Psalm 123- a song of ascents

Psalm 123 is one of the pilgrim psalms, sung in unison as the people of Israel made their yearly pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem.  Jerusalem, placed high on a hill was a journey of ascent- a climb to the most holy place- and as the people climbed that hill they sang songs of praise and confession, repentance and deliverance. 

A psalm is not a lecture telling us what to do and why;  it is a song celebrating our God and ” what happens when a person of faith goes about the business of believing and loving and following God”  Eugene Peterson

Psalm 123 is called the Sigh of the Eyes or the Eye of Hope.  We see that aspect of the life of discipleship that takes place under the form of servanthhood.

Psalm 123
A Pilgrim Song

1-4 I look to you, heaven-dwelling God, look up to you for help.
   Like servants, alert to their master’s commands,
      like a maiden attending her lady,
   We’re watching and waiting, holding our breath,
      awaiting your word of mercy.
   Mercy, God, mercy!
      We’ve been kicked around long enough,
   Kicked in the teeth by complacent rich men,
      kicked when we’re down by arrogant brutes.


Psalm 123
A song of ascents. 

1 I lift up my eyes to you,
       to you whose throne is in heaven.

2 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
       as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress,
       so our eyes look to the LORD our God,
       till he shows us his mercy.

3 Have mercy on us, O LORD, have mercy on us,
       for we have endured much contempt.

4 We have endured much ridicule from the proud,
       much contempt from the arrogant.


The  first passage above is The Message, below it is the NIV.

To answer the 10 questions:

1)   Who wrote it?

Nehemiah or a prophet of his time. An arranger of music, Asaph?

2)     What were the circumstances?

In the bonds of servanthood, considering the bonds between servant and master.

3)      Questions asked?

Implied question- How may I serve you, Lord and Master?

4)     Answered? By whom?

Answered by the Master.  By Mercy and our past experience in His service.

5)      Can I pray this psalm?

As His child and bond servant – I need to consider and pray this psalm daily!

6)       Names for God?

Master (covenant name), LORD, God

7)       Relationship?


8)  NT references?

Thematic references, vs1 to the Lord’s prayer, vs 3  to the arrogant abuse endured by God’s people.

9)      Voices?

servant, slaves, echoes of the voices of the proud and arrogant

10)     What does it mean to me?

I need to learn an attitude of life that reflects my relationship as bond servant to the Lord.  Believers serve a Master who has made Himself a servant in Jesus Christ (John 13:12-17)  My stance should always be that of looking up, looking at my Master in humility to see where my service is required.

I call out for Mercy, Mercy – but mercy is not my right.  As a servant my only right is to give my service. 

I may be”holding my breath awaiting His word of mercy”, but that is only because I have a Master who offers mercy, mercy and yet again ,mercy.

This is a psalm that highlights and deals with observing the skills of service, of servanthood.   Michael Easley, at the Founder’s day conference at Moody Bible Institute, during a sermon on the topic of obedience, said, ” My dog listens to me better that I listen to the Lord.”  In keeping my eyes trained upon the Master, I learn to better serve.  I need to continue in my training.

Mercy, God, Mercy!

2 thoughts on “Psalm 123- a song of ascents

  1. There are times when I get in the way of wanting to serve my Master. I need His Mercy. He always comes through for me. Even when I am at rock bottom and don’t see a way out. He is there! My heart wants to serve Him. He is my rock.

  2. Lately I’ve been meditating on lifting up my eyes to my Help(er). As a servant, if my eyes are lifted up to see my Master, they will be off of me and my perceived woes. Thank you for your insight on this as well.

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