My dearest sister and friend shared this wonderful sermon from her pastor with me, and I am now sharing it with you. If you are like me, you will recognize yourself in some things he has to say. Not the great things, the things that expose the uck still within the heart….so if you do, I hope that you will join me in repenting of what God shows you here, and will be encouraged to have a new resolve to live as our dear Father commands, as well as the courage to confess the things you see to others so that they may be encouraged to do the same. Repentance without change is not repentance. Sure He helps us in being molded into His image, but WE have to do some work too. He is not our servant, we are His. So buck up….hold up that mirror, and show the truth of you to you through this really good sermon….and the word of God it contains. It rightly defines exactly what it speaks of. So we don’t have that “out” either. Hey…sanctification is a hard process, but one we must ALL go through if indeed we belong to Christ. If you wonder why no one can see your fruit…..perhaps one of the reasons is here:
(Audio, and also see very good notes below…)
Most of Psalm 131 is holy eavesdropping. We have intimate access to the inner life of someone who has learned to have a calm and quiet soul. This man isn’t noisy inside. He isn’t busy-busy-busy. Not obsessed. Not on edge. The to-do list and pressures to achieve don’t consume him. Failure and despair don’t haunt him. Anxiety isn’t spinning him into free fall. Irritation and dissatisfaction don’t devour him. He’s not stumbling through the minefield of blind longings and fears.
- About the Psalm
- First, think about who’s talking to us in Psalm 131.
- We are listening to the inner conversation of someone whom God called “a man after His own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14).
- In other words, this man processes life the way a human being is meant to process.
- We know many things about David:
- the youngest of eight brothers;
- a fierce protector of his flock;
- a young man with striking good looks and evident talent;
- a skilled musician and poet;
- a deadly soldier;
- a loyal subject even while a fugitive;
- a tender and faithful friend;
- a savvy military and political strategist who secured the throne;
- the husband of a harem and father of countless children;
- an adulterer who murdered by proxy;
- a broken-hearted penitent.
- But two characteristics stand out.
- First, the LORD chose David, anointed him, loved him, and blessed him – God was with David.
- Second, David knew this LORD – he walked with God. We are listening in the words of such a man.
- A millennium later, someone else lived this psalm even more fully.
- Update the heading: A Song of Ascents, of Jesus.
- Psalm 131 expresses Jesus’s life experience, the inner workings of His consciousness.
- The Father’s chosen, anointed, loved, and blessed Son lets you listen in.
- God who became a man thinks out loud for you.
- Second, get a clear picture of what Psalm 131 is not.
- What it is not.
- It does not portray unruffled detachment or stoic indifference.
- It’s not about having an easygoing personality or low expectations.
- It’s not retreat from the troubles of life or retirement to a life of ease.
- It’s not the quieting of inner noise that a bottle of scotch or a daily dose of Prozac produces.
- After all, Jesus and David were both kingdom-builders in real life, real time.
- They expected—and achieved—huge things in the midst of commotion and trouble.
- They experienced pressure, joy, heartache, outrage, affection, courage.
- So Psalm 131’s inner quiet comes in the midst of actions, relationships, and problems.
- Third, understand rightly what Psalm 131 does describe – this calm and quiet is learned, and it is learned in relationship.
- Such purposeful quiet is achieved, not spontaneous.
- It is conscious, alert, and chosen.
- It is a form of self-mastery by the grace of God: “Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul.”
- And it happens in living relationship with Someone Else.
1) We are “discipled” into such composure.
2) You learn it from someone.
- Can we get to this quieted place, here and now, in our actual life? Yes, we can get there from here.
- Psalm 131 aims to become our words as a chosen, anointed, loved, and blessed child.
- Deliverance from Noise
- Faith delivers us from our biggest problem, a proud self-will.
- David says to the LORD, “I am not self-trusting, opinionated, and headstrong. I am not superior to others. I am not attempting the impossible.”
- The process through which he was tamed is still implicit (until verse 2).
- The reason for such astonishing calm and humility is still implicit (until verse 3).
- We see the results first, and are intrigued.
- David is quiet.
- He has consciously distanced himself from everything that rattles inside us.
- To be able to say “I am not something,” we must learn to identify the something.
- What makes us so noisy inside? Turn the psalm into its opposite, the anti-psalm:
“Self, my heart is proud (I’m absorbed in myself), and my eyes are haughty (I look down on other people), and I chase after things too great and too difficult for me. So of course I’m noisy and restless inside, it comes naturally, like a hungry infant fussing on his mother’s lap, like a hungry infant, I’m restless with my demands and worries. I scatter my hopes onto anything and everybody all the time. ”
- Proud hearts are the source of the noise.
- Do you remember Alice in Wonderland, how Alice was either too big or too small?
- Because she was never quite the right size, she was continually disoriented.
- We all have that problem – we are the wrong size.
- We imagine ourselves to be independent and autonomous: proud hearts.
- We become engrossed in trivialities of our own devising.
- We pursue grandiosities and glories.
- We become afraid of our own shadows.
- Seventeenth-century English had a great word for how we stir up much ado about nothing: vainglory.
- Of course, this doesn’t seem like much of a problem while we busily telemarket our pride both to ourselves and to others.
“I just want a little respect and appreciation. Of course I want the things at home to work and the car mechanic to be honest. That’s pretty normal. I want approval and understanding, to be included. Is that too much to ask? I want the church to thrive, my sermon to go well, the worship to be biblical. It’s for God, after all. I want satisfaction and compensation for the ways others did me wrong. If others would just own up, and then treat me right. I don’t want much. If only I had better health, a little more money, a more meaningful job, nicer clothes, and a restful vacation, then I’d be satisfied. I want a measure of success—just a bit of recognition. I want control. Who doesn’t? Comfort, ease, convenience. Why not? I want to feel good. Doesn’t God want me to feel good? I want to feel good about myself, to have more self-confidence, to believe in myself. I want…well, I want MY WAY. I WANT THE GOODIES. I WANT GLORY. I WANT GOD TO DO MY WILL. I WANT TO BE GOD…Doesn’t everybody?”
- Our slavery to selfish desires seems so plausible.
- Our restless disorientation seems so natural, so desirable.
- But it’s noisy.
- Anxiety, irritation, despondency, or ambition makes sense from within the logic of a proud heart.
- If you are not proud, then quietness and calm make sense.
- It also comes with the territory that we are opinionated, routinely judging and belittling others:arrogant eyes.
- Pride is not just about ME.. It’s also about you.
- I must look down on you in some way.
- I must establish my superiority in some way.
- Some people wear their arrogance and superiority openly, and even boast of their boasting.
- But our absorption in judgmental opinions runs very deep.
1) Pride says, “I’m right in myself.” Arrogant eyes say, “I’m right compared to you.”
2) Have you ever noticed that even people who feel lousy about themselves are judgmental towards others?
- a) When we feel inferior to others, we don’t admire and respect them, or treat them with merciful consideration.
- b) Instead, we envy, hate, nitpick, grumble, and criticize.
- c) Even self-belittling tendencies—“low self-esteem,” self-pity, self-hatred, timidity, fearfulness, diffidence, fears of failure and rejection—fundamentally express pride failing,pride intimidated, and pride
- d) Such pride, even when much battered, still finds someone else to look down on.
- e) It is no accident that the church fathers discussed fear of man as a subset of pride when they contemplated the “seven deadly sins” besetting every soul.
- I read about a woman’s description of this problem in her life.
- She said that she had almost no true peers, people with whom she related eye-to-eye.
- Her relationships were not characterized by generosity, openness, or trust.
- There were a few “pedestal people” in her life, people she thought walked on water, who could do no wrong.
- There were many, many “pit people” in her life, people she looked down on for one reason or other.
- The two categories were connected only by an elevator shaft!
1) A person could fall off the pedestal and end up in the pit.
2) But no pit person had ever been rehabilitated.
- She had a long history of disappointment in every relationship – family and former friends lodged in her mental dog-house.
- Unsurprisingly, she was a woman with a lot of inner noise: fretful, self-preoccupied, easily offended, depressive, competitive.
- But as she grew in Christ, she grew in calm and quiet.
- As she learned to live in the way of peace, lo and behold, she began to discover peers and to build friendships.
- Another way of putting this is to say that she stopped pursuing impossibilities.
- That’s the third phrase in Psalm 131:1: not going after things that are beyond you.
- Even the small, everyday things that everyone races after are, in fact, “beyond us.”
- From our daily bread to our abilities and opportunities, these are gifts from God that we don’t control.
- What happens when we attempt to control another person’s attitudes and choices, to bend them to our will?We set ourselves up for despair or rage, anxiety or short-lived euphoria, suspicion or manipulation.
- What happens when we attempt to ensure that we will not get sick and die? We become obsessed with diet and exercise, or litigious towards doctors, or plagued with fear that any nagging pain might be the big one that finally gets us.
- What happens when we are obsessed with getting people to like you? We become flirtatious or artificial, a coward or a deceiver, a chameleon or a recluse.
- But when we pursue what we are called to pursue, calm and quiet in the soul follows.
III. The Process of Peace
- To gain calm and quiet in the soul is to go through a weaning process.
- Something that once meant everything to you comes to mean nothing.
- Notice that you are definitively different at the end of the process.
- You aren’t “sort of composed, sort of quiet, sort of weaned.”
- You once were noisy, and now you’ve learned quiet.
- Dying to your restless, fretful, and irritable ways does not come easily.
- There is no technique, automatic formula, or pat answer.
- To quiet your soul means literally to level it.
- Bulldoze the building site.
- To quiet your soul means to silence the noise and tumult, to quiet your desires, fears, opinions, anxieties, agendas, and irritabilities.
- In verses 2-3, we see that David had gone about unplugging the noise machines and knocking down the stairways that led to nowhere.
- This sort of composure and quietness is not apathy, but alertness.
- It is conscious, not unconscious.
- It is the poise of self-mastery by grace, not the carelessness of sleepy ease.
- How do you purify your heart? How does a proud heart become a humble heart?
- We do not wrestle ourselves down by doing penance.
- We can beat on ourselves, resolve to mend our ways and still be proud.
- We do not destroy the tumult of self-will by sheer will: “I will stop being irritable. I will stop being fretful. I will stop imposing my will on the universe.”
- Can the leopard change its spots?
- We are not strong enough; We are too strong.
- We only wrestle ourselves down by the promises of God’s lovingkindness.
1) We need the invasion of the Redeemer in our lives.
2) We need great help, the way a drowning man needs great help from outside himself to rescue him.
3) Only one thing is strong enough to overpower and slay unruly cravings and a stormy life: what God promises to do in us and through us in Jesus Christ.
- a) From God’s side, we escape ourselves by being loved by Jesus Christ through the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit himself.
- b) From our side, we escape ourselves by learning a lifestyle of intelligent repentance, genuine faith, and specific obedience.
- In the 1700s, Katarina von Schlegel wrote a hymn about wrestling to calm and quiet her soul. It is an extended personalization of Psalm 131:2, presumably written in the context of some great loss.
Be still, my soul. The Lord is on thy side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain. Leave to thy God to order and provide. In every change, He faithful will remain. Be still, my soul. Thy best, thy heavenly Friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
- Think about that, and still yourself. Remember the Lord’s favor, control, faithfulness, and friendship. Remain patient in your sufferings.
Be still, my soul. Thy God doth undertake to guide the future as He has the past. Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake. All now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul. The waves and winds still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
- Why does she have to keep reminding herself, “Be still, my soul”? We need to be stilled. Who is strong enough to rule the unruly things that wail, rattle, or shout within us?
1) God is purposively active in His children.
2) He will have final say.
3) Christ ruled the storms, rules them still, and will rule them.
Be still, my soul. When dearest friends depart, and all is darkened in the vale of tears, then shalt thou better know his love, his heart, who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears. Be still, my soul. Thy Jesus can repay from His own fullness all He takes away.
- Perhaps irreparable loss is the hardest thing to face.
1) A loved one dies, and will never again walk through the door to greet us.
2) We retire, and can never again return to the work into which we poured our talent, time, and concern.
3) We will never again be young.
4) No second chance to do our college years or that failed marriage over again.
5) Such things devastate us. Can we quiet ourselves? Jesus gives us himself.
Be still, my soul. The hour is hast’ning on when we shall be forever with the Lord, when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored. Be still, my soul. When change and tears are past, all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
- Katarina von Schlegel was the ultimate realist.
- Most of the noise in our souls is generated by trying to control the uncontrollable.
- We grasp after the wind.
- We rage, fear, and finally despair.
- But this wise sister refocused onto a hope more enduring than fragile, destructible hope-so.
- Be still, my soul. All that is hard now will be forgotten amid love’s purest joys.
- This slight, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor 4:17).
- Psalm 131 faith lives with eyes open.
- David drives this home with a wonderful metaphor: like a weaned child on his mother, like a weaned child, my soul rests on me.
- When a hungry child is placed on his mother’s lap, he is agitated.
- He moves around, squirming anxiously.
- If he doesn’t get immediate attention and satisfaction, he frets and fusses.
- He is frustrated and cranky because he wants something.
- He needs something – the mother’s milk means life, health, satisfaction, joy.
- If the mother doesn’t deliver right now, he’ll thrash about.
- His emotions range over the whole spectrum of noisy, negative emotion.
- In this imagery, we witness the childish versions of things that destroy adults: anxiety, depression, anger, jealousy, discontent, and confusion.
- But then have you ever seen that same child two weeks later, when he is successfully weaned?
- The difference is amazing!
- A dramatic change has taken place.
- Now when that child is placed in his mother’s lap, he sits quietly, giving his attention in a different direction.
- The child rests upon his mother, at peace.
- The child has changed.
- That’s the picture of learning peace.
- The Reason for Peace
- The last line gives the reason – The LORD, Jesus Christ, is our hope.
- Pride dies as the humility of faith lives.
- Pride and arrogance lowers their eyes as the dependency of hope lifts up its eyes.
- We stop pursuing impossibilities when we start pursuing certainties.
- This simple sentence distills wonders.
- Consider the command and invitation you are now receiving.
- We are called to hope in the LORD.
- Who is this person who topples all the stairways to nowhere and gives us something better?
- He is the true God, the only Redeemer from the idols we construct.
- Our hope is in “I AM,” who becomes known simply as “the Lord.”
- Eventually, he more immediately and personally names Himself: Jesus Christ is Lord.
- What exactly are you to hope for? Jesus Christ himself.
1 Tim. 1:1 – Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope…
- We are called to such hopes now and forever.
- David speaks in a generality, literally, “from now until forever.”
- That pretty much covers the territory!
- But the time frame of our hope is even more clearly defined than David could have known.
- We hope fully on the grace to be given you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:13).
- Both now and forever shine with newer, brighter meanings for us who read Psalm 131 in the light of Christ.
(This does not mean you can play make believe and plaster on “grace” and continue in your old ways, or decide that you are already okay and don’t have to address anything here. If you continue in your old ways, even some of them, I would really begin to question the veracity of my profession if I were you. What it DOES mean is that you simply cannot continue in your self centered, haughty, proud, cowardly or “positive self assessing” ways. You belong to the biblical Christ. You have to LIVE it. It’s your choice. Life. Or death. You decide. If you love the Lord He will be everything to you, you will not be your main focus nor will you be constantly trying to get your own way. You will be working in conjunction with the Holy Spirit to live HIS way. You will step up no matter how difficult because it is CHRIST’S reputation that is on the line in that, through you. If you find that you are doing some of or all of the things listed above, you need to repent and stop it. And if you truly repent, then you WILL obey His clear commands found in His word, regardless of how foreign to the flesh they may be or how difficult it may make your “world”, or how hard that self crucifying is. Being in Christ is a matter of dying to self and living FOR Christ alone. No man comes away from a true rebirth and lives even close to the same as he did before the event. As in birth of the flesh, does one come out of the womb and then live in a fetal position, seeking food from an umbilical cord, living in the dark? No. And it is the same in spiritual rebirth. No one continues to live as before except the still dead in flesh, and God says that only leads to what? You got it! Death. Listen…we can be David or we can be Saul….I choose to be David, or the female equivalent. I want to be a woman after God’s own heart. Not a woman who breaks it. How about you? His “well done” or His sorrow at seeing the yuck inside that you want to keep and not give up? And really….if you want to keep it, how can you ever truly have Christ, or THINK you have Christ? Ain’t no room for the “Me Me’s” in the Kingdom. We can only wrestle ourselves down by the promises of God’s lovingkindness and specific obedience. Only through our Redeemer. Think about it. If you wanna talk, I’ll be in the repentance corner….pull up a chair.)