A Composed and Quiet Soul Hopes in the Lord

Psalm 131

If you had to paint a picture of trust and tranquility, what would it look like? A father and son fishing from a boat on a glass-smooth lake? A baby sleeping in a mother's arms? It is likely that each of us would come up with a different image. It would depend on what we each relate to, and on what we are looking for. And who would not want to have a place in the ideal picture of peace and quiet?

Psalm 131 contains a vignette of a composed and tranquil soul. What follows is a meditation on this picture and clues on how we can develop the trust in The Lord that leads to composure and confident quietude.

Though it is a short song of trust, Psalm 131 implies a depth of experience that comes from a long walk with The Lord. The superscript identifies it as "A Songs of Ascents, of David." David was a person of deep spiritual experience, who had a strong relationship with God.

The psalmist begins by addressing The Lord: "O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty." His opening, and the words that follow, indicate an intimacy that comes with deep spiritual experience. He speaks, knowing The Lord will understand and accept his confession. We do not know what has happened in his life, but it is cause for reflection on his reliance upon, and humility before, The Lord, the ever- present existing One. God knows it all before we tell Him; our acknowledgement, "getting it off our chest," helps us to find peace and resolution. We can trust Him, He understands. We can find peace in talking to Him.

The heart of the psalmist, the centre of his soul, is not proud. It is not filled with the presumptuous pride that seeks independence, or worse, equality with God, or superiority. His eyes are not "haughty," or "lofty." They are not set above their proper plane to look at things beyond their grasp. They are content to let those things out of reach go by. Is our world not filled with millions of eye-catching images hoping to trap our affections? We can let these things go by and trust The Lord for even better things, things that last.

The last two lines of verse one expand on the tranquil humility of a heart right with The Lord:

Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
It's so easy to rush around chasing a dozen things at once. It's not necessary, trust Him. And didn't many of us, when we were young, emulate our heroes and imagine ourselves doing great things like them, being stars? Instead of regretting our unfulfilled dreams, trust Him: realize that the great complex issues of our time will pass away, along with the "great" names that are part of them. When they are gone, The Lord will still be. Leave the great things to Him, do the humble tasks He assigns. Let Him exalt you in His time (1 Peter 5:6; James 4:10).

Notice in verse two what role our poet has to play in his peace: "Surely I have composed and quieted my soul." The word for composing can literally mean "make even, flat, uniform, or lay out smoothly." "Quieted" can also mean "silenced," "stilled," implying tranquility.

Notice who is doing the composing and quieting. Yes, it is the person, not God. This person seems at a distance from his soul; he can work on it. We have an important part to play in humility. God commands it; with His help we must humble ourselves: "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time" (1 Peter 5:6). We are responsible for not allowing our feathers to get too ruffled. How? By trusting Him, turning it over to Him, patiently waiting for Him. It takes practice.

Next, we are given a beautiful picture:

Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
A weaned child is past the need to clamour for nourishment, yet is not past the need of the nurture of the mother. There was the rest that came after being fed at her breast. Now there is rest that comes from just resting in her presence: security. Trust The Lord for rest and security. We always need Him. He is always there. From time to time, rest in His presence just for the sake of enjoying Him.

Good things are worth sharing. The psalmist wants his kinsmen to share what he has found:

O Israel, hope in the LORD
From this time forth and forever.
He began with "O Lord" and closes on "O Israel." Here is an exhortation for the whole nation to place its hope in The Lord. Don't bother placing your hope where it does not belong and where it cannot be fulfilled. Place it in The Lord. He is the source and guardian of hope and trust. Is this not what we, as God's people, have found: hope and trust in God and His Son, Jesus Christ? We, like Israel, are to share it, looking forward, "from this time forth." As Christians, our peace comes from faith in Jesus' and His death, burial and resurrection for our forgiveness and salvation (Romans 5:1-11).

We can only share what is ours. Through practice, we make hope and trust ours. We keep our hearts humble. We look to God's affairs. We cultivate a smooth and tranquil soul: "make it your ambition to lead a quiet life" (1 Thessalonians 4:11b); we pray for leaders ". . . in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity" (1 Timothy 2:2b). We rest in The Lord. We trust in Him for the blessings of a composed and quiet soul. We hope in Him, now and forever.

Paul Birston

August 2000©

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