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God’s Word for You

Psalm 123

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, April 4, 2015

A song of ascents.

Psalms 120-136 are sometimes called the “Great Hallel.” These were psalms that were perhaps sung or recited as pilgrims traveled to Jerusalem for one of the great festivals like Passover or the Feast of Tabernacles. Many of these psalms describe the natural beauty of the countryside, the hills, the streams and the fruit of the land that the people would have enjoyed along the way.

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.

The words “our eyes look to the LORD our God” are the center of this little Psalm. Notice the way the author keeps referring to eyes, and uses the language of the Psalm to make us constantly think of looking up. Our eyes look to heaven the way a slave looks to a master. We look to the Lord our God “till he shows us his mercy.” But we look to God for more than just eye contact. God looks with rage at sin and with fury at those who do not believe in him. We look to God through the eyes of faith, and so we look for his mercy above all.

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.

These words make us think of people who have been oppressed. Perhaps the Psalmist was looking back into Israel’s history, to the days when every single Israelite was a slave in Egypt, looking to the hand of masters and mistresses. Those were days when the Egyptians oppressed God’s people, and they were led out by the hand of the merciful God. So it was in Babylon as well, when the people were scorned by their oppressors, egging them on to “sing us one of the songs of Zion” (Psalm 137:3). So it would be again between the Testaments, when Antiochus Epiphanes “plundered the city (of Jerusalem), burned it with fire, and tore down its houses and its surrounding walls” (1 Maccabees 1:31). And so it would be later still, when the Romans burned Jerusalem and destroyed the temple once and for all.

But God’s people no longer need a temple. God’s people look to Christ, and each one of us is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Whatever contempt we are made to suffer in the world, we have a home to look to, a dwelling that is not merely “permanent” in the way the world thinks of permanence, with strong walls and land well chosen and paid for. Our home is more than worldly; it is eternal. Our home is with God forever in heaven. This is God’s greatest mercy, that he would share his eternal abode with us, cleansing us of our sins, giving us the garments of righteousness to wear, and joining us together with himself and the whole Holy Christian Church.

If we say in grief, “we have endured no end of ridicule,” we can rejoice that God has cut away the ridicule forever, so that with Christ we will endure no end at all. Not ever. This is the victory of Jesus Christ, and through faith it is ours.


In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.