Sermon August 7, 2016 Psalm 131 “Fully Content in the Lord”

Psalm 131                                                                                                                    August 7, 2016

Sermon Series: “Short and Sweet Summer Psalms”

Today’s Sermon: Psalm 131 –   “Fully Content in the Lord”

Pastor Louis Prontnicki     Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church

A song of ascents. Of David. My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.

Intro: Let me ask you: “Are you content, or are you anxious?” “Do you feel that your deepest needs are being met?” This psalm is about learning to be fully content in God Himself. Spurgeon wrote of this psalm, “One of the shortest psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn.”

The Structure of the Psalm is quite simple, as befits its simple message.

In v. 1 David tells us what he is not; he renounces arrogant pride and self-exaltation.

In v. 2 David tells us what he is; he has intentionally composed his soul to be calm, quiet, content. Like a weaned child, his soul no longer frets for that which he used to depend upon and need; instead, he has been set free from self-seeking. He has moved from desiring things from the Lord to desiring God alone as His treasure.

In v. 3 David tells others to hope in the Lord; he encourages his people to join him in this restful, hopeful, waiting on the Lord.

And isn’t that what you want, as well?

God wants you to be “weaned” from your “needs.” The Lord invites you to give up both your proud ambitions and your whining wishes, in favor of a child-like humility, resting in all that God is for you in Jesus Christ, as your Lord, your Savior, and your Treasure!

Eugene Peterson wrote a book on the Songs (Psalms) of Ascent [Psalms 120-134] entitled “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society.” I thought his commentary on Psalm 131 was so helpful that I hope you don’t mind if I quote liberally or paraphrase generously from that chapter. Peterson writes that in Ps. 131, the Lord prunes away two things: [1] our unruly ambition and [2] our infantile dependency.

[1]  Unruly Ambition is aspiration on steroids, and in our culture, it is something that is encouraged and admired. Think of the superstars in sports; the top entertainers; the richest people, etc.

What the Bible calls sinful pride and selfish ambition, our society says is a good characteristic: it’s “looking out for number one” and it’s “rising to the top” and “being all you can be.” Think about the push from parents for their children to get into a prestigious university. Such ambition is striving to build a new Tower of Babel, whatever it takes.

By the way, not all ambition is bad. Can you think of a few places in Scripture where the Apostle Paul commended certain kinds of ambition? In Romans 15:20, he wrote that it was his ambition to preach the gospel to those who had never heard it. In 2 Cor. 5:9 Paul said that it should be our ambition to please the Lord. And in 1 Thess. 4:11, he paradoxically wrote that we should make it our ambition to lead a quiet life!

Yet too often our ambition is self-seeking and sinfully proud. But in contrast to that attitude of crying out for attention and arrogantly parading my own self-importance, God’s Word calls us to talk to our souls and have a long conversation about being still and calm before the Lord.

Let’s look at the other sin addressed in Ps. 131:

[2] It is possible to swerve to the other extreme of infantile dependency. For “having realized the dangers of pride, the sin of thinking too much of ourselves, we are suddenly in danger of… thinking too little of ourselves.” This is the picture of a child who is not weaned, but cries out he as demands a feeding from his mother, no matter what time of day or night, or even if he was fed a short time ago!   “Christian faith is not a neurotic dependency, but a childlike trust. We do not have a God who forever indulges our whims but a God whom we trust with our destinies.”

“The Christian is not like an infant crying loudly for his mother’s breast, but like a weaned child that quietly rests by his mother’s side, happy in being with her…No desire now comes between him and his God; for he is sure that God knows what he needs before he asks him….He now rests no longer in himself but in God.” [This is the picture of a believer in the Lord who has learned to desire God more than desiring things from the Lord.]

We can see this contented trust in our small children and grandchildren: the total relaxation, unquestioning contentment, the absence of fretfulness of a five year old, holding his mother’s hand. Motyer puts it this way: “All’s well; the world is safe; what more could anyone want? It is a psalm of final contentment, at home with the LORD, all attention fixed on Him.”

So it’s clear that God does not want us to remain in a state of helpless and demanding dependency upon Him. Rather, He wants to move us to a willing trustfulness in Him. And so He weans us.

Therefore, when it appears that God has abandoned you or is not answering your prayers as He once did, remember that you are being weaned. The apron strings are being cut. And remember that, as v. 3 puts it, you are learning how to put your hope in the Lord, both now and forevermore.

Now at times we may go from one extreme to the other. One day we will tell God that we are in control and don’t need his help, thank you. And the next day, as things fall apart, we’ll be running to him overwhelmed in a panic. “We are, alternately, rebellious runaways and whining babies.”  But Ps. 131 nurtures a calm confidence and a quiet strength which knows the difference between unruly arrogance and faithful aspiration; knows how to discriminate between infantile dependency and childlike trust, and chooses to aspire and to trust.

But the transition between a sucking infant to a weaned child is not an easy one; it can be noisy and stormy. It is no easy thing to quiet your own soul.

So how do we move toward this state of quiet peace in the Lord? Here the setting of Psalm 131 proves instructive, as we may notice that the psalm builds on the foundation of Psalm 130.

Psalm 130:3-8

If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

Note how 131:3 repeats 130:7. Alec Motyer comments “If it occurred to you to wonder how we could ever rest, unworried, calm, content, in the Lord’s presence, as in Ps. 131, ask the Lord’s three companions – forgiveness (Ps. 130:4); unfailing and committed love (Ps. 130:7); and full and complete redemption and ransom (Ps. 130:7). And what needs of ours do these three wonderful gifts from God meet? They meet our deepest need of a restored relationship with God, of a trusting intimacy with the Lord, and of the assurance that we are fully accepted, welcomes and adopted in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. This combining of 130 and 131 points us to Christ.

The original singers of Ps. 131 would see the end of their pilgrimage in Zion, in Jerusalem and the Temple of the Lord. But today, as we sing this psalm, our pilgrimage, our journey of faith, ends in the Lord Himself. He alone is our eternal rest and joy. In Him alone we are satisfied.

As we sing in “My worth is not in what I own” – “I rejoice in my redeemer, Greatest Treasure, Wellspring of my soul; I will trust in Him, no other, My soul is satisfied in Him alone.”

May each one of us be fully satisfied, fully content, in all that God is for us in the person and work of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.