Psalm 131: A New Orientation

Adam and Eve were tempted to believe, “You will be like God,” and that lie has been deceiving us ever since. We may not self-identify as deities demanding sacrifices and overt worship, but we may fall for subtler versions. One variation combines ideas that are very common today:

  • I have no limits.
  • I am sufficient on my own.
  • My worth depends on achieving the above.

Motivational merchandise tells us, “Wish it. Dream it. Do it!,” which sounds remarkably like the prosperity gospel. But wishes and dreams require resources that can run out. Aspirations demand skill and talent that may never be ours. We live in time and space with bodies and minds that are finite.

We have also inherited the cultural myth of the self-made man or woman. A rags-to-riches tale of success where it is possible to make it on our own without owing anything to anyone else. This teaches us that dependence is weakness and a source of shame. But total self-sufficiency is physically impossible for human beings. A baby is born helpless. Aging can return us to a needy condition. And regardless of age, what do we have that we have not received?[1]

God is the only being sufficient in himself. God is omniscient, knowing all things because he is their creator and source. We were meant to live in happy dependence upon him for every aspect of our lives – material and immaterial. Therefore, it should be no surprise that falling for the lie of no limits and no dependence is exhausting. Just look at the different sectors of society where people of all ages are experiencing burn out because of the pressure to live up to impossible ideals. We cannot do it all. We cannot know it all.

This is why Psalm 131[2], in three short verses, reorients us to the goodness of dependence and belonging to God.

Lord, my heart is not proud;
my eyes are not haughty.
I do not get involved with things
too great or too wondrous for me.

When we come before God, what bragging rights do we have? The person with the highest IQ in the world and the infant born yesterday are on a level playing field compared to what God knows. But this is more than acknowledging the distance between Creator and creation. We do not have to rely on our intelligence and abilities to save or give us significance. We do not have to know all there is to know because we are known and belong to a God who does.

Instead, I have calmed and quieted my soul
like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like a weaned child.

A weaned child is old enough to know that his mother will meet his basic needs. He has come to expect that she will hear and answer his cries. He senses he is loved, though he may not be able to put it into words, and this produces deep security. Likewise a loving mother does not expect her toddler to justify his need for care. He is loved because he is hers. His place on her lap where he can lean against her heart is his by virtue of belonging. How much more does our heavenly Father love us? Is there any promise more secure than this?

“Can a woman forget her nursing child,

or lack compassion for the child of her womb?

Even if these forget,

yet I will not forget you.[3]

If God has set his love upon us, if the Son died and rose again for us, if the Spirit dwells within us, how can we not belong to him? Any prerequisite for being welcomed by God was fulfilled by himself.

When we have been conditioned to believe that the only way is to pay our way, grace often seems too good to be true. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to remind us of what is far better. We do not earn God's love. We do not work for a place in his family. All this is ours by being born again.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
both now and forever.

The reality of secure belonging to God is reason to hope. This is where we receive peace that passes understanding. He has made the way and will never go back on his promises. He just bids us to come as his beloved children and find rest.

 

Sources for some of these thoughts:

You Are Not Your Own Alan Noble, InterVarsity Press, 2021.

You're Only Human, Kelly Kapic, Brazos Press, 2022.

 

Persis Lorenti is an ordinary Christian. She is a member of Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church in Hampton, Virginia. You can find her on Twitter @tea_et_books.



[1]    1 Corinthians 4:7

[2]    Psalm 131 from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).

[3]    Isaiah 49: 15 CSB, emphasis added.

 

Persis Lorenti

MORE FROM THE ALLIANCE

On YouTube

The Story of Scripture

Reformed Resources

New audio from James Boice

Find Out More

Register for the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology