Childish or Child-like?

There’s an intriguing picture in Psalm 131. It is offered to further develop and reveal the pilgrims’ perspective as they neared Jerusalem. After confessing they had steered clear of presumptuous matters (“things too wonderful for me”), we are told, “I am like a weaned child with its mother.” Not simply a child—but a weaned child. As any mother can tell you, that is an important distinction.

African American mother embracing with baby daughter

It’s no secret what we are to understand by this picture, for the psalmist goes on to tell us, “Like a weaned child I am content” (v. 2). Putting it all together, he is telling us that as opposed to being prideful and presumptuous, he is content like a weaned child.

Contentment is the fruit of humility. It is allowing and trusting God to be God without constantly whining, questioning, or demanding our way (like a nursing child is prone to doing). The weaned child is still totally dependent of course, but it’s a different kind of dependency—one that has passed through the most infantile stage. Artur Weiser wrote, “Just as the child gradually breaks off the habit of regarding his mother only as a means of satisfying his own desires and learns to love her for her own sake, so the worshiper after a struggle has reached an attitude of mind in which he desires God for himself and not as a means of fulfillment of his own wishes.”

What are we like when we approach our Father’s throne in prayer—a nursing child or a weaned one? Are our prayers full of self-centered requests or are they petitions that are thought out and look beyond ourselves and our needs to God’s kingdom? Are they childish or child-like? It’s interesting that as Paul talks about prayer in Philippians 4, he tells us not to be anxious about anything and “with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (v. 6). That sounds a lot like the prayer of a weaned child, doesn’t it?

Charles Spurgeon said this was one of the shortest psalms to read but one of the longest to learn. I think he knew what he was talking about.

Psalms of Ascent

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Published by A Taste of Grace with Bruce Green

I grew up the among the cotton fields, red clay and aerospace industry of north Alabama. My wife and I are blessed with three adult children and five grandchildren.

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