This week, Richard Coekin (CEO of Co-Mission and Senior Pastor of Dundonald Church) encourages us with the words of another psalm.
‘Put your hope in the Lord’ – Like a contented child with its mother (Psalm 131)
Our world seems increasingly chaotic and alarming, doesn’t it?
The global Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed over 40,000 people in the UK and kept us hiding in lockdown, seems finally to be relenting. But then we began preparing ourselves for an economic crisis that will apparently make the Great Depression seem like a picnic. And now racism and systemic prejudice have been exposed on both sides of the Atlantic.
These worrying developments have exposed the weakness of human power and the folly of human pride: our science couldn’t control the virus, our wealth couldn’t protect us from financial loss and our liberal education couldn’t eradicate the hatred in human hearts. In truth, it is only the good news about Jesus Christ – who died for our sins (to exhaust the wrath we deserve) and rose again for our justification (to qualify us for heaven) – who can save us. He rescues us from our sin and from the sickness, poverty and injustice of our world, taking us into his glorious heavenly kingdom of holiness, health and happiness. Never has it been more obvious that our world, our city and our community needs Jesus.
We have listened for months to our angry press condemning the government at every turn; have dipped into the angry world of enraged bloggers and tweeters; have heard a little of the anger expressed on all sides of every debate about race. Therefore don’t you now sometimes want to escape from all the alarming chaos and curl up into a little ball like a hedgehog going into hibernation? Or as Psalm 131 – this precious diamond of just three verses – puts it, to find the contentment of a small child with its mother?
Faith in Christ is not only about zealous proclamation and public works of righteousness; it is also about finding our safety and contentment in the loving arms of our heavenly Father. Indeed, in the gospels we read of Jesus welcoming little children to himself, saying, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it’ (Mark 10:14–15 and Luke 18:16–17; see also Matthew 19:14). Jesus was not saying that we must be childishly simplistic and naïve; he was saying we must come to him with the kind of unrestrained trust that children show, before they become cynical and proud. This psalm is particularly comforting when we remember its twin titles. ‘A song of ascents’ mean this psalm is ideal as a prayer or song to encourage those who, like pilgrims struggling along the arduous journey up the mountain road to Jerusalem, are finding the Christian life wearying. Its other title, a psalm ‘of David’, reminds us that this call to rest in God like a child in its mother’s arms, comes from the great warrior King David himself. This psalm is not only for the weak and vulnerable among us, but for strong leaders too. Indeed, as with all the psalms of King David, this prayer points forward to the faith of Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who regularly took refuge in prayer and found contentment amidst turmoil in the love of his Father.
It is this kind of trusting contentment in God to which Psalm 131 calls us, like a mother calling her child to her arms. As before, I have interweaved each line of the psalm with a line of explanation, and fashioned it as a prayer for us to pray on our own, with our friends on Zoom, or with the family around the kitchen table.
Almighty God, our loving heavenly Father
‘A song of ascents. Of David…’
Thank you for this psalm which comforts weary pilgrims, and calls us to the child-like faith of Jesus.
‘1 My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty…’
We have no cause to be proud or to look down on others, for we are so often weak and confused.
‘I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me…’
The huge issues raised by this global pandemic, economic crisis and racial injustice are beyond me.
‘2 But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother…’
We calm our fearful hearts and quiet our anguished minds as your little children taking refuge in your love.
‘… like a weaned child I am content…’
We are content to leave what we cannot understand or change in your hands and trust you.
‘3 Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and for evermore.’
We place our hopes for the future not in governments, banks or movements, but in your gospel plan. You will bring us home to yourself, to your world free of sickness, sorrow and injustice, to enjoy your glory forever.
In the name of Christ, in whom we have been adopted as your beloved children,