We are in the midst of another presidential election and once again the drama of this whole process is at times interesting, at times mystifying and to me many times rather frightening! I have found that many of the candidates are outstanding at pointing out what is wrong and what the problems are. Few, however, are very good at describing what the solutions are or else their solutions betray the fact that they aren’t particularly well informed as to how things really work. Lots of problems are identified but very solutions are given that will likely work. Finding a solution is almost always more difficult than identifying the problem. Last summer, we learned that Claire was anemic and became easily winded. She was easily fatigued and got very light-headed. We knew what the problems were but not what was causing it. Now we know and through God’s grace we are going through the steps that we pray will lead to a long term remission. Again, it’s one thing to identify the problem; it’s quite something else to fix it.
We have been looking at pride over the last few weeks and seen its various forms. We have seen pride in that we want to be like God and control our own destiny. We want to take pride in what we have accomplished instead of crediting God with what he has done for us. We take pride in doing good things and wanting credit for those things. The question now is how to fight against pride that seems to be so evident in our lives. So what is the solution to the problem of pride? Psalm 131 says that humbly trusting in God gives us the antidote to pride and brings about the hope that we want and need to live with our God. Let’s listen to the Word of the Lord in Psalm 131.
I. His place in the world is seen in verse 1.
David says that his heart is not proud nor does he concern himself with great matters. To be proud means that we view ourselves higher than others. David says that he is not proud nor has he become arrogant about things. To be concerned about great things means that he does not presume to grasp what goes on in the mind of God. David readily admits that there are many things he cannot begin to understand. In humility, he knows that he does not have the mind of God. Human pride makes us think that we know more than God knows. Specifically, pride thinks that we could do things better than God is doing things. David is not claiming God-like wisdom or powers but is rather trusting in God.
Let’s admit that we like to claim God-like wisdom for ourselves at times. We sometimes think that things could be done a lot better. We say that if we were God, we wouldn’t let those bad things happen. If we were God we wouldn’t have people get cancer or be injured in accidents. We wonder why God doesn’t just get rid of bad people and all the effects of sin! We think we know better than God and we could do a better job at being God than God is doing! You may know people like that who try to orchestrate things to conform to what they want because they think it’s the best in their limited thinking. I want to put up a sign for those people that says, “The position of God has been filled. Thank you!” But we too often think that we can run our lives the way they should be run. In pride we think of ourselves higher than we should.
We must humbly recognize that we are not even close to having the mind of God. Now that doesn’t mean we can’t pray and question and probe God’s thinking. We can certainly ask “why” or to what purpose; we can say we don’t understand. But whatever we say must be framed with the attitude that God is God and we are not. We must yield ourselves to him and his infinite wisdom. And that means we trust God completely and that is what we see in the next verse.
His soul is stilled and quieted like a weaned child. This beautiful picture of contentment is often misread and even mistranslated. I think many people read this and think of a small infant who has just nursed and is resting peacefully on her mother’s lap. The baby’s belly is full and now she can be in blissful state of contentment. But look again and you realize that David is talking about a weaned child. Now I know those of you who have toddlers may find a picture of a toddler serving as a metaphor or peace and tranquility a stretch, but listen to this.
And in God’s great wisdom, he had David make the point using a young child. A young child trusts but doesn’t grasp all the realities of the world like his or her parents grasp things. A young child trusts that mom or dad will care for them and cannot begin to understand terror attacks, mass shootings, disease and all the world’s scary things. A young child trusts that mom and dad will take care of them.... period! David says that he doesn’t know everything but his soul within him is like a small child who trusts that God will hold him, provide for him and take care of him. And this is completely liberating to him because he doesn’t have to worry about things too great for him! Even though he may not understand, God has him and all things in his hands.
So here is my question for you: How old do you see yourself with respect to God? I think many times we feel like we are a lot older in our relationship with God. We have seen most of everything in the world. We feel pretty wise in our own eyes. And the wiser we think we are, the more we often fret and worry. We think things should be different or think God should do things differently. We trouble ourselves with things that are too great for us. And we are far from contentment and being at peace. The older I get the more I think of myself as a younger and younger child. There are so many things I don’t understand and I can’t grasp. I try to understand but the more I try to understand, the less I really grasp things. But if I think of myself as a toddler and God in heaven as my Father, the more content I am for I know that God will provide for me and care for me.
III. The result is hope as we see in verse 3.
David says to the people who are walking in procession to the temple: “Put your hope in God now and forevermore!” Up to this point, David has been speaking personally about his own struggle with pride. But now he looks around at his fellow people and urges them to put their hope, their trust, in God. In other words, he is saying, “It works! Believe me!” Trust in God and he will take care of you completely! And he will do it now as you continue to walk through life but also for evermore!
We too must put our hope in God now, in the future and for evermore. We must trust that whatever life is bringing us right now is in God’s hands. The bad and the difficult as well as the good and the blessings. Everything is in God’s hands and we can have a solid and sure hope that we right now are in God’s hands. And we must put our hope in God for our eternal future as well. In many respects that is easier to do. When I had cancer, I was at peace because I knew that I would be with Jesus if the cancer took my life. We can know that if someone were to kill us, we would be with Jesus and that gives us a very real and solid hope. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
But it’s the in between parts of now and evermore that can be more troubling. If your loved one dies, they will be with the Lord, but we still have to continue on in this life without that person; and that’s very difficult. It’s harder to trust God when we think about the immediate earthly future as well. What will our world be like for our children or grandchildren? What things will they have to deal with that we can’t even imagine. Will our grandchildren make good decisions? Will they follow the Lord in their lives? But in those things as well, we must put our hope in God. The antidote to pride is trust that God has us and is fully in control now, in the future and for evermore.
Marilyn Robinson writes in her book, Gilead, about an old pastor who is reflecting on his life as a pastor for many years. The pastor says, “I went up to the church to watch the dawn come, because that peace does restore me better than sleep can do. It is as though there were a hoard of quiet in that room, as if any silence that ever entered that room stayed in it. I remember once as a child, dreaming that my mother came into my bedroom and sat down in a chair in the corner and folded her hands in her lap and stayed there, very calm and still. It made me feel wonderfully safe, wonderfully happy. When I woke up, there she was, sitting in that chair. She smiled at me and said, ‘I was just enjoying the quiet.’ I have that same feeling in the church, that I am dreaming what is true.” God is there even when our pride and arrogance rises up and he smiles at us as he watches over us, his child-like, trusting children. Are you like that weaned child, completely trusting in our Father?