The Pilgrim’s Petition for Help: Psalm 123

Have you ever been ridiculed for your faith? What about being mocked or slandered? Christian pilgrims are like salmon swimming upstream against the current of the world’s culture. Each month 322 Christians are killed; 214 churches and their properties destroyed; 722 forms of violence are committed against Christians (i.e. beatings, abductions, rapes, arrests, and forced marriages). According to the Pew Research Center, over 75% of the world’s population live in areas with severe religious restrictions. The U.S. Department of State tells us that Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors because of their faith in Jesus Christ.

What are Christians to do when persecuted for their faith in Christ? The writer of this Psalm reminds us to humble ourselves before the Lord, to look up to Him in prayer as our only source for help and mercy, and to patiently wait as we volunteer our service to Him for His glory and His kingdom.

The posture that pilgrims must demonstrate is humility. This posture shows dependency on God as expressed by the psalmist when he writes: “…as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until He is gracious to us.” (Psalm 123: 2b) It does not take much effort to look up. It is the simple movement of your eyes. To be a servant of God is not a position to dread but a place of humility before His presence as his servant.

Next, dependency on God leads us to prayer. It is possible that the writing of this Psalm took place when the post-exilic Jews came back from Babylon to rebuild the Temple of God. Psalm 123:3-4 is a plea to the Lord for grace and endurance. These pilgrims were being scoffed at by those who had taken over the land, sitting back and laughing at the Israelites as they attempted to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. Because of their dependency on God through prayer, the pilgrims endure because they know the Lord is on their side.

For the Christian pilgrim today, the same truth applies. Humility is the posture that leads to prayer to the Lord for help in time of need. While scoffers may taunt you, the Lord will give you grace to endure so you may reach the prize of the upward call of Christ as you press on toward the goal (Philippians 3:14).

Sola Gratia

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

As stated in the previous article concerning Sola Scriptura, this October 31st will mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. By stating Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), the Reformers rejected anything or anyone who contradicted biblical authority.

Sola Gratia (grace alone) is the second of the Five Solas. This one is important because it distinguishes the true gospel that saves from false gospels that cannot save. Sola Gratia simply acknowledges that the Bible teaches that salvation is a gift of grace from God through faith. The passage above is one of many that support this claim. The grace of God is based on God’s mercy and not on anything good in us. This is the reason we cannot boast in our works.

Why do we need God’s grace, and why not rely on our works? It is because the Bible clearly teaches that we are all sinners, an imputed condition on humans since the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden (Romans 5:12-21; Genesis 3). We are hopeless and helpless without God’s grace. We would die in our sin and face His judgement for all eternity.

There are those who do not want to accept what the Bible teaches about man’s condition. They want to be the masters of their own destiny. There is something in man that says, “I need to work out, or earn, my salvation.” The problem is that no matter how good our righteousness is, there is nothing good enough that allows us to enter into God’s blessed holiness in heaven apart from Christ’s righteousness.

The Apostle Paul states: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world…But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)”… Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-5.

Therefore, the free gift of God is His grace (God’s riches at Christ’s expense). When you believe what Christ did on the cross, and that He rose again three days later, the Bible says you will be saved. Since this is the case, we are saved by grace alone so that we may boast (proclaim) about the works of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, rather than anything we could ever boast within ourselves.

This is God’s grace, His gift to you. It is unmerited and free to whomever believes and calls on the Lord Jesus Christ by faith.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Glenn Tatum