STUDY IN THE ASCENT PSALMS
Semi Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford
Years ago, I preached a series of messages going through the entire book of Romans. I was a young pastor, quite “wet behind my ears” as far as preaching a series all the way through a book of the Bible was concerned. So the first message was prefaced, “Studies in Romans, Part 1” then the title. It wasn’t too long when came, “Studies in Romans, Part 10”, then “Part 20”, then “Part 26”. I know, I know – some pastors would take even longer. But I learned from that – NEVER again preface a study with “Part #…”. Having said that, …….
Today is Study #12 of our insights into the “Ascent Psalms” – Psalms 120-134!
Each one is unique, an individual, one of a kind. A visual of a pilgrim’s journey – like YOURS!Since we have started this study, have you seen how your life is a journey, a sojourning into the seemingly unknown but also in the hands of the One Who knows your path?
OUR THEME VERSE
“Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. (Psalm 84:5 NKJV). This is a short verse – have you learned it yet?
TODAY WE ARE IN PSALM 131
Psalm 131 New King James Version (NKJV)
Simple Trust in the Lord
A Song of Ascents. Of David.
1. Lord, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.
2. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
3. O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever.
TITLE AND OUTLINE OF PSALM 131 (Dr. W. Graham Scroggie)
TITLE: “The Quiet Soul
- The Negative Claim (v. 1)
- The Positive Claim (v. 2)
- The Consequent Claim (v. 3)
SOME INTERESTING INSIGHTS
This is often called “A Psalm of Humility”. Now I’m the most humble person I know – just ask me, I’ll tell you. At least, I may have THOUGHT I am humble – until I am confronted with the Word of God , and in particular with this psalm.
Ever have one of those “OH MY!” moments while reading the Scriptures? Never? Not even once? I doubt I’m the only one. Sometime last year, as I was continuing my habit of reading 5 psalms every morning, I came upon Psalm 131. I had read it MANY times before. But THAT morning was different. Why? Because the Spirit of the Lord said in a silent, yet booming voice, “this psalm is My psalm for you.” The tears came then, and the gratefulness continues now.
This psalm has become my favorite passage in Scripture. I hope in time it will become one of your favorites as well.
The psalm is only 3 verses long, yet look how this is a proper “ascent” psalm – a psalm of heading toward a spiritual goal.
In verse 1, David equates the use of two body functions – his heart and eyes – and adds to them his “concern” with great and profound matters. My NKJV has some good “center margin” understandings of this verse:
“My heart is not ‘haughty’” = it is not “PROUD”. Listen to Proverbs 18:12, “Before destruction the HEART of a man is haughty, and before honor is humility” – the SAME thinking that David has here in Psalm 131! Proverbs 6:16 and the following talk about the “six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him”. In verse 18 is “a HEART that devises wicked plans.” Solomon, the author of most of the Proverbs, learned well from his father, David!
Psalm 131 goes on to say, not only is his heart not haughty, but “nor my eyes lofty.” Again, the margin reads for “lofty” = “arrogant” – decidedly an excellent understanding of “lofty”! Again, in Proverbs 6, verse 17, one of the things God hates is “a proud LOOK”. “Arrogant” fits well in our understanding.
David says in Psalm 131, “neither do I concern myself with great matters”. The margin is helpful once again: “concern” = “walk in” or “exercise”. This is a term of the body, of trying to stay in shape. Yet in this psalm it becomes a term of the spirit – of keeping the spiritual part of us in shape!
Finally in verse 1, David says that he doesn’t concern himself “with things too profound for me.” “Profound”? Ok, here we go…the margin says, “difficult”.
So David makes a declaration of what he has learned in his many years of walking with the Lord. These are lessons learned in HIS sojourn, his pilgrimage with the Lord. My HEART (heart), my EYES (soul), my EXERCISE (strength/body), and my PROFUNDITY (mind).
What was it that Jesus told the one who was looking to see if his life measured up with what the Lord expected? In Mark 12:20, Jesus said, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your HEART, with all your SOUL, with all your MIND, and with all your STRENGTH.’ This is the first commandment.”
David had learned this truth. And when we do, we will discover that our whole being is learning to be focused on a complete love for the Lord!
In verse 2, David visualizes the journey to true worship. He uses a comparison with which many of us may be familiar: the weaning of a child. The child may be human, it may be a kitten with a mother cat, a puppy with a mother dog, a young cow or other farm animal with its mother. This is a picture of contentedness. And in this contentedness, David uses terms like “calmed” and “quieted”. These are super visual, aren’t they? But what is the picture, the visual of weaning accomplishing? The calming and quieting of David’s SOUL – his innermost being and its hunger for true worship, true substance.
Have you read Ecclesiastes 3 lately? We’re all familiar with verses 1-8, “To everything there is a season…”. The Byrds made that into a famous song back in the 1960’s. In fact, when I introduce that passage as a song the Byrds sang, I often see the looks or actually hear the “I didn’t know THAT was from the Bible!” from those in my audience. But soon after the “to everything” verses is verse 11: “He [GOD] has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” What does it mean, “put ETERNITY in their hearts”? Scholars teach that when used in that form, “eternity” stands for everything that the LORD stands for: purpose, substance, holiness, righteousness, and more! In other words, when God puts “eternity in their hearts”, He has put into our hearts an hunger for…HIM. We spend ALL OUR LIVES searching to feed that hunger, to satisfy that hunger, with everything BUT Him…until we come to the cross! And then “eternity in [OUR] hearts” is satisfied indeed!
THAT’s what David is sharing in these first 2 verses – our HUNGER for the LIVING LORD is SATISFIED only with Him. Nothing else will satisfy. Are YOU satisfied in Jesus alone?
Verse 3, “O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever” sounds much like the last verse of Psalm 130, a prayer for Israel. That’s a good thing when the citizens of a nation – especially those of faith – are praying for its nation. Is that the heart of this verse?
I think not! As we close our study in Psalm 131, let us remember that David is thinking primarily, NOT of the nation, but of its citizens.
We here in the U.S. of A have just – I think? – finished a most tumultuous presidential election season. What is the one sad lesson that we’ve learned? That a nation becomes a DIVIDED nation when its citizens label themselves ONLY by political parties and not by allegiances to the Savior.
David in his hunger for, journey toward, and sojourn with the living Lord so desires that the citizens of Israel join him in that sojourn.
Will you be a sojourner of faith where the Lord has wisely planted YOU ?