Jesus once told a parable describing two people coming to the Temple to pray and their motives for doing so. (Luke 18:9) It was about a Pharisee and a tax collector and their example was to be reflective of the different attitudes with which people come to worship. The Pharisee came to the Temple in order to impress God and the folks with what a great guy he was – “to justify himself,” the Scripture says. The tax collector, out of a great burden of guilt, came asking only for God’s mercy. Jesus says it was the latter – the despised, cheating tax collector – with his repentant spirit, who went away with God’s blessing.
So Psalm 124 describes those going to the Temple, clearly affirming the importance of the attitude of humili-ty in seeking the mercy of the Lord. The attitude of humbleness is compared to that of household servants, waiting and watching patiently for the slightest motion from the master, signaling either approval or dismissal, knowing their life may hang in the balance. Unfortunately, those who seek to “impress” the Lord with their own righteousness will probably go away empty.
It is the mercy of the Lord that transforms His Sanctuary into a place of refuge from the constant put-downs, the arrogant taunting, or even outright persecution, whether from the 6th century B.C. pagans, 1st century A.D. Romans or 21st century “talk show hosts”. God’s mercy should be the focus of our worship.
From the old Scottish Psalter, here is a portion of Psalm 123:
For we are sated with contempt. Our soul is surfeited with all the scoffing insolence of those who live at ease, and with the prouds’ contempt.
Although it is based on another Psalm (89), the sentiments of James Fillmore’s song surely apply to this Song of Ascents:
“I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever, I will sing, I will sing.
I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever, I will sing of the mercies of the Lord.
With my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness, thy faithfulness;
With my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.”
“O Lord, may the mercy which you have graciously extended to us through Jesus Christ be lovingly reflected in the way we extend mercy to others. So shall we honor the Name that is above every name, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
- David Lindsay
First Baptist Church, Montpelier and their pastor Steve Seipke
Mt. Holly Village Baptist Church and their pastor Glenn Davis
Comunidade Batista dos Milagres, Nashua and their pastor Jarbas Filho