New American Standard Bible
What is the background of Psalm 123?
The psalm bears no superscription regarding the identity of the writer or the particular event that might have prompted the writing of the psalm. Some have suggested that it was composed during the time of Nehemiah when the people engaged in the rebuilding of the walls felt the scorn and contempt of their enemies. Others suggest that it was written by King Hezekiah on the occasion of the Assyrian invasion of Judah under Sennacherib, particularly the contemptuous speech of Rabshakeh recorded in 2 Kings 18:17-26. While we cannot know for certain who wrote the psalm, we can apply it to any of the numerous trials we might experience in life. Its words can serve as a model for prayer and speak for us when we find ourselves in the midst of problems, perplexities, or painful situations.
123:1 To Thee I lift up my eyes,
O Thou who art enthroned in the heavens!
The opening of this Psalm is similar to the opening phrase of the Lord’s Prayer (see Matthew 6:9). Unlike the opening phrase of Psalm 121, the psalmist lifts his eyes to look beyond the hills to the Lord Himself (see also Psalm 115:3). The language suggests that the psalmist had already lifted up his eyes, was presently lifting them, and would continue to lift them. While looking up is the first thing we should do when we are faced with difficulties, it is sometimes the last thing we do. And sometimes the upward look is the only one left.
Practical Consideration: Looking up is the best way to keep our difficulties in context.
It is inevitable that difficulties will come into our lives. Difficulties have a way of appearing very ominous and imposing. They have a way of disorienting us and causing us much pain. If difficulties are not kept in a proper context and perspective, they can discourage and defeat us. That is why we must look up when we encounter difficulties. We must look to God and see our difficulties in relation to Him. When we see our difficulties against the backdrop of God’s power and majesty, they are less ominous, imposing, and intimidating.
Practical Consideration: We must look in the right direction when we encounter difficulties.
The psalmist did not look in when he encountered difficulties. Had he looked in he would have seen fear. The psalmist did not look out when he encountered difficulties. Had he looked out he would have seen his problems. The psalmist did not look at others when he encountered difficulties. Had he looked at others he would have seen people with similar fears. Instead, he looked up to the only reliable source of help.
123:2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress;
So our eyes look to the Lord our God,
Until He shall be gracious to us.
The psalmist’s dependence upon God was like that of a servant to his master. In this illustration, the servant looked to the hand of his master for the slightest gesture. A servant looked to the hand of his master for guidance, sustenance, protection, correction, and reward. Similarly, the psalmist looked to God with an attitude of expectation. He knew that his destiny was in the hand of God. The psalmist continued to look to God. He refused to bow to the pressures of those who held him in contempt.
Practical Consideration: We honor God when we look to Him for help.
God repeatedly invites us to trust him and commit our cares to Him. When we look up for help, we acknowledge that we need more than the feeble arsenal of our human strength and understanding to deal with life’s difficulties. We acknowledge that we need God and the help of His hand. We honor God when we look to Him for help.
123:3 Be gracious to us, O Lord, be gracious to us;
For we are greatly filled with contempt.
123:4 Our soul is greatly filled
With the scoffing of those at ease,
And with the contempt of the proud.
The psalmist asked for God’s grace because he felt the sting of persecution. He was weary of being an object of the scorn and abuse of lazy and proud men.