|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
123:1-4 Confidence in God under contempt. - Our Lord Jesus has taught us to look unto God in prayer as our Father in heaven. In every prayer a good man lifts up his soul to God; especially when in trouble. We desire mercy from him; we hope he will show us mercy, and we will continue waiting on him till it come. The eyes of a servant are to his master's directing hand, expecting that he will appoint him his work. And also to his supplying hand. Servants look to their master or their mistress for their portion of meat in due season. And to God we must look for daily bread, for grace sufficient; from him we must receive it thankfully. Where can we look for help but to our Master? And, further, to his protecting hand. If the servant is wronged and injured in his work, who should right him, but his master? And to his correcting hand. Whither should sinners turn but to him that smote them? They humble themselves under God's mighty hand. And lastly, to his rewarding hand. Hypocrites look to the world's hand, thence they have their reward; but true Christians look to God as their Master and their Rewarder. God's people find little mercy with men; but this is their comfort, that with the Lord there is mercy. Scorning and contempt have been, are, and are likely to be, the lot of God's people in this world. It is hard to bear; but the servants of God should not complain if they are treated as his beloved Son was. Let us then, when ready to faint under trials, look unto Jesus, and by faith and prayer cast ourselves upon the mercy of God.
Verse 1. - Unto thee lift I up mine eyes (comp. Psalm 121:1, where the psalmist "lifted up his eyes" to God's dwelling-place). Now the expression is bolder. The eyes are lifted up to God himself. Oh thou that dwellest in the heavens (comp. Psalm 2:4; Psalm 11:4; Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 66:1).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Unto thee lift I up mine eyes,.... Not only the eyes of his body, this being a prayer gesture; see Matthew 14:19; but the eyes of his mind and understanding, opened by the Spirit of God; particularly the eye of faith, by which he looked for and expected help and salvation from the Lord. The phrase is expressive of holy confidence in God, and a comfortable hope of receiving good things from him; as, on the contrary, when persons are ashamed and confounded with a sense of their sins, and the aggravations of them, and of their own unworthiness and vileness; and, on account of the same, almost out of all hope, cannot lift up their eyes to heaven, or their face before God, Ezra 9:6;
O thou that dwellest in the heavens; the heaven of heavens, the third heaven, the seat of angels and glorified saints; and though the Lord is everywhere, and fills heaven and earth with his presence, and cannot be contained any where; yet here is the more visible display of his glory; here he keeps his court; this is his palace, and here his throne is prepared, and on it he sits (d); so some render the word here; as the Judge of the whole earth, and takes a view of all men and their actions; and, as the God of nature and providence, governs and orders all things after his own will; and, as the God of grace, sits on a throne of grace, kindly inviting and encouraging his people to come unto him: and therefore the psalmist addresses him as such; see Ecclesiastes 5:2, Matthew 6:9. The Targum is,
"O thou that sittest on a throne of glory in heaven!''
(d) "sedens", Montanus, Gejerus; "qui sedes", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Michaelis; so Ainsworth.
The Treasury of David
1 Unto thee will I lift up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens.
2 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; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us.
3 Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt.
4 Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud.
"Unto thee lift I up mine eyes." It is good to have some one to look up to. The Psalmist looked so high that he could look no higher. Not to the hills, but to the God of the hills he looked. He believed in a personal God, and knew nothing of that modern pantheism which is nothing more than atheism wearing a figleaf. The uplifted eyes naturally and instinctively represent the state of heart which fixes desire, hope, confidence, and expectation upon the Lord. God is everywhere, and yet it is most natural to think of him as being above us, in that glory-land which lies beyond the skies. "O thou that dwellest in the heavens," just sets forth the unsophisticated idea of a child of God in distress; God is, God is in heaven, God resides in one place, and God is evermore the same, therefore will I look to him. When we cannot look to any helper on a level with us it is greatly wise to look above us; in fact, if we have a thousand helpers, our eyes should still be toward the Lord. The higher the Lord is the better for our faith, since that height represents power, glory, and excellence, and these will be all engaged on our behalf. We ought to be very thankful for spiritual eyes; the blind men of this world, however much of human learning they may possess, cannot behold our God, for in heavenly matters they are devoid of sight. Yet we must use our eyes with resolution, for they will not go upward to the Lord of themselves, but they incline to look downward, or inward, or anywhere but to the Lord: let it be our firm resolve that the heavenward glance shall not be lacking. If we cannot see God, at least we will look towards him. God is in heaven as a king in his palace; he is there revealed, adored, and glorified: thence he looks down on the world and sends succours to his saints as their needs demand; hence we look up, even when our sorrow is so great that we can do no more. It is a blessed condescension on God's part that he permits us to lift up our eyes to his glorious high throne; yea, more, that he invites and even commands us so to do. When we are looking to the Lord in hope, it is well to tell him so in prayer: the Psalmist uses his voice as well as his eye. We need not speak in prayer: a glance of the eye will do it all; for -
"Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of an eye
When none but God is near."
Still, it is helpful to the heart to use the tongue, and we do well to address ourselves in words and sentences to the God who heareth his people. It is no small joy that our God is always at home, he is not on a journey, like Baal, but he dwells in the heavens. Let us think no hour of the day inopportune for waiting upon the Lord; no watch of the night too dark for us to look to him.
"Behold" - for it is worthy of regard among men, and O that the Majesty of heaven would also note it, and speedily send the mercy which our waiting spirits seek. See, O Lord, how we look to thee, and in thy mercy look on us. This Behold has, however, a call to us to observe and consider. Whenever saints of God have waited upon the Lord their example has been worthy of earnest consideration. Sanctification is a miracle of grace; therefore let us behold it. For God to have wrought in men the spirit of service is a great marvel, and as such let all men turn aside and see this great sight. "As the eyes of servants (or slaves) look unto the hand of their masters." They stand at the end of the room with their hands folded watching their lord's movements. Orientals speak less than we do, and prefer to direct their slaves by movements of their hands; hence, the domestic must fix his eyes on his master, or he might miss a sign, and so fail to obey it, even so, the sanctified man lifts his eyes unto God, and endeavours to learn the divine will from every one of the signs which the Lord is pleased to use. Creation, providence, grace; these are all motions of Jehovah's hand, and from each of them a portion of our duty is to be learned; therefore should we carefully study them, to discover the divine will. "And as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress;" this second comparison may be used because Eastern women are even more thorough than the men in the training of their servants. It is usually thought that women issue more commands, and are more sensitive of disobedience, than the sterner sex. Among the Roman matrons female slaves had a sorry time of it, and no doubt it was the same among the generality of Eastern ladies. "Even so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God." Believers desire to be attentive to each and all of the directions of the Lord; even those which concern apparently little things are not little to us, for we know that even for idle words we shall be called to account, and we are anxious to give in that account with joy, and not with grief. True saints, like obedient servants, look to the Lord their God reverentially, they have a holy awe and inward fear of the great and glorious One. They watch, obediently, doing his commandments, guided by his eye. Their constant gaze is fixed attentively on all that comes from the Most High; they give earnest heed, and fear lest they should let anything slip through inadvertence or drowsiness. They look continuously, for there never is a time when they are off duty; at all times they delight to serve in all things. Upon the Lord they fix their eyes expectantly, looking for supply, succour, and safety from his hands, waiting that he may have mercy upon them. To him they look singly, they have no other confidence, and they learn to look submissively, waiting patiently for the Lord, seeking both in activity and suffering to glorify his name. When they are smitten with the rod they turn their eyes imploring to the hand which chastens, hoping that mercy will soon abate the rigour of the affliction. There is much more in the figure than we can display in this brief comment; perhaps it will be most profitable to suggest the questions - are we thus trained to service? Though we are sons, have we learned the full obedience of servants? Have we surrendered self, and bowed our will before the heavenly Majesty? Do we desire in all things to beat the Lord's disposal? If so, happy are we. Though we are made joint-heirs with Christ, yet for the present we differ little from servants, and may be well content to take them for our model.
Observe the covenant name, "Jehovah our God": it is sweet to wait upon a covenant God. Because of that covenant he will show mercy to us; but we may have to wait for it. "Until that he have mercy upon us'" God hath his time and season, and we must wait until it cometh. For the trial of our faith our blessed Lord may for awhile delay, but in the end the vision will be fulfilled. Mercy is that which we need, that which we look for, that which our Lord will manifest to us. Even those who look to the Lord, with that holy look which is here described, still need mercy, and as they cannot claim it by right they wait for it till sovereign grace chooses to vouchsafe it. Blessed are those servants whom their Master shall find so doing. Waiting upon the Lord is a posture suitable both for earth and heaven, it is, indeed, in every place the right and fitting condition for a servant of the Lord. Nor may we leave the posture so long as we are by grace dwellers in the realm of mercy. It is a great mercy to be enabled to wait for mercy.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ps 123:1-4. An earnest and expecting prayer for divine aid in distress.
1. (Compare Ps 121:1).
thou that dwellest—literally, "sittest as enthroned" (compare Ps 2:4; 113:4, 5).
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