This Devotion on Psalm 123 is part of our Taleh Series on Psalms of Ascent (Psalm 120-134).
Psalm 123; 1 Peter 2:10; Romans 8:1-4; Colossians 2:13-14
The Questions: God’s people are no stranger to injustice. How do you conceive of God when you consider his justice? Is he distant or close? How should we reach out to God when we experience persecution?
As we have seen in previous Psalms of Ascent, the worshipping pilgrims sing songs of Ascent on their way to Jerusalem, and these songs are both geographically and spiritually moving from the godless country to the center of God’s life-giving presence in Jerusalem.
Psalm 123 picks up this theme as the author cries out for mercy amidst persecution.
Our Psalm begins in similar fashion to 121. We lift up our eyes to God. Instead of describing God as Creator (121:2), the psalmist points out God is “enthroned in the heavens.” Not only is he above our present troubles, he has the authority to affect real change.
With God’s power and authority in mind, the psalmist uses a servant-master simile to describe how we are to look to God.
Like a servant or maidservant, we wait and watch for God to bring justice. Charles Spurgeon describes several different attitudes of the servant who waits and watches. We are to do so reverentially, obediently, attentively, continuously, expectantly, singly, submissively, and imploringly.(1) With a mere hand gesture, God is able to enact justice and bring mercy to his people.
Note the plea for mercy. It would make sense if the psalmist asked God to destroy his enemies. Indeed, that imprecatory request is found in 120 and 129. But here, the psalmist seeks God’s mercy and relief instead of vengeance.
Similar to Psalm 120, this Psalm concludes with why the author needs mercy.
God’s people can no longer bear the weight of the contemptuous and proud who persecute them. Echoing other parts of scripture that agonize over the wicked who seemingly prosper, the assailants are described as “at ease.” Given the context of these Psalms, these enemies of God are likely the Assyrians and/or Babylonians who took God’s people captive. However, anyone who proudly stands against God may fit the description of antagonist here. So it is appropriate for God’s people of all times to pray for mercy and wait for relief from scorn – trusting in God’s authority and heart for justice.
Psalm 123 looks forward to a time when in his mercy, God deals with his enemies and gives relief to his people.
Reading this psalm today, we should be grateful that God has decisively answered our plea for mercy the person of Jesus. With the death and resurrection of Jesus, God dealt with the injustice of our sin (Romans 8:1-4) AND triumphed over his enemies (Colossians 2:13-14).
Yet as we wait for the presence of God to fill the earth in the final Day, we pray this Psalm with the same servant posture as the author: waiting and watching for God’s hand to bring mercy. It is no accident this theme show again in 127, 130 and 131. Restraining a vengeful attitude and pleading for mercy is an act of trust that God will do what he promised.
(1) Charles Spurgeon “The Treasury of David: Psalms 111-150 .” Psalm 123.
Are you prone to wait for God’s mercy or seek vengeance on your own? Why? How does waiting for God to act demonstrate faith? What has God promised for those who put their trust in him?
Also, Peter 2:10 identifies the elect exiles to whom he writes as a people who have now received mercy. What does this mean in light of Israel’s need for mercy as described in Psalm 123? How has God given us mercy in Christ?
This post was written by Colson Hauser. Colson is a lay-leader at Redeemer Fellowship Church in St. Charles, IL. He and his wife, Sarah, live in nearby Batavia with their twin toddlers and baby boy. To read more of Colson’s devotional posts at on the Psalms of Ascent, click on the following links: Psalm 121 and Psalm 122.