We're in the home stretch on our series on the Pilgrim
psalms. This is a series of fifteen consecutive psalms, all
labeled "A Song of Ascents." We began several months ago
with Psalm 120, and we are working our way toward Psalm
134. Today we're looking at Psalm 131, so we'll have three
more to go after we finish this one.
These fifteen psalms constitute a book of short choruses
within the psalter. They are verses that were sung by pilgrims
on the uphill journey to Jerusalem. Three times each year,
pilgrims from all over Israel would travel to Jerusalem to
celebrate with feasts. They came for Passover, for the Feast
of Weeks (or Pentecost), and for the Feast of Tabernacles.
Those were the Pilgrim Feasts, when everyone who was able
would come. And the journey from every direction was
uphillCa hard, steep day-long climb. Jericho, for example, is
a town less than 16 miles (as the crow flies) from the Temple
in Jerusalem. (Same distance from here to downtown Los
Angeles.) But Jericho is 1200 feet below sea level, and the
Temple Mount is 2450 feet above sea level. So the journey
from Jericho was a long, steep, uphill climbCmore than a
kilometer's rise in elevation.
Psalm 131 2
Pilgrims coming from Galilee had at least a two- or
three-day journey. The last leg of that journey took them on
that steep road from Jericho to Jerusalem. And along the
way, to pass the time and prepare their hearts for worship,
they sang these 15 psalms. If you sang one psalm every half
hour on the road from Jericho, these fifteen psalms would fit
the journey perfectly.
We've already looked at psalms 120 through 130, so we
have four psalms left. Three of the four psalms remaining in
this series have only three verses each. Psalm 131 is the first
of the really short choruses.
Three verses, so it's a simple chorus with a very simple
theme. See if you can recognize the theme when I read the
psalm. Here's a hint: It echoes something Jesus taught. Now,
here's our psalm:
Psa 131:1 A Song of Ascents. Of David. 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
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned
child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within
3 O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and
The Childlikeness of True Faith 3
The theme of that chorus is the childlikeness of true faith.
That, of course, is also the theme of Matthew 18. Here are
the first four verses of Matthew 18:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is
the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of
3 and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and
become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of
4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest
in the kingdom of heaven.
And then Matthew 18-19 goes on to expound on the
childlikeness of believers. That child whom Jesus placed in
the midst of the disciples was symbolic of believersCall
believers, not just those who are still literally children, but
everyone who truly believes in Christ is a child of
GodCchildlike in spirit. Two verses later, in Matthew 18:6,
Jesus refers to believers as "these little ones who believe in
me." And the point Jesus is making there is that true saving
faith is inherently childlike. Authentic believers have an
implicit trust in God, exactly like the absolute trust of an
infant who looks to father and mother for every need.
Still in Matthew, a chapter later, in chapter 19, verse 13,
we read this:
Psalm 131 4
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his
hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the
14 but Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and
do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of
15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.
That, of course, shows God's special care for infants and
little children. When Jesus says, "to such belongs the kingdom
of heaven," I am convinced he is speaking both broadly and
literally. That text is one of several clues that undergirds our
belief that infants who die in infancy are graciously received
by Christ into heaven. Yes, children are born fallen. Babies
inherit the same sinful nature you and I have. They look so
sweet and innocent as newborns, but just wait. You won't
have to teach them to lie or be self-centered or throw
tantrums. It's in their nature. They are just like every one of
Adam's natural offspringCfallen, guilty, self-willed, and
enslaved to sin. They have no more merit than you or I.
That's the doctrine of original sin. We inherited a sinful
nature from our ancestors. We didn't become sinners by
sinning. We sin because it is our nature to do so. And that's
true of our children and grandchildren as well. I know.
And yet scripture tells us repeatedly that God is
mercifully tender toward little ones. We believe that if they
die they go straight to heavenCnot because they somehow
The Childlikeness of True Faith 5
deserve it; not because they are guiltless. But they are
received into heaven because God is abundantly gracious
toward little children. Jonah 4:11, for example, speaks of
God's special care for little ones too young to "know their
right hand from their left." In 2 Samuel 12:23, David states his
expectation that he will see his infant son again on the other
side of the grave. Scripture is full of indications that God
shows a particular grace to children who die in infancy. Here
Jesus blesses little children and states emphatically that the
kingdom of heaven belongs to little ones such as those.
It's appropriate to take that in its literal sense. But we also
need to interpret it as broadly as Jesus Himself does. He isn't
speaking only of little children, of course. Those words ("to
such belongs the kingdom of heaven") apply to everyone
whose faith in Christ has that childlike quality of implicit
Mark 10 is Mark's account of that same incident where the
disciples tried to rebuke people for bringing their children,
but Mark adds an extra detail that shows how broadly this
promise applies. Here's Mark's account, from Mark
10:13-16. Mark writes,
They were bringing children to him that he might touch
them, and the disciples rebuked them.
14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to
them, "Let the children come to me; do not hinder them,
Psalm 131 6
for to such belongs the kingdom of God. [Then Mark
adds this: Jesus says,]
15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the
kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."
16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them,
laying his hands on them.
In other words, Christ pronounced a formal blessing on the
children who had been brought to Him (in Matthew's words)
"[so] that he might lay his hands on them and pray." But He
also makes another explicit call for all believers to trust Him
with faith that is pure and childlike.
This took place in Galilee, among people accustomed to
making those annual journeys to Jerusalem for the feast days.
They knew these psalmsCand had known them well since
childhood. They could no doubt sing Psalm 131 from
memory. So the idea of childlike faith would notCor should
notChave been new to them, because that is precisely what
psalm 131 describes. It is a song about the childlikeness of
Notice, also, that this psalm is from the pen of David. We
are told that in the inscription. I tell you this frequently, but
it's worth restating: The inscriptions are part of the inspired
text. They exist in all the very earliest Hebrew manuscripts.
Not every psalm has an inscription, but those that do will
often tell us the author or the circumstances under which the
psalm was written. Psalm 3 is the first psalm with an
The Childlikeness of True Faith 7
inscription and it gives us both the author and the
circumstances under which the psalm was written. Psalm 3 is
a sad psalm, a prayer from a man in trouble, and the
inscription tells us it is "A Psalm of David, when he fled from
Absalom his son." So we need to read that psalm in its
historical context. Though it's only the third psalm, it
pertains to a later period in David's life and his reign as king.
Around the early part of the nineteenth century, a certain
class of critical scholars began to question the authenticity of
the inscriptions, for no other reason than that they sound like
annotations from a hand other than the author of the psalm.
But all the manuscript evidence we have indicates that they
belong to the inspired text. The inscriptions are found in the
earliest Hebrew manuscripts. And in Hebrew, unlike what
you find in English Bibles, they are part of the text. They
aren't marginal notes, or comments written in smaller type.
They are penned like the rest of the text.
Signatures such as these (identifying the author or other
pertinent details) are common features of ancient writings.
You see it even in New Testament times. We sign our letters
at the end. The New Testament epistles identify the author at
the start, and that is part of the inspired record. So it is with
the Psalms' inscriptions. It's a bit misleading to have them set
in a different typeface, as if they were merely marginal
editors' notes. They bear the same relation to the body of the
Psalm 131 8
Psalm as Paul's personal words of greeting and introduction
do to the rest of his epistles.
Only five of these fifteen Psalms of Ascent include the
author's name. Four are psalms of David. One (Psalm 127) is
a psalm of Solomon (either written by him or dedicated to
him; it's not clear which).
This is the third of four Davidic psalms in the collection
of 15, and it fits perfectly with what we know about David.
First Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22 famously refer to David
as "a man after [the Lord's] own heart." Psalm 131 gives us, in
David's own words, perhaps the most simple, succinct
description of what it means to be "a man after [God's] own
heart." It's a heart that appreciates the beauty of humble,
eager, compliant, childlike trust.
What this psalm describes in many ways is the polar
opposite of every value venerated by this worldCand by our
generation in particular. David takes a not-so-subtle poke at
the popular brand of skeptical scholarship that has been
encroaching on the church at least since the dawn of
modernism. He clearly understands that "the wisdom of this
world is folly with God" and that "The Lord knows the thoughts
of the wise, that they are futile."
David has no interest in winning the admiration of people
who value power, wealth, wisdom, or fameCeven though he
has all of those things. God sees through all the trappings of
earthly prestige anyway. David knows that God sees all
The Childlikeness of True Faith 9
thingsCeven the hidden things of the heart. And David does
not care what men think of him. Like the apostle Paul, who
in Galatians 1:10 wrote, "Am I now seeking the approval of
man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still
trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ," David
doesn't care to be celebrated by other people as renowned or
sophisticated. He wants to be seen by God as childlikeCpoor
in spirit, repentant, meek, hungering and thirsting for
righteousness, merciful, and pure in heart.
That, by the way, is how Jesus described authentic faith.
Those are the beatitudes, and they paint a sweet and perfect
portrait of pure-hearted childlikeness.
David's psalm here is shorter and simpler than the
beatitudes, but it draws a similar picture.
Because of the brevity and content of this psalm, and
since it was sung in group settings with families of fellow
pilgrims, I would guess that this would have been one of the
first psalms learned by many Hebrew children during that
long era when sacrifices were being offered daily on the
Temple Mount and feasts were regularly celebrated in
Jerusalem. It sounds like a child's chorus.
But it's a lesson for adultsCabout some virtues that flatly
contradict every tendency of our fallen nature. These
childlike qualities, by the way, are harder to cultivate the
older we get. Spurgeon said of this psalm, "It is one of the
shortest Psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn. It
Psalm 131 10
speaks of a young child, but it contains the experience of a
man in Christ."
Here in three verses, according to David, is what authentic
faith looks like: It's not arrogant (v. 1); it's not unruly (first
part of verse 2); it's not driven by unhealthy or unwholesome
appetites (end of verse 2). It's settled and focused on the
LORD (verse 3) and on eternal thingsC"from this time forth
There are three elements of childlike faith that I want to
single out and examine closely with you this morningCthree
virtuous characteristics of true faith that David exemplifies
for us in this prayer. Like a newly-weaned, child who is
satisfied to rest in the arms of his mother, he is humble; he is
hushed; and he is hungry. Let's look at those features in this
text. First (verse 1):
1. HE IS HUMBLE
This is my favorite feature of this prayer. Verse 1: "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."
David declares his humility, and he finds a way to do it that
doesn't sound like a boast. That's not easy to do. My best
friend sometimes jokes that I should write a book and title it
Humility and How I Attained It. (I think that's his
backhanded way of scolding me or reminding me that I'm not
exactly the paragon of gentle meekness.
The Childlikeness of True Faith 11
Then there's the famous preacher (whose name I won't
mention here) who wrote a book on humility, and just a
couple of years later the leaders of his denomination
disciplined him for being arrogant.
Humility is the most evasive of virtues. It's too easy to be
proud of your humility. About the time you think you have
mortified your self-righteous sense of self-importance, pride
will rise from the dead to tell you how wonderfully meek and
humble you are.
But David isn't saying this with any kind of swagger. This
isn't a boastful claim; it is a thankful testimony from a man
who deeply feels his indebtedness to divine grace. It's a
statement that perfectly embodies what we know of David's
character. His heart wasn't haughty. Though he was God's
own anointed choice as the messianic dynasty's first true
King, his demeanor wasn't lofty. He didn't scheme or
conspire to obtain power and greatness; the royal office was
given to Him by God. When Samuel first anointed him, no
one, including David himself, thought very highly of him.
Notice, by the way, the thoroughness with which David
repudiates pride. He names three distinct symbols of human
egotism and disavows them all. First, a haughty heart. That's
the hidden conceit of those (like the Pharisees in Luke 18:9)
"who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated
others with contempt." Then he mentions lofty eyes. There he
refers to an arrogant countenanceCthe opposite of that
Psalm 131 12
publican in Luke 18, who "would not even lift up his eyes to
heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a
sinner!'" Finally, he disclaims any hint of egotism in his mind
or motives or ambitions. "I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me." He uses a Hebrew verb
for "occupy myself" that literally means "to walk."
In other words, true humility (as David describes it here)
will tame the heart, the eyes, and the feet. The heart, of
course, is the seat of evil pride. Lofty eyes are where pride
shows itself most clearly in visible form. And the feet are a
metaphor for all our actions.
True humility ruled David's heart; it was reflected in his
physical posture; and it framed his thoughts and ambitions
A humble heart was indeed the defining feature of David's
unique character. This is why Scripture describes him as "a
man after [God's] own heart."
And I love how David himself describes his humility: "I
do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous
for me." In the King James Version, "neither do I exercise
myself in great matters, or in things too high for me." Here's the
New American Standard Bible: "Nor do I involve myself in
great matters, or in things too difficult for me."
That's an unusual attitude. First of all, he freely admits
that there are "things too difficult for [him]." Second, he isn't
wasting his time trying to unscrew the inscrutable or explain
The Childlikeness of True Faith 13
the incomprehensible. The things that are plain and
straightforward are hard enough to master. He is devoted to
what he knows is true, not the speculations and lofty
opinions of theorists and philosophers.
It's extraordinary even to meet a seminary student with
that kind of humble worldview. (In fact, let me say this
specifically to the seminarians in our midst:) I can't tell you
how many gifted young men I have observed over the years
who have de-railed spiritually because they were seduced by
the lure of prestigious academic degrees or enthralled with
theological novelties. In their eagerness to impress people
with philosophy and speculation, they forgot they were
supposed to be serving the Lord, who "chose what is foolish
in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the
world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised
in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things
that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of
I've recently corresponded by e-mail with a young man
who hasn't even started in seminary yet, but he has written a
book on the ontology of the Godhead that he is hoping he
can get publishedCand if not, he says he will publish it
himself. He thinks every theologian in the history of
Christianity has been wrong about the Trinity. His book is
full of bad arguments, misunderstandings, simplistic
reasoning, and bad interpretations of Scripture. But he's
Psalm 131 14
absolutely unteachable, because he is in his early 20s, and he
is quite certain that he is smarter and understands better than
all the men in church history who have ever studied theology
before him. He is way over his head and sinking fast, but you
will never convince him of that. He actually told me he
doesn't think there's anything unfathomable or impenetrable
in Scripture. He says he has never been stymied by any
theological conundrum. Everything in the Bible is plain as
day to him.
I know plenty of old guys who think like that, too.
According to them, nothing is too difficult for them. They
always seem to want to make their mark and seal their
reputation by tackling some arcane theological question and
coming up with some outlandish doctrinal scheme no one
has ever thought of before. That, frankly, is how cults get
But David ("a man after [God's] own heart") despises that
attitude, and he flatly disclaims it here. David, who was
used of God to write some of the key biblical texts on the
infinitude and unfathomable greatness of God, freely admits
that there are "things too difficult for" him. He says the same
thing in Psalm 13, that great psalm on the omniscience and
omnipresence of God. In Psalm 139:6, David says, "Such
knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain
to it." In 2 Peter 3:16, the apostle Peter writes, "There are
The Childlikeness of True Faith 15
some things in [Scripture] that are hard to understand, which the
ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction."
Quire simply, there are mysteries and enigmas in
Scripture, and some of the hardest questions simply are not
completely answered for us. And we're forbidden to inquire
into matters that God has kept hidden. Deuteronomy 29:29:
"The secret things belong to the LORD our God."
Childlike faith accepts that limitation. It's self-evident,
really. There are things too difficult for us. We can't figure
everything out. We ought to admit it, anchor ourselves in the
truths we do understand, and occupy our hearts and minds
with things that are clear.
By the way, it's not humility to pretend that nothing is
clear or certain. That's the postmodern corruption of
humility. Lots of people today have the false idea that
everything we believe about God is a matter of personal
opinion; nothing is really settled and certain. Therefore, they
think, to say someone else's religion or worldview is wrong
is inherently arrogant. We shouldn't be dogmatic about
That's not humility at all; it's spiritual suicide, because it
is a denial of the authority of God's Word. That false notion
of humility is certainly not what David is describing here. If
you want to know what David means, simply look at the
record of his life. Because the childlike attitude he describes
in verse 1 of our psalm is a virtue that colored his life and
Psalm 131 16
characterCexcept in a couple of well-known but
uncharacteristic incidents where he sinned in notorious ways.
In fact, it's ironic (isn't it?) that David's greatest sins
occurred because his greatest strengths failed him. That's
significant, and we see the same phenomenon frequently in
Scripture. Moses, for example. Numbers 12:3 says, "Now the
man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on
the face of the earth." And yet Moses sinned away his
opportunity to enter the Promised Land when he lost his
temper in front of the whole nation.
David's most outstanding qualities were his purity of heart
and his humility. But his two most notorious sins were the
incident with Bath-Sheba, compounded by a diabolical
conspiracy to cover it up involving the murder of her
husband, Uriah. That was hardly an expression of
pure-heartedness. David also sinned when his kingdom was
at the peak of prosperity by taking a census designed to
publicize the nation's numerical strength and
prosperityCprecisely the kind of arrogance David condemns
in this psalm.
But those were deviations and irregularities in the
character of David. For most of his life and career, the
humility he extols in this psalm was the dominant feature of
his character. "[His] heart [was] not lifted up; [his] eyes [were]
not raised too high; [he did] not occupy [him]self with things too
great and too marvelous."
The Childlikeness of True Faith 17
Remember, David didn't seek the throne in the first place.
In his early adolescence, he was called in from the fields
while he was tending his father's flock, and anointed by the
prophet Samuel to be king.
Even then, David did not take the throne for himself. He
spent yearsCat least a decadeCas a fugitive and refugee,
living in hiding while Saul pursued him relentlesslyCtrying
to kill him. And although David had opportunities to end
Saul's life, he refused to raise his hand against God's
Later in his career, when his son Absalom tried to usurp
the throne, David left Jerusalem rather than fight his son for
the throne. When Shimei cursed David, the King bore it
patiently. The humility he extols in this verse was clearly
reflected in David's character throughout most of his life.
In fact, David's character makes a stark contrast to the
typical kings of the ancient near east. Their besetting sins
were dominated by the arrogance and pomposity that usually
characterize the rulers of this worldCeven to this present day.
David repudiates all of that. Most men crave
respectability and statusCespecially men who have tasted
power and prestige; they tend to seek it all the more. David
was the polar opposite. His crowning virtue was humility,
and even though he was the most eminent man in the
nationCking over God's chosen people, and therefore the
Psalm 131 18
most favored man in the worldChe desired to be seen by God
as childlike. This was what made David truly noble.
This psalm is reminiscent of that incident when David
was returning the ark to Jerusalem, and Scripture says (2
Samuel 6:14), "David danced before the LORD with all his
might. And David was wearing a linen ephod." In other words,
he removed the regal robes and put on a simple linen
garment like the priests wore. Rather than being carried at
the head of the procession with all the royal pomp of a king,
he dressed so as to blend in with the priests, and he traveled
on foot with the procession, dancing and celebrating the
return of the ark a hundred years after it had been captured
by the Philistines in the time of Eli. The stress here is on his
joy and exuberance. David quite simply doesn't care what
people think of him. He's totally overwhelmed with joy that
the ark of the covenant is finally coming to Jerusalem.
But 2 Samuel 6:16 says, "As the ark of the LORD came into
the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the
window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the
LORD, and she despised him in her heart." Her father, Saul,
was more concerned with kingly dignity than that! And when
David arrives home, she gives him an earful. Verse 20: "And
David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter
of Saul came out to meet David and said, 'How the king of Israel
honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes
of his servants' female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows
The Childlikeness of True Faith 19
shamelessly uncovers himself!'" She makes it sound as if he
was indecently exposed or something. All he had done was
lay aside his kingly robesCexactly what Christ did for us
though he was in the form of God, [Jesus Christ] did not
count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.
8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by
becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a
That was a scandal, too, you know. The God of the universe
and rightful king of kings coming to earth in such a lowly
fashion. But (Proverbs 15:33) "humility comes before honor."
I love how David answered Michal (2 Samuel 6:21-22):
"It was before the LORD, who chose me above your father and
above all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the
LORD, over Israel; therefore I will celebrate before the LORD. I
will be more lightly esteemed than this and will be humble in my
own eyes." Franz Delitzsch, the great 19th-century Lutheran
Old Testament scholar, paraphrased David's words to Michal
this way: "I esteem myself still less than I now show it, and I
appear base in mine own eyes." You think I look childish
instead of kingly? Before God, I am more of a little child
than you would ever imagine.
Psalm 131 20
That's the spirit of this psalm. David understands the
childlikeness of true faith, and he purposely cultivates a
childlike spirit before God. It's a holy self-abasementCthe
very thing Jesus spoke of in Matthew 23:12, when He said,
"Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles
himself will be exalted."
Everything Scripture tells us about David affirms his
testimony here. Even when he sins a horrific sin, we see his
humility in the way he repents. The biblical epitaph on his
life acknowledges his sin, but Scripture records it in a way
that reminds us that presumptuous sins were not what
characterized David's life. Listen to God's own summary of
David's uprightness in 1 Kings 15:5: "David did what was right
in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything
that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the
matter of Uriah the Hittite."
So David's character and his track record are such that he
can say this about himselfCdeclaring his own meekness
without forfeiting it. Even the way he speaks of humility is
humble. He claims humility without a hint of prideCand
that's something only a truly humble man could do.
So that's the dominant characteristic of childlike faith:
humility. The person who is truly childlike stands out first of
all because he is humble. Second, according to our psalm,
The Childlikeness of True Faith 21
2. HE IS HUSHED
Notice verse 2: "But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like
a weaned child with its mother."
Again the stress is on the child's implicit trust. A calm and
quiet heartCa soul totally at restCis comparable to a sleeping
child, well-fed, with no fear or disquiet, because the child
knows mother is there to meet any need or avert any crisis.
It's a beautiful picture.
This is not one of those three-year-olds you sometimes get
seated in front of on a cross-country flightCscreaming and
fidgety because they feel the motion of the plane and the
changes in cabin pressure.
This is a weaned childCone who has moved past the
anxiety and uncertainty of the weaning process. This child
now knows that even when a mother says no to her child's
pleading and complaining, every need will be met. And more
than that, the parent knows better than the child how best to
satisfy that gnawing hunger. It's a picture of a child who has
learned to trust and be satisfied.
It's also an illustration of absolute dependance and
unquestioning trust. That's the nature of authentic faith. The
crying, complaining, and fidgeting restlessness that are part
of the weaning process belong to the past. This is a child at
rest in the tender lovingkindness of parental arms. It is the
picture of pure satisfaction.
Psalm 131 22
The spiritual weaning process disengages our hearts from
everything that is selfish, every appetite that is sinful, and
every fear that foments doubt and distrust. It has a quieting
effect on the soul. It fosters a sense of security. David wrote
often about this: (Psalm 27) "The LORD is my light and my
salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my
life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 46:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains
tremble at its swelling. Selah
Psalm 56: "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God,
whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What
can flesh do to me?"
That, by the way, is a common expression, repeated in
both Old and New Testaments. "What can flesh do to me?"
Psalm 118: "The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can
man do to me?" Hebrews 13:6: "We can confidently say, 'The
Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'"
Security. That's one of my favorite theological terms of all
time. I think I have told you before that this was the first
theological dilemma that I ever pondered, almost as soon as I
turned to Christ in saving faith: Can I lose my salvation?
Which is to say, "Am I secure in Christ?" And to ask the
The Childlikeness of True Faith 23
question that way is to reveal the absurdity of it. Scripture
places so much stress on the security of the believer that
frankly, I don't see how any Bible-believing individual can
hang on very long to the notion that it's possible to be lost
again after Christ has saved you.
Frankly, if you could sin in some way that would mean
you forfeit salvation, you would. We're too weak to stand on
our own. Every one of us is prone to sin and powerless to
keep ourselves. But Scripture says God is the One who keeps
us. First Peter 1:5: "[We] are kept by the power of God through
faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." That's
speaking of our ultimate glorification. God Himself is
keeping us safe eternally. He holds us in a manner
comparable to a mother rocking a sleeping childConly with
infinitely more strength and security. John 10:28: "No one is
able to snatch them out of the Father's hand."
If you are truly saved, you are secure in Christ. In Paul's
words, "I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor
rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor
height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to
separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Belief in that promise should certainly hush all our fears.
That same sense of security is precisely what causes
David to say, in verse 2 of our Psalm, "I have calmed and
quieted my soul."
Psalm 131 24
There's another implication in this word picture. The
imagery of a weaned child means growth is steadily taking
place. The child is coming to maturity. In the words of 1
Peter 2:2, "Like newborn infants, [we] long for the pure spiritual
milk, that by it [we] may grow up into [full and finished]
There comes a time, however, according to Hebrews 5,
when we graduate from the milk of God's Word to the meat
of it. The writer of Hebrews scolds his readers for demanding
milk rather than solid food. Their spiritual appetites were not
developing properly. Hebrews 5:13: "For everyone who lives
on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a
child. But solid food is for the mature."
And that brings up the third characteristic of David's
childlike faith. First, he is humble. Second, he is hushed.
3. HE IS HUNGRY
The image David draws for us is a weaned child
peacefully asleep in the arms of his motherCfully satisfied,
wholly at rest, well-past the fidgety restlessness every child
goes through when mother finally starts to say no to every
request for nursing. The child now knows the variety of
flavors available with more solid foods, and he has learned
that grown-up food satisfies longer.
The Childlikeness of True Faith 25
But trust me (because we've had a few babies go through
this stage in our family), a weaned child actually gains a
bigger appetite. Solid food awakens a taste for more. Crying
and panic at feeding time gradually recede into the past. But
the child doesn't stop eating. In fact, for a couple of years,
you will continually have to remind the weaned child not to
put everything they touch into their mouths.
This is true in the spiritual realm as well. The restful
security David describes in the first part of verse 2Cthat
feeling of pure satisfactionCdoesn't nullify the spiritual
appetite. In fact, the appetite grows. If your faith is truly
childlike, you will stay spiritually hungry and never lose
your appetite for the meat of the word.
One more thing about this: Even after weaning, an infant
is still totally dependent on mom for food. You can't give an
18-month-old a jar of baby food and expect him to feed
himself. The absolute reliance of that child perfectly pictures
the childlikeness of true faith, even after the child is weaned.
The psalm closes in verse 3 with a short refrain that
echoes the end of Psalm 130: "O Israel, hope in the LORD from
this time forth and forevermore." It's a call to faith. The
psalmist's testimony was brief and simple (two verses long).
Now he turns to the congregation and appeals to them to join
him in making YHWH the singular focus of their hope and
Psalm 131 26
Now let's look at this in light of the gospel, and consider
why all true faith is inherently childlike. The only legitimate
response to gospel truth is humble, quiet, hungry faith. That's
because the gospel itself is a rebuke to human pride. The
gospel as set forth in Scripture rips every artificial covering
off our fleshly pride. The starting point of gospel truth is the
utter hopelessness of fallen humanity. It starts by telling us
we are condemned sinners, and there is nothing we can do to
save ourselves. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of
God." "We are all like an unclean thing, And all our
righteousnesses are like filthy rags."
We are totally dependent on Christ to save us. We have no
real righteousness of our own. In the words of Scripture,
"Where then is boasting? It is excluded." "By grace you have
been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is
the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."
The gospel is antithetical to human arrogance, and that is
why true faith has this quality of childlike humility. "God
opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
For those of you who are believers, cultivate this spirit of
childlike humility. Don't give into the arrogance of our
self-centered culture, but clothe yourself in humility.
If you are not a believerCwhether you are a guest with us
today or a long-time attender who has never truly humbled
yourself in the sight of the Lord, remember that it was Jesus
The Childlikeness of True Faith 27
who said, "whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a
child shall not enter it." Ponder that, and ask God to open your
heart to believeCwith true and childlike faith.