Psalm 131 (ESV)1O 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. 2But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3 O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.

Humility is the obverse side of God, whereas pride is the obverse side of confidence in self. (John Baillie)

Psalm 131 is a maintenance psalm. It gets rid of that which looks good to those who don’t know any better, and reduces the distance between our hearts and their roots in God. The two things that Psalm 131 prunes away are unruly ambition and infantile dependency.

Aspiration Gone Crazy: All cultures throw certain stumbling blocks in the way of those who pursue gospel realities. The way of faith deals with these realities whenever and in every culture. One stumbling block that has become prevalent is ambition. Our culture encourages and rewards ambition without qualification. To be on top, no matter what your on top of, is admired. It is hard to recognize pride as a sin when it is held up on every side as a virtue, urged as profitable and rewarded as an achievement.

We are caught up in a way of life that, instead of delighting in finding out the meaning of God and searching out the conditions in which human qualities can best be realized, recklessly seeks ways to circumvent nature, arrogantly defies personal relationships and names God only in curses. Those who yield themselves up to the influence of ambition will soon lose themselves in a labyrinth of perplexity.

As Content as a Child: Having realized the dangers of pride, the sin of thinking too much of ourselves, we are suddenly in danger of another mistake, thinking too little of ourselves. There are some that believe since the great Christian temptation is to be everything, the perfect solution is to be nothing. These people then compensate for their lives by weepily clinging to God. But Christian faith is not neurotic dependency but childlike trust. We do not cling to God desperately out of fear and the panic of insecurity; we come to him freely in faith and love. Our Lord gave us the picture of a child as a model for Christian faith, not because of the child’s helplessness, but because of the child’s willingness to be led, to be taught, to be blessed. For God does not want us neurotically dependent on him but willingly trustful in him.

The Plain Way: We are always, it seems, reeling from one side of the road to the other as we travel in the way of faith. We are first incited into being grandiose and then intimidated into being infantile. But there is another way, the plain way of quiet Christian humility. As we learn this Psalm we discover the quietness of the weaned child, the tranquility of maturing trust. Psalm 131 nurtures: a quality of calm confidence and quiet strength that knows the difference between unruly arrogance and faithful aspiration. This song teaches us not to seek our glory but to be about God’s glory as the one we trust, the one we love to be with, and the one we hope in from this time forth and forevermore.

(This post is a summary and partial abridgement of Eugene Peterson’s book “A Long Obedience In The Same Direction.” It is based solely on Peterson’s work and any help that this content gives should be credited to God’s grace through Peterson’s effort. In other words, give God glory, thank Eugene Peterson and consider buying the book.)