Psalm 131: Relationships Matter: Part I
1 Peter 5:5-7: A Matter of Control
As does all of Scripture, Psalm 131 is another psalm that emphasizes the truth that relationships matter. The unity of the Scripture – the whole counsel of God – is important for a proper understanding of God’s redemptive purpose. The old adage, what is in the Old Testament is the new concealed, and what is in the New Testament is the old revealed, is tried and true. It helps us understand God – His thoughts, desires, actions and Being from the beginning to His desired end. However, we must remember the telic purpose of any portion of Scripture in order to correctly understand and apply God’s truth. For instance, the Psalms are both Christological in nature and are situational. Redemptively, they point to Christ, the true Psalmist, the greater David (2 Samuel 23:1-4). The also consider the psalmist in his situation. Either way, they focus on the reality expressed in Psalm 131: relationships matter.
Psalm 131 is one of the Psalms of Ascent (Psalms. 120-134), aptly named the pilgrim songs. Most likely this collection of psalms refers to Israel’s return to Jerusalem after the exile and to the annual pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem, the earthly Mount Zion and the City of David. Jerusalem was considered the place of God’s presence and earthly Zion was the established point of worship of God. It was a picture of fellowship, refuge, safety, protection, and blessedness. In these fifteen psalms, there is no mention of a king but there are numerous references to Zion and Jerusalem. They all express the truth depicted in Psalm 131: relationships matter.
Psalm 131 is short and is authored by David (as are Psalms 122, 124, 133, 138-150 of book V). While giving an insight into King David the man and the messianic agent of God, it gives a picture of the greater David, Jesus Christ, the ideal Psalmist. Jesus is the man pictured in Psalm 1. Jesus is most bountiful in His person and work, in part, because His feet are firmly planted in the river of truth and reality. All the Psalms teach something of the individual believer, but preeminently about Christ.
Psalm 131 begins: My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me (verse 1). The imagery is one of childlike trust and sets the stage for David’s admonition in verse 3: O Israel put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore. King David and the greater David, Jesus Christ, knew that relationships matter. Both were constantly called to put their hope only in the Lord. Jesus did this perfectly and David imperfectly. Their hope was an informed, true hope as was David’s saving faith. Both faith and hope have an object. The object of biblical saving faith and true hope is outside of the person and is fixated on heaven, fellowship with the Triune God, and growth in Christlikeness (Galatians 2:20). These truths emphasize the truth that relationships matter! A proper vertical reference controls what a person thinks and desires in this life (1 John 3:1-3). This mindset controls life on earth and is the privilege, blessing, and duty of every believer including those returning from the exile. A proper heavenly-mindedness leads to earthly good.
In verse 1, the Psalmist declared a self-assessment – he is not proud. The Hebrew term for pride indicates height, position, and control. Proud people are self-graspers and self-exalters (James 3:15). Proud people picture themselves from above and above. As evidence of his humility, David writes that he has stilled and quieted himself before God, others, and himself (see the same concept expressed in Psalm 46:10). In David’s inner man, there was composure and contentment. Relationships matter and are to impact the person’s thoughts, desires, and actions.
Such it was perfectly and completely for our Redeemer and Savior, Jesus Christ who knew the truth taught in Psalm 131: relationships matter – my Father and I are one (John 10:30). Trouble without and a churning within (John 11:33, 38; 12:27) was part of Christ’s environment and the physical world He lived. He had a proper vertical and eternal focus which controlled His view and response while on earth. He lived out of the truth that relationships matter.
Developing a proper God-focus and other-focus (also referred to as a proper vertical and horizontal perspective to and of life) is a process and is a function of relationships. David learned that relationships matter as he move from self-pleasing and self-will to relying on God and pleasing Him. Jesus Christ also learned obedience through His experiences (Hebrews 2:10; 5:8). For Christ and for us, the experiences were not the key but His response in them and to them.
Both Jesus and David quieted their hearts when tempted to think and desire wrongly, Jesus perfectly and redemptively and David imperfectly and non-redemptively. Wrong thinking and wanting results in bad fruit often termed fretting, worry, anger, bitterness, resentment, fear, and or depression. These responses are all response to God’s control and lack of personal control. David taught that the major source of these bad fruits is a proud heart manifested by sinful thinking and wanting.
1. Where are you in your thinking about God and His control?
2. In what ways and at what times do you compete with God?
3. What makes it easy for you to compete with God?
4. What makes it easy to trust yourself?
Psalm 131: Relationships Matter: Part II
The Connection with 1 Peter 5:5-7 and Luke 10:38-42
In verse two, David gives one of God’s antidotes for a proud heart – actively, cognitively, and purposefully quieting one’s heart (see Luke 15:17-18): But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child my soul is within me. How was it possible for both David and Jesus to quiet their hearts especially when God’s providence (life) seemed out of control and against them? Quiet the heart refers to self-counsel. The key to godly self-counsel was something and Someone. They had a trustworthy, personal God and Father and they acted as if these facts were true. They did not live the lie that God was not in control orchestrating all things for His glory and the good of His people. Or if His control was not good, He was either not god or impotent or both. Psalm 131 helps believers to focus on the truth that relationships matter and the greatest relationship is being in Christ.
Jesus perfectly and David imperfectly lived as if their relationship with God meant something – IT DID. Jesus relied on the non-negotiable truth that God was God. While on earth it was not His time or place to manifest the fullness of His deity. He made God’s purpose His purpose. He knew the big picture of the Triune’s God eternal plan of salvation and His role in it. David learned and acted upon these core truths although imperfectly. He was not God and He was not going to assume that he was.
In verse 3, David wrote: O Israel put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore. He petitioned Israel to follow his lead. Biblical hope-setting depends on an object, knowledge of the object and self, and grace to implement the act of depending on God and His promises (1 Peter 1:13). David actively trusted God. He had a proper now approach to his situation because it flowed from a proper eternal perspective. Such it was with Jesus Christ. Both perspectives, the now and the eternal, are needed and are linked. Resurrection life starts now (Rom. 6:9-11; 1 John 3:1-3; Heb. 12:1-3).
In the New Testament, Peter captures the message of Psalm 131 in 1 Peter 5:5-7. Peter writes two non-negotiable truths: God opposes the proud but graces the humble. On that basis, Peter exhorts the sheep to cast their cares on God who is in control (verse 7). Peter knew that people at the core are control junkies. A proper view of God and self culminates in a proper view of control and resources which is fundamental for quieting one’s heart. Proud people attempt to control even though they often deny that fact. The “want to help God out” or insure victory but their way. Living the lie of my control yields miserable results because it is competing with God. God will not be mocked or share His glory with anyone (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11). Controllers refuse help and grace.
Proud people are poor casters. Peter encouraged his people who were also in trying times to cast or throw with an effort their concerns on or toward God. Peter’s exhortation reminds me of Psalm 46:10: be still and know that I am God… The psalmist is not calling for a mental and physical slowdown or shutdown or abdication. Rather he is calling for correct thinking and wanting about self and God in the situation. God is God and you are not. Be still carries the idea of relying on biblical truth and grace to please God as the believer addresses his problems.
Casting is an energetic word. It is not a literal casting. It denotes effort and informed direction in regard to how to conduct oneself hard providences of God (see Luke 19:35). The proud person has built his own world in which he believe he is king and in control. Casting implies having biblical truth at hand to “throw” or to use for salving problems God’s way. Biblical truth trumps a sinner’s self-professed wisdom and efforts to resolve the problem in his favor. Proud people do not want to release their seeming control. They live the lie!
The activity pictured by Peter is one that he was engaged in throughout his life. Problems are one thing and solving them is another. The word for concerns or cares has as its root the meaning of division and separation. Problems are not the problem! Rather, finding solutions that are not God-honoring is. Both David in Psalm 131 and Peter are focusing on the person who is tempted to solve problems his way for his glory and relief. That person has a divided heart or tends toward that direction. Problems are part of God’s providence. A response to them is a response to God. Working for a solution to honor God by His grace is one thing. Removing a problem for relief in one’s own strength is another thing. It does not honor God. Most likely God will not bless that activity.
The psalmist and Peter give a reason for casting: God cares about you (see Luke 10:38-42). Luke used the same word as did Martha when she challenged Jesus with the statement: don’t you care about me. Martha was busy which was good. But her priorities were wrong. Her question to the Messiah must have cut deep into Him. Imagine the question to the Lord of lords, King of kings, and the true Lamb of God Who was soon to be on the cross for her. Jesus gently rebuked her and taught her in the milieu that priorities matter. She had wrong priorities!
In each portion of Scripture mentioned the lesson is the same but worth repeating: problems are part of God’ providence. Control is a trust and resource issues. God has provided for Himself and His people. He keeps His promises. Therefore seek God’s answers in His strength with His grace.
Self-trust has consequences. Problems are not solved and God is not honored. Setting their hope and trust in Yahweh was key for those returning from the exile. They were tempted to continue to trust themselves as a result of dissatisfaction and discontentment with God and their circumstances. .Self-trust has varying faces and complicates life in God’s world. Trusting God simplifies life. The passages before us address sinful responses to God, His providence and His control. They point the believer to the God of the universe and humble trust in Him.
1. What does it mean to be still and quiet your heart (see Ps. 46:10, Ps. 73:19-26; and Luke 15:17-18)?
2. What is your view of God and His providence?
3. Have you practiced the truth of the song: “It is well with my soul”? What are your plans for applying the truths expressed in Psalm 131:2-3?
4. Define ways and reasons you trust yourself. How will trust in God look as a replacement?
5. Study the passages and apply them to you and your trust in God and His good control.