Sunday Services: 9:00am & 10:45am

God the Redeemer King

God the Redeemer King

Preached by Jason Abbott, senior pastor

Psalm 123

1 To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
2 Behold, as the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he has mercy upon us.
3 Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
4 Our soul has had more than enough
of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud.

1. To whom do you look up (vv. 1-2)?

Each of us can probably think of one or two people in our lives whom we look up to. For me it is my father. Since I was a boy, I can remember always looking to him for help or for advice.

Now it may not be this way in your relationship with the person to whom you look up, but I have a tendency to idolize my father. I have a tendency to make him the object of my faith and my confidence.

For example, when Natalie and I have made big purchases in the past, I’ve always wanted to run them by my father first, and I’ve always wanted to make sure following those decisions that my father thought we had made a wise choice. I wanted to make certain that he was pleased with me.

Many of you can probably identify with this. It’s good to have godly individuals in our lives to look up to. However, it is a fine line between having such people as a guide or as a mentor and having such people as the guide or the mentor. When a good thing (or person, in this instance) becomes the ultimate thing it necessarily becomes a bad thing; it becomes an idol!

For this reason, it’s important that we learn from the psalmist here:

a. The psalmist looks up to God.

This was a common posture when praying. So, we even see Jesus looking up to heaven in prayer before the tomb of Lazarus (John 11) and at the beginning of his high priestly prayer (John 17).

Yuri Gagarin (the first astronaut in space) reportedly said on a Soviet national broadcast from outer space: “I don’t see God up here.” In fact, there is no evidence to substantiate that he actually said this. Nonetheless, it has been widely repeated as some kind of folk evidence that God does not exist.

However, the psalmist here and Jesus, in his prayers, did not suppose that when they looked up to heaven that God was located there and there only. God is omnipresent; he is everywhere present. C. H. Spurgeon explains why one would look up to God in prayer:

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.1

Moreover, there is something bold in the psalmist’s upward glance. There is a confidence that he can turn his eyes to the most glorious place—that he might peer into the throne-room of the God of all creation. Such boldness suggests intimacy between God and his people.

This glimpse of intimacy (in Psalm 123) finds its fulfillment in Christ Jesus, who through his sacrifice has forever given his people access to God’s throne. We are thus assured that we will find God’s mercy and God’s grace. We are assured that we will find redemption. So the author of the letter of Hebrews explains:

Let us then with confidence draw near the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (4:16).

So we must learn to look up to God in times of distress and always. He desires that we would do so. He invites and welcomes all who place their faith in Christ Jesus into his presence.

However, as we approach God boldly, we must also learn to approach God in humility. Notice that:

b. The psalmist looks as a servant to his master.

We are good at calling God father. We’re not quite as good at calling him Lord. We use the term Lord a lot, but we rarely naturally practice his Lordship. Our problem is that we emphasize relationship over Lordship, but the two must be kept in balance. The psalmist intimately looks to God here but simultaneously recognizes his creaturely place before his Creator

God’s gracious covenant relationship making against the backdrop of our sinful rebellion should always drive us to serve God. We see this clearly illustrated when Isaiah has his vision of the Lord. He sees God upon his throne in all of his holy glory and Isaiah immediately recognizes his sin. He cries out:

Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts(Isaiah 6:5)!

Then the Lord cleanses Isaiah of his sinfulness. Thus, when Isaiah immediately hears the Lord asking:

Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?

He jumps at the opportunity to serve God:

Here am I! Send me (v. 8).

God’s love against the backdrop of Isaiah’s sin leads him to humbly serve his God. God’s love against the backdrop of the psalmist’s sin leads him to approach God like a servant before a master. And, God’s love in Christ Jesus for us when seen against the backdrop of our sinful rebellion must lead us to humbly serve our God as well!

Such humble service will not be mundane or laborious but the most purposeful work we ever do! It was precisely what we were created for!!!

Now we must ask our second question:

2. For whom do you pray (vv. 2-3)?

Notice the shift in this prayer from personal to corporate intercession. The psalmist begins by lifting his eyes to the Lord (v. 1), but in the following verses there’s a shift to first person plural pronouns:

As the eyes of servants / look to the hand of their master, / as the eyes of a maidservant / to the hand of her mistress, / so our eyes look to the Lord our God, / till he has mercy upon us. / Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, / for we have had more than enough of contempt (vv. 2-3).

You can tell a lot about a person by how they approach prayer. Jesus illustrates this when he contrasts the prayers of the tax-collector and Pharisee (Luke 18). The Pharisee arrogantly thanks the Lord that he isn’t like other people (i.e. sinners) while the tax-collector stands a broken man, beating his breast, begging for mercy. Jesus explains that the tax-collector goes away justified while the Pharisee does not! Their approach to prayer is so very revealing!

I once had a woman thank me for my corporate prayers in the worship services of our church because I didn’t use the word “just” very often. I was immediately aware (and saddened) that she was evidently more concerned with the words of our corporate prayers than the heart or the content of those prayers. Again, you can tell a lot about someone by their approach to prayer.

This is true of the psalmist. We can tell a lot by looking at his prayer. And we immediately see that he is not merely someone who thinks individually. Instead, he thinks more broadly of the needs of the people of God. He is concerned with the reputation and redemption of God’s chosen people. This is a sign of a mature faith. This is mature prayer!

We must ask ourselves: Do we pray this way? Are we a people who think and pray merely for our own needs, or are we a people who think and pray more broadly about the needs of other Christians and the needs of the lost world?

A mentor of mine encourages us to be instructed by Jesus’ prayers—even his prayers on the night that he was betrayed. He writes:

Jesus was thinking not just about himself, but also about us….He prayed that our lives would bring glory to the Father, just as his life did. He prayed, too, that we might enjoy his eternal glory. He is…praying for us every day.2

Let’s move on to our final question:

3. On whom do you wait for mercy (vv. 2-4)?

Look at the passage with me one more time. As servants look to their masters for help:

…so our eyes look to the Lord our God, / till he has mercy upon us. / Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, / for we have had more than enough of contempt. / Our soul has had more than enough / of the scorn of those who are at ease, / of the contempt of the proud (vv. 2c-4).

Clearly the psalmist and the people of God are in distress. They need help! Yet notice that the psalmist will not turn from God. He is resolved, with all the faithful, to continue to look to the Lord for mercy!

a. The psalmist waits on God.

It is so tempting—in the midst of trouble—to turn from God for a quick fix. It is part of our sinful nature to look for relief in the things of this world. Such temptations are ever present:

  • If your spouse isn’t meeting your needs then go find one who will.
  • If you can fudge on your taxes and no one will find out then do it.
  • If you get a ticket and you know the judge then get it fixed.
  • If your church isn’t giving you what you want then leave it and find another one that does.

However, the nature of such quick fixes is that their benefits fade fast. They do not satisfy our deepest needs, and they never will!

However, the nature of such quick fixes is that their benefits fade fast. They do not satisfy our deepest needs, and they never will!

For example in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, the character Edmund is especially tired of his older brother Peter’s constant parenting of him. He wants to be boss, and when he meets the White Witch he thinks he’s finally found someone who can help him be boss and satisfy all his appetites. Yet, he abruptly finds out that her quick fixes will not ultimately satisfy him.

  • The Witch gives him something to eat and drink when he is hungry, but instead of quelling his hunger he only finds that he craves them more and more. He cannot get enough!
  • The Witch promises him power, but he finds that her kind of power is cold and dark and violent and not at all what he had dreamed it to be! He finds the rebuke of his brother far better than the kiss of his enemy!

We find this too. Anyone who has devoted him or herself to the satisfying of appetites here and now can testify to how dissatisfying such a pursuit is! Nothing in this fallen world will bring ultimate satisfaction!

Another literary example of this truth is found in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby. In that story, Gatsby has hung all his hopes and dreams upon a love interest—Daisy. And finally, in the books climactic scene, when he realizes he will never have her for his own, Gatsby’s hopes of finding redemption in romantic love fade.

The narrator sums up Gatsby’s problem—and the problem of all of us who place our hopes in temporal things for redemption. He explains:

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . and one fine morning. . . . So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.3

Gatsby’s (and ours) is a problem of idolatry. We attempt to invest eternal significance in temporary things. But, as Tim Keller explains, no such temporary thing “can bear the full weight of godhood.”4

So the psalmist here waits on redemption from the Lord. He and the faithful wait on the Lord’s mercy. They wait to be satisfied by God. This is because:

b. Only the Judge can grant real redemption.

Only God can grant eternal redeeming satisfaction! He has created us for an amazing, eternal relationship with him! So when we seek to redeem this life with created things, we find that they cannot give satisfaction to our hungers! They cannot give rest to our weariness! Only God can!

God has created us with this unquenchable thirst for eternity. He has wired us so that we will never be satisfied without him. However, he has not left us without a river to quench our thirst. He has not left us without a feast to satisfy our hunger. He has given us fulfillment and redemption beyond what we could have asked for or even imagined in the person of Jesus Christ—who invites all who labor and are heavy laden to:

Come…and…find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28-29).

1 C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, 123.
2 Jerram Barrs, The Heart of Prayer: What Jesus Teaches Us, 178.
3 F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby 141.
4 Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, 16.

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