We often waver and stumble on the pilgrim pathway. We get discouraged and are sometimes at the brink of losing hope. One thing that will keep us going is knowledge of the mercy of our God. Psalm 123 grabs our attention, our eyes, to stay focused on God’s mercy.
An interesting observation of this Psalm is the word “eyes.” “Eyes” occurs four times (in vv. 1–2). Then, in reference to eyes, “lift up” occurs once (v. 1) and “look to” occurs three times more (v. 2).
A New Testament equivalent would be this…
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down on the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2-3
The context of the psalm seems to be circumstances that are causing God’s people to lose heart. The lesson though of the Psalm is that God’s people are not defeated, not cast down, not lost in despair because of the direction that they are looking. Their gaze is beyond the circumstances, their look is to God in anticipation of his mercy.
“We must use our eyes with resolution, for they will not go upward to the Lord of themselves, but they incline to look downward, or inward, or anywhere but to the Lord.
True saints, like obedient servants, look to the Lord their God reverentially; they have a holy awe and inward fear of the great and glorious One. They watch obediently, doing his commandments, guided by his eye. Their constant gaze is fixed attentively on all that comes from the Most High; they give earnest heed, and fear lest they should let anything slip through inadvertence or drowsiness. They look continuously, for there is never a time when they are off duty; at all times they delight to serve in all things. Upon the Lord they fix their eyes expectantly, looking for supply, succor and safety from his hands, waiting that he may have mercy upon them. To him they look singly; they have no other confidence, and they learn to look submissively, waiting patiently for the Lord, seeking both in activity and suffering to glorify his name. When they are smitten with the rod they turn their eyes imploringly to the hand which chastens, hoping that mercy will soon abate the rigor of the affliction.”
The eyes are important in this Psalm as is the direction where our eyes look, or the direction that our hearts bend…towards God’s mercy!
The word “mercy” occurs three times (once in verse 2 and twice in verse 3) but is the dominant word in the second stanza. We could say that mercy is the most important word in the psalm, because it is what the psalmist is praying for.
Mercy ends the first stanza in verse 2, explaining that the psalmist is looking to God as a slave looks to his master or a maid to her mistress until God shows him mercy. It is picked up in the first line of the last stanza, as a prayer: “Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us” (v. 3).
Eugene Peterson writes about verse 3, saying,
“The prayer is not an attempt to get God to do what he is unwilling otherwise, to do, but a reaching out to what we know that he does do, an expressed longing to receive what God is doing in and for us in Jesus Christ. In obedience we pray have mercy upon us instead of “give us what we want.” We pray have mercy upon us, and not “reward us for our goodness so our neighbors will acknowledge our superiority.” We pray have mercy upon us and not “punish us for our badness so we will feel better.” We pray have mercy upon us and not “be nice to us because we have been such good people.”
As pilgrims we keep our eyes on God; we keep looking to his mercy; we steady our gaze on Jesus!
Lord, thank you that you capture our attention (our eyes) by your amazing mercy and grace that you show over and over!