Psalms of Ascent: 123

Psalm 123
1   To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
2   Behold, as the eyes of servants

look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant/to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he has mercy upon us.

3   Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,

for we have had more than enough of contempt.
4   Our soul has had more than enough

of the scorn of those who are at ease,/of the contempt of the proud.

You may have spoken the words in verse 4 many times during the past year: “Our soul has had more than enough”. We have had more than enough of this pandemic. We have had more than enough isolation. We have had more than enough political division. We have had more than enough loss. The psalmist felt as exhausted and downtrodden as we do, while assuring us that we do not grieve without hope.

Psalm 123 is a playbook for times of trouble and evil, such as we find ourselves in today. The people of Israel had three holy reactions to the persecution and suffering around them. All of these reactions are a direct result of keeping their eyes fixed on God.

Prayer - Calling out to God should be our first reaction in times of trouble. Psalm 123 shows us that our prayers don’t have to be long and complicated, but that we can take our requests to God honestly and emotionally. We so often try to solve our own problems, and prayer is a last resort. That is ridiculous. The God who created the universe and raised people from the dead, loves you as his own child. We should run to our Heavenly Father as much as possible. He is a cheerful and powerful helper.

Humility - Lifting our eyes to God should always lead to humility. In verse 4, we see that the evil they are experiencing in the world comes from those who are proud. This is in direct juxtaposition to the servant-like humility found in verse 2. When we are suffering, humility sounds like the last thing we need. But understanding that the world does not revolve around you can show us that our grief is small, temporary, and sometimes needed for the thriving of the collective good. Being humble is an act of repentance when prideful people cause suffering.

Asking for Mercy - While a major part of the Israelites lament is rooted in the suffering being done to them, they are also lamenting and asking for forgiveness for the evil that they have added into the world. By doing evil themselves, they’re only adding to their collective suffering. That is why verse 2 is so central to this brief psalm. Their servanthood in God reshapes their reaction to evil. Instead of violence and pride, they are to be humble and merciful because the Lord is their master.

All of these holy reactions to evil can only happen if we lift our eyes up to God. Apart from seeing God as he is, none of this is possible. To maintain hope in times of suffering, we need God’s power, wisdom, mercy, and love.