Pastor Edward Brouwer 2-4-2018 Psalm 131 “Rest in Him”
Rest in Him
My dad was a POW held for 3 ½ years in various camps under the Japanese Occupation from 1942-1945. After liberation Indonesian freedom fighters launched attacks against Dutch civilians that included lobbing hand grenades into the displaced persons facilities where they lived. One evening, in the Fall of 1945, during a particularly frightening attack my dad’s sister said to him “We’re all going to die!” He took her hand and said “Immy, God has rescued us through years of war and he will continue to preserve us—of this I am convinced”. This sense of resting in God is highlighted in the psalm we are reading today. Like a weaned child at her mother’s breast so have I quieted my soul within me. It’s not that the great existential questions are answered: Does God really love me, Why does God allow me to suffer? Will He truly help me? But it is Faith conquering doubt and unbelief. It is not God providing answers, but in the moment being Himself The Answer to every question and longing of our hearts. And my father knew that peace. In a similar way another POW, a true hero of the faith, Corrie Ten Boom, spoke of the mental anguish she endured, the rage and anger associated with trying to make sense of God’s goodness in the midst of so much pain and suffering in the concentration camp in this poem she wrote….
My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”
Read Psalm 131
The psalmist begins the conversation by saying that he isn’t proud and filling his mind with philosophical or intellectual pursuits that are above his pay grade. The author is not saying it’s wrong to study or pursue wisdom and knowledge. Far from it—I agree with Sir Issac Newton (who described mathematically the law of gravity) who said “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.” It was his Christian faith, His belief that God (as the God of all order) had created the universe in such a way that it was possible for humans to uncover that order.
The Psalmist is not saying that it is wrong to try to understand things too marvelous for me—but he is saying he has humbled and quieted his heart and he utilizes the image of a weaned child at her mother’s breast–so have I quieted my soul within me.
A weaned child has been, well, weaned from the dependency of mother’s milk to sustain her life. Some cultures wean babies off of breast milk as soon as the child is able to eat regular food, usually somewhere between 6 months and a year. The child here, in the ancient cultural context of Israel, is probably 2-3 years old. When the child was a mere infant, driven by hunger to satisfy itself with the one thing that it could digest and draw nourishment from. But slowly over time the child has been weaned from milk to regular food. It’s as though the relationship has changed fundamentally—from clinging to its mother for food, to resting in its mother’s arms in relationship.
We can be like that too, but often remain in the baby phase. In our journey of faith we sometimes get our minds fixed on the gifts rather than the giver. We look for health and strength and shelter and work because we are designed to (and they’re all good), BUT sometimes our focus is more on the thing that will satisfy our needs RATHER than the ONE who satisfies the deepest desires of our hearts. A pastor friend told me this week that sometimes he finds himself pursuing a bunch of good and godly things but can somehow miss God in the rush. The way he put it was this false notion that “if I can just get sanctified enough, it’s as though I won’t need Jesus” …that when I’m good with my wife and the kids love Jesus and my church is happy with my performance THAT becomes the goal, the litmus test of happiness. But there’s a lie at the heart of that, there’s an idol there—the idol of looking like I have it together, the idol of needing to please people and make them happy. And if they are happy then I am happy. But that is the hamster in the cage running on the wheel, because that craziness will never end and will never get you anywhere, will never satisfy. That is the illusion of an idol.
Idolatry is the notion that your heart says “I need this to be happy, and when I get that thing then I will have arrived and be satisfied”. The ancient people of Israel were not allowed to make and image of God. But they wanted physical idols like their pagan neighbors. They wanted to fit in and be like everyone else. Peer pressure can be an idol. It says “as long as other people like me, I’m good.”
For some people it’s an alcoholic drink—if I just have that then I’m good. But it just masks a pain or wound that only God can heal. For another it’s retail therapy. Imelda Marcos had hundreds (if not 1000’s) of pairs of shoes—it’s reported that she grew up in poverty, without a decent pair of shoes like many Filipino children of her generation. To her, she had “arrived” when she could buy as many shoes as she wanted. Are there things you buy that you’re trying somehow to fill a need that only Jesus can truly fill? It’s putting confidence in something that was never designed to bear the weight of eternal things. What if you put all your hopes of happiness on your marriage? This will crush your spouse because he or she was never designed to meet all your needs. Don’t make an idol of your marriage, because until Jesus is enough, no person or thing will ever be enough.
Or maybe you think the right political party or person will deliver you to the promised land—if only we have this policy or that law—then we will have arrived. Fox News or CNN will deliver perspectives to you that I call “liturgies of the world”. And either one can drive you to a place of self-righteous anger and fear. What’s the antidote to this fear or anger? Maybe you need a fast, to disengage from your TV or electronic device and the steady diet of that kind of meal. Rather, engage in the liturgy of the gospel through prayer to God, worship of God and service for God. And here is the gospel from Romans 5:1 ff. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith (not by our own efforts to be righteous before God), we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Paul laments to the church in 1 Corinthians 3:2 saying “I had to treat you like infants, I had to feed you milk, not solid food, because you couldn’t receive it” for there are divisions among you one says “I follow Paul, another says I’m for Apollos, yet another says I am in Peter’s camp! One plants and another waters BUT it is God who gives the increase! Spiritual meat means getting our focus off personalities and off ourselves and getting our eyes on God—for it is only in genuine relationship with him that we will find true happiness. As Augustine said “GOD, YOU have made us for yourself and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee”.
What are you feeding on? What are you resting in? Jesus invites us to a feast, to His table. It’s bread and wine but so much more. This bread and wine represent a relationship with Jesus Christ. He invites us to taste and see that He is good. He invites us to rest in Him because he beckons us by saying “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest”