Psalm 123 A song of ascents. (1) I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven. (2) As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he shows us his mercy. (3) Have mercy on us, LORD, have mercy on us, for we have endured no end of contempt. (4) We have endured no end of ridicule from the arrogant, of contempt from the proud. NIV
Psalm 123 is the fourth of fifteen psalms titled, Song of Ascents (they are also called Pilgrim Songs, Gradual Psalms, Song of Degrees, or Song of Steps). Tradition tells us, that Psalms 120-134 were sung by Jewish pilgrims as they travelled to Jerusalem to celebrate three festivals as required by God in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 16:16-17).
Psalm 123 is titled Prayer for Relief from Contempt A Song of Ascents (NKJV), Our Eyes Look to the LORD Our God A Song of Ascents (ESV), A Prayer for Mercy A song for going up to worship (ICB), and Prayer for the LORD’s Help. A Song of Ascents (NASB), among others.
The theme of this short song is a plea for God’s help.
“I lift up my eyes” is a sign of someone who is helpless or anxious or maybe a weary traveler, who watches her feet cautiously, afraid to stumble. Psalm 121 started the same, I lift up my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? The pilgrim singing these words on her way to Jerusalem is tired. She is anxious. She needs God’s help, protection, and provision. She anxiously lifts up her eyes to the One who saves.
The psalmist declares his intention and action- to lift up his eyes to the LORD. This means that his eyes are not on his circumstances or himself, but on the LORD.Pastor David Guzik, http://www.enduringword.com
I lift up my eyes to you. Oh, that we could see Him- the Father- sitting on His throne of glory in heaven. Wouldn’t everything else just fade away? The problems of this world, of our lives would be miniscule, nothing but a fleeting moment in time when looking upon God on His throne. We may not be able to see Him, but we still can lift up our eyes to where He is and trust in Him, to know full well that even though we cannot see Him, He is there.
I lift my eyes to you, O God, enthroned in heaven. We keep looking to the LORD our God for his mercy, just as servants keep their eyes on their master, as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal. Psalm 123:1-2 NLT Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, until He has mercy on us. Psalm 123:1-2 NKJV
Verse 2 does not promote servitude nor slavery, but the historical context makes this relationship and the meaning of this psalm understandable. Today, we can see God as our Master and better understand the analogy. We watch the “hand of God” (our Master) because His hand means strength, protection, correction, guidance, provision, and help.
Therefore, as one commentator pointed out, we better be in a position where we can see Him. If we cannot see God, we cannot “watch His hand.” Believer, where are you standing? Are you trying to see Him, or do you look the other way?
We must fix our gaze upon God. I lift up my eyes to you. How? Start the day by reading the Word of God and talking to Him. Every decision, every step we take, we seek His direction first. Even if we cannot see Him, we walk in faith each and every day.
How long do we wait and watch? How long do we “watch His hand?” Until He returns or calls us home.
The first step (Ps. 120) saw us lamenting our troublesome surroundings, and the next saw us lifting our eyes to the hills and resting in assured security; from this we rose to delight in the house of the Lord; but here we look to the Lord himself, and this is the highest ascent of all by many degrees. The eyes are now looking above the hills, and above Jehovah’s footstool on earth, to his throne in the heavens.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Have mercy on us, LORD, have mercy, for we have had our fill of contempt. We have had more than our fill of the scoffing of the proud and the contempt of the arrogant. Psalm 123:3-4 NLT Mercy, GOD, mercy! We've been kicked around long enough, kicked in the teeth by complacent rich men, kicked when we're down by arrogant brutes. Psalm 123:3-4 MSG
Have mercy on us! Have mercy, LORD! Whatever the psalmist needs, he is begging now. I love this. Has there ever been something that you were so anxious about (a loved one’s path ahead, a diagnosis, a loss) that you felt yourself begging God for help? Does this psalm reaffirm that for you? It should. It’s okay. Have mercy, God! Answer me, please!
These two verses are heavy. Whatever was going on for the people when this psalm was written was terrible.
Contempt: the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving of scorn. Oxford Dictionary
For we are exceedingly filled with contempt (NKJV). The people needed God’s help and are begging for it. They were “kicked around” for so long, in such a horrible way, that worthlessness and scorn were now filling their own hearts. They were losing hope. Maybe they were losing faith.
We could pray the same prayer. Couldn’t we? When we feel the anger, bitterness, and selfishness of the world seeping into our hearts it is time that we cry to God for help! Have mercy, God!
Someone else knew contempt. He knew ridicule. He was kicked around by arrogant brutes. The proud scoffed at Him; the arrogant scorned Him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Isaiah 53:3 NIV
Jesus has walked this road. He understands. Not only do we have a Father in heaven who created all and is powerful enough to end all suffering if it be His will, but He has walked the road of suffering. When Jesus came to earth, God in human flesh (an old friend used to say “God with skin on”), He experienced life, and not an easy life. God understands.
There is nothing that we experience in this life that He does not see and understand and walk with us through. Praise the Lord.
Great hearts have been broken and brave spirits have been withered beneath the accursed power of falsehood, and the horrible blight of contempt. For our comfort we may remember that our divine Lord was despised and rejected of men, yet he ceased not from his perfect service till he was exalted to dwell in the heavens. Let us bear our share of this evil which still rages under the sun and let us firmly believe that the contempt of the ungodly shall turn to our honour in the world to come: even now it serves as a certificate that we are not of the world, for if we were of the world the world would love us as its own.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NIV
Father in heaven, you are good and faithful and kind and merciful. You are the creator of heaven and earth and yet you watch over your creation, and you love your children. Thank you. Thank you for sending Jesus. Thank you for the Bible. Thank you that we can lift up our eyes to you and know that you are there. Always. Amen.