Psalm 131: Cultivating Hope (Part 3)

Calming and Quieting the Soul (v.2)

“But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.”

Why does David’s soul need calming and quieting? Perhaps he struggles with inordinate longing (overvaluing something he wants), obstinate clinging (overvaluing something he has), distrustful worrying (undervaluing God’s power), or ungrateful murmuring (undervaluing God’s goodness). Whatever the case, he claims to have “calmed and quieted [his] soul, like a weaned child with its mother.”

What’s David’s point? “The weaned infant,” explains Thomas Manton, “challenges nothing, expects nothing, but what his mother will give him.” A weaned child is cut off from his mother’s milk, implying he no longer receives what he expects. Similarly, David calms and quiets his soul by cultivating self-denial. He weakens his attachment to the world and learns to esteem things according to their true value.

Moreover, a weaned child is reliant upon his mother for everything, and he rests in his mother’s provision. Similarly, David calms and quiets his soul by cultivating dependence, recognizing that all things come from God. Finally, a weaned child is happy with what his mother gives him. In other words, he’s satisfied with small things. Similarly, David calms and quiets his soul by cultivating contentment and learns to live by what God gives him.

This picture of a weaned child is similar to the one Christ provides in Matthew 18. The disciples want to know who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (v. 1). We don’t know what precipitates this, but we do know what’s at the root of it—pride. Christ responds by placing a child in their midst and declaring, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (v. 3).

What does he mean? To answer that question, we must be careful to distinguish between being childish and childlike. To be childish is to be immature. The Bible warns us not to be childish in the way we think or behave (Matthew 11:16; 1 Corinthians 14:20; Ephesians 4:14). Therefore, when Christ says we must “become like children,” he most certainly isn’t saying we should be childish. He’s affirming that we should be childlike.

How? He tells us: “Whosoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (v. 4). Here, Christ calls his disciples’ attention to the fact that children are completely dependent upon adults for survival. By extension, he’s telling them that they must rid themselves of any desire for greatness and admit their childlike dependence upon God for all things. That is to say, they must humble themselves.

We must fix our mind on this singular truth: God—who is infinitely wise, incomparably powerful, and immeasurably good—is a Father who loves us and knows what’s best for us. We calm and quiet our heart when we resign ourselves to his will with respect to present conditions and future events.

Excerpted from Longing for Home by J. Stephen Yuille.

Yesterday: Part 3: Subduing and Humbling the Heart

Tomorrow: Part 4: Conclusion

Shepherd Press