“Be gracious to us, O LORD, be gracious to us,
For we are greatly filled with contempt.
Our soul is greatly filled
With the scoffing of those who are at ease,
And with the contempt of the proud.”
Wednesday’s Bible reading is Psalms 122–124. These three psalms are in Book V of the Psalms, and are part of the group of psalms known as the ‘Songs of Ascents’: Psalms 120–134.1 M’Caw and Motyer comment:
“…It can be divided into five groups each consisting of three psalms. The first two groups deal with external pressures on the godly soul, expectant trust in the intervention of God, and the realization of the tremendous stability, power, and righteousness in Him; and the choice of Zion as the hinge on which turn the Lord’s purposes for men.”2
Psalm 122 ends the first group and is a glad song of David’s about the house of the Lord and Jerusalem. Verse 6 is a reminder to pray for its peace, and it’s followed by a brief prayer for the peace and prosperity of Jerusalem. If you look ahead to Psalm 125, the last psalm of the second group, you’ll find that it, too, mentions Jerusalem and peace.
While Psalm 124 is praise for deliverance, Psalm 123 is a prayer for deliverance. It’s also a psalm of humility. As the psalmist appeals to God his description of God and himself is made by a man of humility who recognizes God is God, powerful and sovereign over all. He’s a man who lives in humbling circumstances that have elicited the contempt and scoffing of those at ease. Notice in Psalm 123 that proud is used as a parallel description of those who are at ease. Job’s experience was similar to the psalmist’s:
“He who is at ease holds calamity in contempt,
As prepared for those whose feet slip.”
So many, many times those who are at ease—including Christians—become proud and rather than expressing gratitude for their circumstances and showing compassion for others, instead despise them and hold them in contempt. I’ve felt that sting of scoffing and contempt. If you’ve experienced it, you know how it pierces the heart.
The psalmist asks God to be gracious to him. Edwin Yamauchi writes:
“The verb ḥānan [be gracious] depicts a heartfelt response by someone who has something to give to one who has a need….
“…The plea ḥonnēni, “be gracious to me” appears nineteen times in the Psalms….”3
Do you realize that of the nineteen times this plea is in the psalms it occurs twice in this short psalm? That doesn’t include phrase at the end of verse two when the psalmist writes:
“So our eyes look to the LORD our God,
Until He is gracious to us.”
M’Caw and Motyer write with compassion on this psalm:
“…He is moved by His people’s needs. They can plead on the basis of personal need (for we . . . , v. 3b).”4
In the midst of our times of humbling circumstances when we are filled with the contempt and scoffing of others, may we humbly look to the Lord until He is gracious to us.
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1, 2, 4Leslie S. M’Caw, J. A. Motyer, “Psalms,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., pp. 529, 531.
3Edwin Yamauchi, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke, eds., 1980, vol. I, p. 302.
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter