Instead, I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like a weaned child. Israel, put your hope in the Lord, both now and forever (Psalm 131:2-3 CSB)
The life of faith is never an empty avoidance of evil. Many believers make their mistake at this point. To live by faith also requires positive activity on our part. We begin to act in faith in order to live in a different way. When confronted by pride and difficult matters, we must still or quiet our souls. “It is not without an inner struggle. The writer had to take himself in hand: he ‘stilled and quieted’ his soul” (Leupold).
- We must learn to keep silent before the Lord. He does not need a counselor (Romans 11:33-34), and we should stop trying to tell him how to run the world. Sometimes this silence comes from prudence (Leviticus 10:3; Psalm 4:4); here it comes from trust (Psalm 62:5).
- From the soul come desires. Therefore, we must silence those desires that want to know all mysteries in the place where they originate. They come from deep inside us. Whatever the situation outside, we must calm the inner person of the heart that demands to know things beyond its capabilities.
- Notice that the Psalmist does not seek the end of his soul, but the submission of his soul. Our problem is not our “self” but the attitude that our “self” has.
The writer uses an illustration to reinforce the kind of silence he promotes. The picture may be shocking to some who think talking about a child nursing at the mother’s breast is scandalous. Clearly the Lord does not share that “hyper-Victorian” opinion! “To the weaned child his mother is his comfort though she has denied him comfort. It is a blessed mark of growth out of spiritual infancy when we can forego the joys which once appeared to be essential, and can find our solace in him who denies them to us: then we behave manfully and every childish complaint is hushed” (Spurgeon).
The mother must not be blamed in weaning the child. It is an essential part of the child’s growth. Yet if we watched a mother during the process as the child wants to nurse, we might think her cold or uncaring. She presents a cup of milk to the child, and the child throws it aside, demanding the breast. The mother refuses to give in, and the child cries out in hunger and frustration. Is she wrong? No at all! She would be blamed if she did not help her child mature.
David says that the growth process of silencing himself brings him to a better state. He is now able to be like a child weaned from its mother’s breasts. The mother is still there and the child rests content on her lap. The child has learned to trust its mother without nursing. In the same way, God would have us learn contentment. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:11 NIV). Whatever pleases our Father in heaven to have us know should bring us calm contentment. Like a weaned child who still hungers, we can still hunger for other things. But God would have us rest content on his lap, quietly trusting him to provide us with our daily bread.
“When we think ourselves safely through the weaning, we sadly discover that the old appetites are rather wounded than slain, and we begin crying again for the breasts that we have given up. It is easy to begin shouting before we are out of the wood, and no doubt hundreds have sung this psalm long before they have understood it” (Spurgeon). “Godly experience has taught men that the soul will never desist from its unseemly worldly objectives until it has found its true rest and peace in God.” [Leupold]
Having taken proper self-control of his own soul by trusting God, David now turns to his brothers and sisters in Israel. We live in a time of excessive individualism, and so we have lost sight of our duty to help others. The second greatest commandment directs us to love others as we love ourselves. David obeys God when he turns to exhort others in Israel. When we are weaned from excessive self-confidence, then we will turn to consider the needs of others. Those who get wrapped up in matters beyond them, often lose sight of the true spiritual needs of others. Though the leader may have a quiet confidence in God’s sovereign ability, he must also encourage his followers to hope in the living God. Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption (Psalm 130:7 NIV).
Hope in the Lord is the positive expression of childlike trust. It is turning from pride and self-sufficiency to rest in the Lord alone. It is confidently expecting that the Lord will provide and answer, though we see no apparent solution to our difficulties.
Instead of concerning ourselves with great matters or things too wonderful for us, we ought to concern ourselves with putting our hope in the Lord. This is an activity that we ought to do. When we fail to act properly, we expose ourselves to temptation. To say this another way, we can get caught up in things that are beyond us, and so not concern ourselves in our first duty — our relationship with the living God, which is by faith.
Grace and peace,