New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Psa 131:1

A Song of Ascents. By David-
Or 'degrees'. Hezekiah’s response to being granted another 15 years of life was to edit and produce the Songs of Degrees, so named after the degrees of the sundial. Four of the 15 Psalms were by David, one by Solomon; and the other 10 it seems Hezekiah wrote himself but left anonymous. These ten Psalms would reflect the ten degrees by which the sun-dial went backwards. The point to note is that Hezekiah taught others in an anonymous way in response to the grace he had received. True preaching reflects a certain artless selflessness. These songs of ascents were presumably also intended to be sung by the exiles as they returned to Zion, and then every time they went up to Jerusalem to keep a feast. But there is no evidence this happened. For they didn't return in the kind of faith implied in these Psalms. The plural "ascents" would then be an intensive plural referring to the one great ascent, to Zion. Much of the language of these Psalms is typical of David's language when under persecution by Saul. But the Psalm was reapplied to Hezekiah, and then to the exiles on their return from Babylon, and then by extension to all God's people on their journey zionwards.

Yahweh, my heart isn’t haughty-
This Psalm used by Hezekiah wasn't taken seriously by him. For him, it was just the words of a hymn. For his heart was lifted up / haughty, the very same phrase used of him in 2 Chron. 32:25.

Nor my eyes lofty-
The phrase used of the Assyrians (2 Kings 19:22). Hezekiah is saying that his eyes are not as theirs; and yet he was deceiving himself, as just noted. David was aware that God judges people for things like their facial expression and body language (s.w. Ps. 18:27).

Nor do I concern myself with great matters, or things too wonderful for me-
These things too wonderful don't have to refer to things beyond the psalmist's understanding; rather is the sense of things too "hard" for him to achieve in his own strength (Gen. 18:14). Humility comes from truly recognizing that our salvation is of God and cannot be of ourselves. Yet Hezekiah did all he could within his power to effect his deliverance from the Assyrians, he did indeed "concern himself" with the things of salvation.

In the David context, 'to go' ["concern myself"] with 'great things' is the phrase used of David in 2 Sam. 5:10; he "went on [s.w. "concern myself"] and grew great" [s.w. "with great matters"]. So the idea of Ps. 131:1 may be that David didn't pay attention to these things so as not to become proud.

Psa 131:2 Surely I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me-
If David was the author of this Psalm, and of Ps. 132, then it provides an example of how David sees himself from outside of himself. Ps. 132  speaks of David in all his afflictions. Ps. 131:2 RV has him speaking of stilling and quieting his soul like a mother does a child- as if he saw himself as the mother to his own soul, talking to himself. He uses the same word for "quieted" in recording how he had quieted himself, telling himself to be calm (Ps. 37:7; 62:5). In the Hezekiah context, this would apply to his calming down after his illness had been healed and he was granted another 15 years.

Psa 131:3

Israel, hope in Yahweh-
As God had come through for David and Hezekiah, so the exiles were to hope for "the hope of Israel", the restoration from exile to the restored Kingdom of God.

From this time forth and forever-
This is just as Israel were to praise the Name of Yahweh "from this time forth and forever". The idea may be that we will eternally be praising the name of Yahweh; in the sense of appreciating and praising His characteristics. For the declaration of His Name to Moses involved the listing of His characteristics which combine to make up His personality. We can begin living the eternal life now, in that we can now act as we shall eternally. We shall be eternally appreciating, trusting, loving and praising God's Name- and we can begin that now. This is an Old Testament form (also in Ps. 113:2; 115:18; 121:8; 125:2; 131:3) of the Lord's teaching as recorded in John's Gospel, that we can have and live the eternal life right now. We have that life not in the sense that we shall never die, but in that we can begin living and being now as we shall eternally live and be.