Psalm 123: Until He Has Mercy On Us

While I have often paid mind to the Psalms of Ascents [1], there are some psalms that have rarely attracted my notice for one reason or another. Because of its relative obscurity, I have seldom stopped to think of Psalm 123, although the psalm has a strong degree of personal relevance, sometimes too strong, to the struggles I have dealt with during the Feast of Tabernacles. The fact that the psalm was discussed in today’s sermon message brought it to my attention, and put it in a context that is worthy of discussing. First, I would like to discuss the psalm and its meaning, and then place the psalm within its context in the Songs of Ascents, which points to its applicability when we examine how we are to handle the Feast of Tabernacles.

Fortunately, Psalm 123 is a very short psalm, which reads in its entirety: “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 Lord our God, until He has mercy on us. Have mercy on us, O Lord, 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.”

Looking at this psalm, we may note a few qualities from its content. For one, it is clearly a psalm about the servants of God looking to God to have mercy on them. We might not think that the Feast of Tabernacles is a place for us to have to deal with scorn and contempt or other unpleasant matters like that. Unfortunately, that can often be the case. Several times in the past few years, my own Feast of Tabernacles has been drastically affected by the hateful acts of other people towards me. Sometimes I have asked God when He was going to have mercy on me and to help me deal with the contempt and scorn, the ridicule and teasing that came from other people, to such an extent that on at least one occasion I felt it necessary to fast and seek God’s peace of mind immediately after returning from the Feast of Tabernacles. I am sure that my experiences are not unique in this regard, and I am sure that there are many people [2] who can relate to having their lives darkened by troubles at this time of year that we would wish to leave behind us to celebrate and praise God in joy.

Sometimes, though, in order to have and keep a good attitude we have to acknowledge what is troubling us and place it in God’s hands so that He can deal with it, not that He does not already know about it, but sometimes He waits for us to lay our concerns before Him in the knowledge that we have done everything possible to make it as good a time for ourselves and others and sometimes can do nothing more. The fact that this song was written, and placed in a context where it was mentioned year after year, suggests that the experience of facing contempt and scorn is not an unusual one when it comes to the Feast of Tabernacles. Perhaps it should be unusual, but the fact that God has provided in His word a psalm for us to use to pray for God’s mercy at the Feast of Tabernacles is certainly a worthwhile one. Certainly this is a psalm that I could have prayed last year, and that is entirely appropriate to my prayers this year as well.

This particular psalm appears to be constructed in a very short bifid manner. The first two verses of the psalm focus on the fact that we have our eyes on God like servants have eyes on their masters, appealing for justice and mercy for ourselves. This appeal to mercy then blends seamlessly into the second part of the bifid, which looks at how believers going to the Feast of Tabernacles have to deal with the burden of their difficulties with other people, with the scorn and contempt that they are under because of the hostility of others. Sadly, some of those people may even be fellow feastgoers. As this has happened to me several times, I thought it would be worthwhile for me to discuss one of the feasts that was most dramatically affected by the burden of scorn from others, the difficult feast of 2010, when it would have been obvious that I was in need of a good prayer to God for mercy.

The feast of 2010 followed the equally difficult feast of 2009, and rather than travel as I had wanted to do, I had to stay local because I was flat broke and couldn’t travel anywhere. I had lost my job shortly after the feast in 2009 while still recovering from the avian flu I had caught in South America and I was extremely destitute by the time the Feast of 2010 came around. Having one’s festival plans shaped by material poverty does not tend to be a good start for the feast, especially since that particular feast I knew I was going to be dealing with some unpleasant and continuing drama that had been going on for months related to one of my most popular early tags in the first days of my blog [3]. There were quite a few people, both from my own congregation and elsewhere, who were not particularly happy to see me at the Feast of Tabernacles, and I am generally not particularly happy to be around people who don’t particularly like me, as I tend to be rather stressed out and anxious when I am around others who wish me harm.

What I did in response to this stress is to immerse myself in service. I was in the choir, I translated every message for the Spanish-speaking brethren who were there and stranded when their translator had ditched them to go to another site at the last minute, I tried to find supportive friends, and I made the best of it. It was a stressful feast, and I asked God why I had to be burdened with such matters at a time of joy, but I did the best that I could do. Indeed, that is the response we should all have. We should do the best we can to enjoy the feast, whether that means we have to smile and bear things that we wish we could leave behind and never have to worry about ever again, whether we come to the feast poor and somewhat disappointed, whether we have to keep ourselves busy enough and around friendly enough company that we can distract ourselves from the less desirable elements of the feast, we do the best that we can do, even as we ask God to have mercy on us and resolve those difficulties for good.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/i-am-for-peace-psalm-120-and-the-role-of-religion-and-war/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/unless-the-lord-the-city-keeps-the-military-insight-of-psalm-127/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/04/10/psalm-133-how-good-and-how-pleasant/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/your-children-like-olive-plants-a-reflection-on-psalm-127-2/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/caravan/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/stillness-of-heart/

[3] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/tag/cogwa/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, Church of God, Musings, Psalms and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Psalm 123: Until He Has Mercy On Us

  1. Pingback: An Introduction To The Psalms Commentary Project | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Don’t Be The Reason Why Everyone Hates Your Team | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Psalm 126: Those Who Sow In Tears Shall Reap In Joy | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: An Introduction To The Songs Of Ascent: Part Two | Edge Induced Cohesion

  5. Pingback: Book Review: A Musician Looks At The Psalms | Edge Induced Cohesion

  6. Pingback: Book Review: A Long Obedience In The Same Direction | Edge Induced Cohesion

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