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Humility - Like A Child

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Humility – Like A Child...

The Psalms of Ascent (Ps 120-134) were songs that set the stage for Hebrew pilgrims as they journeyed to Jerusalem – toward God.  They are songs “for the road.”[1] They were sung to each other, as they would wind their way up from the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea, the highest point in Israel, Jerusalem.  It prepared their heart to seek and worship God.

Ps 131:1-3 TNIV “My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.  But I have calmed myself and quieted my ambitions.  I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.  Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.”

This Psalm goes to the very heart of walking with God – a long obedience in the same direction.  [2]  This Psalm is a reflection on humility, dependency, and quiet confident trust in God who loves you.  The picture God inspired David to use, to convey such a relationship of complete trust, is that of a child perfectly at peace and rest in the arms of its mother.

I.              Maintaining My Heart!

Ps 131:1 TNIV “My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.”  Ps 131 is a Psalm that maintains the heart.  Just as a car needs regular maintenance – servicing, so does our heart.  If we allow it, this Psalm will challenge and help us remove selfish ambition and self-dependence from our heart.  Both selfish ambition and self-dependence are manifestations of pride – the very sin that corrupted the devil and led to his downfall.  Saint Augustine “Sin is believing the lie that you are self-created, self-dependent, and self-sustained”[3]

Pride, arrogance is a symptom of immaturity and a dangerous snare.  When speaking of the qualifications for key leadership Paul says, 1 Tim 3:6 TNIV “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.”  What was the action of the devil that led to his judgment?  You can find his words in Isaiah 14:12-14, where 5 times he wilfully declared that he would ascend into the highest places of Heaven to take God’s place and seize God’s throne.

II.          Moving to Maturity.

Ps 131:2-3 TNIV “I have calmed myself and quieted my ambitions.  I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.  Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.”  Charles Spurgeon said of this Psalm “Is one of the shortest Psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn.”

This Psalm whilst confronting selfish ambition in our hearts is certainly not encouraging a kind of passive fatalistic faith in Christian.  Selfish ambition has a superficial relationship with the Christian virtue of aspiration – impatience with mediocrity and dissatisfaction with average.  Rather, aspiration strives for the best God has for us.  Phil 3:13-14 MSG “I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus.  I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”  

“Our lives are lived well only when they are lived on the terms of their creation, with God loving and us being loved, with God making and us being made, with God revealing and us understanding, with God commanding and us responding.”[4]

The Psalm offers 3 truths to counter pride – honesty – humility – hope![5]

A.      Honesty—Accept Yourself.

Ps 131:1 NCV “Lord, my heart is not proud; I don’t look down on others.  I don’t do great things, and I can’t do miracles.”  This is not pessimism but honest recognition that without Jesus, “we can do nothing.”  Maturity is honestly accepting who we are.

A proud heart refuses to face reality, arrogance covers up hidden inadequacy, and selfish-ambition ultimately leads to failure.  David had seen this kind of behaviour in his own son Absalom as well as in King Saul.  David did not elevate himself; it was all God’s doing.  Rom 12:3 NLT “Don’t think you are better than you really are.  Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”

B.      Humility—Accept God’s Will.

Ps 131:2 TNIV “I have calmed myself and quieted my ambitions.  I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.”  Hebrew children were weaned at around age 3.  The Hebrew word for “wean” means “to complete, to ripen, to treat kindly.”  God sometimes has to wean us away from good things in order to give us better things.  Abraham 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.  God’s goal for us is emotional and spiritual maturity.  Heb 6:1 MSG “So come on, let’s leave the preschool finger-painting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art.  Grow up in Christ.” 

“Christian faith is not neurotic dependency but childlike trust.  We do not have a God who forever indulges our whims but a God whom we trust with our destinies”[6]  Jesus gives us the picture of a child as a model for Christian faith not because of a child’s helplessness but because of their willingness to be led, to learn, and to be loved.  Mk 10:14-16 TNIV “He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”  And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.”

C.       Hope—Anticipate the Future.

Ps 131:3 TNIV “...put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.”  In the Christian vocabulary, hope is not “I hope so.”  It is a joyful expectation of what Jesus will do in our future, based on His changeless promises.  Ps 62:5-6 TNIV “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him.  Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.”  As a child being weaned, we may fret at our present circumstances.  A trusting child-like faith looks at those very circumstances and knows that out of those very circumstances new blessings and opportunities will be born, because God loves us!  Rom 8:28 TNIV “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”


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[1] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999).  Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.)

[2] Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, trans. Helen Zimmern (London: 1907), sec 188.

[3]Green, M. P. (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file.). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (Intervarsity Press 2nd Edition 2000), pg 153

[5] Wiersbe, W. W. (2004). Be Exultant (1st ed.) (172). Colorado Springs, Colo.: Cook Communications Ministries.

[6] Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (Intervarsity Press 2nd Edition 2000), pg 154

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