O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high;? I do not occupy myself with things? too great and too marvelous for me. ?But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me. ?O Israel, hope in the Lord? from this time on and for evermore.
I read this very brief, contented psalm, and have to echo the words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “It is one of the shortest psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn”. It is a psalm about quieting ourselves, about composing ourselves when life doesn’t go our way, when our desires, agenda, and plans don’t pan out. Simply, it is a psalm about growing up in our faith.
The psalm is written by David, who was the greatest king in Israel’s long history. He was a military genius, shrewd foreign policy strategist, wise decisive leader, as well as a splendid poet, and musician. He was a Renaissance man.
Submission to God’s guidance, and acceptance of God’s plans for him were hallmarks of David’s life. In this psalm David tells us that he had made a decision to calm and quiet himself. By an act of the will David made the choice to place his confidence in God rather than himself.
The best picture David can think of to illustrate his calming and quieting self, is a child who has been weaned, calm and quiet in his mother’s lap.
David paints a picture understood in any culture. A child is born and for a long time looks to mom for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and mid-night snacks. Mom is there whenever he cries for her. Her milk satisfies him and he is content. He is the center of the universe. Feed me, hold me, comfort me!
But then the day comes when the child has to learn to take a bottle. It is not a happy time as the child cries, screams, turns red, and pouts, wondering what has happened to mom. She who had always satisfied him now seems to have turned against him. She will feed him, but never again in the same way.
Then the day comes when the bottle must also be put away, the tears stop, and the child eats with the family. The child comes to sit on his mother’s lap no longer to be fed, but simply because he loves her. He wants just to be with her. The point is clear: unless a mother weans her child he will never grow up. He will be a baby for all his life, growing old without ever growing up.
In this psalm David thinks of himself as being “like a weaned child’. Not a child, but a weaned child. He is showing us a picture of growth, of going onto maturity. David has “calmed and quieted” his soul, so that he stops howling and stops screaming that God fix this and that. He has grown beyond the infantile, demanding attitude to one that is thankful, accepting and content. David has learned to be quiet, to rest his life in God. God has weaned him away from things that he had thought so important, when what he needed, was God. What he has is enough, and he is content.
In the last line of the psalm David stops talking to God and talks to the reader: “O Israel, hope in the Lord?from this time on and for evermore.” Like a weaned child who has gone before us, David wants us to follow after him. He wants us to calm and quiet ourselves when life doesn’t go our way and when God doesn’t follow our agendas. Hope in the Lord, David says, and know that He always provides for us just what we need, at the time best suited to our eternal joy.
Spurgeon was right when he talked about this being a short psalm that can take a long, long time to learn. It is a psalm that I am seeking to learn. But the Canaan in the Desert Prayer Garden in Phoenix is a place I like to go and talk to God about these things. There in the Garden is a beautiful statue of Jesus agonizing in Gethsemane, praying these words: “Father, I don’t understand you, but I trust you”.
Often times I make that my prayer, “Father, I don’t understand you, but I trust you”. I don’t understand unanswered prayers. I don’t understand why people we love get cancer. I don’t understand why dreams are shattered, and God doesn’t show up on demand. I just don’t understand. Still, I trust Him, and want to just be with Him.
So I am learning to calm my self, and quiet my self by meditating on these words; won’t you join me?
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high;?I do not occupy myself with things?too great and too marvellous for me. ?But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me. ?O Israel, hope in the Lord?from this time on and for evermore.
Grace and peace,
photo by Rita Smith