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Christian Biblical Studies
All Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version except where noted.
SALM 123 is one in a series of fifteen (120 to 134) known as the songs of ‘degrees’ or ‘ascents’. According to one explanation, the degrees refers to the fifteen steps which separated the men’s court in Solomon’s temple from the women’s. Here the Levites would stand to chant this and other psalms. Some authorities believe this was one of the psalms to be sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for the great feasts. That is, to go to Jerusalem was to ascend. (A similar expression was once common in England, when one would go up to London (the more important place), even from northern counties (less important places.)
In thoughtful contemplation and expectation of blessings, the Lord’s people look to Jehovah, the High and Holy One who inhabits the place of supreme royal authority. His creative power is manifest by the universe and all that is in it. He is the First and Only Cause, existing uncreated from eternity to eternity, and as such is not earth-bound. Nor can he be understood by earthly minds, for he is unfathomable.
As a male servant unobtrusively watches for a gesture from his master and stands ready to act on command, or a maid demurely attends her lady for whatever she requires, so the Lord’s people carefully observe and wait for the expression of God’s will in respects to opportunities for service, studying the Word of God and the providences which come into their lives, to see how they ought to respond. For the faithful Christian, the most important thing is the doing of God’s will, and he or she takes delight in doing it. As David writes (Psa. 84: 10), ‘I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickeness.’ (Rotherham renders be a doorkeeper as ‘stand at the threshold’.)
[An aside: From the Gospel-Age standpoint, the figurative ‘servant’ may be the Little Flock, frequently represented in the Bible as male. These are the willing faithful, or Very Elect. The ‘maid’ might, perhaps, refer to the Great Multitude, a less-willing and sometimes wayward group who (like most Christians) must frequently be chastened and pass through complex troubles in order to be reformed and ultimately saved (Rev. 7: 9-17; compare, Joel 2: 28; ‘sons’, ‘daughters’ and 1 Cor. 3: 13-15).]
Were God not merciful to us, we would have no hope for a rescue from sin or the attaining of everlasting life. God’s mercy is principally shown in his sending Christ Jesus as the ransom-sacrifice, the demonstration of both his justice that sin cannot go unpunished; and love in that he was willing to offer his son for the salvation of the whole world, and count all who believe in Christ as cleansed. As recipients of such mercies, Christians have nothing to boast about, for we are all supplicants, former beggars in filthy rags of unrighteousness, our blessings undeserved.
Being often reviled by unbelievers, the Lord’s people have, so to speak, had their fill of evil-speaking. It goes without saying that those who feel keenly the contempt from others should not themselves heap contempt on others in return. We are not to respond in a tit-for-tat fashion (1 Thess. 5: 15).
Those who ‘are at ease’ are those untroubled by ‘sin’, because they do not acknowledge sin as religious, moral or ethical deficiency, but rather as an invented preoccupation of overly pious and simple people. Untroubled by conscience and possessed of swaggering, self-sufficient confidence, they show little hesitation in mocking believers and sacred things.
June 2015. Author asserts all usual rights, but you are free to reproduce this article. Please acknowledge the source.