Are You Looking up to the Lord?

Title: Are You Looking up to the Lord?

Bible Book: Psalms 123 : 1-4

Author: Franklin L. Kirksey

Subject: Looking to Jesus; Upward Look; Faith; Trust



Sir John Bickerton Williams (1792-1855) shares the following about his relative, Rev. Philip Henry (1631-1696), the father of well-respected, Bible commentator, Rev. Matthew Henry (1662-1714): “His friend and pupil, the Rev. W. [William] Turner thus preserved Mr. Henry’s habits, ‘Before I went to the University from the month of August, till the latter end of February following, I was a boarder in the house of one Mr. Philip Henry, where I had the opportunity of observing his manner of life and conversation.” After sharing several observations, Rev. Turner shared how the elder Rev. Henry “. . . concluded the service of the day [each Sunday] with the 123rd Psalm.”[1]

“This psalm,” says Dr. J. J. S. (John James Stewart) Perowne (1823-1904), “is either the sigh of the exile towards the close of the Captivity, looking in faith and patience for the deliverance which he hoped was now at hand; or the sigh of those who, having returned, were still exposed to the scorn and contempt of the Samaritans and others who harassed and insulted the Jews.”[2] Dr. James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) explains, “If the return from exile is the true background for the psalm, then Nehemiah 4 can tell us what was going on. The rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem had begun, and the leaders of the surrounding people had begun to oppose it.

The easiest way to oppose something you do not like is to ridicule the effort, and this is the first thing these hostile leaders did. Their names were Sanballat and Tobiah. They got the army of Samaria together and made fun of the Jews in what must have been a large public forum, saying, ‘What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?’

Tobiah added, ‘What they are building—if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!’ (Neh. 4:2-3).

The reason people ridicule what they oppose, aside from it being so easy, is that it is demoralizing and frequently effective. It is effective because it strikes at the hidden insecurities or weaknesses that almost everybody has. Each of Sanballat’s five rhetorical questions and Tobiah’s taunt triggered a legitimate sense of weakness that Nehemiah and the others must have had.”[3]

Psalm 123:1-4 reads, “Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, So our eyes look to the Lord our God, Until He has mercy on us. Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us! For we are exceedingly filled with contempt. Our soul is exceedingly filled With the scorn of those who are at ease, With the contempt of the proud.” Note three things from our text.

I. Note the dependent relationship

Psalm 123:1-2a reads, “Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress. . . .” Dr. Herbert Lockyer, Sr. (1886-1984) comments, “The poet’s expression, ‘Unto thee do I lift up mine eyes,’ poses the question, ‘Why do Jews, Moslems, and Christians look up when they pray, as if God were in that direction more than any other?’ To those living in Australia ‘down under’—our up is their down. The suggestion is that looking up when praying is a survival of astral religion. Yet Jesus looked upward when He prayed, Matt. 5:34, and taught His disciples to emulate His example, seeing that God’s throne is in Heaven. Visual direction, however, matters little. What is all-important is the gaze of the heart at Him Who fills Heaven and earth. If words and sentences cannot be articulated, an inner look can express our desire.”[4]

The psalmist uses two similes to illustrate the dependent relationship of a believer to the Lord God, “. . . as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress . . .” (Psalm 123:2).

Psalm 25:15a reads, “My eyes are ever toward the Lord . . .”

Psalm 69:3b reads, “My eyes fail while I wait for my God.”

Isaiah 17:7 reads, “In that day a man will look to his Maker, And his eyes will have respect for the Holy One of Israel.”

Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) explains, “The uplifted eyes naturally and instinctively represent the state of heart which fixes desire, hope, confidence, and expectation upon the Lord.”[5]

Dr. Thomas Manton (1620-1677) says, “The lifting up the eyes implies faith and confident persuasion that God is ready and willing to help us. The very lifting up of the bodily eyes towards heaven is an expression of this inward trust.”[6]

We need to look up to the Lord for our personal life. We need to look up the Lord for our national life. May God bless America with revival in her churches and spiritual awakening among her citizenry!

II. Note the definite request.

Psalm 123:2b-3a reads,

“So our eyes look to the Lord our God,
Until He has mercy on us. Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us!”

Remember the woman who complained to a photographer, “This picture doesn’t do me justice!” He replied, “You don’t need justice; you need mercy.” We need mercy in the United States of America much more than many would imagine.
Rev. Matthew Henry (1662-1714) explains, “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.”[7]

Hebrews 12:1-2 reads, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews 11:6 reads, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

Do you seek the Lord as a believer? Are you looking up to the Lord?

III. Note the desperate reality

Psalm 123:3b-4 reads, “For we are exceedingly filled with contempt. Our soul is exceedingly filled With the scorn of those who are at ease, With the contempt of the proud.”

Rev. Andrew Robert Fausset (1821-1910) explains the phrase, “of those that are at ease” refers to those who are “self-complacently, disregarding God’s law, and despising His people.”[8]

Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe writes, “It is not until we read verse 4 that we discover the burden of the writer: the constant persecution of the people of Israel, being treated with scorn and contempt. In Psalm 124, Israel was almost swallowed up, drowned, and imprisoned in a trap. Captivity is the theme of Pss. 126, and 129 compares their suffering to a farmer plowing their backs. Has any nation ever suffered the way Israel has suffered? Of course, God's people today are also suffering because of their commitment to Christ (John 16:30). According to missiologists, more Christians were martyred in the twentieth century than in all the previous centuries combined!”[9]

Dr. Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) cautions, “As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”[10]

Dr. J. Oswald Sanders, (1902-1992) writes, “[Pride] involves a certain contempt for others. ‘God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are . . . or even as this publican’ (Luke 18:11). It relegates every other mortal in a minor role in life. It uses other people as a backdrop to display its own brilliance. The proud man considers others beneath him, the hoi polloi, the common herd. Instead of pouring contempt on all his pride, he pours his contempt on others whom he esteems less worthy than himself.”[11]

Dr. John Phillips (1927-2010) explains, “The psalmist speaks of the seeming prosperity and the swelling pride of the conqueror. He has no place to go but to God, so he lays it all out before Him. He tells the Lord that he is heartily sick of hearing of Assyrian victories, of listening to Assyrian insolence. With that, he ends. What more is there to say? Surely God was heartily sick of listening to it too.

It happens from time to time that those who live for God in this Christ-rejecting world have to face the sneering contempt of other people. How we handle it makes all the difference.”[12]

Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause’” (John 15:18-25). Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ‘Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

2 Timothy 3:12 reads, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Regardless of the outcome of your obedience. Are you looking up to the Lord?


Dr. Ray Palmer (1808-1887) penned these words upon graduation from Yale University, set to music by Lowell Mason in 1830:

My faith looks up to Thee,
Thou Lamb of Calvary, Savior divine!
Now hear me while I pray, take all my guilt away,
O let me from this day be wholly Thine!

May Thy rich grace impart
Strength to my fainting heart, my zeal inspire!
As Thou hast died for me, O may my love to Thee,
Pure warm, and changeless be, a living fire!

While life’s dark maze I tread,
And griefs around me spread, be Thou my Guide;
Bid darkness turn to day, wipe sorrow’s tears away,
Nor let me ever stray from Thee aside.

When ends life’s transient dream,
When death’s cold sullen stream over me roll;
Blest Savior, then in love, fear and distrust remove;
O bear me safe above, a ransomed soul![13]

Dr. Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) says, “They should stand where they can see him; they should have their gaze fixed upon him; they should look with patient trust, as well as with eager willingness to start into activity when he indicates his commands.”[14]

Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon writes, “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.”[15] He continues, “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 is never 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, succor 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 imploringly to the hand which chastens, hoping that mercy will soon abate the rigor of the affliction.”[16]

Are you looking up to the Lord—reverently, obediently, attentively, continuously, expectantly, singly, submissively, imploringly? Are you looking up to the Lord?


[1]William Turner, A Compleat History of the Most Remarkable Providences Both of Judgment and Mercy, Which Have Hapned in This Present Age, (London: John Dunton, 1679), 80. Cited in A Preface and Life of Rev. P. Henry, in The Miscellaneous Works of the Rev. Matthew Henry, ed. J. B. Williams, Vol. 1, (London: Joseph Ogle Robinson, 1833), 217.


[2]J. J. S. Perowne, The Book of Psalms: A New Translation with Introductions and Notes Explanatory and Critical, Vol. 2, (London: George Bell and Sons, 1882), 382.


[3]James Montgomery Boice, Boice Expositional Commentary – An Expositional Commentary – Psalms, volume 3: Psalms 107-150, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), 109. Database © 2008 WORDsearch Corp.


[4]Herbert Lockyer, Sr., Psalms: A Devotional Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993), 631.


[5]Charles H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. VI, Psalms CXIX To CXXIV, (New York, NY: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 443.


[6]Thomas Manton, One Hundred and Ninety Sermons on the Hundred and Nineteenth Psalm, Vol. 2, (London: William Brown, 1845), 585-586.


[7]Matthew Henry, Short Comments on Every Chapter of the Holy Bible, (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1838), 447.


[8]Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, Vol. 1, Old Testament, Job-Malachi, Fausset, (Glasgow: William Collins, 1863), 392.


[9]Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Exultant: Praising God for His Mighty Works, (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2009), 154.


[10]C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1952, 2001), 124.


[11]J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Maturity, (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1962), 52.


[12]John Phillips, Exploring Psalms, Volume Two: An Expository Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2001), 456. Database WORDsearch Corp.

[13]Ray Palmer, “My Faith Looks Up To Thee,” (1830).

[14]The Expositor’s Bible, ed. W. Robertson Nicholl, The Psalms by Alexander Maclaren, Vol. III. Psalms XC-CL, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1894), 308.


[15]Spurgeon, Treasury, 443.


[16]Spurgeon, Treasury, 444-445.


By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Don’t Miss the Revival! Messages for Revival and Spiritual Awakening from Isaiah and

Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice [Both available on in hardcover, paperback and eBook] & / [email protected] / (251) 626-6210

© November 2, 2014 All Rights Reserved


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