Israel is a luxuriant vine
that yields its fruit.
The more his fruit increased,
the more altars he built;
as his country improved,
he improved his pillars.
Their heart is false;
now they must bear their guilt.
The LORD will break down their altars
and destroy their pillars.
For now they will say:
“We have no king,
for we do not fear the LORD;
and a king—what could he do for us?”
They utter mere words;
with empty oaths they make covenants;
so judgment springs up like poisonous weeds
in the furrows of the field.
The inhabitants of Samaria tremble
for the calf of Beth-aven.
Its people mourn for it, and so do its idolatrous priests—
those who rejoiced over it and over its glory—
for it has departed from them.
The thing itself shall be carried to Assyria
as tribute to the great king.
Ephraim shall be put to shame,
and Israel shall be ashamed of his idol.
Samaria's king shall perish
like a twig on the face of the waters.
The high places of Aven, the sin of Israel,
shall be destroyed.
Thorn and thistle shall grow up
on their altars,
and they shall say to the mountains, “Cover us,”
and to the hills, “Fall on us.”
From the days of Gibeah, you have sinned, O Israel;
there they have continued.
Shall not the war against the unjust overtake them in Gibeah?
When I please, I will discipline them,
and nations shall be gathered against them
when they are bound up for their double iniquity.
Ephraim was a trained calf
that loved to thresh,
and I spared her fair neck;
but I will put Ephraim to the yoke;
Judah must plow;
Jacob must harrow for himself.
Sow for yourselves righteousness;
reap steadfast love;
break up your fallow ground,
for it is the time to seek the LORD,
that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.
You have plowed iniquity;
you have reaped injustice;
you have eaten the fruit of lies.
Because you have trusted in your own way
and in the multitude of your warriors,
therefore the tumult of war shall arise among your people,
and all your fortresses shall be destroyed,
as Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle;
mothers were dashed in pieces with their children.
Thus it shall be done to you, O Bethel,
because of your great evil.
At dawn the king of Israel
shall be utterly cut off.
(Hosea 10 ESV)
A Song of Ascents.
“Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth”—
let Israel now say—
“Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth,
yet they have not prevailed against me.
The plowers plowed upon my back;
they made long their furrows.”
The LORD is righteous;
he has cut the cords of the wicked.
May all who hate Zion
be put to shame and turned backward!
Let them be like the grass on the housetops,
which withers before it grows up,
with which the reaper does not fill his hand
nor the binder of sheaves his arms,
nor do those who pass by say,
“The blessing of the LORD be upon you!
We bless you in the name of the LORD!”
(Psalm 129 ESV)
A Song of Ascents.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.
(Psalm 130 ESV)
A Song of Ascents. Of David.
O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore.
(Psalm 131 ESV)
For the Love of God
MANY HAVE OBSERVED THAT PSALM 131 anticipates the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 18:1-4, where he asks, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” — and calls a little child to stand among his disciples. In certain respects, the follower of Jesus must be childlike, and this psalm makes its own contribution to that theme. Yet childlikeness is not childishness; simplicity is not simple-mindedness; humility is not servility. The psalm will speak with greater power if we reflect on some of its features:
(1) According to the superscription, this is a psalm of David. One may well ask during what period of his career he wrote it. More than one writer has suggested it springs from an early period, before the successes of his middle and later years bred a certain arrogance that would have made it impossible for him to write, “I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me” (131:1). That is possible, of course. Nevertheless a very young man who has not yet had the opportunity to concern himself with great matters would not be very likely to write these words — or if he did, they would sound vaguely pretentious, a bit like a pompous excuse for not tackling the tough issues. One cannot finally prove the point, but I suspect this psalm is easier to understand if it springs from the end of David’s life, after he has been humbled by such matters as Bathsheba and Uriah, and by the revolt led by his son Absalom. Humbled, less quick to imagine he alone understands, slower to take umbrage, and more impressed by the wise providence of God, David (one imagines) now quietly writes, “My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me” (131:1).
(2) Some commentators (and even translations) picture the child of verse 2 as nursing at the breast. But that is not what the text says. David pictures himself “like a weaned child with its mother.” This child, like David, no longer cries for what it formerly found indispensable. This too suggests that David is mature enough now to be giving something up — namely, in the light of verse 1, the confident questing to understand everything, borne of more than a little arrogance. The immaturity he abandons is like a little child squealing to get hold of its mother’s breast. But David has eclipsed that point. He is weaned, and he is content. Cf. Philippians 4:11ff.
(3) The maturity David has reached is grounded not in escapist retreat from life’s complexities, but in trust in the Lord (131:3), whose perfect knowledge is a bulwark for our hope.