Over the coming days on our blog we will be hearing from some of the speakers who will be sharing at our Psalms Conference on June 11th. Today’s entry is from Joe Bettridge, who will be leading the breakout session “A Quiet Little Psalm for Noisy Brains.” Click here to learn more and register for the conference.
Lord, I have given up my pride and turned away from my arrogance.
I am not concerned with great matters or with subjects too difficult for me.
Instead, I am content and at peace.
As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me.
Israel, trust in the Lord now and foreverPsalm 131
During the late 1920s, physicist Harry Nyquist and electrical engineer Ralph Hartley investigated how information is transmitted. From their research came the distinction between what is called “noise and signal.” A meaningful signal contains understandable information, while noise is the random clatter of unintelligible sounds that interfere with the signal. Think of trying to tune in to a radio station and getting a lot of static. Worry is a signal that sometimes means you are sensing some genuine danger. But most of our worries are just agitating noises in our heads thrust upon us by the devil, the world, and our sin-damaged souls.
Psalm 131 is my favorite Psalm. But it is a peculiar Psalm. First, because it is the shortest Psalm in the Bible. Secondly, it begins with a seemingly anti-intellectual notion quite angular to our educated sensibilities. Consider Verse One, where David says: “I am not concerned with great matters or topics too difficult for me.” What is he saying here? Are we not to read challenging books, think deeply about current events, or go to graduate school? Our little Psalm tells us that these questions miss the deeper point, that our problem is not that we are ignorant and need better information but that we are lost and stuck and dying and need Jesus.
Notice how this Psalm itself has both a philosophical and practical side. The Psalmist is proclaiming is the futility of fretting over things that we cannot change. It is the Biblical basis for the Serenity Prayer.’ “God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.”
Psalm 131 presents us with the wonderful truth that we can actually hear God’s life-giving signal communicating with us from beyond all the noise in our culture and especially in our own heads. Much of what happens to us in this world is incomprehensible. We can’t make sense of “great matters.” We can’t separate the signal from the noise. But God hasn’t called us to make sense of everything but simply to trust in Jesus Christ, who is God’s clear signal to us even as John 1:18 explains: “No one has ever seen God. But God’s the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, has made God known to us.”
Come join me in exploring Psalm 131, where our noisy brains can seek God’s calming Presence in this quiet little Psalm.
Joe recently completed 46 years of pastoral ministry in the Presbyterian Church and now is an honorably retired member of Northwest Coast Presbytery. Joe came to faith in the First Presbyterian Church of Tacoma and was spiritually nurtured at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle. He has served long term pastorates in Alaska, Arizona and recently in Friday Harbor, WA. Joe graduated from Stadium High in Tacoma and the University of Washington. He received his Master of Divinity, Master of Theology and Doctorate of Missiology from Fuller Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Becce, are delighted to now be part of the CKPC family.