David’s Life Letter
Song of Ascents Psalm 131
Today is 11 in a series of songs of ascent Psalm 131. This psalm is one of the shorter of the series but, one of the hardest lessons to learn and that is, “trust in God” (Treasury of David). According to John Gill’s commentary, this psalm was most likely written in David’s younger days before he was anointed by Samuel as the next king of Israel and Judah (1 Sam 16:1-13); Let’s call it a personal letter was written by David to David. Writing a letter to yourself has benefits in that it helps to clarify your thoughts, goals, and aspirations. In life, there are a plethora of sources of advice and wisdom to flood our minds with. Yet, the one person we rarely hear from is “our self”; that is, “what do we want to accomplish”. It is very easy to succumb to the world’s way of thinking because it requires no mental thought; all you have to do is go with the flow and close your mind to the vastness of God’s plans for your life. In a way, this letter is a Declaration of Independence from the tyranny of the World’s Mentality. As I present three points that I believe are fundamental to our life, my prayer is that you too will write a letter to yourself.
Point 1 – Setting the Heart’s Course (Verse 1)
While I was onboard ship a number of years ago, I was struck by the thought that the Captain controls the speed and direction of the boat simply by giving orders to the people who are responsible for the engines and the helm. In the same way, we have a God-given mandate to control our lives. Which means, we cannot control the environment but, we can control how we will respond to the problems of life in view of our mandate. In David’s time, it was the age of the judges who would be the voice of God. As you read through the book of Judges, you might have noticed that life in Canaan was not all that good; because the moral compass of the nation depended on the compass used by the Judge of the time. According to the underlying theme of the book of Judges, “At that time there was no king; everyone did as they saw fit” (Judges 21:25). So, in writing this Psalm, David is setting his moral compass according to God’s commands through Moses. Today, we have the same choices: do what the majority does or, walk in the path that leads to God’s throne room.
It is said of David “he is a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam 13:14). What does it mean “a man after God’s own heart”? Does it mean “perfection”, “never commits sin” or, “never makes a mistake in judgment either by omission or commission”? We know, based on the outcome of his life choices, that neither of the for mentioned is true. Rather, “being a man/woman after God’s own heart” implies, “pliability”; that is, God can use us even when we fail. Failure, sin, and mistakes are an inevitable part of the human experience. For this very reason, “we have a mediator of the New Covenant” (Heb 9:15). It is striking that no matter how far we fall, how big of the mess we make or, how far sin takes us from the Kingdom of God, we are still loved by God and he is able to heal us right where we are.
For a seed of any type to grow, the ground needs to be first tilled up to remove rocks and other debris; then, the seed needs to be planted, then watered, weeded, and then harvested. In the book of Proverbs, the writer tells about a field that belonged to the lazy person. The weeds were overgrown, the land was not tilled, and no seeds were planted. So, come harvest time, there will be no vegetables to harvest; ergo, this person goes hungry right along with his/her family (Prov 24:30-34). In many ways, the heart is like the field. When it is left to go to seed, it grows weeds of discontent, rocks of bitterness, and an unresolved hunger that only God’s word can fill. When the heart of the parent is unfulfilled, the kids in turn, also languish. How does one develop a heart like David? It begins by choosing to follow what God’s word says. When we make a conscientious choice to follow the word of God over the word of the world, we are making the first step in the right direction.
Point 2 – Contentment Quality of the Child of God (verse 2)
The concept that comes to mind here is “contentment in life”. Being content is a gift we give to God in response to the gifts he gives us. Being content means “a state of peaceful happiness” (dictionary.com). Being content in life is easier said than done; because, as humans go, we are prone to want more than we already have. David used the illustration of the child weaned from the breast to point out the status of his heart. Infants care only for their immediate needs; when those needs are not met, they cry. When our children were infants, everything we did revolve around their needs. For us to go out on the town, we needed babysitters. When selecting food, the child’s needs came before our needs. When the child was ill, we put our schedules on hold in order to care for the child. As the child grows up, it learns to take care of itself (1 Cor 13:11). As children grow, they learn about the world around them; how to get along in the community, and how to be a productive member of society. Hopefully, it is instilled in them from an early age that “they are not the center of the world”; rather, a player in a game called “life”.
Trust goes hand-in-hand with contentment. Trusting is easy when life is at its best and our needs are continually met. Trust is far more difficult if not impossible when life turns sour; read the prologue in Job as an example. While it would be really great if all we ever had in life was the sunshine and plenty; unfortunately, that kind of life leads toward problems eventually. The sour times grow us, strengthen our resolve, and mature us in our faith. Paul’s argument in Philippians “I can do all things through God which strengths me” (Philippians 4:13) makes for a really good daily motivation; however, the implication is that “no matter what life throws at me, I will trust God” which makes trusting God difficult while, at the same time, rewarding. What I love most about trusting God is that he will never fail us nor, will we ever live to regret placing trust in him (Psalms 34:5).
Point 3 – A Voice of Experience (Verse 3)
Internet shopping is a fun thing because you can buy just about anything from soup to nuts with a simple search. Unfortunately, the part we cannot see from a picture is the quality of the merchandise. So, we have to go see the product before signing the deal. In the same way, before we can buy into the notion of “Hoping in the Lord”, we must see the outcome of it (verse). David’s declaration came not because it sounded good at the end of the Psalm but, because he truly hoped in the Lord and knew what it was to walk in God’s favor and enjoyed the fruit of it. In the book of Matthew, the parable of the sower points out that a plant will grow in just about any soil but, the fruit will tell the true story (Matthew 13:1-9). From David, we, 21st-century believers, can still come to faith in Jesus not just because “the bible says so” but, because we can read about David’s fruit through the different vantage points of his life (Romans 15:4).
Have you ever wondered why the bible would detail the failures, mistakes, and misgivings of God’s anointed? After all, “these are holy men and women that we see in paintings with haloes over their heads and a pious look on their face. In writing “Israel hope in the Lord” and not “hope in David”, he is stating “keep your eyes on God for through Him there is a fullness of life”. Some, I included, would rather the bad stuff disappear altogether. Unfortunately, our life is made up of both the good and the bad. If the only thing that was reported in scripture was the good stuff, one might get a lop-sided picture of what faith in Jesus is. When the bad times occur because of sin, we’ll fall away because “we just didn’t measure up”. Better yet, when we find out that God’s anointed sinned, we’ll become disenchanted.
As I said in the beginning, this Psalm is a life letter written by David to David. In a way, it was a declaration of freedom and granted him permission to trust in God no matter what may come. I know the letter is heartfelt and it is the truth because, as scripture details, David lived his faith in and out of sin. He did not become a mighty warrior simply because of the letter but, the letter guided him in his life. David was a one of a kind; there was no king on earth like him and no one could fill his shoes after him. At the end of his life, he got to see what very few if any would see and that is, his son ascending the throne. Prayerfully, you too will write a similar letter to yourself declaring your freedom to trust in God despite the path(s) you have taken; if you have written one already, dig it out, brush the dust off of it and, feel free to post it to this blog. God has given us a new day to live for him and to walk in freedom. Come walk with me!
 Bible study Tools Staff. Psalm 131. Accessed https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/treasury-of-david/psalms-131-1.html
 Zoya Wazir. Dear Me Get It Together: The Benefits of Writing Letters to Yourself. Affinity Magazine (8/26/2017). Accessed http://affinitymagazine.us/2017/08/26/dear-me-get-it-together-the-benefits-of-writing-letters-to-yourself/
 Jon Bloom. The Secret to Peace and Contentment. Desiring God (3/18/2016). Accessed https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-secret-to-peace-and-contentment