We have had more than enough of contempt – Psalm 123
“Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt.”Psalm 123:3
Psalm 137 talks about the torment to which the exiles were subjected in their exile from the Holy Land. The Psalmist says, “there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’” (Ps. 137:3). And the author of that particular Psalm was not inclined toward mercy for his captors. He concludes his lament with one of the harshest statements found in all of Holy Scripture: “Happy shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” (Ps. 137:9). Many are appalled by this verse, but we must remember that thoughts of this type, if we are truly honest, are not foreign to us. The Psalmist has simply recorded, said out loud, what many of us have harbored in our hearts toward those who wish to do us harm, for those who hold us in contempt, and scorn us unmercifully. The Psalmist is being honest about his feelings and his thoughts!
We all are guilty, from time to time, of the sin of scorn. Before you quickly deny that, think about the last time you said something less than flattering about a politician. There is a reason that the Lord commands us not to speak evil of (or to scorn) a ruler of the people. It turns away the favor of the Lord from His people. Solomon said that God is scornful toward the scorners! (Prov. 3:34). When we speak against another, whether they hear our words or not, we stand in judgment over them and create division in the Body. Yet, Solomon gives us an alternative: “but to the humble he shows favor” (Prov. 3:34). And again, the book of Proverbs records that “Scoffers set a city aflame, but wise men turn away wrath” (Prov. 29:8). There is blessing for those who avoid the scandal of scoffing. “Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful…” (Ps. 1:1 NKJV).
The author of Psalm 123, when faced with similar scorn and contempt, asks the Lord for mercy. There is no prayer for punishment or retribution on his tormentors. He is getting ready for a long journey to a renewed relationship with His Lord, and he wants to practice fidelity to God’s commands to “love your neighbor as yourself.” The Psalmist is asking God for the grace to change his horizontal perspective into a vertically inspired perspective. He is asking that he may see the world around him and those who dwell in it with the eyes of God. This is reflective of the song’s first verse, “To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!” If we are truly focused on God, we will not be concerned with what others have to say about us, or what evil our tormentors have fashioned against us. It is God’s job to deal with those who oppose us, and we have no power to change them. But we can ask and allow God to change our hearts, to have mercy upon us. And in so doing we place ourselves fully in His loving care. He will bless and protect us if we keep our eyes focused on Him.