The Songs of Ascent, Text: Psalm 123, Title: The Song of a Servant


This new triad of Psalms, 123-125 is an advance over the first group, but as with the previous section, it begins with a reflection of what it is like in this sinful world. There follows a contemplation of the Lord, whom they journey to worship, as their helper and deliverer, and concludes with rejoicing in the security of the city of God. Clearly in this Psalm we have a cry for mercy and this is accompanied by the motive for the plea. We shall look first at the reason the psalmist cries out in verses 3 and 4, and then at the nature of the plea. In the first part we see the devil’s weapon, scorn, and in the second we see God’s defense against that weapon, mercy.

I The Devil’s Derision

We read of the derision and scorn in verses 3 and 4, Have mercy on us, O LORD, have mercy on us, for we have endured much contempt. We have endured much ridicule from the proud, much contempt from the arrogant. This present evil age abounds in scorn. Some of it, though delivered in evil intent  and pride, is, nevertheless, deserved criticism. However we must first consider the effects on the scorner and also on the scorned. It deadens and discourages.

A  Deadening the Soul

Ridicule puts someone else down in order to bolster my pride, and we all know that pride is a deadly sin. It is the sinner’s symphony, and many excel at it, all the while hardening their own hearts. There is no better proof of this than that the holy, harmless, undefiled Son of God was more scorned than any other man. Psalm 22 which describes His suffering on the cross says in verse 6-8, But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: “He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” Jesus endured the shame of the cross for us. A legion of angels stood on the brink ready to rescue Him, but he refused. And the same scorn continues today as Bible denying modernists undermine His deity and suggest that he was either a liar or a dupe. They claim he falsely believed that he was the Messiah, and that He would rise from the dead and come again. Where faith bows, worldly wisdom scorns, and such are paving their road to hell because one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of the Father.

B Discouraging the Scorned

Jesus Himself could not be stayed in his determined journey to the cross, but we are not so strong. Scorn discourages us as it did the psalmist. The primary reason is that we know that we have failed and we cannot divide between that which is deserved and that which is not. The enemies of Israel gloated repeatedly over its defeat and captivity, and it was deserved. They were like Job’s friends gloating over his misfortunes because he was not perfect. Today men can easily point out where the church has failed throughout history. We see our own faults and weaknesses better than others do. Paul said, “I am not meet to be called an apostle,” and “I am the least of all the saints.” Yet he realized that much of the scorn poured upon him was actually Christ being derided. This is why he says that he is “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes.“ So the answer to this discouragement for us is the same as the psalmist.

II The Divine Defense

The divine defense is found in verses 1 and 2, I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven. As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he shows us his mercy. Although they have brought reproach on the Lord, as we all have, yet they have also been persecuted for righteousness’ sake. There is no more profound way to express the fact that God alone can forgive and redeem. They are the most humble, abject servants of the Lord. They wait upon Him who alone is able to save and deliver. These words are saying as Eliza E. Hewitt’s hymn puts it, “I need no other argument, I need no other plea, It is enough that Jesus died, And that He died for me. Enough for me that Jesus saves, This ends my fear and doubt; A sinful soul I come to Him, He’ll never cast me out.” Again Samuel Stone wrote of the church, “Though with a scornful wonder we see her sore oppressed,by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed,yet saints their watch are keeping; their cry goes up, "How long?" And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.” We shall be scorned because Jesus reminded us that if the world hated Him  it would also hate his followers. But we have a refuge in the sovereign grace of God. Alas there is no refuge for those who doubt God’s veracity, ignore His Words, spit on the Savior who loved them, scorn the sacrifice of Christ, ridicule Bible-believing Christians, curse the name of God daily, and tell little children not to believe the Bible because it is full of fables. What will they say when they are hauled before the judge of all. How will the arguments of atheists fare in that day? But the gospel is good news, and the best part of it is that it is good news, not only for the scorned, but also for the scornful. Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He invites all to receive His forgiveness, saying, in John 6:37, All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.