Psalm 123

July 10, 2024

1 Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens.

Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt.

Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud.

The Point:

In an extremely weakened state, a beaten-down church cries out to God for His mercy upon them.

How do we feel in the recitation of this Psalm? 

We are mocked, criticized, castigated, and humiliated, and we are powerless to remedy our condition. We may be persecuted by powerful governments, marginalized by major media sources, or shamed by the academic elites. They point out our weaknesses and our hypocrisies, while celebrating their own high immoralities. All we can do is look to God for His eventual vindication and restoration. 

What does this Psalm say? 

Verses 1-2

Many of us do not know what it is like to be subjected to abject poverty or chattel servitude. We have sufficient food in the cupboards, and savings accounts to cover a rainy day. If we find one employer too severe, we can always find another one. We can do contractual work on the side, or start an entrepreneurial venture on a part time basis. The psalmist speaks here of the man locked into perpetual servitude, not having a dime to his name or any possibility of emancipation. Whatever food he gets is limited to what the master gives him. He cannot escape. He cannot steal from his master, or he will be severely chastised. He is utterly dependent upon his master for whatever food he receives. This is the analogy used by the psalmist in these verses. We look up to God for mercy, as a slave looks to his master for food. As the slave’s only hope for survival is found in the generosity of the master, so we look to God for His vindication and salvation. 

This psalm expresses a need for mercy. Helpless people need mercy. We therefore turn to God who is full of mercy and ready to show mercy, and ask Him for this mercy. It is only the people who do not see themselves as helpless and needy of mercy that do not receive mercy.

Verses 3-4 

The condition of God’s people (and the church) is revealed in these verses. We have seen the church disintegrate into denominational fragments, each of which becomes successively liberal generation by generation. Internal conflicts tear at the heart of local churches. Leaders appear incapable of discerning between majors and minors, gnats and camels. The “most conservative” churches are devastated by scandals, and the mainstream media gleefully records the explicit details on the news. The younger generation, overcome by cynicism, walk away from the church. And the rest who are left standing in the cold empty buildings wrestle with doubts and faithlessness themselves. The discouragement is stifling. The shame and suffering is unrelenting. We have nowhere else to look, but to the Christ who initiated this project of the church.

God’s people are scorned by those that sit at ease (verse 4). Generally, it is those who are unconcerned about their sin that appear to be so much better off than those poor souls who are tormented by tempters, convicted by the conscience, and severely taxed in a war with the flesh. The pseudo-Christians cruise along on the Celestial railroad, mocking the pilgrims struggling along the pathway towards heaven. Why do those pilgrims make such a big ordeal out of sin? It would be so much easier to ignore the sin, teach forgiveness of sins without repentance, and be done with it. 

The Christian life introduces to us painful spiritual realities and drives us to a bloody cross again and again. It forces us to our knees to cry out with the publican, “God have mercy on me, a sinner!” This scene does not look impressive to the world. In fact, the world will just mock at it. But we will continue extending our hands up to the heavens, begging for mercy from the only One who can give it to us.

How do we apply this Psalm to our lives? 

If you have never seen yourself in this state of helplessness and humiliation, marginalized and crying out for mercy, you don’t know what it is to be part of the people of God. Of course, there are times when we enjoy the sense of progress, success, and serenity in the church, but there are other times when we see ourselves as the remnant, badly persecuted and afflicted. Both elements have a measure of truth to them. In contrast with the powers of the world around us, the church appears diminutive and weak. Like a tiny rubber raft in hurricane-wracked waves three hundred feet high, the church barely stays afloat. The great empires of men appear to us like gigantic aircraft carriers in contrast, but they are crushed to pieces by these same winds and waters. It is only God’s miraculous preservation that keeps this little rubber raft bobbing along in the waters. 

How does this Psalm teach us to worship God? 

Worship leaders must maintain a sharp self-awareness of the weakness of God’s people.  Regardless of the size of the church building, budget, or attendance, we cannot forget the vulnerability of the body. “We are weak, but He is strong. We need His mercy.” This is the message that returns again and again in the corporate worship of the church.


1. What can a slave do to obtain his food? How does this form a picture of our relationship to God?

2. Who are the people that scorn at believers?

3. Why do believers sometimes seem so downcast, while unbelievers appear to be at ease?

4. Which series of psalms are known as the Ascent Psalms?

5. Give several examples of Deliverance Psalms.

Family Discussion Questions:

1. How do we see the church of Christ with which we fellowship (our local church or denomination)? Is it weak or strong? Is it getting weaker or getting stronger?

2. Who are the people that mock at the church of Christ today?