Keep in mind that King David authored this psalm, as he leads us in worship, away from an attitude of haughtiness towards a lifestyle of humble dependence upon the God of Israel. The first two of these three verses are David’s testimony. Rashi notes that David did not behave with superiority and neither did he make great things, pleasures, buildings and plantings as his son had done.[i]
Wierbse astutely reasons if anyone in Israel had reason to be proud, it would have been David in view of his humble beginnings and not only did he become King; he was successful in Israel’s army, amassed wealth to build Solomon’s temple and it was for David’s sake that the lamp remained burning in Jerusalem and it would be through his line through whom Messiah would come.[ii] David’s greater Son, Jesus the Messiah, of whom David is a type, came as the humble suffering Servant, yet He will return as the King of Israel.
Trusting in the God of Israel
Both the heart and pride are great obstacles to genuine saving faith. David’s heart was not arrogant neither in a dismissive or superior attitude towards others, nor had he succumbed to spiritual pride. His eyes were not lofty which is an unmistakeable reflection of a proud heart. In our current age which is obsessed with ‘I’ , ‘me’, individualism and worship and pandering of the ‘self’, the Puritan Matthew Henry wrote in times past, that the love of God, reigning in the heart will subdue self-love.[iii]
David wrote and sang of not being concerned with great matters, nor with things too profound for him. Make no mistake, David was anything but a simpleton as he was imploring a simple trust in the Lord. He was encouraging child-like faith, though a genuine child-like faith is by no means childish.
David understood something of the Lord’s infinite knowledge and attributes and soberly recognised human limitations. The Lord condescends to our level to enable us to comprehend matters concerning His ways. This leads to a dependency upon God through prayer throughout the course of a lifetime. The Lord delivered David from the paw of the lion and the bear, from the spear of Saul, from his son Absalom and often he was on the run from his enemies trying to take his life. But David knew that the Lord has appointed the number of our days in our brief existence and oversees every eventuality in our journeys.
By avoiding great matters and things too profound, David was not advocating anti-intellectual theology! Simply read what David wrote and that is axiomatic. In Psalm 139, David writes so eloquently concerning the Lord’s infinite knowledge of mankind and in the heart of the psalm states, “such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it (Psalm 139:6).” Selah.
MacDonald puts it well. “There are problems in life that defy explanation. Mysteries too deep to fathom. Strange circumstances that puzzle the keenest intellect.”[iv] David knew “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law (Deuteronomy 29:29).”
Hence trying to reconcile perfectly God’s sovereignty with human ‘free will’ or understanding His eternal existence, the problem of suffering or seemingly unanswered prayer are matters that we can only comprehend in part. Sadly, some spend so much time deliberating on those matters that they live an inactive faith by pondering on those matters to the detriment of loving the Lord and others. God wants us to know Him and understand His ways, but we must be careful to avoid so much time attempting to comprehend the finer points of theology that we forget that we were created to worship Him.
David likened himself as having calmed and quietened his soul as a weaned child with his mother and as a weaned child is his soul within him. A number of commentaries are quick to point out that Hebrew mothers frequently weaned their children until the age of three or even longer. When a child is prevented from having its mother’s milk it is initially a fretful, uncomfortable and stressful experience, but it is necessary. It is absolutely needed for the child’s good and their development. The believer must forsake the things of the world and find their peace and refuge in the Lord.
“This attitude of trust in the wisdom, love and power of God brought peace and quietness to his soul. He was like a weaned child who is quieted at his mother’s breasts. At the outset a child may be squalling, restless, impatient. But then feeding time comes and the baby is suddenly silent, relaxed in his mother’s arms. And so we work ourselves into a dither of frustration, trying to understand things that are too high for us. But as soon as we leave the unanswerable questions to God, our souls are loosed from tension.”[v]
Hope in the God of Israel
David concludes this psalm by imploring Israel to hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. To use the Qal Wahomer argument (from light to heavy), if a weaned boy can trust his mother implicitly, how much more should a child of God, trust in their heavenly Father? Notice the confidence and assurance of David’s hope for Israel-from this time and forever. As in times past, Israel must not rely solely on their great ingenuity, ability to adapt to survive despite all odds stacked against them, or their impressive military defence force, but in the Lord. The Lord has kept Israel to this day and they will not be uprooted from their land (Amos 9:15), but they must keep their hope in the Lord.
Believers must recognise that we are supposed to be dependent upon God, to hope in Him and not ourselves and that the Lord is the great Shepherd of our souls. Our problems are not solved by finding ourselves but trusting in the Lord. The greatest thinkers continually rediscover that the more they know, the more they do not know. A biblically centred view of the Lord and a high view of His word will help us to have a humble and realistic view of ourselves and compel us to draw near to Him. The greatest thing is to know the Lord and to have a simple trust in Him. Knowing and trusting the God of Israel will give us peace (shalom) with God. Put your hope in the God of Israel. Knowing, trusting and obeying the Lord will free you from restlessness and will cure you from a fretful an anxious existence and will give you rest in Him.
[i] Rashi on Psalm 131 https://www.sefaria.org/Rashi_on_Psalms.131.2.1?lang=bi
[ii] Warren W. Wiersbe The Wiersbe Bible Commentary The Complete Old Testament in one Volume (David Cook, 2007; Colorado Springs), p1031
[iii] Matthew Henry Matthew Henry Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible (Moody Press, Chicago), p450
[iv] William MacDonald The Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 1995; Nashville), p759
[v] Ibid, p760