A Quiet Soul (Psalm 131)

The Quiet Soul
Psalm 131

Lindsey Vonn is a champion downhill skier who is a celebrity spokeswoman for the insomnia medicine Quviviq. The global insomnia market is expected to reach $6.3 billion by 2030, according to the Allied Market Research. Sleeplessness is costing Americans millions of dollars each year. No one can estimate the thousands of troubled lives in our country.

There are many causes for insomnia and few cures. A millionaire, like Lindsey Vonn - whose net worth is estimated to be around $12 million and 37 years old - wants a cure for her sleeplessness. Some would empty their pockets for only one night of restful sleep.

I can tell you one thing that would help a lot of people. It is faith and hope in God.

We all, perhaps, know people who have been told they have cancer or some serious heart condition that was incurable, but they went home and slept like a baby. Faith and confidence in God will not cost us a penny, but it will give us peace and rest.

Faith is like a magic formula, but without the gimmicks, tricks, and failures. Are you spending large quantities on sleeping pills, sleep-inducing gadgets, doctors, or sleep clinics? While there are physiological causes that need medications or other treatments, we might do well to strengthen our faith in God.

It will cost a lifetime of commitment. But the results of faithfulness on our part will bring us peaceful nights of rest and slumber and keep our days filled with hope and optimism.

A man can only do what he can do.
But if he does that each day,
He can sleep at night
And do it again the next day.
Albert Schweitzer

In the sixth (and last) psalm we will study this year, Psalm 131, King David gives us the formula for having a peaceful heart, or in his words, a “quiet soul.” Psalm 131 is one of the shortest psalms in the book. Psalm 117 is the shortest without only two verses. But 131, 133, and 134 each have only three verses. Psalm 123 has 4 verses and then there are several with five verses. So, one of the shortest psalms in the book with one of the most fundamental messages in the whole Bible. Let’s feed our spirits on this psalm… David’s “soul is at peace with God. This is all the happiness he needs” (Weiser, 777).

Before we go further, you will notice at the top of the psalm the designation “Song of Ascents.” Scholars do not know exactly what this phrase means. Their best guess is that these were psalms that were sung by the Israelites on their way to worship in Jerusalem, which was on Mount Zion which meant they had to ascend the mountain to worship. Fifteen psalms have this designation attached to them.

WHO AM I - Verse 1:
Richard Foster wrote a book in 2018 titled Celebration of Discipline in which he wrote:

“Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people. The classical disciplines of the spiritual life call us to move beyond surface living into the depths. They invite us to explore the inner caverns of the spiritual realm. They urge us to be the answer to a hollow world. John Woodman counsels, ‘It is good for thee to dwell deep, that thou mayest feel and understand the spirits of people’” (page 1).

David says his heart is not haughty.

He also says his eyes were not lifted up. Do you think David reminded himself often of his own shortcomings and weaknesses? He was a finite man and he knew it. He was a sinner and often admitted it.

He has not walked, or occupied himself, with great things.

Nor in wonders beyond him. The word “wonders” refers to miracles in Exodus 3:20; 34:10. The word is used 27 times in Psalms referring to things that David simply does not understand.

Isaiah writes that all flesh is as grass (Isa. 40:6). James reminds us that life is like a vapor (James 4:14). James also reminds us that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

Paul wrote that we should “not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3).

The “great things” and “wonders” which David has in mind are the plans and schemes of men which we arrogantly plan, often times without taking God’s will into consideration. I have been reading a book by Douglas Brinkley called Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race. I did not live during that period of time, but the race to the moon illustrates how human beings think that we can do anything we set our minds to do. But too often, we fail because we did not take God’s will into consideration. We think we can “cure” poverty. We think we can “cure” the damage done to our planet. One presidential hopeful said that with his election, the tides of the oceans will recede! Man refuses to be humbled.

But David knew who he was…

WHAT I DO - Verse 2:
There is no room for God in a heart that is full of self.

Think of the words to the hymn “Master the Tempest is Raging…”

The winds and the waves shall obey thy will
Peace, be still
… Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea
Or demons, or men, or whatever it be
No water can swallow the ship where lies
The master of ocean and earth and sky
They all shall sweetly obey thy will
… Peace, peace, be still

God waited until Abraham and Sarah had exhausted all hope in human effort before He gave them Isaac.
God waited until Israel was without hope in any human effort before He led them out of Egypt.
God waited until Gideon was without hope in any human effort before He led him to victory over the Midianites.
Should we go on? Isn’t the story of the Bible a story of humans failing and having to trust in God to find success?

We can be people of depth when our hearts are attuned to God and His will. Listen to David…

I have calmed…

I have quieted my soul.

Like one weaned on his mother.

Like one weaned [is] my soul.

Please observe that David notes here that we are not animals driven by instincts. Human are conscious of their own existence. We can be conscious of our own struggles and the path we need to take. This allows us to have a strong hand in calming and quieting ourselves.

When David was running for his life from King Saul, his supporters and his family was in the village of Ziklag. While David was gone, the Amalekites invaded Ziklag and took David’s people and his family hostage. Others of David’s people started talking about stoning David, but the historian writes in 1 Samuel 30:6: “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”

In this psalm, David notes that he was like a weaned child from his mother’s breast. How much trustful can you get? What is more trusting than that? A child feels rest and a child feels security. He has had his needs met and he is now content. We often quote Philippians 4:13 but do we live by it? The context of Philippians 4 is Paul being well-cared-for versus being in poverty. Regardless of his circumstances, he found contentment in Christ.

Satan, working through our society, does his best to distract us. The country music group Alabama has a song called “5:00 500,” in which they compare going home after work to a NASCAR race:

Just punched the clock and boy, am I ready?
Walkin' out the door headin' home
It's time to buckle up again in my rolling hunk of tin
It's quittin' time the evenin' race is on
It's that five o'clock 500 and I run it every day
Pick up trucks, cars and buses all in my way
We've got Darrel, we've got Dale, Richard, Mark, Rusty and Jeff
Oh, the boss just dropped the green we're on our way
It's that five o'clock 500 every day

In his book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster wrote that Satan attacks us in three ways: “noise, hurry and crowds. If he can keep us engaged in ‘muchness’ and ‘manyness,’ he will rest satisfied” (pg. 15).

So how can we find rest for our souls in a world of distractions? How can we enthrone God in our hearts when our hearts keep moving from one distraction to another?

What we need to do is calm our souls. We need to find a quiet place in our minds and sit awhile. We need to drink deeply from the calming words of the Father’s message to us.

How can we quiet our souls in a world of sleeplessness? David tells us in verse 3…

“Hope! Israel in Jehovah. From now and forever.”

Think of the words to this hymn, “None of Self and All of Thee…”

Higher than the highest heavens,
Deeper than the deepest sea,
Lord, thy love at last has conquered
“None of self, and all of Thee.”

“None of self, and all of Thee.”
“None of self, and all of Thee.”
Lord, thy love at last has conquered
“None of self, and all of Thee.”

The book of Psalms uses the word “hope” 19 times. All our spiritual disciples are intended by God to strengthen our hope in the Lord. Why do we encourage each other in palms, hymns, and spiritual songs? So our hope will get stronger.

Why do we pray together and for each other? So our hope will grow stronger.

Why do we take the Lord’s Supper each Lord’s Day and meditate on the Lord’s sacrifice? So our hope will grow stronger.

Why do we study and meditate on the gospel of Christ? So our hope will grow stronger.

Why do we give cheerfully and generously each Lord’s Day? So our hope will grow stronger.

“In hope you have been saved” Paul writes in Romans 8:24. The NT uses the word “hope” 84 times - that’s an average of three times for each book of the NT! The books that do not use the word hope are Mark, 2 Timothy, James, 2 Peter, Jude, and Revelation. Otherwise, God’s New Covenant is saturated with hope.

With hope, we can quiet our souls, find rest in God, and keep Him on the throne of our heart.

Take home message: Let me be humble; let my soul be quiet; let my heart hope in God.


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