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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 123

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-4


Since the time when it was produced by its now unknown author, when was not this hymn of hope a favourite with God’s people? The pensive individual might use this form of meditation and prayer with comfort and edification in view of his private distresses; the tuneful company might probably beguile the way to or from Jerusalem with its plaintive cry; and it was fit to be chanted in the courts of Zion, in the name of the Church universal. After the afflicted pilgrims of Israel, in their successive generations, troubled Christians have repeated it in all countries; and it still describes the griefs and aspirations of the tempted servants of the Lord, as, in their various degrees, they “climb the steep ascent to heaven.”—The Caravan and Temple.


(Psalms 123:1-2)

I. Is directed to One who is enthroned in glorious majesty. “Unto Thee lift I up mine eyes, O Thou that dwellest in the heavens” (Psalms 123:1). From God’s footstool of hills and altars the suppliant looks up into the face of the Master. “The Lord’s throne is in heaven: His eyes behold, His eyelids try, the children of men” (Psalms 11:4). All the glories of the upper world circle round that lofty throne, and borrow their meaning and their lustre from Him who sitteth thereon. To Him cherubim and seraphim continually do cry, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts.” The starry constellations render Him ceaseless homage, and obey His mandate. The heavenly intelligences live in His smile, and rejoice in His service. The splendour of the greatest earthly monarch is extinguished by the glory of the Heavenly King. And it is to this glorious Ruler that man is permitted to direct his inquiring gaze, and from whom he must derive his mightiest help.

II. Is directed to One who has supreme government and power. “Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress” (Psalms 123:2). The Divine Hand—

(1) Guides. The Eastern ruler, reticent and sparing in words, directs his attendants and agents by signs, and they are his best servants and least likely to incur sorrow who, not from fear but love, are swift to notice and obey the slightest movements of his speaking hand. The heart must be in the eyes that wait upon Jehovah.

“Leave to His sovereign sway

To choose and to command,

So shalt thou wondering own His way,

How wise, how strong His hand.”

(2) Supplies. Servants look to their masters for sustenance (Proverbs 31:15). So must we look to God for daily bread, and for needed grace (Psalms 145:16).

(3) Protects. If the servant meet with opposition in his work, if he is wronged and injured, he looks to his master for protection. God is the shield of His people, not like the martial shield covering a portion of the person, but guarding every part (Genesis 15:1; Psalms 5:12). When threatened by our spiritual foes, we look to God for shelter and protection.

(4) Corrects. God smites with the same hand with which He guides and protects. Harmer observes—“As a slave ordered by a master or mistress to be chastised for a fault turns his imploring eyes to that superior till the motion of the hand appears which puts an end to the punishment, so our eyes are up to Thee, our God, till Thy hand shall give the signal for putting an end to our sorrows; for our enemies, O Lord, we are sensible, are only executing Thy orders, and chastening us according to Thy pleasure.” It is wise for us humbly to submit to the mighty Hand of God.

(5) Rewards. The hand of the world is filled with tempting rewards, but, like the fabled fruit of Sodom, they turn into bitter dust and ashes between the teeth of its votaries. But the faithful servants of Jehovah are rewarded with satisfying and endless pleasures.

III. Is directed to One who is rich in mercy. “The Lord our God, have mercy upon us” (Psalms 123:2). Stung with a sharp sense of guilt, oppressed with the burden of multiplied troubles, and conscious of utter helplessness, the sinner turns a piteous gaze to Him whose mercy as well as righteousness endures for ever. “Lord, in trouble have they visited Thee; they poured out a prayer when Thy chastening was upon them” (Isaiah 26:16). The severity of God is tempered with mercy. “He delighteth in mercy.”

IV. Is persevering and triumphant. “So our eyes wait upon the Lord our God until that He have mercy upon us” (Psalms 123:2). The believing soul fixes its eye upon the Divine mercy, and keeps it there till the gracious answer comes. We remain unblessed for lack of steady fixedness in our faith. Persevering faith is ever triumphant.


1. Man must look heavenward for all true help.

2. God never disappoints the humble and sincere suppliant.


(Psalms 123:3-4)

I. That sarcasm is a common weapon of the enemies of God.

1. It is used by the worldly minded. “The scorning of those that are at ease.” When the Jews, who had returned from captivity, were engaged in rebuilding the Temple and city of Jerusalem, they were much tried by the interference of certain dwellers in Samaria, who seemed ready to declare themselves Israelites or Pagans, as it might suit their interests; and when they were rejected as unfit to engage in so sacred a work, they did all they could to hinder and annoy. They misrepresented the motives of the Jews to the Persian king, who then held rule over Palestine; and poured contempt and derision on the struggling patriots (Comp. Ezra 4:1-3; Nehemiah 2:19-20; Nehemiah 4:1-4). “In every succeeding age the protesting and conservative faithful, the heart and bone of the undying Church, have been first courted, and then bantered and baffled by their worldly-minded and semi-heathen neighbours. The world about and among them, divided by rival idolatries, is united in jealousy, hatred, and scorn of the true Israel. The Samaritans will join the working church, if in so doing they may carnally benefit themselves; but when their help, which would be ruin, is not accepted, they unscrupulously hinder, misrepresent, and despise God’s children” (The Caravan and Temple).

2. It is used by the intellectually proud. “And with the contempt of the proud.” The scorner is deluded by the most despicable vanity. He assumes a superiority of knowledge, of virtue, and of authority over all others, of which all the time he is most lamentably destitute. Pride of intellect is the most dangerous form of self-deception, and the most hopeless of reformation.

“He that is proud eats up himself. Pride is
His own glass, his own trumpet, his own chronicle;
And whatever praises itself but in
The deed, devours the deed in the praise.”


It is easier to sneer than to argue and to scoff at goodness, than to imitate it.

II. That sarcasm is the cause of pungent suffering to God’s people. “We are exceedingly filled with contempt.” It is hard to bear the blame of a wrong of which we are wholly innocent, to have our holiest motives misinterpreted, our failings exaggerated, our best actions maligned, and our God insulted and blasphemed. The suffering is increased when the injured one is powerless to respond or retaliate, and when a sensitive and passionate nature is to be held in check while writhing under a sense of injustice and cruelty. When John Nelson, a vigorous and successful lay-helper of Wesley, was impressed as a soldier, he was subjected to very aggravating insults from a pompous young ensign. “It was very difficult to bear,” said the stalwart Yorkshire mason, “when I knew how easily I could tie the head and heels of the young stripling together.” But suffering endured for Christ’s sake is a very potent element in moral discipline, and in the perfecting of the Christian character.

III. That the suffering occasioned by sarcasm is counterbalanced by the consolations of the Divine mercy.

“O Lord, have mercy upon us.” The mercy of God never fails. From the inhumanity of man the tortured soul turns to the Divine mercy for comfort and strength. It then learns that the suffering occasioned by sarcasm is only brief in duration, and that it is made the means of attaining a higher righteousness and an ampler reward (Romans 8:28).


1. The holiest do not escape the attacks of the adversary.

2. The bitterness of sarcasm is its unscrupulousness.

3. The Divine mercy should be sought in every time of suffering.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 123". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/psalms-123.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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