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Psalm 123

Supplication for Mercy

A Song of Ascents.


To you I lift up my eyes,

O you who are enthroned in the heavens!


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 L ord our God,

until he has mercy upon us.



Have mercy upon us, O L ord, have mercy upon us,

for we have had more than enough of contempt.


Our soul has had more than its fill

of the scorn of those who are at ease,

of the contempt of the proud.

1. I lift my eyes to thee, who dwellest in the heavens. It is uncertain at what time, or even by what Prophet, this Psalm was composed. I do not think it probable that David was its author; because, when he bewails the persecutions which he suffered in the time of Saul, it is usual with him to inter-pose some particular references to himself. My opinion, then, rather is, that this form of prayer was composed for all the godly by some Prophet, either when the Jews were captives in Babylon, or when Antiochus Epiphanes exercised towards them the most relentless cruelty. Be this as it may, the Holy Spirit, by whose inspiration the Prophet delivered it to the people, calls upon us to have recourse to God, when — ever wicked men unrighteously and proudly persecute, not one or two of the faithful only, but the whole body of the Church. Moreover, God is here expressly called the God who dwelleth in the heavens, not simply to teach his people to estimate the divine power as it deserves, but also that, when no hope of aid is left for them on earth, yea rather, when their condition is desperate, just as if they were laid in the grave, or as if they were lost in a labyrinth, they should then remember that the power of God remains in heaven in unimpaired and infinite perfection. Thus these words seem to contain a tacit contrast between the troubled and confused state of this world and God’s heavenly kingdom, from whence he so manages and governs all things, that whenever it pleases him, he calms all the agitations of the world, comes to the rescue of the desperate and the despairing, restores light by dispelling darkness, and raises up such as were cast down and laid prostrate on the ground. This the Prophet confirms by the verb lift up; which intimates, that although all worldly resources fail us, we must raise our eyes upward to heaven, where God remains unchangeably the same, despite the mad impetuosity of men in turning all things here below upside down.

2. Behold as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters. This similitude is very suitable to the present case. It implies that without the protection of God true believers have no comfort, are completely disarmed and exposed to all manner of wrongs, have neither strength nor courage to resist; in short, that their safety depends entirely upon aid derived from another. We know how shamefully servants were treated in ancient times, and what reproaches might be cast upon them, whilst yet they durst not move a finger to repel the outrage. Being therefore deprived of all means of defending themselves, the only thing which remained for them to do was, what is here stated, to crave the protection of their masters. The same explanation is equally applicable to the case of handmaids Their condition was indeed shameful and degrading; but there is no reason why we should be ashamed of, or offended at being compared to slaves, provided God is our defender, and takes our life under his guardianship; God, I say, who purposely disarms us and strips us of all worldly aid, that we may learn to rely upon his grace, and to be contented ‘with it alone. It having been anciently a capital crime for bond-men to carry a sword or any other weapon about them, and as they were exposed to injuries of every description, their masters were wont to defend them with so much the more spirit, when any one causelessly did them violence. Nor can it be doubted that God, when he sees us placing an exclusive dependence upon his protection, and renouncing all confidence in our own resources, will as our defender encounter, and shield us from all the molestation that shall be offered to us. It is, however, certain that we have here properly the description of a period in which the people of God were reduced to a state of extreme necessity, and brought even to the brink of despair. As to the word hand, it is very well known to be put for help. 7676     “Unto the hand of their masters — if we retain the word hand, it must be taken in the well-known sense which it sometimes bears of side or quarter: and the original word is used (Exodus 2:5) in the same sense. The phrase will then simply mean, that the eyes of servants look towards their masters, and this agrees with — so our eyes wait upon the Lord. But the Hebrew word also signifies power, (as in Deuteronomy 32:36,) which may very well be substituted for. hand in this place, the notion being that servants when they are in danger or in distress look to the power of their masters for assistance; and in general expect from them subsistence and defense.” — Cresswell.

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