Psalm 131: A Child At Rest
Michigan summers are a great time to relax on the beach or at a cottage on one of the many lakes in this great state. Being by a body of water automatically invites me to quiet contemplation. What else invites such rest? A child sleeping in its mother’s arms. Psalm 131 invites us to rest in God’s loving embrace. It is a call to contemplation.
Psalm 131 is a psalm of trust, complete, absolute trust in a loving God. It also is a contemplative psalm. It is the most restful psalm in the psalter. In this psalm God is presented as a mother, nursing her child.
The writer has set aside his desires for acclaim or greatness in the eyes of the world. “O 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.” (1)
We don’t know whether he has always been this humble, or if he has seen the error of his ways. As one commentator states: “Once he had a heart that craved wealth, luxury, and pleasure, eyes that were set on power and station, and a mind that busied itself with matters beyond its ability to understand. He was in consequence full of unrest, for pride, envy, and pretentiousness gave him no peace. But now all of that has changed.” (The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 4)
We don’t know exactly what brought about this change of heart. Perhaps it was the natural course of aging. Others suggest that Psalm 131 was originally a sequel to a lament. Having received a favorable response to his appeal for help, he is now basking in gratitude and trust in God. “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mother’s breast; like a child that is quieted is my soul.” (2) The author experiences a return to the innocence and peace of childhood, a common theme in literature.
Psalm 131 – a Psalm of Reorientation
This is a psalm of reorientation, following Brueggemann’s classifications. Having gone through a time of disorientation, the author has returned to his state of trust in God. His hope in God has been confirmed. The writer ends with instructions to Israel to have this hope. “O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and for evermore.” (3)
Much as we may desire to return to the innocence of our childhood, we can’t live our lives there. Children grow up, we grow up. We each have a mission to fulfil in this life which requires us leaving the comfort of our homes. Still, it’s nice to know we have a place of rest that we can return to when we need it. When life is crazy, when we find ourselves pumped up with false pride, all we need to is come to God like a small child and rest in God’s loving arms.
God as Mother
Does the image of God as Mother speak to you? Explore this image for God as well as other images. (Chapter 3 in my book, Who Me? Full of Grace?, has a section on this. Chapter may be purchased separately from book, Finding Time for Prayer When There Is No Time.)
Have you ever felt led into contemplative prayer while rocking a sleeping child? Or perhaps beside a body of water or out amid God’s beauty in nature? I would love to hear from you.
This post is part of a series of blog posts on the Psalms. Sign up to follow this blog and and receive a free copy of Still Dancing, the second book in my Dancing through Life Series. click here to sign up
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