Tom Lowe


Psalm 131

 Title: I Have Stilled My Soul

  1. {A Song of degrees of David.} LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.
  2. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul iseven as a weaned child.
  3. Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.





This short psalm exhibits a calmness of mind and spirit born in honesty, worked out in struggle, and ultimately available only in the Presence of God. Like a tranquil lake reflecting upon its own surface the clear endlessness of the blue sky, it reflects God’s perfections. Then, with the assurance which comes only from fulfillment, it lauds Him.


The setting of the psalm is a worship service, a service of which, no doubt, the sequence of prayer and testimony reflected here were only one small part. In a simple but deeply personal prayer, the poet confesses to Yahweh the peace which he has attained; and then directly and just as simply he recommends it to his fellow worshippers. Like psalm 122 and 124, this psalm too came from the Davidic hymnal into the collection of “Songs of Degrees.”


If anyone in Israel had reasons to be proud, it was David. Look at this long list of his accomplishments.

  • The eighth son of a common citizen, he began as a humble shepherd and yet became Israel’s greatest king.
  • A courageous soldier, a gifted general and tactician and a sincere man of God, it was David who defeated Israel’s enemies, expanded her boundaries, and amassed the wealth Solomon used to build the temple.
  • He wrote nearly half of the psalms, and though (like all of us) he was guilty of disobeying the Lord he was always repentant and sought God’s merciful forgiveness.
  • It was from David’s line that Jesus Christ came into this world.
  • And what was his greatest exploit and the story that every child hears in Sunday School, “David and Goliath.”



Commentary: Psalms 131:1-3 (KJV)


  1. {A Song of degrees of David.} LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.


The psalmist’s prayer (all of psalm 131) is a statement of his new understanding of himself, an understanding which he sets forth with a matter-of-factness as convincing as it is moving. Addressing Yahweh, he confesses that he is neither haughty-hearted nor proud-eyed, that he has set his heart neither on big things nor on deeds marvelous beyond his ability. Only a truly humble man could write something like this.


We move toward maturity when we honestly accept who we are, understand what we can do, accept both and live for God’s glory. Rejecting or hating ourselves, fantasizing about ourselves, and envying others are marks of immaturity. David had seen some of this kind of behavior in his own son Absalom as well as in King Saul. A proud heart refuses to face reality, a high look covers up hidden inadequacy, and arrogant ambition impresses some people but leads ultimately to embarrassing failure (Jer. 45:5). When you accept yourself and your lot and thank God for the way He made you, you do not need to impress people. They will see your worth and love you for who you are (see 16:5-6). David did not promote himself; it was all God’s doing.


It is easy to make out the character of the psalmist; he has not thought too highly of himself (Rom. 12:3), which means he understands the proper relation to God. It is not a relationship between equals, but is one of subordination, submission, and trust, which this person gladly accepts.


The Old Testament hymnbook tells us what went on in David’s heart. He kept himself in his place; he refused to meddle in the politics of the palace; he kept clear of matters that were above him and that were none of his concern. In so doing, he not only saved his own life, but he showed himself fit for those important matters of government he so studiously set himself to avoid.


Except for a few lapses into selfishness and sin, David walked with the Lord in a humble spirit. In this brief psalm he tells us, the essentials of a life that glorifies God and accomplishes His work on earth.



  1. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul iseven as a weaned child.


It is clear from what he said here that his tranquility did not come easily. He has calmed and silenced his soul (life), so that it is like a weaned child towards its mother. His soul no longer wails and nags at him, because he has come to terms with it. The simple and unaffected calm of the poet is all too rare, even─ one is tempted to say especially─ among those for whom it should be as natural as breathing, the people of God.


A part of his new peace has come because he has been realistic about who he is and about his capability. The poet has come to the fulfillment of knowing himself as Yahweh knows him and of seeing his potential in Yahweh’s perspective instead of in the world’s and in his own.


There is a positive component in verse 2. It is an affirmation of serenity and well-being from one who trusts in God’s motherly care. It is a daring metaphor, a characterization of relationship with God that grows out of observing the most trusting, elemental, and dependent relationship in all human interaction. The child does not try to become the equal of the mother or independent of the mother.


God’s goal for us is emotional and spiritual maturity (1 Cor. 13:11; 14:20; Eph 4:13-15), and God sometimes must wean us away from good things in order to give us better things. Consider Abraham. He had to leave his family, and city, send Ishmael away, separate from Lot, and put Isaac on the altar. Joseph had to be separated from his father and his brothers in order to see his dreams come true.


The child that David described wept and fretted but eventually calmed down and accepted the inevitable. Instead of emotional highs and lows, the child developed a steady uniform response, indicating a giant step forward in the quest for maturity. Successful living means moving from dependence to independence, and then to interdependence, always in the will of God. To accept God’s will in the losses and gains of life is to experience that inner calm that is so necessary if we are to be mature people.



  1. Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.


Next, the psalmist turns to his fellow worshippers to give to them a testimony authenticated by the prayer they have heard him pray. His advice is profoundly simple, and doubtless represents his own experience; Israel is directed to “hope in the LORD from henceforth and forever.”


His own hope, apparently, had been set primarily in himself. Israel’s hope, it is clear, was far too often on too many things and far to infrequently upon God. Therefore, the poet counsels them to have hope in the one direction which is sure.


Infants do not realize that their mother’s decision is for their own good, for weaning sets them free to meet the future and make the most of it. The child may want to keep things the way they are, but that way lies immaturity and tragedy. When we fret over a comfortable past, we only forfeit a challenging future. In the Christian vocabulary hope is not “hope so.” It is joyful anticipation of what the Lord will do in the future based on His changeless promises. Like the child being weaned we may fret at our present circumstances, but we know that our fretting is wrong. Our present circumstances are the womb out of which new blessings and opportunities will be born (Rom. 8:28).


At least a part of the difficulty some people have with this psalm, however, may rest in the fact that our hearts are too haughty, our eyes too proud, and our lives too set on the wrong business. Thus, to a people who have denied others the opportunities of corporate worship, because they are different, and to a people who, even in matters of faith, have been more interested in their own goals than in God’s, this psalmist’s testimony to Israel remains a good starting point.


This verse of the psalm appears to be added. As we have seen in Psalm 14:7, there appears to be a process by which intimate statements of faith are systematically reassigned to Judah and Israel. In this psalm, verse 3 has the effect of identifying Israel as the trusting child. The image of Israel is then of one who has ceased to insist on its own way and has submitted to the trustworthy will of Yahweh. That kind of submission is exactly what makes it possible for Israel (or any other) to hope. Unless there is submission, there will be no hope, for autonomy and self-sufficiency are finally postures of hopelessness in which free gifts are excluded and one is left to one’s own resources. In this psalm Israel is able to hope and to receive good gifts from this God of grace and mercy.