“Calm and Quiet”, A Devotional on Psalm 131

“In our hectic schedules, it’s often difficult to find time for calm and quiet. Still, we all need it – a break from work and worry, time to get away even from wholesome, God-honoring activities.

Psalm 131 reflects this need. It’s designated “A Song of Ascents”, indicating that it was one of the psalms recited or sung by faithful Israelites as they traveled from their homes to Jerusalem to celebrate Israel’s annual feasts. It expresses the calm and quiet in prayer that God’s people needed as they faced many harrowing dangers along the way.

Preoccupied with Troubles

Most of us turn to God in prayer when we’re preoccupied with troubles beyond our control. We become sick; we can’t find a job; our children are in trouble – we all are preoccupied by these kinds of cares from time to time. And when they weigh heavily on us, we know that we can turn to Christ in prayer and ask for His help.

As important as it is to pray about our troubles, the opening verse of Psalm 131 points to a different kind of experience of prayer. Here the psalmist declares, “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”. In effect, the psalmist confesses, “OK, I give up. I can’t figure out my circumstances. I’ve stopped trying to fix the problems I face.” But notice that giving up did not mean that he gives in to despair. Rather, he humbles himself in the presence of God.

Safe from Troubles

The psalmist continues in the second verse with a compelling reflection on his humiliation in God’s presence. He “calmed and quieted [his] soul, like a weaned child with its mother”. The original language is rather specific here. The psalmist doesn’t compare himself with a nursing infant. Rather, he is like a “weaned child”. Now, if you’ve been around nursing infants, you know how they act in their mother’s embrace. Unless they are completely sated or asleep, they usually want their mothers to give them more and more. But the experience of weaned children can be very different. Rather than going to mom with a long list of needs, they can find safety and security simply by being near her. This is the psalmist’s experience as he comes to God. He did not come saying, “Please give me this, this, and this”. He comes simply to be with God, calmly and quietly, knowing that in God’s embrace he is safe from all harm.

And what is the result when God’s people approach Him in this way? In verse 3, the psalmist turns to others who are traveling with him and says, “O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore”. He finds hope in a hopeless world. And out of this reassurance, he encourages others to put their hope in the only One who is worthy of hope now and forever, the Lord alone”.

Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr. from Table Talk, April 2016