live," but "you really need to live like this, by hoping in the Lord." You could emphasize that verse 2 is describing "hoping in the Lord."
Jonathan Stamberg
Thanks for this and your other thoughts Brent... all helpful!
Brent Karding
You're welcome!
Brent Karding
Two ways to live
I really like your first point, about "two ways to live." You helpfully show the logic of the text to your listeners. I think this is a good level of "thickness."
Brent Karding
I have made myself rest in You, Lord, rather than living the anxious life of sinful ambition.
It would be better to make the main point summary the largest bracket of all, the Cf. This is actually only a summary of 1c-2d.
Brent Karding
Your paraphrase is creative and faithful to the logic as well.
Brent Karding
Your relationship choices are all strong. I especially like your Neg-Pos, which makes the logic clear, and your largest Cf bracket.
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.