Psalm 131 is concerned about progress or development in the religious life, and David uses the illustration of a weaned child to picture this increase in spiritual stature. So what are the signs of spiritual maturity?
Humility is described in verse 1 by the use of three word pictures. David’s heart was not full of himself, nor was he ambitious for a greater position than what God had already given him, and nor did he in engage in the folly of trying to understand what we are not capable of understanding. David in speaking those words was expressing his humility to the Lord. This is a reminder that we can be totally honest before the Lord. We can speak truths about ourselves to the Lord that would be inappropriate to speak before humans, even Christians. As Matthew Henry observed, ‘This was David’s rejoicing, that his heart could witness for him that he had walked humbly with his God, notwithstanding the censures he was under and the temptations he was in.’
Calmness is referred to in verse 2. We are not told why David calmed himself. Perhaps he was facing attacks of various kinds. Maybe he knew disappointments through others letting him down. Calmness and confidence in the Lord go together. He knows best how to deal with us. It reflects these words of Murray McCheyne: ‘It has always been my aim, and it is my prayer, to have no plan as regards myself; well assured as I am that the place where the Saviour sees meet to place me must ever be the best place for me.’
Longings are mentioned in verse 3. When a person is developing in the spiritual life, one sign of it is that he thinks less of his own needs and more of the needs of Christ’s church. This is what David expresses in verse 3: ‘O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.’ This understanding only comes by experience. David, having tasted the faithfulness and the consolations of God, exhorts others to also hope in the Lord. When we find such sentiments in our hearts, we can conclude that we are growing in grace.
C. H. Spurgeon said of this psalm: ‘It is one of the shortest Psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn. It speaks of a young child, but it contains the experience of a man in Christ. Lowliness and humility are here seen in connection with a sanctified heart, a will subdued to the mind of God, and a hope looking to the Lord alone. Happy is the man who can without falsehood use these words as his own; for he wears about him the likeness of his Lord, who said, “I am meek and lowly in heart.”’