Watchful Anticipation: Psalm 123

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Psalm 123 (NIV)

I lift up my eyes to you,
    to you who sit enthroned in heaven.
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.
Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us,
    for we have endured no end of contempt.
We have endured no end
    of ridicule from the arrogant,
    of contempt from the proud.

Sing this psalm with the Seedbed Psalter today! Visit the resource here.

CONSIDER THIS

We live in a time and culture filled with many distractions. The fast pace of life makes our attention span shorter and shorter. Books have become articles, articles have become blogs, and blogs have become tweets. This psalm is the balm for such a world as this. In contrast to the attention-deficit world we live in, Psalm 123 is about focus and sustained attention.

The psalm brings three gifts to our busy, wicked world. First, the gift of watchfulness. The psalm opens by calling us to join the psalmist in lifting our eyes unto the Lord. It then invokes a powerful metaphor doubly expressed to picture sustained attention. The psalmist beckons us into the inner life of watchfulness characterized by a servant. The psalm beautifully pictures for us “the eyes of slaves look[ing] to the hand of their master” and “the eyes of a maid look[ing] to the hand of her mistress” (v. 2). It is a picture of focused, watchful attention. This is precisely the attitude we need in approaching the Lord. We do not want to come before the Lord in a casual, distracted way. We don’t ever want to rush through our devotionals so we can get on with the day. This psalm calls us to look to the Lord with the kind of attention that a servant gives to his or her master.

Second, this psalm gives us the gift of waiting. Inherent in the life of a servant is the life of waiting for the master. As Christians, we must learn to wait upon God. We know, in time, that he will set all things right. In time, he will vindicate our faith. In time, he will heal the sick and raise the dead. But, in the meantime, we learn the gift of waiting. “Our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy” (v. 2).

Third, this psalm gives voice to our weariness. The psalmist, like us, is wearied by the world’s false narratives and work that is so counter to the work of the gospel. He is weary of the contempt we have all endured (v. 3). He is weary of the ridicule of the proud and the arrogant (v. 4). It is comforting to know that we find words in the Bible that give voice to this pain.

May we be ever watchful in finding ways to serve the Lord. May we be ever waiting on his grace and intervention. Finally, may we know afresh that God knows our situation, that our “labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58), and that, through perseverance, we shall receive what he has promised (Heb. 10:36).

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Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.

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