The Songs of Ascent are a collection of pilgrim songs — songs sung by those on the road who are journeying to God. These psalms contain encouragement and counsel for the pilgrim, and like a geographer, these songs describe the lay of the land of a pilgrim’s world.
The lesson which the psalmist is seeking to teach his fellow travelers is that faith in God and our hope in Him is more than what He can do for us in the moment. God can be trusted, and the pilgrim must learn to wait on Him. This trust and peace is likened to that of the weaned child who has learned to trust its mother though she no longer offers the same comforts she once did. Spurgeon writes, “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.”
Psalm 131 reads,
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 me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
3 O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.
In seeking to flesh out these sonnets it has been helpful to imagine the psalms working out in the lives of others. Over and over again, the lives of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus capture my imagination. The sonnet below is an imagining of Martha’s experience and concern about many thing, Mary’s chasing what is better, and the Lord’s invitation to Martha to calm and quiet her soul.
If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.
Concerned and worried about many things:
The work which needs doing, (I carry and bear)
The burden of healing, my sibling’s welfare,
Rests on my shoulders, on what my hand brings.
When He came I was filled with greater care:
For our guest’s comfort and our saving face
Among those who thought our table our place
Was sparse in joy and our graciousness spare.
And my worry broke in desperation,
“Master!” with heat and hurt, as a prayer
“Tell her to help, relieve my frustration
Can’t she see? Do something? In the work share?”
“Martha, she’s working by resting in me
Sit here also, and you too shall be free.”
© Randall Edwards 2017
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
artwork: detail from an illustration of The Pilgrim’s Progress or Christian’s journey form the City of Destruction in this evil World to the Celestial City; Published July 1, 1813 by J. Pitts No 14 Great St Andrews Street Seven Dials.