URC Daily Devotion 17th November 2019

Sunday 17th November

Psalm 123

1 To you, O LORD, I lift my eyes,
The God enthroned above the skies.
2 As servants watch their master’s hand
Or maids before their mistress stand,
So to the LORD our eyes we raise
Until his mercy he displays.

3 O LORD our God, your mercy show;
Take pity, LORD, on us below.
For scorn your people all have known;
4 Our foes’ contempt has made us groan.
The proud have covered us with shame;
With insolence they mock our name.


This short Psalm has always had me turning the page, looking for another stanza; as a hymn I wonder where the final verse is.   Commentaries make statements such as: “despite the title and its position within the Psalter, this is probably not a pilgrim psalm”. (OBC accessed 1st August 2019.)  Meaning the rhythm and sentiments do not lend themselves to marching triumphantly to the Temple Mount. Yet the change from first person singular to first person plural suggest a person singing out at the head of a line, with the following group response.   Unfortunately, the response is a lament, with eyes rolling upward, asking for mercy and reflecting on the attitude of onlookers.  

Then I remember how, during Christian Aid week in the 1960s, our youth group would do a sponsored overnight walk from Bristol to Street, Somerset.  The first year the Lord Mayor received us then sent us off with his good wishes; breakfast and the press were waiting when we arrived home. The final year that I was involved lacked any outside interest and I have a memory of one of the leaders plodding the last mile or so, singing, all on one note and lament-like, Blessed Assurance.  

Oh yes, this Psalm of lament could well be a “song of ascents”, starting with God enthroned to whom we, his people, lift our eyes.  We keep going, even when our foes treat us with scorn and contempt. We have faith to keep going, plodding on, even when our name as God’s people is insolently mocked.   (Please see the second paragraph of the Rev’d Lindsey Sanderson’s reflection on Ps 108, here. 


Sometimes, God, we wonder if keeping on keeping on is worthwhile.
We lift our eyes for help 
and are met with scorn for calling ourselves Christian.
Looking back, we have faith –
when we raise our eyes to you 
there is your assurance that you are with us 
and that keeps us walking forward.  

You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune St Catherine here.