Ascending to the House of God
Psalm 123 is another “Song of Degrees,” another of the ascension Psalms chanted by the children of God as they went up to the house of the Lord. In the first of these Psalms (120), as Zion’s pilgrim begins his ascent to the place of worship, he is full of distress, crying to the Lord because he must live among the ungodly who hate peace. Then, in Psalm 121 he lifts his eyes unto the everlasting hills of covenant love and watchful care and rest secure, even in this world of woe, singing to his soul, “The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil.” As he draws nearer the place where God meets with his people, his heart is gladdened, and he sings, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord” (Ps. 122).
Here the pilgrim sings about our faith, the faith of all those who worship the Lord God in spirit and in truth, the faith that expresses itself in worship and is encouraged and strengthened in the house of God. His eyes of faith now look above the hills, and above Jehovah’s footstool on earth, to his throne in the heavens in joyful hope.
“Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens. 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. Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt. Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud."
This short Psalm shows us that many words do not make a prayer, but a fervent heart. Martin Luther wrote, “Great and weighty matters may be comprised in a few words, if they proceed from the spirit and the unspeakable groanings of the heart, especially when our necessity is such as will not suffer any long prayer. Every prayer is long enough if it be fervent and proceed from a heart that understandeth the necessity of the saints.”
This Psalm is the sigh of the heaven-born pilgrim who ascends to the house of God because he loves his God and Savior, whom he ascends to worship, not because he is duty bound to do so. He is ascending from earth to heaven, and while he is ascending, he lifts his eyes to him “that dwellest in the heavens.” As we lift our eyes to the Lord Jesus Christ, the God-man on his throne, we ascend to heaven. In that ascent we find all grace. If we would repent, we must look not on ourselves, but on him. If we would be humbled before God, we must look not on ourselves, but on him. If we would trust him, we must look not on ourselves, but on him. If we would truly love him and one another, we must look not on ourselves, but on him who dwells in the heavens. If we would have him turn his eyes from our sins, we must turn our eyes to him, his mercy and truth, his righteousness and his blood.