bible blog 816

This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings

Psalm 131

like a weaned child with her mother…

Song of Quiet Trust

A Song of Ascents. Of David.
1 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 marvellous for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,    like a weaned child with its mother;    my soul is like the weaned child with the Lord.
3 O Israel, hope in the Lord    from this time on and for evermore.

I once made a metrical version of this for use in worship:

I am not arrogant in heart

Nor look with scornful eyes;

nor have in great affairs a part;

nor measure mysteries.

But hushed as on a mother’s knee

my soul rests in the Lord;

so quietness is made for me

and human hope restored.

(Sung to the Scottish tune: Stracathro)

A very beautiful psalm. This is a Psalm of Ascent, that is, one to be sung by Jewish pilgrims to the temple on Moun Zion. Perhaps this one reflects the end of the journey: in the presence of the great God the worshipper accepts his or her ordinariness, abandons pride and anxiety, and is a peace with God. There is subtlety about the original which I haven’t reproduced in my translation: it is a “weaned” child that is the point of comparison, not a feeding baby. The idea is that the weaned child is not screaming to be fed but is happy with the affection of the mother. This is the image of the soul of the pilgrim. Some have argued that the words about the people’s hope are a late addition to the original psalm but they seem to me entirely typical in their move from individual to communal, from personal to political. One of great Rabbis said, “Pray no prayer which cannot also be prayed by Israel.” The church has interpreted the psalms as being spoken by the people of God, as well the individual believer. As the bible tells us Jesus used them, we can fruitfully imagine them (try this one!) being spoken by him.

Peace in God is not a technique of meditation or prayer. It is the over-reaching human will discovering its true goal; the arrogant human head bowing before the humility of God; the anxious human heart resting in faithful love. Jesus said, “Unless you become as a little child you will in no way enter the kingdom of God.”

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