Psalm 131:1
Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.
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Psalm 131:1. Lord, my heart is not haughty — Lifted up with that pride of which I am accused, as thou, the searcher of all hearts, knowest; nor mine eyes lofty — Either to look with envy on those that are above me, or with disdain on those that are below me. Where there is a proud heart there is commonly a proud look. Neither do I exercise myself in great matters — Hebrew, ולא הלכתי בגדלות, neither have I walked in great things, &c. It neither is, nor hath been my practice to attempt, or arrogate to myself, any thing above my degree, place, and calling, or to affect worldly glory or domination.131:1-3 The psalmist's humility. Believers encouraged to trust in God. - The psalmist aimed at nothing high or great, but to be content in every condition God allotted. Humble saints cannot think so well of themselves as others think of them. The love of God reigning in the heart, will subdue self-love. Where there is a proud heart, there is commonly a proud look. To know God and our duty, is learning sufficiently high for us. It is our wisdom not to meddle with that which does not belong to us. He was well reconciled to every condition the Lord placed him in. He had been as humble as a little child about the age of weaning, and as far from aiming at high things; as entirely at God's disposal, as the child at the disposal of the mother or nurse. We must become as little children, Mt 18:3. Our hearts are desirous of worldly things, cry for them, and are fond of them; but, by the grace of God, a soul that is made holy, is weaned from these things. The child is cross and fretful while in the weaning; but in a day or two it cares no longer for milk, and it can bear stronger food. Thus does a converted soul quiet itself under the loss of what it loved, and disappointments in what it hoped for, and is easy whatever happens. When our condition is not to our mind, we must bring our mind to our condition; then we are easy to ourselves and all about us; then our souls are as a weaned child. And thus the psalmist recommends confidence in God, to all the Israel of God, from his own experience. It is good to hope, and quietly to wait for the salvation of the Lord under every trial.Lord, my heart is not haughty - Though this is charged upon me; though I may have said things which seem to imply it; though this might appear a just inference from my conduct - yet I am conscious that this is not my real character. What I have said was not the result of ambition.

Nor mine eyes lofty - I am conscious that I am not ambitious and aspiring - as I am accused of being. What I have said is not the result of such a feeling, nor should such a charge be brought against me.

Neither do I exercise myself - Margin, as in Hebrew, walk. I do not walk about among such things; I do not pry into them; I do not meddle with them. What I have said or done is not, as has been said concerning me, the result of a meddlesome and interfering spirit. It may seem to be so; my own consciousness tells me it is not so. The interpretation put upon my conduct may be natural; but I am conscious to myself that it is not the right interpretation.

In great matters, or in things too high for me - Margin, as in Hebrew, wonderful. The word wonderful would apply to matters suited to excite astonishment by their vastness, or their unusual nature - as prodigies or miracles; and then, great and lofty truths. It would apply also to things which might be regarded as far above the capacity of a child, or of one in obscure life, and with slight advantages of education; and, as above suggested, it may have been the accusation brought against him, that, in respect to public matters, matters of state - or to the more elevated doctrines of religion - he had manifested a spirit unbecoming one in early years, and of humble rank, and that this indicated a desire to meddle with matters which he could not understand, and which could not pertain to him. He was conscious, he says, that he was not actuated by that spirit.


Ps 131:1-3. This Psalm, while expressive of David's pious feelings on assuming the royal office, teaches the humble, submissive temper of a true child of God.

1. eyes lofty—a sign of pride (Ps 18:27).

exercise myself—literally, "walk in," or "meddle with."

1 Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty. neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.

2 Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.

3 Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever.

Psalm 131:1

"Lord, my heart is not haughty." The Psalm deals with the Lord, and is a solitary colloquy with him, not a discourse before men. We have a sufficient audience when we speak with the Lord, and we may say to him many things which were not proper for the ears of men. The holy man makes his appeal to Jehovah, who alone knows the heart' a man should be slow to do this upon any matter, for the Lord is not to be trifled with; and when anyone ventures on such an appeal he should be sure of his case. He begins with his heart, for that is the centre of our nature, and if pride be there it defiles everything; just as mire in the spring causes mud in all the streams. It is a grand thing for a man to know his own heart so as to be able to speak before the Lord about it. It is beyond all things deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it? Who can know it unless taught by the Spirit of God? It is a still greater thing if, upon searching himself thoroughly, a man can solemnly protest unto the Omniscient One that his heart is not haughty. that is to say, neither proud in his opinion of himself, contemptuous to others, nor self-righteous before the Lord; neither boastful of the past, proud of the present, nor ambitious for the future. "Nor mine eyes lofty." What the heart desires the eyes look for. Where the desires run the glances usually follow. This holy man felt that he did not seek after elevated places where he might gratify his self-esteem, neither did he look down upon others as being his inferiors. A proud look the Lord hates; and in this all men are agreed with him; yea, even the proud themselves hate haughtiness in the gestures of others. Lofty eyes are so generally hateful that haughty men have been known to avoid the manners natural to the proud in order to escape the ill-will of their fellows. The pride which apes humility always takes care to cast its eyes downward, since every man's consciousness tells him that contemptuous glances are the sure ensigns of a boastful spirit. In Psalm 121:1-8. David lifted up his eyes to the hills; but here he declares that they were not lifted up in any other sense. When the heart is right, and the eyes are right, the whole man is on the road to a healthy and happy condition. Let us take care that we do not use the language of this Psalm unless, indeed, it be true as to ourselves; for there is no worse pride than that which claims humility when it does not possess it.

"Neither do I exercise myself in great matters." As a private man he did not usurp the power of the king or devise plots against him: he minded his own business, and left others to mind theirs. As a thoughtful man he did not pry into things unrevealed; he was not speculative, self-conceited or opinionated. As a secular person he did not thrust himself into the priesthood as Saul had done before him, and as Uzziah did after him. It is well so to exercise ourselves unto godliness that we know our true sphere, and diligently keep to it. Many through wishing to be great have failed to be good: they were not content to adorn the lowly stations which the Lord appointed them, and so they have rushed at grandeur and power; and found destruction where they looked for honour. "Or in things too high for me." High things may suit others who are of greater stature, and yet they may be quite unfit for us. A man does well to know his own size. Ascertaining his own capacity, he will be foolish if he aims at that which is beyond his reach, straining himself, and thus injuring himself. Such is the vanity of many men that if a work be within their range they despise it, and think it beneath them: the only service which they are willing to undertake is that to which they have never been called, and for which they are by no means qualified. What a haughty heart must he have who will not serve God at all unless he may be trusted with five talents at the least! His looks are indeed lofty who disdains to be a light among his poor friends and neighbours here below, but demands to be created a star of the first magnitude to shine among the upper ranks, and to be admired by gazing crowds. It is just on God's part that those who wish to be everything should end in being nothing. It is a righteous retribution from God when every matter turns out to be too great for the man who would only handle great matters, and every thing proves to be too high for the man who exercised himself in things too high for him. Lord, make us lowly, keep us lowly, fix us for ever in lowliness. Help us to be in such a case that the confession of this verse may come from our lips as a truthful utterance which we dare make before the Judge of all the earth.

Psalm 131:2

"Surely I have behaved and quieted myself." The original bears somewhat of the form of an oath, and therefore our translators exhibited great judgment in introducing the word "surely"; it is not a literal version, but it correctly gives the meaning. The Psalmist had been upon his best behaviour, and had smoothed down the roughnesses of his self-will; by holy effort he had mastered his own spirit, so that towards God he was not rebellious, even as towards man he was not haughty. It is no easy thing to quiet yourself: sooner may a man calm the sea, or rule the wind, or tame a tiger, than quiet himself. We are clamorous, uneasy, petulant; and nothing but grace can make us quiet under afflictions, irritations, and disappointments. "As a child that is weaned of his mother." He had become as subdued and content as a child whose weaning is fully accomplished. The Easterns put off the time of weaning far later than we do, and we may conclude that the process grows none the easier by being postponed. At last there must be an end to the suckling period, and then a battle begins: the child is denied his comfort, and therefore frets and worries, flies into pets, or sinks into sulks. It is lacing its first great sorrow, and it is in sore distress. Yet time brings not only alleviations, but the ending of the conflict; the boy ere long is quite content to find his nourishment at the table with his brothers, and he feels no lingering wish to return to those dear fountains from which he once sustained his life. He is no longer angry with his mother, but buries his head in that very bosom after which he pined so grievously: he is weaned on his mother rather than from her.

"My soul doth like a weanling rest,

I cease to weep;

So mother's lap, though dried her breast,

Can lull to sleep."

To the weaned child his mother is his comfort though she has denied him comfort. It is a blessed mark of growth out of spiritual infancy when we can forego the joys which once appeared to be essential, and can find our solace in him who denies them to us: then we behave manfully, and every childish complaint is hushed. If the Lord removes our dearest delight we bow to his will without a murmuring thought; in fact, we find a delight in giving up our delight. This is no spontaneous fruit of nature, but a well-tended product of divine grace: it grows out of humility and lowliness, and it is the stern upon which peace blooms as a fair flower. "My soul is even as a weaned child"; or it may be read, "as a weaned child on me my soul," as if his soul leaned upon him in mute submission, neither boasting nor complaining. It is not every child of God who arrives at this weanedness speedily. Some are sucklings when they ought to be fathers; others are hard to wean, and cry, and fight, and rage against their heavenly parent's discipline. When we think ourselves safely through the weaning, we sadly discover that the old appetites are rather wounded than slain, and we begin crying again for the breasts which we had given up, It is easy to begin shouting before we are out of the wood, and no doubt hundreds have sung this Psalm long before they have understood it. Blessed are those afflictions which subdue our affections, which wean us from self-sufficiency, which educate us into Christian manliness, which teach us to love God not merely when he comforts us, but even when he tries us. Well might the sacred poet repeat his figure of the weaned child; it is worthy of admiration and imitation; it is doubly desirable and difficult of attainment. Such weanedness from self springs from the gentle humility declared in Psalm 131:1, and partly accounts for its existence. If pride is gone, submission will be sure to follow; and, on the other hand, if pride is to be driven out, self must also be vanquished.

Psalm 131:3

continued...THE ARGUMENT

This Psalm seems to have been composed by David during Saul’s persecution. when be was charged with boundless ambition, and a greedy affectation of the royal throne, and that he sought it by wicked practices against Saul’s life and dignity. And for his own just vindication he is forced to publish his own integrity, and to declare that as the right of the kingdom was not sought or coveted by him, but freely conferred upon him by the unexpected and undesired favour of God; so that he had no thought or design to invade the throne before his time, but was willing to stay God’s leisure for it, and in the mean time was resolved to behave himself towards Saul as became a faithful subject, seeking nothing but to preserve his own life from the rage of unrighteous and bloody men.

David testifieth his humility, Psalm 131:1,2, and exhorteth Israel to trust in the Lord, Psalm 131:3.

Is not haughty; or, lifted up, with that pride whereof I am accused, as thou the Searcher of all hearts knowest.

Nor mine eyes lofty; which is a sign and effect of pride, Proverbs 6:17 21:4.

Neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me; Heb. neither have I walked in great matters, &c. It neither is nor hath been my course to attempt or arrogate any thing to myself above my degree and private capacity, or to affect worldly glory or domination.

Lord, my heart is not haughty,.... The heart of every man is naturally so, and everything in civil life tends to make it more so; as riches and honour, birth and blood, wisdom, knowledge, and learning, strength and beauty, especially where there is a superiority of those to others; and in religious if persons have not the true grace of God, their hearts will be haughty; if they have a notion of the purity of human nature, and the goodness of their hearts, and are pure in their own eyes, and of the power of their free will to do this and the other, and of their perfection in good works, and are full of their own righteousness, and have some external gifts, and some degree of notional knowledge; but if the heart is made truly contrite under a sense of sin, and is melted with discoveries of pardoning love, it will be humble and not haughty: and those have such hearts who have seen the haughtiness of their hearts, and the exceeding sinfulness of sin; their impotency to that which is spiritually good; their imperfection in all they do; the excellency and suitableness of Christ's righteousness, and that all their salvation is of grace, and that grace is entirely free; and the more spiritual knowledge and experience they have, the more humble they are: and this was David's case, and what he here said was no doubt true, since he hated lying; and besides he speaks this in the presence of and to God the searcher of hearts; though he had been anointed by Samuel, and knew that he was to be successor in the kingdom, yet his heart was not elated with it;

nor mine eyes lofty; or "lifted up" (l), they were lifted up to God in prayer often, out not above his fellow creatures; he behaved himself humbly as well as wisely in Saul's court, where he was raised to great dignity, which gained him the affections of the court, and of all Israel; but there are too many whose eyes are lofty, and their eyelids lifted up, who disdain to look upon those that are inferior to them, as the rich on the poor, the Pharisee on the publican; see Proverbs 30:13. This is the character of antichrist, that his look is more stout than his fellows, and is abominable in the sight of God, even a proud look as well as a proud heart, Proverbs 6:17. But this was not David's case; as he could not bear this in others he would not suffer it in himself, Psalm 101:5;

neither do I exercise myself in great matters; or, "walk" (m) in them; these were not the subject of his employment and conversation; he did many great things, in killing the lion and the bear that came into his father's flock; in slaying Goliath with a sling and stone only; in leading out the armies of Israel, and slaying his ten thousands; and he exercised himself in the great things of the law, which he was careful to observe, and studied the great things of the Gospel, which he had the highest esteem of, and desired to understand; but he did not seek human greatness, or the great things of this world, for himself; he had no ambitious views, or was desirous of the kingdom he was anointed to, before the proper time; see 1 Samuel 18:18;

or in things too high for me: or "too wonderful" (n); see Job 42:3. He contemplated the wonderful make and frame of his body, the texture, symmetry, and use of each of its parts; he observed the wonderful providences of God towards him ever since he had a being; and particularly he took notice of the wonderful love of God to him, and remembered and talked of, and declared, the wonderful works of grace and redemption; but not things above his capacity, out of his reach, and which are secret, or not clearly revealed: and such things we should be content to be ignorant of, or not to have adequate ideas of, or be capable of accounting for; as the being and perfections of God, particularly his immensity and eternity; the mode of subsisting of the Persons in the Godhead; the generation of the Son and procession of the Spirit; the incarnation of Christ, and the union of the two natures in him; present providences, unsearchable and past finding out; and future things, especially the times and seasons of them; see Psalm 139:6.

(l) "elati", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version, &c. (m) "ambulavi", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Musculus, Cocceius, &c. (n) "in mirabilibus prae me", Montanus, Cocceius, Gejerus, Michaelis.

<> LORD, {a} my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great {b} matters, or in things too high for me.

(a) He sets forth his great humility as an example to all rulers and governors.

(b) Which pass the measure and limits of his calling.

1. A proud mind finds expression in haughty looks and ambitious schemes. Cp. Psalm 18:27; Psalm 101:5; Proverbs 16:5.

neither &c.] Neither do I busy myself (lit. go to and fro) in great things, or in things too arduous for me. Cp. the warning to Baruch in Jeremiah 45:5, and for the word rendered wonderful or arduous cp. Genesis 18:14; Deuteronomy 30:11. The Psalmist has schooled himself to renounce ambitious schemes which are impracticable, and to accept the rôle of insignificance. This appears to be the primary meaning here, rather than ‘mysteries too deep for my comprehension’ (Job 42:3). Sir 3:18 ff. is an expansion of this verse.Verse 1. - Lord, my heart is not haughty; or, "not lifted up" (comp. 2 Chronicles 26:16; 2 Chronicles 32:25). Not unduly elated by the prosperity that thou hast bestowed on me. Nor mine eyes lofty (comp. Psalm 101:5), "Pride," as Hengstenberg says, "has its seat in the heart, and betrays itself especially in the eyes." Neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me; literally, too wonderful (comp. Psalm 139:6, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me: it is high: I cannot attain unto it"). The speculative debates of so-called "wise men" concerning the deep things of God's moral government are probably glanced at (see Job 42:3). The depths (מעמקּים) are not the depths of the soul, but the deep outward and inward distress in which the poet is sunk as in deep waters (Psalm 69:3, Psalm 69:15). Out of these depths he cries to the God of salvation, and importunately prays Him who rules all things and can do all things to grant him a compliant hearing (שׁמע בּ, Genesis 21:12; Genesis 26:13; Genesis 30:6, and other passages). God heard indeed even in Himself, as being the omniscient One, the softest and most secret as well as the loudest utterance; but, as Hilary observes, fides officium suum exsequitur, ut Dei auditionem roget, ut qui per naturam suam audit per orantis precem dignetur audire. In this sense the poet prays that His ears may be turned קשּׁבות (duller collateral form of קשּׁב, to be in the condition of arrectae aures), with strained attention, to his loud and urgent petition (Psalm 28:2). His life hangs upon the thread of the divine compassion. If God preserves iniquities, who can stand before Him?! He preserves them (שׁמר) when He puts them down to one (Psalm 32:2) and keeps them in remembrance (Genesis 37:11), or, as it is figuratively expressed in Job 14:17, sealed up as it were in custody in order to punish them when the measure is full. The inevitable consequence of this is the destruction of the sinner, for nothing can stand against the punitive justice of God (Nahum 1:6; Malachi 3:2; Ezra 9:15). If God should show Himself as Jāh,

(Note: Eusebius on Psalm 68 (67):5 observes that the Logos is called Ἴα as μορφὴν δούλον λαβὼν καὶ τάς ἀκτῖνας τῆς ἑαυτοῦ θεότητος συστείλας καὶ ὥσπερ καταδὺς ἐν τῷ σώματι. There is a similar passage in Vicentius Ciconia (1567), which we introduced into our larger Commentary on the Psalms (1859-60).)

no creature would be able to stand before Him, who is Adonaj, and can therefore carry out His judicial will or purpose (Isaiah 51:16). He does not, however, act thus. He does not proceed according to the legal stringency of recompensative justice. This thought, which fills up the pause after the question, but is not directly expressed, is confirmed by the following כּי, which therefore, as in Job 22:2; Job 31:18; Job 39:14; Isaiah 28:28 (cf. Ecclesiastes 5:6), introduces the opposite. With the Lord is the willingness to forgive (הסּליחה), in order that He may be feared; i.e., He forgives, as it is expressed elsewhere (e.g., Psalm 79:9), for His Name's sake: He seeks therein the glorifying of His Name. He will, as the sole Author of our salvation, who, putting all vain-glorying to shame, causes mercy instead of justice to take its course with us (cf. Psalm 51:6), be reverenced; and gives the sinner occasion, ground, and material for reverential thanksgiving and praise by bestowing "forgiveness" upon him in the plenitude of absolutely free grace.

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