Psalms of Ascent – Psalm 131 – Calm My Spirit

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Psalm 131 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

A Davidic song of ascents.

  1. LORD, my heart is not proud, my eyes are not haughty.  I do not get involved with things too great or too difficult for me.
  2. Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself like a little child with its mother; I am like a little child.
  3. Israel, put your hope in the LORD, both now and forever.

Beth says:

Psalm 131 reminds us the words of God are not primarily for seminaries, dissertations, and theological treatments.  They are primarily for everyday living on the third rock from the sun.

Scripture is for how you do life, whether at home, at work or on a date, at a baby shower, at a funeral, or at church.

For a small scripture, it packs a huge punch.

1.  Don’t be a proud, haughty busy-body.

To me, at first glance the psalmist is stating that he is just an ordinary person.  (Remember, the psalmist was David.)  Looking deeper, I get “be humble” and “do not go looking for trouble.”  Both things I tend to have trouble with. 

Webster’s defines proud as:

  1. feeling or showing pride:  as  a: having or displaying excessive self-esteem  b: much pleased:  EXULTANT  c: having proper self-respect

So pride can be a good thing when in moderation and in the proper mindset.  More often than not, though, we think of pride in the negative connotation.  Unchecked pride can lead to arrogance and self-righteousness at best, and outright rebellion against God and His ways at worst. 

Beth states:

We recognize snobbery and pride pretty easily in others and despise nothing more.  Somehow when we are the snob, however, the thin air at the altitude where we keep our noses impairs our judgement.

If it weren’t so true, it would be funny.  As it is, it hit me in the gut.  This is where I have struggled the most.  It doesn’t seem like a major sin – not like murder or adultery – but God has some extremely harsh things to say about pride.  He hates it. 

Proverbs 8:13 – To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.

Proverbs 16:18-19 – Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.  Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.

Ezekiel 16:49-50 – Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom:  She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.  They were haughty and did detestable things before me.  Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.

Did you see that?  One of our pastors preached a sermon several months ago on the passage in Ezekiel.  In a passage where God is speaking specifically about the sin of Sodom, what does He say it was?  Definitely not what I would have thought.  The first thing God listed was not sexual perversion, it was arrogance.  The second thing God listed was not sexual perversion, it was gluttony.  The third thing God listed was not sexual perversion, it was being unconcerned about their fellow men.  In fact, sexual perversion is not specifically listed at all.  The implication is that sexual perversion, which is what we all think of first when we think of Sodom, was a result of these other things, starting with arrogance. 

Ouch.

Arrogance in my own past made me judgmental toward some people, especially those who ridicule my faith.  It hardened my heart toward them.  It hindered my testimony, and therefore, the Kingdom of God.  What Beth says is so true:  God cannot bring the kingdom increase to my harvest, which He desires to bring, until my ego decreases.  I am grateful that God has begun the process of working to soften my heart toward people who are so bound by Satan that they cannot see the truth.  That is how I need to view those who attack my faith.  That is how I am beginning to view them.  One small thing is making the biggest difference in my outlook.  Getting into God’s Word.  Hearing His heart for the lost.  Wanting the things He wants.  Again, Beth hits the nail on the head: 

. . . our pride is a strobe light flashing how ignorant we are about God despite our lengthy quiet times and in-depth studies.  Above all things besides love, humility is the truest sign of intimacy with God.  Like little else, a humble spirit says we really do ‘get it.’

I want to ‘get it.’

The second part of verse one addresses something I have wrestled with since starting this blog.  I want to journal about the things I am learning mainly because it is a way for me to remember more of the information, but also because hopefully someone else going through similar things that I am going through might see something that helps them.  My biggest fear doing this is that I will say something stupid or just plain wrong and hinder their walk.  I try to steer clear of things I do not understand and stick with what God is doing in my life and things I am learning and discovering on the journey with Him.  I do not claim to be a theologian or bible scholar.  That is why I have a disclaimer.  lol  (See “A Word About My Devotional Blog” above.)  I never want to “speak for” God or try to explain why He does what He does.  That is just stupid.  Job 38:2 says:

“Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?”

In other words, “What idiot opened their mouth and made things worse?”  Beth states that this doesn’t mean we aren’t to offer possible explanations for the deeper things of Scripture and its divine Author.  She asks how we can know when a matter is too great for us to address, then sends us to Deuteronomy 29:29.

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this Law.

God reveals some things to us through His Word.  Beth states:

The things God has revealed are meant for us to study, ponder, teach, and share, though even then with discretion and wisdom regarding our hearer’s capacity to handle them.  The secret things, however, belong to God – for instance, exactly why planes hit buildings, tsunamis hit cities, and children get cancer.

Though I don’t understand why God allows some things to happen, I know that He is in complete control.  No matter what we face here on earth, one day when we see God face to face, none of it will matter.  As Saint Anselm said:

I do not seek, O Lord, to penetrate thy depths.  I by no means think my intellect equal to them:  but I long to understand insome degree they truth, which my heart believes and loves.  For I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe, that I may understand.

2.  Don’t be a self-loathing, miserable “woe-is-me” victim.

Beth starts out this part of the lesson with a quote from Eugene Peterson regarding this psalm.  It is extremely profound, and reminded me, sadly again, of several people I know.

But if we are not to be proud, clamorous, arrogant persons, what are we to be?  Mousy, cringing, insecure ones?  Well, not quite.  Having realized the dangers of pride, the sin of thinking too much of ourselves, we are suddenly in danger of another mistake, thinking too little of ourselves.  There are some who conclude that since the great Christian temptation is to try to be everything, the perfect Christian solution is to be nothing.  And so we have the problem of the doormat Christian and the dishrag saint:  the person upon whom everyone walks and wipes their feet, the person who is used by others to clean up the mess of everyday living and then is discarded.  These people then compensate for their poor lives by weepily clinging to God, hoping to make up for the miseries of everyday life by dreaming of luxuries in heaven.  Christian faith is not neurotic dependency but childlike trust.  We do not have a God who forever indulges our whims but a God whom we trust with our destinies.

What is meant by neurotic dependency?  To me it brings an image of people who have a martyr complex – who live their lives in a “woe-is-me” state and somehow feel their self-imposed misery makes them pious.  As Beth states, we don’t cure arrogance by becoming victims.  This can happen if we let ourselves believe the lie that God is punishing us for past mistakes when bad things happen in the present.  “We are not victims of God but His cherished children.”

He is not reluctant to use the picture of a mother’s love for her child as we try to imagine His care for us . . . . God often likens His care to a parent and sometimes as a mother to teach us that though He is but one parent, and He is Father, He is everything we need.

As a mother, I cannot begin to put into words the love I have for my child.  I still like to try to hold him on my lap, even though he is now 5’6″ and weighs 130 pounds.  I am constantly thinking about him and praying for his safety.  I hug him when he is sad, and kiss his boo-boos when he is injured.  I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I would not hesitate to give my life for him or to kill to keep him safe.  He might do things that upset me occassionally, and I might have to discipline him, but I do not enjoy it at all.  I could never, ever continue to punish him repeatedly for a mistake he made in the past.  That would be vindictive and cruel.  It is unfathomable to me. 

If I, being a mere human, can love my child that much, how much greater, then, is God’s love for His children?  God is love.  My love for my child is just a shadow of God’s love for us. 

He carries us.  (Deut. 1:31)

He fathered us.  (Deut. 32:18)

He will carry and deliver us.  (Isaiah 46:3-4)

He will not forget us.  (Isaiah 49:15)

He will comfort us.  (Isaiah 66:13)

God calls us His children for a reason.  WE ARE.  We can be confident in His love for us. 

My Psalm 131:

LORD, remove pride from my heart; let me see others through Your eyes.  Let me know when to speak and when to keep quiet so I do not damage my testimony and hinder Your kingdom.  Teach me to have a calm spirit and to be slow to speak; let me learn to be still and enjoy Your presence, Abba.  I will put my hope in You always.

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One thought on “Psalms of Ascent – Psalm 131 – Calm My Spirit

  1. I am also participating in the Stepping Up bible study by Beth Moore. I found your comments in researching some of the scripture. I enjoyed reading them and they have given me additional insight.

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