PSALM 131 – TRANQUILITY
Although one of the shortest psalms, comprised of only three verses, Psalm 131 is considered by many to be among the most imaginative and beautiful. The focus of the first verse is humility, which sets the foundation for the rest of the psalm. Interestingly, the numerical value of the Hebrew word meaning humble (anvah ענוה) is 131 (70+50+6+5).
Of all people, the great King David had reason to harbor pride in his heart. When he was anointed by the prophet Samuel as the one chosen by God to be king over Israel, he could well have lorded it over his surprised brothers. As a young boy he also gained fame when he stood up to and killed the giant Goliath, which understandably might have given rise to a sense of pride and ‘haughtiness’ of attitude. In every situation, however, including when as a young shepherd he killed a lion with his bare hands, he attributed his success to God. “It was the Lord who delivered me out of the paw of the lion” (1 Sam. 17:37). Througout his reign and all his victories in battle, as well as the great celebration of the return of the Holy Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, he did not take any glory for himself but kept his eyes and his heart always focussed on the Lord.
Together with his other accomplishments, David also was a gifted man of deep spirituality and great intellect, as evidenced in his writings and poetry. He received wondrous revelations of God’s will in his design of the Temple and the details of its decoration and construction. He also was an inspired musician and composed the music for the Levitical choir and musicians and trained them in their performance of it. Yet, here in verse 1 he says, “I do not aspire to things too great or too wondrous for me.” He did nothing to aspire to greatness; all he undertook to do was simply in obedience to his Lord through implementation of the talents and abilities he was given by Him.
David affirms his lack of reliance upon his own strength and understanding in the administration of his position of high authority and in all his actions. He does not, as a result, allow any of the demands and challenges that inevitably arise to cause him any anxiety or distress, or to trouble him unduly. He has calmed and quietened his soul with the knowledge that the Lord is his master and provider. He proceeds to draw the beautiful and soothing picture of “a weaned child” resting upon its mother. The simile is all the more poignant coming from a man of such might and standing.
A weaned child is not instantaneously calm. When an infant is weaned from its mother’s milk, it suffers the separation, and experiences concern relating to the loss of its source of food and much crying and agitation can ensue! Once the realization is made that the mother still is there and attending to all its needs, and there is an abundant provision of other nourishing food, the child calmly and contentedly can rest in the arms of its mother once again. We too can rest in the hands of our Father God, who promises, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted in Jerusalem” (66:13).
In the last verse, David the king calls out to his people with the heart of a father for his children,
“O Israel, hope in the Lord, from this time forth and forever!”
Even if they are guilty of rebellion and idolatry, with Him there is abundant forgiveness and redemption (130:7). David’s fervent prayer is that they too can turn to the One who is the sole source of hope, the Giver of good things, the Lord who cares and protects as a Shepherd does His flock and who draws us to Himself in constant lovingkindness. Therein lies Israel’s hope and the hope of all mankind.