Summary: God wants us to cast aside all human pride, and to humbly trust that we need nothing except in him and in our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Humility is of great importance in our Christian lives. Think of the well-known “summary of the law” in Micah, “He has showed you, O man, what is good and what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (6:8).
Humility is so vital, yet there’s much misunderstanding of what humility is. Many think it’s negative, that it’s being so meek that people walk all over you. We’re told it’s not good to be humble today; we have to assert ourselves, not humble ourselves!
But let us see what humility really is. True humility arises from a right view of God, and right view of ourselves. That is, if we realize whom it is we worship, if we realize who we really are on our own, and if we realize what we have in Christ – then we must be humble, before God, and before all others.
In Ps 131, we find not a proud but a humble song of David. Here David pours out his heart to God; he declares he hasn’t been given to pride, but before the LORD has quieted himself as a child. This is a quiet prayer offered by the Poet of Israel, but this is also a song for the multitude in worship, for Ps 131 takes its place among the songs of ascents.
These songs of ascents are a collection of Psalms, gathered for the purposes of public worship. These songs of ascents in particular were used for the services at the temple, especially during the annual feasts. And what a fitting song for public worship we have in Ps 131! When they came to the temple, the Israelites knew they were hopeless on their own, yet they had everything in the LORD.
It’s perhaps not without reason that next to Ps 131 has been placed Ps 130. For Ps 130 is a cry to God for mercy, a Psalm uttered by one who was painfully aware of his many sins and how God ought to punish them. Yet Ps 130 can end with praise for the God of unfailing love, who “will redeem Israel from all their sins” (v 8). Again, when we realize the depth of our sins, but also that God freely redeems us, the meek words of Ps 131 must flow from our lips to God!
In our Psalm is the attitude that God desires in all of us – the right attitude as we sing to him here in church, and the right attitude as we serve him all week – humility. He wants us to cast aside all human arrogance, and to trust that we need nothing except in God and in our Saviour Jesus Christ. I preach to you the Word of God from Ps 131:
David worships the LORD with humble song. Before God he is:
1) not proud
2) but confident
1) Before the LORD David is not proud: David confesses to the God who knows the heart, “My heart is not proud, O LORD.” When he says this, he speaks not of that pumping organ in his chest, but the heart as the centre of his life, emotions, and thought. In the sinful heart we scheme our evil ambitions; in the heart we foster envy or jealousy or hatred; and it’s the heart that raises itself up in pride.
According to the Scriptures, pride is refusing to live in complete dependence on the Lord. One who is proud will arrogantly try to make his own way in the world. “I do not need God” says the proud man, “so the decisions in my life will be made by my law or according to what my personal gods desire.” It’s not surprising then, that in the Scriptures the proud are often equated with the wicked. A proud person wickedly gives God second place – last place – as he seeks first his own goals.
But David is free from pride. As he does what we might call self-examination, he says he doesn’t rely on himself but on God. And he continues, “my eyes are not haughty.” The heart is the centre of a person, and the eyes its instruments. As the attitude of the heart is, so will the eyes act. For example, see what Proverbs says of the eyes of the proud, “There are… those who are pure in their own eyes and yet are not cleansed of their filth; those whose eyes are ever so haughty, whose glances are so disdainful” (30:10-12). In this text notice how closely a proud attitude toward God is linked to a proud attitude toward others. When we haven’t fully realized our own filth before God, toward others we’ll have “haughty eyes,” or more literally, “eyes that are lifted up.”