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).

“Finding Joy in Suffering”

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:6-9)

When it comes to suffering as Christians in this world (i.e. for the cause of Christ, physical, emotional, or spiritual), our God and Savior can sympathize with us (Hebrews 4:15-16). He knows our sorrows, pain, rejection, loneliness, and loss (Isaiah 53). Jesus knows physical pain, what it’s like to be rejected, to be abandoned by His own friends and family, and to know the loss of a parent (His earthly father). Jesus knows what it is like to suffer and to be crushed and persecuted for His beliefs. He even knows what it is like to be cut off from the Heavenly Father when on the cross, to be falsely accused, and to be unjustly tried. The list can go on. No matter what you have suffered, Jesus knows your sorrow.

So then, how can one find joy in suffering? How does one, as Peter stated, “…greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory…?”
First, Peter says you have obtained an inheritance which is imperishable and undefined and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:4). You will not find any lasting comfort or satisfaction in this world. Your joy, hope and security is found in being “…born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). It’s knowing that your faith in Christ is the most precious thing that you have. Peter says that it is more precious than gold which will perish.

Second, you will be tested in this life. Jesus told His disciples to expect persecution. Why? Because this world hated Him first. Jesus never promises us that we will escape suffering. This world has suffering because of sin and because of the devil, the prince of this earth. Therefore, your joy is this; if God is for you, who can be against you? It’s knowing that there’s nothing that can separate us from Christ’s love for His own (Romans 8:28-37).

Finally, you can have joy inexpressible when you don’t focus on present suffering, but the future outcome of your soul. Paul knew what it meant to suffer and encouraged his readers with these verses he wrote while in prison. “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

One of the greatest benefits in being a believer is knowing that suffering in this world is temporary. The glories of heaven are eternal. Place your faith in Christ for eternal joy in the midst of present suffering.