Read 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.
No matter where we are, some form of hierarchy is at play all around us. At the bank, the teller answers to the bank president. On an airplane, the flight attendant takes direction from the captain. At the pool, the lifeguard with the whistle reigns over the waters, even if that lifeguard is a teenager. We inherently acknowledge and respect hierarchies of authority. And within those rules, sometimes written and sometimes unwritten, we have expectations of how all parties should act.
In Psalm 123, we see four different relationships at play, each with different expectations. The writer opens the psalm by looking up to God enthroned in heaven. That’s one relationship. Then he compares his own posture to a slave looking up to his master, or a maidservant looking up to her master. That’s three relationships. Man and God, a male slave and his slave owner, and a maidservant and her mistress. The fourth relationship is revealed in verse 4, when we discover that the people of God have endured contempt and ridicule from the proud, presumably from neighboring nations or those who reject the truth of God. One people group ridicules another people group. That’s four relationships.
The cry of the psalmist, and the underlying motivation for writing this psalm, is for God to show Israel mercy. Our God is unique. His character is unique. We serve a God who offers mercy, who is marked by his merciful nature. He’s different from the slavemaster. He’s different from the strong nation mocking the rival nation. God does not proudly mock nor does He abuse His authority. He breaks the world’s expectations. We can be confident of His mercy because He has displayed it for generations. We serve a merciful God, even as we are subservient to Him.
- Think about the relationships in all facets of your life (work, church, family, community). How would you classify the hierarchies in those relationships?
- In times of guilt or suffering, where are you tempted to turn other than God?
- When you cry out to God, what do you expect?
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