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Sunday, November 01, 2020

“Unrestless” [Matt's Messages]

“Unrestless”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
November 1, 2020 :: Psalm 131

I am singularly unqualified to preach Psalm 131.

I did not pick Psalm 131 for this weekend because I live it out so well. So often this Psalm does NOT describe me or my heart.

I picked out Psalm 131 because I need it so desperately. I need Psalm 131. 

And I want Psalm 131. I want this song to be the song of heart.

Psalm 131 is a very short psalm, just 3 verses, attributed to King David and included in the Songs of Ascent, that hit album of Hebrew songs that the Israelites sang as they marched up to Jerusalem for the great feasts.

And I love that Psalm 131 is by King David because when I read about his life in 1 and 2 Samuel and I hear his heart in many of his other songs throughout the Psalter, I realize that Psalm 131 was not David’s perpetual experience, either.

David was not describing his constant experience, but a place that he had gotten to, a posture, a composure, a peace that he had learned. And that he had to constantly return to.

Psalm 131 is a song about a heart that is unrestless.

I know, that’s not a word. I made it up!

If you Google “unrestlesss,” you won’t find a definition in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary.

I made it up for this occasion because I wanted a fresh word that was the opposite of restless.

The opposite of frantic. The opposite of fussy. The opposite of fretful. 

So I picked, “unrestless.”

One of my mentors, the late David Powlison, said that Psalm 131 describes a person who is “quiet on the inside.”

Doesn’t that sound good? “Quiet on the inside.”

David Powlison wrote, “Amazingly, this man isn’t noisy on the inside. He isn’t busy-busy-busy. Not obsessed. Not on edge. The to-do list and pressures to achieve don’t consume him. Ambition doesn’t churn inside. Failure and despair don’t haunt him. Anxiety isn’t spinning him into free fall. He isn’t preoccupied with thinking up the next things he wants to say. Regrets don’t corrode his inner experience. Irritation and dissatisfaction don’t devour him. He’s not stumbling through the mine field of blind longings and fears” (“‘Peace, be still:’ Learning Psalm 131 by Heart,” The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Vol. 18, No. 3, Spring 2000, pg. 2).

“Quiet on the inside.”

Doesn’t that sound good? And that’s just a list of what he isn’t!

He is unrestless.

Let me read Psalm 131 to you, and you can hear it for yourself. Psalm 131.


The most poignant image in this song is in verse 2 when David likens himself to a “weaned child with its mother.”

He says it twice for emphasis. “Like a weaned child, like a weaned child.”

In this setting a “weaned child” is a toddler who is no longer nursing and so is content now with his mother.

Have you ever seen a fussy baby that is hungry? What do they do?

They root around. They flail around. And they wail.

They wail and they flail!

A baby can’t peacefully say, “I’m hungry, Mother. When is dinner?”

Especially if they are really hungry. Then they really cut loose.

They don’t know what’s going on. They just know they feel this terrible pain in their tummy, and they don’t know how it will ever be fixed!

But a weaned child with their mother has learned. They know the drill. They know how this works. They know that Mom will take care of them. They know that they can trust their mother, and so in this picture they are tranquil. They are peaceful. They are not wigged out every time it’s dinner time!

That’s the picture here. The weaned child is no longer restless. They are unrestless.

They are at peace.

And King David says, “That’s me. That peaceful child is a picture of my heart, of my soul within me.”

I don’t know about you, but I want a piece of that.

That’s the peace that “transcends all understanding” that we’ve been reciting in our memory verse these last few months.

As I said, this is not my natural experience. I am by temperament, a “self-tightening nut.”

I heard somebody say that you can buy a “self-tightening nut” at the hardware store, and I think that means that instead of loosening when it gets jostled, this kind of nut just gets tighter and tighter.

Well, Heather and I think that’s a great label for my natural temperament.

We both call me, “a self-tightening nut.”

Fretting, fussing, frantic, worrying, needy, noisy on the inside.

I confess that I am often restless.

If you didn’t know that about me, I’m glad. That might mean that I’m making progress, or it could just mean that I hide it well, or that you’re not paying attention.

But the people who know me, know me.

And they know that I need Psalm 131.

How about you? Are you noisy on the inside?

I think that the pandemic has brought it out of me in new ways.

For example, I want to do things the right way. I want to do the right thing and to be seen to do the right thing. And that’s a good desire, and a good value to have, especially when leading a church through a polarizing pandemic.

But it can became overwhelming and obsessive for me to do things the right way and for everyone to see that I’m doing things the right way. And before you know it, I’m all twisted up inside, the self-tightening nut.

How about you? Are you restless or unrestless?

Are you quiet or noisy on the inside?

I love how Psalm 131 doesn’t just describe the result; it also beautifully describes the process of getting there. 

I want to walk through it in three major steps of application for ourselves.

#1. HUMBLE MYSELF.

To be unrestless, I need to humble myself like David did. Verse 1.

“My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty;”

We don’t tend to use that word “haughty,” but it means arrogant.

David proclaims that his heart is not lifted up, and he doesn’t look down his nose at others. He is not proud.

He is humble.

Is it surprising to you that he starts here? 

I don’t think we understand how much our inner restlessness comes from our own pride and arrogance.

Anxiety is often tied to pride.

We believe that we deserve something and so we strive for it with all of our insides so that our insides get turned inside out.

But David knew, in his moments of faithful sanity, that the road to tranquility comes through humility.

“My heart is not proud, O Yahweh, my eyes are not haughty.”

And then he says it in a different way.

“I do not concern [or occupy] myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.”

Now, David was not saying that he never did great or wonderful things. This is King David talking! Giant-slaying, kingdom-building, David! But he is saying that he has stopped trying to play God.

I think the things too great or wonderful for him are the things that belong to God alone.

Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God...” And David is saying that when he’s at his best, he doesn’t worry about what he can’t understand.

I want that to be true of me.

So often I would like God to explain more of the plan to me, and especially my part in the plan.

“A few more details here, Lord! Is it going to be this or this? I really want to know. I feel like I need to know!” Do you feel like that sometimes?

David had learned to live with unanswered questions. It doesn’t mean he stopped asking them, but he stopped demanding the answers on his terms. 

In other words, David stopped trying to play God. David realized that the position of God was already filled.

So he would just let God be God.

That’s humbling yourself.

Can you see how freeing that would be?

#2. QUIET MY HEART.

To be unrestless, I need to quiet my heart like David did. V.2

“But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.”

Notice that this is not passivity. David has something very active to do. He has to actively still and quiet his heart! 

It’s not just something that washes over him automatically.

Even though it is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit, David himself has role to fulfill to experience this peace.

In fact, in the Hebrew there is an almost an oath here.

"I solemnly swear that I have done this. I have stilled and quieted my soul."

It’s a different Hebrew word but it’s a similar idea to Psalm 46:10 that we heard last week, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

"Shhhh. Stop it. Quiet. Cut it out. Be still."

We’re learning a lot this Fall about talking to our souls, not just listening to them, right?



“Be still.”

This is not some eastern fluttery meditation practice.

This is based on knowing God in fortifying truth and humbling yourself before Him.

But it is telling your soul to pipe down.

On Friday, I found out that I had made a major miscalculation about something that is important to me. And I have made this major miscalculation for the last couple of years, and I realized that adjusting myself to the way it really is will be a painful undertaking.

The details are not important, what is important is how I handle it. 

I have not handled it very well, I confess: Brooding, worrying, obsessing, arguing, complaining.

My wife and my Dad have had to endure all of that for the last couple of days.

Tighten, tighten, tighten.

But yesterday, out on a walk, thinking about how I desperately need this song in my heart, I began to experience some peace. And I started, not just listening to my heart, but talking back to my heart.

“Shhh. Be still. Be quiet. God’s got this. Rest and trust in Him.”

I’m not there yet. I’ll have to sing this to myself a lot more.

But I know that the Lord can be trusted. Jesus came back from the dead to guarantee it! Jesus died for our sins and then came back to life. If He can take care of our sin problem and our death problem[!], then there is no problem that He cannot take care of!

So I say to my soul, “What do you have to worry about?”

“Hey, hey, hey, let’s get quiet on the inside.”

And put your hope in the Lord.

#3. HOPE IN THE LORD.

To be unrestless, I need to put my hope in the LORD just like David did.

And just like he told the rest of Israel to do. Verse 3.

“O Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.”

Don’t put your hope in yourself or in anything else.

In your bank account.
In the government.
In your party’s candidate for office.
In your family.
In your health.
In your gifts or abilities.

Don’t place your hope in those things; they will all disappoint you at some point.

“O Israel, put your hope in the LORD [Yahweh] both now and forevermore.”

He will never disappoint.

Fix your eyes on Him.

I’m so thankful that King David wrote this song, and I’m even more thankful that King Jesus sang this song perfectly with His life.

He humbled Himself. He had a perfectly stilled and quiet soul. Even when His soul was so troubled within Him, He was its master. And He perfectly put His hope in the Lord.

So that even when I fail to and flail around and wail like a frantic fussy baby inside, He has me safe in His arms.

So I can lean back and rest, and I can humble myself once again. And say, “Ok. Right. Right. You are God. You’ve got this. I don’t have to have it all figured out or every box checked in the right place.”

I can trust in You. I can be like a weaned child with its mother.

I can be unrestless.

“O Lanse Free Church, put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.”


***

Fortifying Truth - Fall 2020

01. Majestic and Mindful - Psalm 8
02. All Our Days - Psalm 90
03. "The LORD on High Is Mighty!" - Psalm 93
04. "The LORD Is My Shepherd" - Psalm 23
05. "Praise the LORD, O My Soul!" - Psalm 103
06. "The Blessing of Aaron's Oily Beard" - Psalm 133
07. "A Dying Thirst for the Living God" - Psalm 42
08. "Our Fortress" - Psalm 46

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