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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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 Chapter 130
Chapter 132
 
 
 
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PSALM 131

FINDING AND BUYING THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE

This is the twelfth of the Songs of Ascent, and it is ascribed to David in the superscription. "This is in full accordance with both the language and the contents of the psalm."F1 We agree with Kidner who wrote that, "This psalm awakens memories of David's early modesty, simplicity and lack of rancour, the same being among the qualities that made him great."F2 It is regrettable that his middle and later years did not fully conform to the beautiful spirit manifested here.

In view of this, the occasion for the psalm must have come at quite an early period in the life of David.

Ps. 131:1-3

THE TEXT OF THIS BRIEF PSALM

Jehovah, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty;

Neither do I exercise myself in great matters,

Or in things too wonderful for me.

Surely I have stilled and quieted my soul;

Like a weaned child with his mother,

Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in Jehovah

From this time forth and forevermore."


 
Verses 1-3
Jehovah, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty; Neither do I exercise myself in great matters, Or in things too wonderful for me. Surely I have stilled and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child with his mother, Like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in Jehovah From this time forth and for evermore.
(Psalms 131:1). Haughtiness is betrayed by a proud look, the same being the head of the list of the seven things that God hates (Proverbs 6:17).

Neither do I exercise myself in great matters
(Psalms 131:1). The great matters here refers to, high positions, or the like.F3 Christians are admonished, Set not thy mind on high things. (Romans 12:16).

Things too wonderful for me
(Psalms 131:1). The secret things belong unto Jehovah; but the things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever (Deuteronomy 29:29).

It must not be thought that these admonitions forbid human research into the mysteries that lie all about us; but the teaching is rather that there are some things that men shall never know, due to the limitations of their mortality.

Fretting about the unknown is a futile exercise.

I have stilled and quieted my soul
(Psalms 131:2).

We find the enlightening words of Alexander Maclaren very helpful in understanding this.

"It is not the tranquillity of a calm nature which speaks here, but that into which the speaker has entered by the vigorous mastery of disturbing elements. How hard the struggle has been and how much bitter crying and petulant resistance there had been before the calm was won, is told by the lovely image of the weaned child."F4

Like a weaned child
(Psalms 131:2). We agree with Kidner that the RSV `goofed' in their rendition of this figure thus, Like a child quieted at its mother's breast. That is not the meaning at all. As Kidner said, The point of this verse is blunted by the RSV. The psalm emphasizes the word `weaned.'F5 It is a weaned child not a nursing child that is mentioned here. The point is that the human soul needs weaning from all of its anxious ambitions, etc., before it can enjoy the tranquillity of a heart in tune with God's will. The psalmist here affirms that he is indeed weaned from such hurtful things.

Ballard has some very beautiful lines on this.

"What has brought about this change (this `weaning')? Has he become stoically resigned to life's defeats? Has he given up the struggle because of old age or weariness? No! ... Like the merchantman in the New Testament seeking goodly pearls, and who discovered at length the `pearl of great price,' he has come through many discouragements to find in God, rather than in things, life's highest satisfaction. So, come what may, he rests in the Lord and trusts in him for the issue."F6

There is also an undeniable echo in this psalm of the teachings of the Master, who set a little child in the midst of the vain-glorious apostles, quarreling about who was going to get the chief seats in the Kingdom of God, and thundered the message in their ears that, "Except ye turn and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself and become as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3ff).

O Israel, hope in Jehovah
(Psalms 131:3). Here again, the psalmist calls upon Israel to hope in Jehovah. See our full comment on this in the latter part of the preceding psalm. As we noted there, this admonition carries with it the implication that Israel, as a nation, was doing nothing of the kind.


Footnotes for Psalms 131
1: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 8-C, p. 253.
2: Derek Kidner, Vol. II, p. 447.
3: W. E. Addis, p. 394.
4: Alexander Maclaren, Vol. III, p. 342.
5: Derek Kidner, op. cit., p. 448.
6: The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. IV, p. 683.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalm 131". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=ps&chapter=131>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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