PSALM ONE HUNDRED TWENTY THREE
Outline
  1. Decision to Rely on Yahweh (vv.1,2)
  2. Plea for Relief (vv.3,4)
TITLE A Song of Ascents ( ryvi [n.m.s., song] tAl[]M;h; [def.art.w/n.f.p., ma-alah, ascent]).

INTRODUCTION:

  1. This psalm is a communal complaint.
  2. The background to the complaint is an extended period of adversity in the light of v. 4.
  3. The psalmís setting is either in the exilic period or in that of post-exilic Judah (cf. Neh.1:3; 2:19; 3:36).
  4. It was composed for recitation in corporate worship to encourage those who were derided for their faith and humble circumstances.
Confession of Trust (v.1)
VERSE 1 To You I lift up my eyes ( ^yl,ae [prep.w/2.m.s.sf.] ytiaf'n" [Qal.pf.1.c.s., nasha, lift] yn:y[e-ta, [dir.obj. + n.f.dual.w/1.c.s.sf., ayin, eye]),

O You who are enthroned in the heavens ( ybiv.YOh; [Qal.pt.m.s., bvy yashabh, dwell; "enthroned"] `~yIm'V'B; [prep.w/n.m.p., shasmayim, heavens])!

Simile of Trust (v.2)

VERSE 2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master (hNEhi [interj.] ynEy[ek. [prep.w/n.m.dual.cstr., ayin, eye] ~ydIb'[] [n.m.p., ebhedh, servant] dy:-la, [prep. + n.f.s., yadh, hand] ~h,ynEAda] [n.m.p.cstr.w/3.m.p.sf. !Ada' adhon, master]),

As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress ( ynEy[eK. [conj. w/n.m.dual.cstr., eye] hx'p.vi [n.f.s., shephechah, maid] dy:-la, [prep. + n.f.s., yadh, hand] HT'r>biG> [n.f.s.w/3.f.s.sf. tr,b,G> gebhereth, mistress, lady, queen]),

So our eyes look to the LORD our God ( !Ke [adv., so] WnynEy[e [n.f.dual.w/1.c.p.sf., eye] hw"hy>-la, [prep. + pr.n.] Wnyhel{a/ [n.m.p.w/1.c.p.sf.]),

Until He is gracious to us ( d[; [prep., until] `WnNEx'Y>v, [Qal.impf.3.m.s.w/1.c.p.sf. !nx chanan, be gracious]).

ANALYSIS: VERSES 1,2

  1. The community has been suffering in adversity.
  2. The psalmist acts as a member of a larger group expressing the feelings of his people under persecution.
  3. He speaks for himself (the individual) and for the community at large.
  4. The psalm opens with an expression of his own dependence upon God.
  5. He "lifts up" the "eyes" of his soul to the invisible but real essence of the One "who is enthroned in the heavens!".
  6. God is King and reigns over His creation from the throne room of the third heaven.
  7. Godís power and Sovereignty are no match for the puny efforts of those who are hostile to His plan and people (cp. Isa.40:22-26).
  8. Even though the psalmist and his people are at a political and social disadvantage, they have on their side the One who will not allow the situation to remain unchanged.
  9. In v.2 he leads his fellow-worshipers into a declaration of their own submission and dependence upon the Sovereign One by means of a double simile (a figure of speech in which one thing is compared to another).
  10. The community of positive volition has been trained to keep their soulish compass fixed on a single point at hand, with the trained watchfulness of a servant who is ready for the smallest gesture from master or mistress.
  11. The comparison must not be pressed: these servants are watching for relief, not for orders; yet servants they are, still loyal and submissive.
  12. "Behold" draws their attention toward the mental attitude that should control their hearts and minds.
  13. Based on Israelís covenant relationship with God, they are to view themselves as "servants" in a household who look to their owner for material support.
  14. In times of oppression, their focus is to remain fixed on the One who is able and willing to reverse their oppressed and afflicted state vis-a-vis their Gentile neighbors.
  15. No matter how humble and distressed our circumstances, we are to "look to" God for relief and not resort to human viewpoint.
  16. Those who keep their eyes on the One "enthroned in the heavens" avoid the temptation of denying the Lord by joining the opposition.
  17. Believers who remain steadfast in the face of adversity from others are assured vindication.
  18. One of the common tests of life is to suffer under the disdain of those who are socially and materially above us.
  19. They assume that the approach to life that has gotten them where they are invalidates the faith of those who are beneath them socially and materially.
  20. Positive volition keeps its eyes on the One who will come through with the vindicating grace (v.2d).
  21. This grace comes through in time and certainly in Ph3.
  22. Remember, humility comes before honor (Prov.15:33; 18:12).
  23. Many believers lose patience with the distress of being treated like dirt and abandon their confidence, which has great reward.
  24. God delights in reversing seemingly hopeless circumstances and blessing the believer in time.
  25. Godís timing is perfect and He knows what is best for each of us, and for us collectively.
  26. We should, therefore, keep our eyes fixed on the Source and this will help us to win the battle daily.
  27. God takes note of the unjust and unfair treatment that is a part of our persecution for adherence to His +R and truth.
  28. There is a great price to pay for adherence to BD, but the reward far outstrips the sacrifice.
  29. These believers, for whom the psalmist acts as spokesman before God, are determined to remain utterly reliant upon their Master.
  30. The flip side of this master-servant relationship is that the Lord ("our God") has committed Himself to support them in their stand for His interests.
  31. For this they waited, and will wait on expectantly, conscious that they need no other help but His.
Plea for Relief (v.3)
VERSE 3 Be gracious to us, O LORD, be gracious to us ( WnNEx' [Qal.imper.m.s.w/1.c.p.sf., chanan, be gracious] hw"hy> [pr.n.] WnNEx' [Qal.imper.m.s. w/1.c.p.sf., chanan]),

For we are greatly filled with contempt ( br;-yKi [conj. + adj.m.s., rabh, great; "greatly"] Wn[.b;f' [Qal.pf.1.c.p. [bf shabha, be satisfied; "filled"] `zWb [n.m.s., buz, contempt]).

Lament of Scoffing (v.4)

VERSE 4 Our soul is greatly filled ( Wnvep.n: [n.f.s.w/1.c.s., nephesh, soul] tB;r; [adj.f.s.cstr., rabah, great; "greatly"] HL'-h['b.f' [Qal.pf.3.f.s. [bf shabha, be satiated, + prep.w/3.f.s.sf.])

With the scoffing of those who are at ease ( g[;L;h [def.art.w/n.m.s. g[;l; la-agh, mocking] ~yNIn:a]V;h; [def.art.w/adj.m.p. !n"a]v; sha-anan, at ease, secure; cp. Isa.32:9,11,18; Amos.6:1; Zech.1:15]),

And with the contempt of the proud ( zWBh [def.art.w/n.m.s. zWB buz, contempt] `~ynIAyaeg>li [prep.w/n.m.p. !Aya]G: ga-ayon, proud]).

ANALYSIS: VERSES 3,4

  1. In the meantime, they continue to offer up prayer for relief and vindication from the affliction of those who hate them and hold them in contempt (v.3a).
  2. The repeated plea "show grace" expresses urgency and pressure of soul.
  3. The petition is backed with a lament of the situation of distress to move God to intervene.
  4. Their actual adversity is left undefined, but noted obliquely in vv.3b,4.
  5. Insult has been added to injury.
  6. Their plight has been aggravated by the brutal jeering of others whose own lives are untouched by similar affliction.
  7. Those who are unrestrained by the constraints of righteousness and who are often socially advantaged hold those who are positive in contempt.
  8. It is illuminating that "contempt" is singled out as the thing that gives them so much pain.
  9. Twice the psalmist mentions the fact that they were "greatly filled" with this form of rejection (vv.3b,4a).
  10. This psalm may have been composed during the time of Israelís return from captivity in the days of Nehemiah (cf. Neh.4:4).
  11. "Scoffing"/ridicule was the verbal form this hatred took.
  12. The community of positive volition was at a social and political disadvantage as compared to Israelís neighbors, who were "at ease".
  13. When we are put down for our beliefs and practices, it is an honor as we suffer in the name of Christ (Acts.5:41).
  14. The psalm ends unresolved, like other psalms we have studied.
  15. The "contempt of the proud", as the psalmist describes his oppressors, will not be allowed to stand, for God will act on behalf of those who love Him to fully vindicate their loyalties to His plan.
 

 

END: PSALM ONE HUNDRED TWENTY THREE
JACK M. BALLINGER
OCTOBER, 1997
 

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