TODAY’S LESSON: Psalm 123
Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford
Today is our fourth study of the “Ascent Psalms” – Psalms 120-134. [You can check out the first 3 studies under “BLOGS/JEREMY STOPFORD” on Mr. Becker’s web site!].
OUR THEME VERSE
“Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. (Psalm 84:5 NKJV). Have you set YOUR heart on “pilgrimage”?
Today we are in Psalm 123. This psalm is filled with vivid imagery! Look for those words which are repeated, for their repetition means that the psalmist – and God Himself! – wants to get our attention. “As” (twice in v. 2), “eyes” (4 times in verses 1 and 2), “mercy” (twice, in verses 2 and 3), “exceedingly” (twice, in verses 3 and 4). We’ll look at these shortly, but look for them!
Father – even in this short psalm, You are inviting our eyes to look to You. Do I look to You NOW? May this ancient Psalm be Your gift to us to help us look UP!
With thanksgiving, in Jesus Name. Amen!
OUTLINE OF PSALM 123 (Dr. W. Graham Scroggie). Title: “Uplifted Eyes”
1. Faith (v. 1)
2. Hope (v. 2)
3. Love (v. 3a)
4. Trouble (vs. 3b-4)
SOME INTERESTING INSIGHTS
1. REMEMBER last week’s question? True or False: True Christians worship only when they feel like it. Did you answer “FALSE”? I hope so!!!
2. The psalmist begins this psalm with an hope to “lift up my eyes” to the Lord. To the end of the psalm he talks about his “look to the Lord”. But FOR HOW LONG? There is a key word here – did you catch it? The word is…”UNTIL” (v. 2). He will look up UNTIL the Lord has mercy – His undeserved kindness – upon a soul who apart from our personal God can find no mercy, no undeserved kindness, anywhere else!
That reminds me of when I was very much younger. I am the baby of 3 brothers – in fact, my next older brother is 8 years older than I. “In LOVE” he showed me his new game he learned at camp. The game goes like this: he would put his 2 hands under mine. His palms would be facing up, and mine would be facing downward on top of his. Then in the seeming blink of an eye, he would raise either of his hands and slap mine. IF he could slap mine before I moved it away, do you know what happened? THE GAME CONTINUED! And he would still be on the bottom and I would still be his victim. I wasn’t very fast. My hands would get beet red. And finally, FINALLY…I would have no hope UNTIL I cried for MERCY!
Well, God doesn’t slap our hands like a merciless older brother. (OH, and I DO love my brother still, so don’t worry about that! And NO, I could never win at that game!). The Lord LOVES to show mercy to those who LOOK TO HIM. The key? “UNTIL”. Do we have the stick-to-it-iveness to LOOK TO HIM UNTIL He shows mercy? Is YOUR faith such to rest in Him knowing that He is the God of mercy?
3. The psalmist talks about being “EXCEEDINGLY” filled with contempt. He is not just “filled with contempt”. He is “EXCEEDINGLY” filled with contempt. There is an extreme sense of helplessness here in human help, isn’t there? In fact, the phrase “filled exceedingly” has the same idea as our English slang, “fed up”! We are “fed up” with the contempt, the scorn of those at ease, of the proud. Fed up! So we lift up our eyes to the One Who dwells in the heavens!!!
But then he uses an interesting phrase here: “at ease”. What does that phrase mean? Well, if you have been in the military, you couldn’t wait until the drill sergeant said, “At ease, soldiers!”. You could relax (to a certain degree). But note that in our context the one who is “at ease” is one who is NOT friendly toward those who are followers of the living God. The phrase “at ease” is used 12 times in Scripture! Let me take you to a couple of uses:
“I am not AT EASE, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, for trouble comes.” (Job 3:26)
“I was AT EASE, but He has shattered me; He also has taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces; He has set me up for His target…” (Job 16:12)
“Behold, these are the ungodly, who are always AT EASE; they increase in riches.” (Psalm 73:12)
“Woe to you who are AT EASE in Zion, And trust in Mount Samaria…” (instead of trusting in the LORD) (Amos 6:1a)
And the Lord Jesus uses the word “EASE” in His parable of the rich man in Luke 12:19. Listen to how that man describes himself: “And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your EASE; eat, drink, and be merry.”
So in Psalm 123, the psalmist is using the phrase in the sense similar to that rich man of Luke, the ungodly of Psalm 73, and even those within Israel who unbelievably had no trust in the living Lord, as evidenced in the prophet’s warning in Amos. Those who are “at ease” in our psalm are filled with contempt, are proud, and could care less that the sojourning Israelites were looking to the One Who dwells in the heavens (v.1). In fact, the psalmist was quite aware that these were scorning (v. 4) the Jehovah seeking Jew.
4. Finally, the faithful Bible student should not let slip the descriptive phrase found in verse 4, “our soul.” Look for it again 3 times in Psalm 124. It is used 9 times throughout the Scriptures. In fact, when individualized, the equally personal phrase “MY soul” is used an astounding 128 times throughout the Bible. None is more famous than the treasured Psalm 23, as in verse 3, “He restores MY SOUL He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.”
Why is this important? Because the psalmist – and all the writers of Scripture – are reminding the sojourner that our God is a PERSONAL God. He isn’t just some “God far away” that is fickle, Who cares for His creation when He feels like it. No NO! “MY SOUL”, in fact, as a body of those who follow Jehovah, “OUR SOUL” can trust that He is faithful, and that we can wait upon Him UNTIL He has mercy on us. God is the only personal God! He cares for MY soul! He cares for OUR SOUL – the soul of those Who are seeking, looking unto Him!
Aren’t you glad that the wise Lord put to print the words of the prayer of the scorned psalmist?
Are YOU, better, is your SOUL “fed up” with the situations in which it is in within this contempt filled, scorn filled, proud filled world?
BUT WAIT!!! Have you sought the One “Who dwells in the heavens”?
BUT WAIT!!! Have you sought Him “UNTIL”? Have you waited on your spiritual knees UNTIL He has faithfully and personally delivered MERCY to your SOUL?
Or have you given up?
The psalmist of Psalm 123 did not give up. He prayed UNTIL…!
Father, we are living in strange times, ones which fortunately are not hidden from You!
We are trying to be Your faithful family, Your faithful father or mother or son or daughter or brother or sister or worker or neighbor or … Your faithful church.
But we are surrounded by those who no matter how much we show them the Love of God in Christ, they return that love with scorn. They live as if You don’t exist.
Yet for them, Your Word tells us that they ARE without You and without Hope. They need to see the One Who in LOVE went to the Mercy Seat, went to Calvary for their sins.
Help us to lift up OUR eyes until…until You show mercy, Your undeserved kindness, for them just as you did – and DO – for us!
Give us the expectation like the servant, like the maid, to look to You OUR Master until…
We love you for loving us first!
And we give You all the praise.
In Jesus Name. Amen!