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Sunday, February 7, 2016 pm                                        Psalms Index

 

“Unto You I Lift Up My Eyes”

Psalm 123

 

Tonight we examine another psalm.   Why are we doing this?  As we have noted on numerous occasions, in the psalms we learn many things: Who God is, how to adequately praise Him, the power of His word and our need to worship Him.  We are told in Romans 15:4 that the things written before were written for our learning.

We are in the midst of a group of psalms known as the psalms of ascents.  It is believed these psalms were sung as pilgrims were traveling toward Jerusalem to observe the various commanded feasts.   They began with Psalm 120 through Psalm 134.  

In the psalms we have noted so far, there seems to be progression.  Psalm 120 describes the distressed soul crying to God.  Psalm 121 speaks of one lifting up his eyes to the hills – he looking toward Zion where he will worship his Creator and God in unity with his brethren.  Each step of his tourney brings him closer to that city.  In Psalm 122 we noted the gladness as they approach the city of Jerusalem (and perhaps it is in their sight).  They either enter the city or recall its grandeur from previous occasions (think of one headed to a favorite destination and as it becomes visible the anticipation increases) and joyfully anticipate the prescribed worship.  Now, in Psalm 123, perhaps they are closer to the city.  They have looked up to seen the city, NOW they look up to God Himself  and utter a prayerful psalm to God beseeching His mercy and direction as they consider the contempt and scorn they are facing.  Let us notice this psalm. 

 I.                    I lift up my eyes to You (1-2)

a.        Unto You I lift up my eyes –

                                                   i.      Looking up to – We sometimes use that expression to describe those who we admire and seek to follow their example & instruction or we are depending upon them to protect and provide for us.   The Bible speaks of godly examples – the proverbs and Ephesians 6:1-2 speaks of children looking to and honoring their parents.
1 Corinthians 11:1 – Paul was one to be imitated (but only as he imitated Christ)
Hebrews 13:7 – we look to our elders and follow their faith.
We are even warned that others are looking unto us (think of being an example –
e.g. Barnabas looked up to Peter and sinned – Gal. 2:11-13, 1 Cor. 8:9-12)

                                                  ii.      Looking up to God – it is certainly noble to look up to people in this life, but who is greater than our Lord Jesus and our heavenly Father to look up to ultimately?
Looking to God is another way of saying we are turning to Him (may be it be so both in the good times and the bad).  This can also be a description of prayer.

1.       He is worthy of admiration – Psalm 111:9 – holy and awesome is His name. 
Psalm 18:3 says, “I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.”

2.       His instructions are worthy to be followed – Psalm 119:104-105 – gives understanding and a lamp to my feet.

3.       We can depend on Him – Matthew 28:20.  Malachi 3:10 – the Lord challenges an indifferent and apathetic people (again) to start doing what is right and see what He can do for them. 

4.       He can and will protect and provide for us – Hebrews 13:5-6, “He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’  So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?’” (Deut. 31:6-8, Joshua 1:5, Psalm 118:6)

                                                iii.      In the heavens – God dwells in the heavens, not on this earth as a man.  His place is above us in every way – Isaiah 66:1, “Heaven is MY throne, and the earth is My footstool.”
1 Kings 8:27 as Solomon dedicated the temple to God he acknowledges the inadequacy of it to contain God.
Acts 17:24 reminds us that God does not dwell in temples made with hands (physically – this doesn’t mean He is not in our midst when we assemble, and throughout our lives).
LET US keep this in mind as we approach Him – give Him the reverence He is due!

b.       Looking to Him as a servant looks to the hand of his master, and a maid to her mistress –
possibly a reference to servants waiting for their master to give them further instruction.  They are in their presence and silent as they wait for instructions.  Sometimes their master doesn’t need to say anything, but simply motions with the hand and the servant responds. 

c.        “So our eyes look to the LORD our God”.  Let us look to Him:

                                                   i.      With a willingness to respond to Him in obedience – Matthew 28:20 – the disciple is taught “to observe all things that I have commanded you.”  
It is not enough to know – Luke 6:46 – we must do what He says.

                                                  ii.      With patience – Colossians 1:10-11 – walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him …strengthened with all patience and longsuffering
Isaiah 40:31 – they who wait on the Lord…

                                                iii.      With a willingness to accept His answer – Jesus taught us in our prayers to accept His will – Matthew 6:10.   By example He did prayed this as well – Matthew 26:42.

d.       How long? Until our God has mercy on us.   Luke 18:7-8 – in prayers, be patient until He answers.

 II.                  Have mercy on us (3-4)

a.        A call for His mercy – we cannot remind ourselves enough of the mercies of God.  A recurring theme in the psalms.   Mercy means to have pity upon someone, at times who doesn’t deserve it.   It implies who is gracious in his dealings with a matter (The NASB says, “Be gracious to us, O LORD, be gracious to us.”).   We often relate the grace and mercy of God.  We desperately need it for our salvation and even our strength.  Grace is His gift giving us what we don’t deserve and accompanied by His mercy in which He does NOT give us what we do deserve.
Ephesians 2:4-5 speaks of the rich mercy of God and how by grace He saves us. 
1 Peter 1:3 speaks of our blessed God and Father who has begotten us again to a living hope through His abundant mercy.

b.       We are exceedingly filled with contempt and scorn
Contempt means a lack of respect with feelings of despising or viewing one as insignificant.

                                                   i.      There are at least 3 ways spiritually that we can be filled with contempt.
1)  We have ungodly contempt for others (or perhaps toward God).
I think of Cain as he murdered Abel (Gen. 4:5-8).
 I think of Esau and how he despised Jacob and his birthright (Gen. 25:34).
I think of the many warnings the LORD gave to Israel about His covenant – and statues – cf. Lev. 26:14-15
Malachi 1:6 where the priest are indicted for despising His name.
Romans 2:4 speaks of those who despise the riches, goodness, forbearance and longsuffering of God.
This is certainly a possibility with people, but unlikely in this psalm as the psalmist seems to be uttered by the godly. 
2) We have godly contempt – there are those who in righteousness are indignant at the ungodliness they observe.  I think of Jesus cast out the money changers (John 2:13-17, Matt. 21:12-17)
I think of Paul as he addressed the Judaizing teachers who maligned him (cf. Galatians 5:12)
May our godly contempt be tempered with longsuffering and restraint (Rom. 12:19-20).
Again, while such might have existed, it does not seem to be what our text is addressing.
3) There is contempt for us – a description of the wicked and ungodly who despise those who stand for God’s truth and His ways and who resist, rebuke and expose their sinful ways.
The prophets of old were often viewed with contempt (Amos 7:12-13, 2:12).  Jeremiah on one occasion was cast into a pit which is descriptive of a sewer (Jer. 38:6).  Jeremiah 36 describes how he wrote the commands of God on a scroll and gave it to Jeconiah the king who took a knife and cut it up and put it into the fire (Jeremiah then wrote another one showing how you cannot stop God’s word).

THIS 3rd way seems to be the contempt of our psalm. 

1.       Those who scorn are described as being at ease – meaning they were comfortable and didn’t want to be disturbed.   Those who reproved and rebuked them were treated with contempt (cf. 2 Timothy 4:2-4).  Amos 6:1 – woe to those at ease in Zion

2.       They were proud – the arrogant and selfish don’t want to be confronted with truth.  Therefore, they mock and view with contempt the righteous who make the “look bad”.    God has no use for the prideful.
Proverbs 21:24 says,
A proud and haughty man—“Scoffer” is his name; He acts with arrogant pride. 
1 Peter 5:5, God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

                                                  ii.      We are often viewed with contempt and scorn as we stand for the truth.    And our society is very effective in these things.  John 3:18-21 speaks of men loving darkness and hating the light because it exposes them. 
Jesus warned His disciples in Matthew 10:22, “You will be hated by all for My name’s sake.”
2 Timothy 3:3 warns of these ungodly times which includes those who are despisers of good.

1.       The hatred of those who attack Christians in favor of same-sex marriage are an example.

2.       The hatred of those who teach that Jesus is the Christ and the ONLY way to heaven (John 14:6).

3.       Even in religious circles, those who despise the teachings of the Bible on the role of women, what God teaches about divorce and remarriage, the requirement of baptism unto salvation, etc. often act with scorn against those who teach the truth.  
The following phrases seem to imply the latter here. 

                                                iii.      Lesson: The more we face scorn and contempt – the more we need to turn to God.  I think of Jesus – as He is being accused and lied about before Pilate and others, he opens not his mouth (Matthew 26:62, 63; 27:12-14)  He knows the will of His Father and He endures harsh mistreatment in every way. 
THEN, as He is being nailed to that cross, He says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

 

And thus we see another psalm.  When we are facing discouragement and contempt, let’s remember to turn to God and His brethren.  How long do we pray?  Until our prayer is answered.  And even then, we continue to pray to Him.  Furthermore, I again see in this the privilege and blessing of assembling (they were on their way to Jerusalem to worship God)  What is our protection from a world of scorn?  It is found in the presence of our God AND our brethren.   Don’t DESPISE this privilege.   Think about it.