Look Up, Don't Give Up!

Bible Book: Psalms  123 : 1-4
Subject: Jesus Our Example; Peace; Prayer

Look up, don't give up when you are treated with contempt as a godly man or woman. According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the term contempt means, “a feeling or attitude of regarding someone or something as inferior, base, or worthless; scorn. The state of being despised or dishonored, disgrace.”[1]

Rev. Matthew Henry (1662-1714) writes, “The saints are peaceable people and yet are abused Psalm 35:20, the excellent ones of the earth and yet undervalued, Lam. 4:1, 2.”[2] In Psalm 35:19-20, David prays, “Let them not rejoice over me who are wrongfully my enemies; Nor let them wink with the eye who hate me without a cause. For they do not speak peace, / But they devise deceitful matters / Against the quiet ones in the land.” Jeremiah writes in Lamentations 4:1, 2, “How the gold has become dim! How changed the fine gold! The stones of the sanctuary are scattered / At the head of every street. The precious sons of Zion, / Valuable as fine gold, / How they are regarded as clay pots, / The work of the hands of the potter!”

Dr. J. C. Ryle (1816-1900) explains, "If we are true Christians, we must not expect everything smooth in our journey to heaven. We must count it no strange thing, if we have to endure sicknesses, losses, bereavements, and disappointments, just like other people. Free pardon and full forgiveness, grace by the way and glory to the end – all this our Savior has promised to give. But He has never promised that we shall have no afflictions. He loves us too well to promise that."[3]

Paul the Apostle warns Timothy, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12). In His Sermon on the Mount, 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. ‘You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. ‘You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:9-16).

Isaiah foretells the coming Messiah, “Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, / And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; / And when we see Him, / There is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, / A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (Isaiah 53:1-3). Later, in Luke 23:11 we read, “And Herod with his men of war set Him at nothing.”

Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) comments, “It is your Lord whom Herod set at nothing! Once worshipped of angels and all the heavenly host, He is treated with contempt by a ribald regiment. In Himself ‘the brightness of His Father’s glory and the express image of His Person.’

But now set at nothing by men not worthy of the name. Soon to reassume all His former glory with the Father and to descend in infinite splendor to judge the earth in righteousness and reign as King of kings—and yet here He is set at nothing! It is a sight of horror and of shame. How could angels bear to see it? This paltry prince and his rough retinue made nothing of Him who is All in All. They treated Him as beneath their contempt.

The most contemptible flouted Him. The mean soldier in the petty army of a petty prince made unholy mirth of Heaven’s high Lord and earth’s Redeemer. What a sorrowful and shameless business! May we be helped to sorrow over it!

These wretches were of our race. May we mourn because of Him! When the thorns of grief and repentance are at our breast, may God grant that they may act as lancets to let out the foul blood of our pride, for we, too, are partakers in this tremendous crime, since our sin involved our Savior in the necessity of bearing this barbarous scorn.

Herod himself treated Him with contempt. In this loathsome being I see the most likely person to think nothing of the Lord Jesus. . . . Are you like he? Have you set Christ at nothing? Have you treated Christ with contempt?”[4]

We read in John 15:18-25, “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.’”

Some think the occasion of Psalm 123 was when the Jews were captives in Babylon suffering under the cruel contempt of the Chaldeans. The authorship of this psalm is uncertain.

The outline of our message forms a resolution, therefore, it will come together at the end. Each point will provide another part of the resolution.

I. Let us focus on God (Psalm 123:1-2a)

Please note we find the word “eyes” four times in these verses. Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon explains in his Treasury of David, “Old authors call it Oculus ‘Sperans’, or the eye of hope.”[5] Psalm 123 is known as “the psalm of the eyes” or “a psalm for weary eyes.”

The psalmist provides two comparisons of those who look in hope to another, namely, “as a servant looks to his master” and “as a maid looks to her mistress.” Dr. J. J. (John James) Stewart Perowne (1823-1904) explains, “As the eyes of slaves, watching anxiously the least movement, the smallest sign of their master's will. The image expresses complete and absolute dependence. [M. Claude Etienne] Savary (in his Letters on Egypt, [(London: G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1787)] p. 135), says, ‘The slaves stand silent at the bottom of the rooms with their hands crossed over their breasts. With their eyes fixed upon their master they seek to anticipate every one of his wishes.’ ... In the Psalm the eye directed to the hand of God is the ‘oculus sperans’, the eye which waits, and hopes, and is patient, looking only to him and none other for help.”[6]

From Hebrews 12:1-3 we read, “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. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.”

In Acts 7:54-60 we read, “When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”

Let us focus on God-

II. and be fervent in prayer (Psalm 123:2b-3a)

We read in James 5:16b, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Rev. Matthew Henry says on this passage, “The greatest of men must turn beggars when they have to do with Christ.”[7]

Over and over again the psalmist prays for mercy. The word translated “until” further bespeaks the fervency of His prayer. This reminds me of the acronym “P. U. S. H.” meaning “pray until something happens.”

Fervent prayer is marked by passion as our Lord Jesus Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. In Luke 22:39-44 we read, “Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. When He came to the place, He said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’ And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’ Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

Fervent prayer is marked by persistence illustrated by Jesus in Luke 18:1-8, where we read, “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: ‘There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ Then the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” Jesus instructs us to be persistent in prayer in Luke 11:5-12, where we read, “And He said to them, ‘Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. ‘So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Fervent prayer is marked by prevailing as we read in Genesis 32:24-28, “Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, ‘Let Me go, for the day breaks.’ But he said, ‘I will not let You go unless You bless me!’ So He said to him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Jacob.’ And He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.’”

Remember, the practice of fervent prayer is marked by passion, persistence, and prevailing.

Dr. Phillips Brooks (1835-1898) said, “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance; it is laying hold of His highest willingness.”[8] Our prayers are to be according to the will of God.

We read in Hebrews 4:14-16, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Let us focus on God and be fervent in prayer-

III. when we are filled with contempt. (Psalm 123:3b-4)

Dr. Albert Barnes (1798-1870) shares the following: “For we are exceedingly filled. The Hebrew word here used means to be saturated, to have the appetite fully satisfied—as applied to one who is hungry or thirsty. Then it comes to mean to be entirely full, and the idea here is, that as much contempt had been thown upon them as could be; —they could experience no more. With contempt. Contempt has been shown us in every possible way. We are thoroughly despised.”[9] The psalmist could sing my cup is full and running over with the contempt of proud scorners. It is a bitter cup, but it is the reaction of a natural man or a carnal man under conviction after being in the presence of a spiritual man.

We read in Psalm 1:1, “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.”

Saul of Tarsus is an example of one who held believers in contempt; and later repented and believed the gospel and became one of the largest targets of contempt in the history of the church, known as Paul the Apostle.

Dr. John Phillips (1927-2007) 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. . . .

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. Take the case of William Carey. He began life as the village cobbler. Every two weeks or so he would tramp the country roads to the government contractor taking with him shoes he had repaired and tramping back again with another consignment.

But Carey had an eager mind. While cutting leather and hammering nails he learned languages: Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, and Dutch. By the time he was in his teens he could read the Bible in six languages. On the wall of his workshop he had a map made of scraps of leather, a map of the world. On a shelf was a copy of the Voyages of Captain Cook. This young man was about to open a new era for the Christian church, the era of modern missions.

He went to India and threw himself into the work of opening up the Hindu subcontinent to the gospel. He became professor of oriental languages in Fort William College in Calcutta. He helped found a printing press. He assisted in the translation of the Bible, or portions of it, into thirty-six languages and dialects. He translated Indian classics into English. He prepared grammars and dictionaries in various languages, opened mission stations in India, Burma, and the East Indies, helped advance horticulture and agriculture in India, and helped make the Bible accessible to more than three hundred million people. He helped put an end to the burning of child widows in India. He ran into opposition from the powerful East India Company, but he carried on.

One day he was on board a ship going back to India. He sat at the captain's table along with officers from the Indian army, aristocratic young men, graduates from Sandringham, Eton, Harrow, and Oxford. He sat with officials of the East India Company, with members of the British administration and members of the diplomatic corps. One of them, who resented sitting at table with a man like Carey, in a cultured accent and with icy contempt said, ‘I understand, Carey, that before going to India you were a village shoemaker.’ With all the snobbery of the English upper class he was going to put the missionary in his place. ‘No, sir,’ William Carey said politely, ‘I was not a village shoemaker. I was a village cobbler. I did not make shoes, I mended them.’ Thus he put to silence the insolent pride of a foolish man.”[10]


Someone said, “For every sigh there’s a psalm.” With God’s help, may we make the following resolution: Let us focus on God (vv.1-2a) and be fervent in prayer (vv.2b-3a) when we are filled with contempt (vv. 3b-4).

Make certain you have looked to the Lord for the first time for salvation, as we read in Isaiah 45:22, “Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.”

Do you realize the implications of becoming a follower of our Lord Jesus Christ? Are you willing to endure the loss of reputation and respect and face rejection?

Remember, when you are treated with contempt as a godly man or woman, look up, don’t give up!

[1]The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/contempt


[2]Matthew Henry, An Exposition of the Old and New Testaments in Three Volumes, Volume II, (New York: Henry C. Sleight, 1833), 393


[3]John Charles Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, (London: Wertheim and Macintosh, 1857), 83


[4]Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit 1, Volume 34 www.spurgeongems.org 1, “SETTING JESUS AT NOTHING—TREATING HIM WITH CONTEMPT”, NO. 2051, INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD’S DAY, NOVEMBER 11, 1888, BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, DELIVERED ON LORD’S-DAY EVENING, SEPTEMBER 2, 1888., Accessed: 06/14/13 http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols34-36/chs2051.pdf


[5]Charles H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Accessed 11/30/13, http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/treasury-of-david/psalms-123-1.html


[6]Spurgeon, Treasury


[7]Matthew Henry, An Exposition of the Old and New Testaments in Five Volumes, Volume IV, (London: W. Baynes, 1806), 65


[8]Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Study Series: Luke 1-13: Let the World Know That Jesus Cares (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2013), 120


[9]Albert Barnes, Notes, Critical, Explanatory, and Practical, on the Book of Psalms in Three Volumes, Vol. III, (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1869), 240


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


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

Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on Amazon.com and WORDsearchbible.com



http://www.webspawner.com/users/franklinlkirksey / fkirksey@bellsouth.net / (251) 626-6210

© December 1, 2013 All Rights Reserved