Psalm 123


In this psalm, the psalmist appears to be struggling emotionally because of the ridicule and contempt they were receiving from others, and as a result, they cry out to God for help.


‘A song of ascents.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding of the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

The heading tells us this is a song of ascents written by David. Psalms 120-134 all have the same heading.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Several theories of why this group of psalms is so named are available. The Jewish explanation is that there were fifteen steps from the Court of the Women to the Court of the Men in the Temple, and that each of these psalms was sung in succession on those steps. Another view is that these songs were sung in successive phases of the Jews’ return from captivity. Apparently the true explanation is that these psalms were written for the pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem for the great annual feasts, Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. ‘It seems most probable that these songs form a collection for the use of pilgrims who came up to Jerusalem at the great feasts.’

‘I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven. As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he shows us his mercy. Have mercy on us, LORD, have mercy on us, for we have endured no end of contempt. We have endured no end of ridicule from the arrogant, of contempt from the proud.’ Psalm 123:1-4

The psalmist is in distress but the first thing they do is lift their eyes toward God. They couldn’t find any help from anyone on earth, hence, why they turn to the One who is enthroned in heaven. In other words, they focused their attention on God and not their problems.

The psalmist shares two metaphors, first, of a slave whose eyes look to the hand of their master and second, a female slave looks to the hand of her mistress.

In other words, as the slave looks to the master, who has full control over their lives to meet their needs, as the female slaves look to the hand of their mistress who has full control over her life, to meet her needs, the psalmist looks to God, who has full control over their life, to help meet their needs.

Notice, however, that the psalmist is patiently looking to God, they say, till God shows His mercy. Despite being in a lot of emotional turmoil, they are patient with God and will wait for God to answer their prayer, in God’s time.

The psalmist appears to be speaking on behalf of others, hence why they use the word ‘us’, but their plea for God to have mercy on them is a plea of desperation, hence, why they ask God to have mercy on them twice.

It appears that the psalmist and others, have experienced no end of contempt from the proud, and they’ve experienced no end of ridicule from those who are arrogant, Acts 5:41. The emotional distress they were experiencing was becoming too much for them, Job 22:19, hence why they turned to God for help.

Despite suffering as they were, the psalmist is quite happy to wait on the Lord to show them mercy. And although the psalmist didn’t receive an answer from God straightaway, many commentators believe that the following psalm, Psalm 124, is God’s answer to their plea.


Despite the psalmists going through emotional turmoil because of the ridicule and contempt they were experiencing at the hands of those who were arrogant and proud, they firmly fixed their eyes on the one who is enthroned above.

As Christians, we must firmly fix our eyes on Jesus, if we want to endure all the suffering which comes our way, Hebrews 12:2.

During the Olympics, the Emperor would often participate but most times he would be in the audience and the runners would focus their eyes on him.

We can finish the race by glueing our eyes on Jesus. We need to get our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. This is a call for us to have a determined focus. We are to be looking at Jesus and nothing else! We are not to have divided attention, Luke 16:13.

Too often we are being distracted by the world. We are being distracted by all of these things that are not necessarily sinful, but they are taking our attention away from Jesus.

The writer of Hebrews is calling for us to have a determined focus. Get your eyes on Jesus and off of sin! Colossians 3:1-2. Get your eyes on Jesus and off of possessions! Get your eyes on Jesus and off of work! Get your eyes on Jesus and off of money! What are our minds focused on? What are we looking at when we fix our eyes on Jesus?

1. What Jesus did!

Jesus is described as the pioneer and the perfecter of our faith. We have seen this description used before by the writer of Hebrews. In Hebrews 2:10 we see the same language, Jesus is our trailblazer. Jesus has blazed the path for us to follow.

We are not going down an unknown road. We are going down the road that Jesus has blazed for us. He is our pioneer, our leader, who has led the way of faith for us. Not only this, but by following Jesus He will ‘bring our faith to completion,’ Hebrews 12:2. Jesus has shown us the road we need to walk.

2. How Jesus endured.
How did Jesus make it? Jesus made it the same way that those in Hebrews 11 made it. They had their eyes fixed on the promised reward, not here on earth. Jesus did the same. What does the text say that Jesus was focused upon? He was focused on ‘the joy set before Him,’ Hebrews 12:2.

Jesus did not look at the physical but at the goal. He looked to the purpose. Jesus was able to endure because He saw the joy that was set before him. That’s how Jesus endured the cross. He held the shame of the cross in no regard.

He was able to look through the cross. He did not just simply see the cross and consider its weight and meaning. He could look beyond the cross. He could see the joy of the salvation that would be offered by His act.

He did not focus on the temporary suffering of the cross. He did not focus on the mocking and shame of the cross. He counted these earthly things as nothing. He disregarded those things and saw the joy set before.

This is how we are to endure our suffering. Do not focus on the suffering. Fix your eyes on Jesus. See through the suffering and see the joy that will come from having endurance. We have a greater promise given to us that we are able to place our hope upon.

Go To Psalm 124


"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."