Waiting — Psalm 123

Watching and waiting

Psalm 123

A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to you,
    to you who sit enthroned in heaven.
As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
    as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
    till he shows us his mercy.

Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us,
    for we have endured no end of contempt.
We have endured no end
    of ridicule from the arrogant,
    of contempt from the proud.

The Songs of Ascents or Songs of Degrees are calls from the world to God. In the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, the Songs of Degrees make up the Eighteenth division of the Psalter and are read on Friday evenings at Vespers throughout the liturgical year.

Praise to the holiest in the height

Psalm 121 started, I lift up my eyes to the hills. This Psalm starts. I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven. The psalm between them was about praise, and praise is the pivot point between the two positions. We do not change our attitudes towards God in order to praise him, we would never get there if that were the case, we praise God and our attitudes are changed. Also we do not have to wait until everything is running well before we can praise God. The Psalmist is speaking on behalf of a people who are suffering contempt and ridicule, but he opens his song for mercy with praise.

Asking for mercy is an act of praise

This is a song of praise to God, that half of the psalm is a call for mercy for a people who are suffering contempt and ridicule, because asking for mercy is acknowledging our position before God, which is that of a slave. Asking for mercy is both a cry for help and giving praise because we realise God is greater than we are. In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector told by Jesus, it is the tax collector’s prayer, the one which goes, “Have mercy on me,” which is accepted by God and not the Pharisee’s proud boast that he obey’s all of God’s rules. God is a god of mercy and answers our prayers for leniency.

I am a slave

We come to God from below, looking up to God. We have no right to tell God what to do, not to negotiate as an equal. One prayer you cannot make is to say, “No, Lord.” By calling God Lord, or Jesus Lord, we are putting ourselves in the position of a slave or a servant. Even when people asked for a change of mind from God, such as Moses and King Hezekiah, they did not do it from the position of the one who called the shots but acknowledged God’s sovereignty. God is the one who is in control, our position is that of a servant or slave waiting for the next command.

The Epistle to the Romans starts: Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus. Paul knew his place as an apostle was to serve God. Starting at chapter 12 of Romans he goes on that he role was to be a servant and not a overlord of the people of God, and that the people of God are to serve the world.

God cares for us individually, God cares for his Church, God cares for the world. Let us praise God.

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