Psalm 123 — A cry for mercy

This is a very interesting psalm in the imagery it gives.  The psalmist writes,

I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven.  As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God…(1-2)

On first glance, it is the picture of a slave looking to serve his master.  Back in those days, slaves didn’t so much listen to their master’s direction as watch for their every gesture and anticipate their every need.  And so as we look at this psalm, it seems to have the idea of us looking intently at God, waiting on him with a heart of service.

Indeed, that is a heart we should have.  Remembering that our lives are not about ourselves, and serving ourselves.  But serving the one who created us.

But the whole of verse 2 says,

As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he shows us his mercy.

In other words, the reason the psalmist was looking so intently at his master was not for the purpose of service.  But for mercy.  And he cries out,

Have mercy on us, O LORD, have mercy on us, for we have endured much contempt.  We have endured much ridicule from the proud, much contempt from the arrogant.  (3-4)

What the situation was that inspired this psalm is unknown.  It has been speculated that it was written during the exile to Babylon, or even well after, in the times of Antiochus who defiled the temple of God by offering a pig on its altar.

But whatever the situation was, it was bad, and there seemed to be no hope.  And so the psalmist fixed his eyes on the Lord.  He knew his people deserved nothing from God because of the evil they had done.  Yet he knew the character of God.  That though God may chasten us, he still loves us.  And that if will but turn our hearts to him, he is merciful.

This passage reminds me of the parable Jesus told of the man who stood before God, and beat his breast saying, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”

And Jesus said of him,

I tell you that this man…went home justified before God.  (Luke 18:14)

You may feel that you too are being chastened by God because of your sin.  You may feel that God has abandoned you.  But turn your eyes to Jesus.  Fix your eyes on him, and repent.  Ask for his mercy.  And he will forgive.

May you know the mercy of God in your life.

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About bkshiroma

I'm from Hawaii, but have been in Japan as a missionary/English teacher since 1995. I'm currently going to a church called Crossroad Nishinomiya, an international church in Nishinomiya, a city right between Kobe and Osaka. Check out their website: crossroad-web.com 私がハワイから来ましたけど1995年に宣教師と英会話の教師として日本に引っ越しました。 今西宮にあるクロスロード西宮という国際の教会に行っています。どうぞ、そのホムページを見てください: crossroad-web.com
This entry was posted in Books of Poetry, Old Testament, Psalms and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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