George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 5

Psalm 131

1. A psalm of David

This, one of David’s psalms, is incorporated into the Songs of Degrees because it expresses the most perfect and sincere resignation to the will of the Father. Here is the faith of a little child, single-minded and guileless (Matt. 18:3), which so characterized all the actions of both David and Hezekiah. This song of David has its roots in his early career. Some allusions may be traced in 1 Samuel:

David, anointed in the midst of his brothers (Psa. 23:5;45:7).
He became a skilful and prudent young man who found favor in the king’s sight.
Because of this, he was charged by his brothers with pride and naughtiness of heart (131:1).
Nevertheless, David expresses his humility: “I am a poor man, and lightly esteemed” (v. 1).

Lord, my heart is not haughty (gabah: to be high), nor mine eyes lofty (rum: lifted up). Once pride enters the heart, and is cherished there, it eventually finds expression in proud looks, which the Lord hates (Prov. 6:17; 21:4; Psa. 18:27; 101:5). This humility was the quality of character exhibited by David when the ark was brought to Zion. The king of all Israel cast off his royal outer garments and danced joyfully before the procession, as a slave would dance in the presence of his master. This provoked contempt from the haughty Michal, daughter of a king (Saul) as well as wife of another king. Born to power and position, she at least knew how a king should act; this spectacle was abominable in her sight, and she told David so. His reply was quick and uncompromising to her pride: ‘I have danced before the Lord, not before men. The Lord chose me above your father and all his house for this very attitude. And I will continue to make myself contemptible, and I will be abased in mine own eyes’ (2 Sam. 6:21,22).

Neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. The early life of David illustrates this peaceful acceptance of God’s will time after time. While his brothers sought the excitement and possible glory of battle, David remained behind to tend his father’s sheep. The dangers from wild beasts were just as great (1 Sam. 17:34-36), but the temporal rewards were non-existent. Anointed by Samuel as king of Israel, David spent years as a fugitive, declining several opportunities to slay Saul and grasp the kingdom that was rightfully his, for he knew that God would elevate him at the proper time. Even as an aged king, burdened by the effect of his sins, he did not abandon his trust in God. When cursed by Shimei he “turned the other cheek” (2 Sam. 16:11,12).
Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother. The picture is one of calmness and faith in the protection of God. David has quieted within himself the natural promptings of presumption and self-importance. The troubled waters, the waves and billows of his life, have been replaced by hope and praise and exaltation of the inner man (Psa. 42:5,7,11; 43:5).

My soul is even as a weaned child. This presents some difficulty. The RSV reads: “Like a child quieted at its mother’s breast... is my soul.” If this is the proper rendering, then the child at its mother’s breast (not the child weaned from that breast) is the emblem of one who has found his heart’s desire, of one who can comprehend no greater joy than the nourishment which he has at hand, and need look no further for complete satisfaction.
Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever (see 130:5,7). Here is a transition from the singular of vv. 1,2 to the plural. The experiences of the individual are by God’s revelation used to enlighten the multitude. David must have, on many an evening, sung the songs of his faith in his wilderness camp; and a hardened band of outlaws and rebels were transformed by his words.

The words of James, cited from Prov. 3:34, comment on this:

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God... Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:6,7,10; cp. also 1 Pet. 5:5,6).

2. A psalm of Hezekiah

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty. The same attitude of peaceful acceptance shown by David is also evident in Hezekiah when confronted with the taunts of Rabshakeh. He did not answer in kind, nor did he make vain boasts. But he humbled himself, putting on sackcloth and going into the house of God (Isa. 37:1). He would wait on the Lord’s deliverance. But later Hezekiah became proud, his heart lifted up at the arrival of ambassadors from a far country to admire his wealth and seek his counsel (2 Chron. 32:25). The glory that should have been God’s alone for His deliverance of the king and the nation was wrongfully assumed by Hezekiah. But at the sharp rebuke of Isaiah (39:3-7) he repented and humbled himself for the pride of his heart, and God’s wrath was turned away (2 Chron. 32:26). So perhaps this verse also depicts Hezekiah’s repentant resolution to revoke the imprudent Babylonian treaty.
Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever. As David’s words and actions softened the hard men around him, so also the wrestlings of the soul of Hezekiah became the inspiration to transform a nation, seeing as they did in him a parable of themselves — first weak and diseased, then turning in faith to God, to be healed and delivered.

3. A psalm of Messiah

It requires little imagination to see in this short and touching psalm a cameo of our Savior’s life. From an out-of-the-way stable in Bethlehem to a criminal’s cross outside the walls of Jerusalem, his every moment was a living testament to meekness and humility. The child born to kingship obediently submitted himself to poor parents and grew to maturity in the most lowly of surroundings. The tools of a common tradesman were his, this young man who listened to the voice of God. And afterward, when God in His own good time called His Son to service, his ears like the Father’s were attuned to the cries of the weak and the suffering:

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt. 11:28,29).

Childlike faith was his sure possession; he often found pleasant respite in the eager enthusiasm and simple trust of children (Matt. 18:1-4). They came to him and he taught them; his word was simple and pure. The lilies of the field, the beasts and fowls, the seed and the sower, the fishermen at their toil, were all arrayed as exhortations to childlike faith and dependence upon the Heavenly Father, and the “children” (whether six or sixty) understood. They gathered round him and found a new purpose in life. Surely the words of Jeremiah were written for this man: “The Lord is my portion... therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth” (Lam. 3:24-27).

My heart is not haughty. “And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39).

Neither do I exercise myself in great matters is expressive of Christ’s refusal to become a political Messiah (John 6:15; 18:36).
As a weaned child. Compare “Let this cup pass from me”, followed immediately by a desperate seeking for heavenly help.
Let Israel hope in the Lord. Apply this to the New Israel: From henceforth = the time of suffering; and for ever = the Kingdom!
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