The Childlikeness of True Faith (Phil Johnson)

Psalm 131   |   Sunday, March 22, 2015   |   Code: 2015-03-22-PJ

We're in the home stretch on our series on the Pilgrim

psalms. This is a series of fifteen consecutive psalms, all

labeled "A Song of Ascents." We began several months ago

with Psalm 120, and we are working our way toward Psalm

134. Today we're looking at Psalm 131, so we'll have three

more to go after we finish this one.

These fifteen psalms constitute a book of short choruses

within the psalter. They are verses that were sung by pilgrims

on the uphill journey to Jerusalem. Three times each year,

pilgrims from all over Israel would travel to Jerusalem to

celebrate with feasts. They came for Passover, for the Feast

of Weeks (or Pentecost), and for the Feast of Tabernacles.

Those were the Pilgrim Feasts, when everyone who was able

would come. And the journey from every direction was

uphillCa hard, steep day-long climb. Jericho, for example, is

a town less than 16 miles (as the crow flies) from the Temple

in Jerusalem. (Same distance from here to downtown Los

Angeles.) But Jericho is 1200 feet below sea level, and the

Temple Mount is 2450 feet above sea level. So the journey

from Jericho was a long, steep, uphill climbCmore than a

kilometer's rise in elevation.

Psalm 131 2

Pilgrims coming from Galilee had at least a two- or

three-day journey. The last leg of that journey took them on

that steep road from Jericho to Jerusalem. And along the

way, to pass the time and prepare their hearts for worship,

they sang these 15 psalms. If you sang one psalm every half

hour on the road from Jericho, these fifteen psalms would fit

the journey perfectly.

We've already looked at psalms 120 through 130, so we

have four psalms left. Three of the four psalms remaining in

this series have only three verses each. Psalm 131 is the first

of the really short choruses.

Three verses, so it's a simple chorus with a very simple

theme. See if you can recognize the theme when I read the

psalm. Here's a hint: It echoes something Jesus taught. Now,

here's our psalm:

Psa 131:1 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


2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned

child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within


3 O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and


The Childlikeness of True Faith 3

The theme of that chorus is the childlikeness of true faith.

That, of course, is also the theme of Matthew 18. Here are

the first four verses of Matthew 18:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is

the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of


3 and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and

become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of


4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest

in the kingdom of heaven.

And then Matthew 18-19 goes on to expound on the

childlikeness of believers. That child whom Jesus placed in

the midst of the disciples was symbolic of believersCall

believers, not just those who are still literally children, but

everyone who truly believes in Christ is a child of

GodCchildlike in spirit. Two verses later, in Matthew 18:6,

Jesus refers to believers as "these little ones who believe in

me." And the point Jesus is making there is that true saving

faith is inherently childlike. Authentic believers have an

implicit trust in God, exactly like the absolute trust of an

infant who looks to father and mother for every need.

Still in Matthew, a chapter later, in chapter 19, verse 13,

we read this:

Psalm 131 4

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his

hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the


14 but Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and

do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of


15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.

That, of course, shows God's special care for infants and

little children. When Jesus says, "to such belongs the kingdom

of heaven," I am convinced he is speaking both broadly and

literally. That text is one of several clues that undergirds our

belief that infants who die in infancy are graciously received

by Christ into heaven. Yes, children are born fallen. Babies

inherit the same sinful nature you and I have. They look so

sweet and innocent as newborns, but just wait. You won't

have to teach them to lie or be self-centered or throw

tantrums. It's in their nature. They are just like every one of

Adam's natural offspringCfallen, guilty, self-willed, and

enslaved to sin. They have no more merit than you or I.

That's the doctrine of original sin. We inherited a sinful

nature from our ancestors. We didn't become sinners by

sinning. We sin because it is our nature to do so. And that's

true of our children and grandchildren as well. I know.

And yet scripture tells us repeatedly that God is

mercifully tender toward little ones. We believe that if they

die they go straight to heavenCnot because they somehow

The Childlikeness of True Faith 5

deserve it; not because they are guiltless. But they are

received into heaven because God is abundantly gracious

toward little children. Jonah 4:11, for example, speaks of

God's special care for little ones too young to "know their

right hand from their left." In 2 Samuel 12:23, David states his

expectation that he will see his infant son again on the other

side of the grave. Scripture is full of indications that God

shows a particular grace to children who die in infancy. Here

Jesus blesses little children and states emphatically that the

kingdom of heaven belongs to little ones such as those.

It's appropriate to take that in its literal sense. But we also

need to interpret it as broadly as Jesus Himself does. He isn't

speaking only of little children, of course. Those words ("to

such belongs the kingdom of heaven") apply to everyone

whose faith in Christ has that childlike quality of implicit


Mark 10 is Mark's account of that same incident where the

disciples tried to rebuke people for bringing their children,

but Mark adds an extra detail that shows how broadly this

promise applies. Here's Mark's account, from Mark

10:13-16. Mark writes,

They were bringing children to him that he might touch

them, and the disciples rebuked them.

14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to

them, "Let the children come to me; do not hinder them,

Psalm 131 6

for to such belongs the kingdom of God. [Then Mark

adds this: Jesus says,]

15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the

kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."

16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them,

laying his hands on them.

In other words, Christ pronounced a formal blessing on the

children who had been brought to Him (in Matthew's words)

"[so] that he might lay his hands on them and pray." But He

also makes another explicit call for all believers to trust Him

with faith that is pure and childlike.

This took place in Galilee, among people accustomed to

making those annual journeys to Jerusalem for the feast days.

They knew these psalmsCand had known them well since

childhood. They could no doubt sing Psalm 131 from

memory. So the idea of childlike faith would notCor should

notChave been new to them, because that is precisely what

psalm 131 describes. It is a song about the childlikeness of

true faith.

Notice, also, that this psalm is from the pen of David. We

are told that in the inscription. I tell you this frequently, but

it's worth restating: The inscriptions are part of the inspired

text. They exist in all the very earliest Hebrew manuscripts.

Not every psalm has an inscription, but those that do will

often tell us the author or the circumstances under which the

psalm was written. Psalm 3 is the first psalm with an

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inscription and it gives us both the author and the

circumstances under which the psalm was written. Psalm 3 is

a sad psalm, a prayer from a man in trouble, and the

inscription tells us it is "A Psalm of David, when he fled from

Absalom his son." So we need to read that psalm in its

historical context. Though it's only the third psalm, it

pertains to a later period in David's life and his reign as king.

Around the early part of the nineteenth century, a certain

class of critical scholars began to question the authenticity of

the inscriptions, for no other reason than that they sound like

annotations from a hand other than the author of the psalm.

But all the manuscript evidence we have indicates that they

belong to the inspired text. The inscriptions are found in the

earliest Hebrew manuscripts. And in Hebrew, unlike what

you find in English Bibles, they are part of the text. They

aren't marginal notes, or comments written in smaller type.

They are penned like the rest of the text.

Signatures such as these (identifying the author or other

pertinent details) are common features of ancient writings.

You see it even in New Testament times. We sign our letters

at the end. The New Testament epistles identify the author at

the start, and that is part of the inspired record. So it is with

the Psalms' inscriptions. It's a bit misleading to have them set

in a different typeface, as if they were merely marginal

editors' notes. They bear the same relation to the body of the

Psalm 131 8

Psalm as Paul's personal words of greeting and introduction

do to the rest of his epistles.

Only five of these fifteen Psalms of Ascent include the

author's name. Four are psalms of David. One (Psalm 127) is

a psalm of Solomon (either written by him or dedicated to

him; it's not clear which).

This is the third of four Davidic psalms in the collection

of 15, and it fits perfectly with what we know about David.

First Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22 famously refer to David

as "a man after [the Lord's] own heart." Psalm 131 gives us, in

David's own words, perhaps the most simple, succinct

description of what it means to be "a man after [God's] own

heart." It's a heart that appreciates the beauty of humble,

eager, compliant, childlike trust.

What this psalm describes in many ways is the polar

opposite of every value venerated by this worldCand by our

generation in particular. David takes a not-so-subtle poke at

the popular brand of skeptical scholarship that has been

encroaching on the church at least since the dawn of

modernism. He clearly understands that "the wisdom of this

world is folly with God" and that "The Lord knows the thoughts

of the wise, that they are futile."

David has no interest in winning the admiration of people

who value power, wealth, wisdom, or fameCeven though he

has all of those things. God sees through all the trappings of

earthly prestige anyway. David knows that God sees all

The Childlikeness of True Faith 9

thingsCeven the hidden things of the heart. And David does

not care what men think of him. Like the apostle Paul, who

in Galatians 1:10 wrote, "Am I now seeking the approval of

man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still

trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ," David

doesn't care to be celebrated by other people as renowned or

sophisticated. He wants to be seen by God as childlikeCpoor

in spirit, repentant, meek, hungering and thirsting for

righteousness, merciful, and pure in heart.

That, by the way, is how Jesus described authentic faith.

Those are the beatitudes, and they paint a sweet and perfect

portrait of pure-hearted childlikeness.

David's psalm here is shorter and simpler than the

beatitudes, but it draws a similar picture.

Because of the brevity and content of this psalm, and

since it was sung in group settings with families of fellow

pilgrims, I would guess that this would have been one of the

first psalms learned by many Hebrew children during that

long era when sacrifices were being offered daily on the

Temple Mount and feasts were regularly celebrated in

Jerusalem. It sounds like a child's chorus.

But it's a lesson for adultsCabout some virtues that flatly

contradict every tendency of our fallen nature. These

childlike qualities, by the way, are harder to cultivate the

older we get. Spurgeon said of this psalm, "It is one of the

shortest Psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn. It

Psalm 131 10

speaks of a young child, but it contains the experience of a

man in Christ."

Here in three verses, according to David, is what authentic

faith looks like: It's not arrogant (v. 1); it's not unruly (first

part of verse 2); it's not driven by unhealthy or unwholesome

appetites (end of verse 2). It's settled and focused on the

LORD (verse 3) and on eternal thingsC"from this time forth

and forevermore."

There are three elements of childlike faith that I want to

single out and examine closely with you this morningCthree

virtuous characteristics of true faith that David exemplifies

for us in this prayer. Like a newly-weaned, child who is

satisfied to rest in the arms of his mother, he is humble; he is

hushed; and he is hungry. Let's look at those features in this

text. First (verse 1):


This is my favorite feature of this prayer. Verse 1: "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."

David declares his humility, and he finds a way to do it that

doesn't sound like a boast. That's not easy to do. My best

friend sometimes jokes that I should write a book and title it

Humility and How I Attained It. (I think that's his

backhanded way of scolding me or reminding me that I'm not

exactly the paragon of gentle meekness.

The Childlikeness of True Faith 11

Then there's the famous preacher (whose name I won't

mention here) who wrote a book on humility, and just a

couple of years later the leaders of his denomination

disciplined him for being arrogant.

Humility is the most evasive of virtues. It's too easy to be

proud of your humility. About the time you think you have

mortified your self-righteous sense of self-importance, pride

will rise from the dead to tell you how wonderfully meek and

humble you are.

But David isn't saying this with any kind of swagger. This

isn't a boastful claim; it is a thankful testimony from a man

who deeply feels his indebtedness to divine grace. It's a

statement that perfectly embodies what we know of David's

character. His heart wasn't haughty. Though he was God's

own anointed choice as the messianic dynasty's first true

King, his demeanor wasn't lofty. He didn't scheme or

conspire to obtain power and greatness; the royal office was

given to Him by God. When Samuel first anointed him, no

one, including David himself, thought very highly of him.

Notice, by the way, the thoroughness with which David

repudiates pride. He names three distinct symbols of human

egotism and disavows them all. First, a haughty heart. That's

the hidden conceit of those (like the Pharisees in Luke 18:9)

"who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated

others with contempt." Then he mentions lofty eyes. There he

refers to an arrogant countenanceCthe opposite of that

Psalm 131 12

publican in Luke 18, who "would not even lift up his eyes to

heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a

sinner!'" Finally, he disclaims any hint of egotism in his mind

or motives or ambitions. "I do not occupy myself with things

too great and too marvelous for me." He uses a Hebrew verb

for "occupy myself" that literally means "to walk."

In other words, true humility (as David describes it here)

will tame the heart, the eyes, and the feet. The heart, of

course, is the seat of evil pride. Lofty eyes are where pride

shows itself most clearly in visible form. And the feet are a

metaphor for all our actions.

True humility ruled David's heart; it was reflected in his

physical posture; and it framed his thoughts and ambitions

and activities.

A humble heart was indeed the defining feature of David's

unique character. This is why Scripture describes him as "a

man after [God's] own heart."

And I love how David himself describes his humility: "I

do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous

for me." In the King James Version, "neither do I exercise

myself in great matters, or in things too high for me." Here's the

New American Standard Bible: "Nor do I involve myself in

great matters, or in things too difficult for me."

That's an unusual attitude. First of all, he freely admits

that there are "things too difficult for [him]." Second, he isn't

wasting his time trying to unscrew the inscrutable or explain

The Childlikeness of True Faith 13

the incomprehensible. The things that are plain and

straightforward are hard enough to master. He is devoted to

what he knows is true, not the speculations and lofty

opinions of theorists and philosophers.

It's extraordinary even to meet a seminary student with

that kind of humble worldview. (In fact, let me say this

specifically to the seminarians in our midst:) I can't tell you

how many gifted young men I have observed over the years

who have de-railed spiritually because they were seduced by

the lure of prestigious academic degrees or enthralled with

theological novelties. In their eagerness to impress people

with philosophy and speculation, they forgot they were

supposed to be serving the Lord, who "chose what is foolish

in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the

world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised

in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things

that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of


I've recently corresponded by e-mail with a young man

who hasn't even started in seminary yet, but he has written a

book on the ontology of the Godhead that he is hoping he

can get publishedCand if not, he says he will publish it

himself. He thinks every theologian in the history of

Christianity has been wrong about the Trinity. His book is

full of bad arguments, misunderstandings, simplistic

reasoning, and bad interpretations of Scripture. But he's

Psalm 131 14

absolutely unteachable, because he is in his early 20s, and he

is quite certain that he is smarter and understands better than

all the men in church history who have ever studied theology

before him. He is way over his head and sinking fast, but you

will never convince him of that. He actually told me he

doesn't think there's anything unfathomable or impenetrable

in Scripture. He says he has never been stymied by any

theological conundrum. Everything in the Bible is plain as

day to him.

I know plenty of old guys who think like that, too.

According to them, nothing is too difficult for them. They

always seem to want to make their mark and seal their

reputation by tackling some arcane theological question and

coming up with some outlandish doctrinal scheme no one

has ever thought of before. That, frankly, is how cults get


But David ("a man after [God's] own heart") despises that

attitude, and he flatly disclaims it here. David, who was

used of God to write some of the key biblical texts on the

infinitude and unfathomable greatness of God, freely admits

that there are "things too difficult for" him. He says the same

thing in Psalm 13, that great psalm on the omniscience and

omnipresence of God. In Psalm 139:6, David says, "Such

knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain

to it." In 2 Peter 3:16, the apostle Peter writes, "There are

The Childlikeness of True Faith 15

some things in [Scripture] that are hard to understand, which the

ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction."

Quire simply, there are mysteries and enigmas in

Scripture, and some of the hardest questions simply are not

completely answered for us. And we're forbidden to inquire

into matters that God has kept hidden. Deuteronomy 29:29:

"The secret things belong to the LORD our God."

Childlike faith accepts that limitation. It's self-evident,

really. There are things too difficult for us. We can't figure

everything out. We ought to admit it, anchor ourselves in the

truths we do understand, and occupy our hearts and minds

with things that are clear.

By the way, it's not humility to pretend that nothing is

clear or certain. That's the postmodern corruption of

humility. Lots of people today have the false idea that

everything we believe about God is a matter of personal

opinion; nothing is really settled and certain. Therefore, they

think, to say someone else's religion or worldview is wrong

is inherently arrogant. We shouldn't be dogmatic about


That's not humility at all; it's spiritual suicide, because it

is a denial of the authority of God's Word. That false notion

of humility is certainly not what David is describing here. If

you want to know what David means, simply look at the

record of his life. Because the childlike attitude he describes

in verse 1 of our psalm is a virtue that colored his life and

Psalm 131 16

characterCexcept in a couple of well-known but

uncharacteristic incidents where he sinned in notorious ways.

In fact, it's ironic (isn't it?) that David's greatest sins

occurred because his greatest strengths failed him. That's

significant, and we see the same phenomenon frequently in

Scripture. Moses, for example. Numbers 12:3 says, "Now the

man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on

the face of the earth." And yet Moses sinned away his

opportunity to enter the Promised Land when he lost his

temper in front of the whole nation.

David's most outstanding qualities were his purity of heart

and his humility. But his two most notorious sins were the

incident with Bath-Sheba, compounded by a diabolical

conspiracy to cover it up involving the murder of her

husband, Uriah. That was hardly an expression of

pure-heartedness. David also sinned when his kingdom was

at the peak of prosperity by taking a census designed to

publicize the nation's numerical strength and

prosperityCprecisely the kind of arrogance David condemns

in this psalm.

But those were deviations and irregularities in the

character of David. For most of his life and career, the

humility he extols in this psalm was the dominant feature of

his character. "[His] heart [was] not lifted up; [his] eyes [were]

not raised too high; [he did] not occupy [him]self with things too

great and too marvelous."

The Childlikeness of True Faith 17

Remember, David didn't seek the throne in the first place.

In his early adolescence, he was called in from the fields

while he was tending his father's flock, and anointed by the

prophet Samuel to be king.

Even then, David did not take the throne for himself. He

spent yearsCat least a decadeCas a fugitive and refugee,

living in hiding while Saul pursued him relentlesslyCtrying

to kill him. And although David had opportunities to end

Saul's life, he refused to raise his hand against God's


Later in his career, when his son Absalom tried to usurp

the throne, David left Jerusalem rather than fight his son for

the throne. When Shimei cursed David, the King bore it

patiently. The humility he extols in this verse was clearly

reflected in David's character throughout most of his life.

In fact, David's character makes a stark contrast to the

typical kings of the ancient near east. Their besetting sins

were dominated by the arrogance and pomposity that usually

characterize the rulers of this worldCeven to this present day.

David repudiates all of that. Most men crave

respectability and statusCespecially men who have tasted

power and prestige; they tend to seek it all the more. David

was the polar opposite. His crowning virtue was humility,

and even though he was the most eminent man in the

nationCking over God's chosen people, and therefore the

Psalm 131 18

most favored man in the worldChe desired to be seen by God

as childlike. This was what made David truly noble.

This psalm is reminiscent of that incident when David

was returning the ark to Jerusalem, and Scripture says (2

Samuel 6:14), "David danced before the LORD with all his

might. And David was wearing a linen ephod." In other words,

he removed the regal robes and put on a simple linen

garment like the priests wore. Rather than being carried at

the head of the procession with all the royal pomp of a king,

he dressed so as to blend in with the priests, and he traveled

on foot with the procession, dancing and celebrating the

return of the ark a hundred years after it had been captured

by the Philistines in the time of Eli. The stress here is on his

joy and exuberance. David quite simply doesn't care what

people think of him. He's totally overwhelmed with joy that

the ark of the covenant is finally coming to Jerusalem.

But 2 Samuel 6:16 says, "As the ark of the LORD came into

the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the

window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the

LORD, and she despised him in her heart." Her father, Saul,

was more concerned with kingly dignity than that! And when

David arrives home, she gives him an earful. Verse 20: "And

David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter

of Saul came out to meet David and said, 'How the king of Israel

honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes

of his servants' female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows

The Childlikeness of True Faith 19

shamelessly uncovers himself!'" She makes it sound as if he

was indecently exposed or something. All he had done was

lay aside his kingly robesCexactly what Christ did for us

(Philippians 2:5-8):

though he was in the form of God, [Jesus Christ] did not

count equality with God a thing to be grasped,

7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,

being born in the likeness of men.

8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by

becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a


That was a scandal, too, you know. The God of the universe

and rightful king of kings coming to earth in such a lowly

fashion. But (Proverbs 15:33) "humility comes before honor."

I love how David answered Michal (2 Samuel 6:21-22):

"It was before the LORD, who chose me above your father and

above all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the

LORD, over Israel; therefore I will celebrate before the LORD. I

will be more lightly esteemed than this and will be humble in my

own eyes." Franz Delitzsch, the great 19th-century Lutheran

Old Testament scholar, paraphrased David's words to Michal

this way: "I esteem myself still less than I now show it, and I

appear base in mine own eyes." You think I look childish

instead of kingly? Before God, I am more of a little child

than you would ever imagine.

Psalm 131 20

That's the spirit of this psalm. David understands the

childlikeness of true faith, and he purposely cultivates a

childlike spirit before God. It's a holy self-abasementCthe

very thing Jesus spoke of in Matthew 23:12, when He said,

"Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles

himself will be exalted."

Everything Scripture tells us about David affirms his

testimony here. Even when he sins a horrific sin, we see his

humility in the way he repents. The biblical epitaph on his

life acknowledges his sin, but Scripture records it in a way

that reminds us that presumptuous sins were not what

characterized David's life. Listen to God's own summary of

David's uprightness in 1 Kings 15:5: "David did what was right

in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything

that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the

matter of Uriah the Hittite."

So David's character and his track record are such that he

can say this about himselfCdeclaring his own meekness

without forfeiting it. Even the way he speaks of humility is

humble. He claims humility without a hint of prideCand

that's something only a truly humble man could do.

So that's the dominant characteristic of childlike faith:

humility. The person who is truly childlike stands out first of

all because he is humble. Second, according to our psalm,

The Childlikeness of True Faith 21


Notice verse 2: "But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like

a weaned child with its mother."

Again the stress is on the child's implicit trust. A calm and

quiet heartCa soul totally at restCis comparable to a sleeping

child, well-fed, with no fear or disquiet, because the child

knows mother is there to meet any need or avert any crisis.

It's a beautiful picture.

This is not one of those three-year-olds you sometimes get

seated in front of on a cross-country flightCscreaming and

fidgety because they feel the motion of the plane and the

changes in cabin pressure.

This is a weaned childCone who has moved past the

anxiety and uncertainty of the weaning process. This child

now knows that even when a mother says no to her child's

pleading and complaining, every need will be met. And more

than that, the parent knows better than the child how best to

satisfy that gnawing hunger. It's a picture of a child who has

learned to trust and be satisfied.

It's also an illustration of absolute dependance and

unquestioning trust. That's the nature of authentic faith. The

crying, complaining, and fidgeting restlessness that are part

of the weaning process belong to the past. This is a child at

rest in the tender lovingkindness of parental arms. It is the

picture of pure satisfaction.

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The spiritual weaning process disengages our hearts from

everything that is selfish, every appetite that is sinful, and

every fear that foments doubt and distrust. It has a quieting

effect on the soul. It fosters a sense of security. David wrote

often about this: (Psalm 27) "The LORD is my light and my

salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my

life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in


2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,

though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains

tremble at its swelling. Selah

Psalm 56: "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God,

whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What

can flesh do to me?"

That, by the way, is a common expression, repeated in

both Old and New Testaments. "What can flesh do to me?"

Psalm 118: "The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can

man do to me?" Hebrews 13:6: "We can confidently say, 'The

Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'"

Security. That's one of my favorite theological terms of all

time. I think I have told you before that this was the first

theological dilemma that I ever pondered, almost as soon as I

turned to Christ in saving faith: Can I lose my salvation?

Which is to say, "Am I secure in Christ?" And to ask the

The Childlikeness of True Faith 23

question that way is to reveal the absurdity of it. Scripture

places so much stress on the security of the believer that

frankly, I don't see how any Bible-believing individual can

hang on very long to the notion that it's possible to be lost

again after Christ has saved you.

Frankly, if you could sin in some way that would mean

you forfeit salvation, you would. We're too weak to stand on

our own. Every one of us is prone to sin and powerless to

keep ourselves. But Scripture says God is the One who keeps

us. First Peter 1:5: "[We] are kept by the power of God through

faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." That's

speaking of our ultimate glorification. God Himself is

keeping us safe eternally. He holds us in a manner

comparable to a mother rocking a sleeping childConly with

infinitely more strength and security. John 10:28: "No one is

able to snatch them out of the Father's hand."

If you are truly saved, you are secure in Christ. In Paul's

words, "I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor

rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor

height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to

separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Belief in that promise should certainly hush all our fears.

That same sense of security is precisely what causes

David to say, in verse 2 of our Psalm, "I have calmed and

quieted my soul."

Psalm 131 24

There's another implication in this word picture. The

imagery of a weaned child means growth is steadily taking

place. The child is coming to maturity. In the words of 1

Peter 2:2, "Like newborn infants, [we] long for the pure spiritual

milk, that by it [we] may grow up into [full and finished]


There comes a time, however, according to Hebrews 5,

when we graduate from the milk of God's Word to the meat

of it. The writer of Hebrews scolds his readers for demanding

milk rather than solid food. Their spiritual appetites were not

developing properly. Hebrews 5:13: "For everyone who lives

on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a

child. But solid food is for the mature."

And that brings up the third characteristic of David's

childlike faith. First, he is humble. Second, he is hushed.

Now third:


The image David draws for us is a weaned child

peacefully asleep in the arms of his motherCfully satisfied,

wholly at rest, well-past the fidgety restlessness every child

goes through when mother finally starts to say no to every

request for nursing. The child now knows the variety of

flavors available with more solid foods, and he has learned

that grown-up food satisfies longer.

The Childlikeness of True Faith 25

But trust me (because we've had a few babies go through

this stage in our family), a weaned child actually gains a

bigger appetite. Solid food awakens a taste for more. Crying

and panic at feeding time gradually recede into the past. But

the child doesn't stop eating. In fact, for a couple of years,

you will continually have to remind the weaned child not to

put everything they touch into their mouths.

This is true in the spiritual realm as well. The restful

security David describes in the first part of verse 2Cthat

feeling of pure satisfactionCdoesn't nullify the spiritual

appetite. In fact, the appetite grows. If your faith is truly

childlike, you will stay spiritually hungry and never lose

your appetite for the meat of the word.

One more thing about this: Even after weaning, an infant

is still totally dependent on mom for food. You can't give an

18-month-old a jar of baby food and expect him to feed

himself. The absolute reliance of that child perfectly pictures

the childlikeness of true faith, even after the child is weaned.

The psalm closes in verse 3 with a short refrain that

echoes the end of Psalm 130: "O Israel, hope in the LORD from

this time forth and forevermore." It's a call to faith. The

psalmist's testimony was brief and simple (two verses long).

Now he turns to the congregation and appeals to them to join

him in making YHWH the singular focus of their hope and


Psalm 131 26

Now let's look at this in light of the gospel, and consider

why all true faith is inherently childlike. The only legitimate

response to gospel truth is humble, quiet, hungry faith. That's

because the gospel itself is a rebuke to human pride. The

gospel as set forth in Scripture rips every artificial covering

off our fleshly pride. The starting point of gospel truth is the

utter hopelessness of fallen humanity. It starts by telling us

we are condemned sinners, and there is nothing we can do to

save ourselves. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of

God." "We are all like an unclean thing, And all our

righteousnesses are like filthy rags."

We are totally dependent on Christ to save us. We have no

real righteousness of our own. In the words of Scripture,

"Where then is boasting? It is excluded." "By grace you have

been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is

the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."

The gospel is antithetical to human arrogance, and that is

why true faith has this quality of childlike humility. "God

opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

For those of you who are believers, cultivate this spirit of

childlike humility. Don't give into the arrogance of our

self-centered culture, but clothe yourself in humility.

If you are not a believerCwhether you are a guest with us

today or a long-time attender who has never truly humbled

yourself in the sight of the Lord, remember that it was Jesus

The Childlikeness of True Faith 27

who said, "whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a

child shall not enter it." Ponder that, and ask God to open your

heart to believeCwith true and childlike faith.