Saturday, September 24, 2011

Psalm 131

Psalm 131
A psalm of contentment

"Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed my soul, like weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forever."
                 David was called and anointed by God to be king over all Israel as yet a boy through the prophet Samuel. He later slew the giant Goliath who defied the God of Israel, consequently winning popularity in the eyes of the people and the princess of Israel as his wife. The son in law of the current king, admired by all Israel, and spiritually confirmed...David had every reason to expect to be king one day.  Yet, seemingly in a moment's time, all appearances of greatness were stripped from him. His wife, his reputation, even his country were lost to him as a lonely exile in a foreign land.
                 David, rather than being full of anger and bitterness, or intent on claiming what should rightfully be his, writes this psalm. He has seemingly searched his soul, and finding no spirit of ambition, announces his state of humility to the Lord.  The word "haughty" implies an inflated sense of self importance and  the word "lofty" indicates high ambitions. His heart is not full of pride, nor his focus upon promotion.  He intentionally stays out of politics and offers no opinions on the current leadership. He describes himself as being like an older child who has learned to wait for the meal to be prepared, rather than a crying infant demanding to be nursed immediately. He is saying that he has exercised self control over his own emotions and is now in a state of quiet expectancy. David knows that God will fulfill His promise to him, but he has submitted himself to God's timing.  Then, addressing the nation in his song, he advises them to place their hope in God, not in him, for guidance.
                 Contentment is a state of quiet submission.  Relating to physical needs, it is an acknowledgement of both God's present provision as well as a dependence upon Him for any future needs.  Hebrews 12:5, "Be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" Although easily applied to material things, it is that which applies to circumstance that David speaks of here. Paul, speaking of his circumstances in Philippians 4:11 says, "For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content." Contentment amidst whatever situation or state of being we currently find ourselves in is an acknowledgement of both God's sovereignty and goodness at work in our present circumstances.  It is a declaration of trust. When we are discontent with our situation, we are in essence doubting either God's ability to use all things for our good (Romans 8:28), or His character of goodness. Either He can't or He won't, we reason. And either way, we are declaring that we can't or won't trust Him as a result.  Contentment is that which says, "I don't understand how this is good, or how God, being good, could allow this to happen, but I do know my God and His Word, and I choose to trust Him anyways."
                    Paul, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, exhorts believers to, "in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (I Thess. 5:18) What is the will of God? To give thanks to God for everything. Yes, everything. Corrie Ten Boom, a Christian who had been imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp for hiding Jews, was assigned a barrack that was flea infested. Her sister, likewise imprisoned, began at once to thank God for their new home... and for the fleas. Corrie balked at such a prayer, refusing to be thankful for such a curse; did God really expect them to be thankful for horrible things? Several weeks later they discovered that they alone had the freedom to hold worship services and Bible studies daily in their barracks, whereas all others were strictly paroled, due solely to the wretched fleas! When we thank God for everything, we are declaring our trust in His sovereign plan to work all things for our good and for His glory.  It is an act of faith.
                    Thankfulness and contentment go hand in hand, and both are a response of faith to whatever circumstance or situation we find ourselves in. When bad things happen...yes, even then, give thanks. God has a good plan, and even though we can see nothing good in what has happened, we CAN be content in God's goodness. "'For I know the thoughts that I think towards you', says the LORD, 'thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.'" (Jeremiah 29:11) Contentment is not having what you want; it is thanking God for what you have, in faith that He will fulfill His Word and use all things for our good.
                    David, like us, had a choice. He could clamour for God to release him from his trials...like a hungry infant wailing for his mother's immediate attention. Or he could lay his need before God and leave it there, trusting that God, in His perfect time and way, would work it out for his good. Today, and everyday, when trials, great or small, fall across our path, we can choose to thank God for them, embracing our circumstance in the faith that we are loved by a mighty God! That is contentment. Praise God!

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