Psalm 123: Our Focus
According to an old saying, “You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” When it comes to Israel, it seems you can’t please any of the people any of the time.
Despite all of their accomplishments and contributions to humanity, the Jewish people always seem to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. They are unjustly blamed for almost everything. Perhaps that is why Psalm 123 encourages Israel to look to the Lord:
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 Lᴏʀᴅ our God, until He has mercy on us (vv. 1–2).
The world is a tough place. The psalmist urged Israel to look to God as servants look to their masters—or, today, employees to their employers—with respect. The apostle Peter wrote, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh” (1 Pet. 2:18). The word fear implies respect. People should regard the Lord with reverence and give Him the honor due Him.
The psalmist begged, “Have mercy on us, O Lᴏʀᴅ, have mercy on us! For we are exceedingly ﬁlled with contempt. Our soul is exceedingly ﬁlled with the scorn of those who are at ease, with the contempt of the proud” (Ps. 123:3–4).
The psalm is talking about the Israelites being filled up with the contempt that is being poured out on them by others. Wrote Bible scholar Charles Ryrie, “The psalmist expresses his confidence in God…and prays for the people’s deliverance from those who have contempt for them.”1 Bible commentator Allen P. Ross said the Jewish pilgrims “were held in contempt, that is they had endured much ridicule from the…arrogant.”2
This psalm sounds like it could have been written today. The two most scorned groups of people in the world are the Jewish people and Bible-believing Christians. Both groups should focus on the Lord, who gives strength, comfort, and peace, even amid ridicule and persecution.
The world system is dominated by Satan, the “prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). He hates the Jewish people because God loves them, chose them to bring the Messiah into the world, and has a major role for them in the future Millennial Kingdom. Satan hates Bible-believing Christians because they do not belong to him and they point people to the Bible, which provides the knowledge of how faith in Christ transfers individuals from Satan’s domain into God’s and from death to life (Jn. 5:24; Col. 1:13).
The Lord is the lifter of our heads and keeper of our souls. We need to stay focused on Him.
- Charles Caldwell Ryrie, The Ryrie Study Bible, English Standard Version (Chicago, IL: Moody, 2011), 715, n Psalm 123.
- Allen P. Ross, “Psalms,” The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 883.