A Proud or Humble Heart

Psalm 131:1

In a matter-of-fact fashion, David addresses the Lord in Psalm 131. Throughout the song, he carries on a conversation with his God. While humility is the subject, the focus is himself. Eight times in the first two verses he uses “I,” “me,” and “my.” The poem is a brief glimpse into David’s personal journal.

Verse 1

O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.

In the Hebrew Bible, whatever appears first in a clause or sentence is frequently placed in that position for the purpose of emphasis. This is especially true when the phrase is rearranged and written in an awkward, strange manner. This is precisely what we find in verse 1. There are three negatives set forth at the very beginning of three clauses: “not proud,” “not haughty,” and “nor do I involve myself.” David is communicating the depth of his feelings. The structure of his words reveals strong passion. The terms do too.

The term “proud” comes from gabah, meaning “to be high, exalted.” He mentions his heart first-the root source of pride down deep within. He says that as deeply as God may wish to probe, He will not find a trace of a “high, exalted” attitude within him. God may “search” and “know my heart” (Psalm 139:23) all He wishes, declares David.

The term “haughty” comes from another word having a similar meaning: “room.” This Hebrew term means “to be lifted up, raised.” The idea is that one who is proud within shows it in his eyes, which are “lifted up, raised.” That is exactly what Proverbs 30:11–13 says:

There is a kind of man who curses his father
And does not bless his mother.
There is a kind who is pure in his own eyes,
Yet is not washed from his filthiness.
There is a kind—oh how lofty are his eyes!
And his eyelids are raised in arrogance.

The “proud look” has to do with eyes that are “lifted up.” We have all seen this among the pseudo-sophisticates and on the plastic masks worn by many of the Hollywood stars and television celebrities. David declares that both his heart and his eyes will stand the test of God’s scrutiny.

There are two simple and quick ways God says the true condition of the heart is revealed. (Many of us may think we can hide it, but we cannot.) The first is through the eyes (as we have seen here) and the second is through the mouth (as Jesus says in Luke 6:45). Of course, one’s life is another proof of one’s heart condition, but that takes longer to observe. Keen counselors and wise people are careful to listen to words (what is said as well as what isn’t said) and watch the eyes of others. You soon discover that the heart is like a well and the eyes and tongue are like buckets which draw water from the same well. If true humility is not in the heart, the eyes will show it.

Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind (Brentwood, Tenn.: Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., 2012). Copyright © 2012 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved. Used by permission.

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Accuracy, clarity, and practicality all describe the Bible-teaching ministry of Charles R. Swindoll. Chuck is the chairman of the board at Insight for Living and the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary. Chuck also serves as the senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, where he is able to do what he loves most—teach the Bible to willing hearts. His focus on practical Bible application has been heard on the Insight for Living radio broadcast since 1979.