The Step of Delight - Part II
Dr. Joe Temple

Review

Open your Bibles, please, to Psalm 123:

Psalms 123

1Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens.
2Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us.
3Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt.
4Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud.

We have been studying the book of Psalms from a devotional standpoint, beginning with Psalm 120 and concluding with Psalm 134 as the basis for the study. There are any number of other devotional psalms which might have been selected, but we have selected these because they have somewhat of a continuity related to them. That continuity is indicated in most of your Bibles by the phrase which you find immediately under the number, “A Song of Degrees.”

This word “degrees” refers to a journey to higher places. In some places in the Scriptures it is translated by the word “stairs.” For this reason we have referred to this series of psalms as the Pilgrim's Staircase, each psalm in the series representing a stage of spiritual growth in the believer's life.

We began with the Step of Distress as it is described in Psalm 120. We stood on the Step of Deliverance as it is described in Psalm 121. We stood on the Step of Delight as it is described in Psalm 122. We are still on the Step of Delight as it is described in Psalm 123. As we examine the delight of the psalmist, remember that in Psalm 122 David is the author. But in Psalm 123 we know not who the author was, though we do recognize the Holy Spirit as the author of all the Word of God.

Three Words as Mental Pegs

In Psalm 123 we find the psalmist expressing his delight which we are going to examine. We offer you three words as mental pegs upon which to hang the thoughts we want to leave with you. The first word is “attitude.” The second word is “analogy.” The third word is “application.”

Attitude of the Psalmist

We suggest to you the word “attitude,” because we believe that the attitude of the unknown psalmist is one of delight just as definitely as was the attitude of David when he said in Psalm 122, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.” There is a difference, however–the difference between public and private worship.

In Psalm 122 David is delighting in the privilege of gathering together with other believers and lifting his heart in praise and in worship together. But in Psalm 123 the unknown psalmist, perhaps Hezekiah, is expressing his delight, not in public worship, but in private devotion.

Fellowship With God

The difference between the two psalms, though the expression of delight is the same, is that in Psalm 122 David is expressing his delight in fellowship with the people of God; and in Psalm 123 the unknown psalmist is expressing his delight in fellowship with the person of God.

I would like to remind you that there is a big difference. There are a great number of Christians who are familiar with fellowship with the people of God, because they are faithful in their so-called church attendance. They are there every time the doors are open. They never miss a service of any kind. They know what it is to fellowship wit the people of God, but not many people know what it is to fellowship with the person of God. Familiar as they are with public worship, they know very little about private devotion.

Importance of Private Devotion

I would like to say to you that if I had to make a choice, though I don't believe anyone has to make such a choice, and my back was to the wall, so to speak, I believe I would choose private devotion with the person of God rather than public worship with the people of God.

Now, don't misunderstand me. Don't say that I have suggested to you that there is no value in your going to church. If I believed that, I wouldn't be here teaching. Don't say that I said that you can get far more out of worshipping near the mountains and the trees and the lakes than you can out of gathering together with the people of God. I didn't say that. I am simply suggesting, Beloved, that I believe that we need to learn to delight in our private devotion and in our private fellowship with God.

God's Interest is Personal

There is only one way that you can do this and that is to recognize that God has a very personal interest in you. You will recall in Psalm 121 the psalmist lifted up his eyes to the hills. And that is all a lot of folk do. They are no more than nature worshippers. But in Psalm 123 the psalmist is lifting up his eyes unto the Lord–the One who dwells above the hills–the One who “dwellest in the heavens.”

I would like for you to notice the word “dwellest,” as I remind you that it is a translation of a Hebrew word which means “to sit down in a place where one can observe the slightest detail of everything that is going on.”

So when we read that the psalmist lifted up his eyes to God who dwells in the heavens, we shouldn't get the idea that he was talking to someone who was at a great distance. To have that idea would be to miss the point of the Scriptures. The psalmist is saying, “I have lifted up mine eyes to Him who is in a high place where He can observe every little thing that is going on, even to the most minute detail.”

A Source of Comfort

There is a sense in which this should bring some concern to our hearts. We should recognize that, though we think we are hiding a great many things from a great many people, we are not hiding anything from God. I say, then, that there is a sense in which this should provide some concern for us, but I am not going to emphasize the concern now; I am going to emphasize the comfort.

This passage of Scripture brings a great deal of comfort to my own heart to know that my God, the One unto Whom I lift my eyes, is looking right back down at me and examining every facet of my life that He might be able to meet my needs. Notice that I am emphasizing the personal prounoun. If you will read this psalm carefully again, you will find that the emphasis is placed upon the personal pronoun. I'm talking about a personal relationship, and this is the source of a great deal of comfort.

Because we are living in a lonely world, which the psalmist recognized, the psalmist says in verses 3 and 4, “Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us.” He says, “We are going to lift our eyes to you until you meet our needs; have mercy upon us. Have mercy upon us, for we are exceedingly filled with contempt.”

When Our Testimony is Scorned

Now, you know what contempt is. It is scorn. It is that attitude whereby people despise one another. He explains what he means in verse 4, when he says:

Psalms 123

4Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud.

He is not speaking of his own personal contempt for himself or for someone else, but he is speaking about the contempt that other people had for him. He says, “God, no one has any respect for my faith; no one has any respect for my testimony. They scorn me; they make light of me, and they don't do it occasionally, Lord; they do it all the time.”

It might be wise for you young folk who are leaving home to keep this psalm in mind. So many of you are going into places where you will not find a ready message and a reception for your testimony. Many of you will be going into places where, if you let it be known that you are a Christian, you may be scorned, and you'll be tempted to keep quiet about it. You may not have an opportunity to fellowship with people like you have had while you have been at home. You are going to have to lift your eyes unto the Lord. You are going to have to learn to communicate with Him. You are going to have to learn to depend upon Him. Sometimes the only comfort that you will be able to find is when you get alone with God and lift up your eyes to Him and let Him take care of the situation.

Analogy of Masters and Servants

I said that there was a second word which we wanted to use, and that word is the word “analogy.” We have been discussing the attitude of the psalmist. He says, “I lift up mine eyes unto Him that dwellest in the heavens. I delight in fellowship with Him in the midst of the contempt that is all around me.” That is his attitude, but he explains for us what he means. He explains it for us by what we have been pleased to call an analogy, a picture, a parable, and illustration. We find it in verse 2:

Psalms 123

2Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us.

The eyes of the believer should be constantly fastened upon the Lord. The word “wait” could just as well be translated “look,” but the analogy is presented in the terms of masters and servants. The word “servant”, and the word “maiden,” which we find in these two verses, are translated from two words in the original text which speaks of bondslaves.

We are not speaking about someeone who can quit a job if he doesn't like the pay. We are speaking of bondslaves. Bondslaves were men who were bonded to their masters. They were women who were bonded to their mistresses, and they could do nothing about it.

The word “master” and the word “mistress” in the verses speak of individuals who have absolute power. They have power to do what they want to do without asking anyone's advice. And so the psalmist, using the experience in his own realm of society, says, “Here is a bondslave. He is constantly looking to the hand of his master. Here is a bondslave, a young maiden; she is constantly looking to the hand of her mistress.”

Of course, you may recall from your experience in reading, or in drama, movies, or television, that in the Orient much that is not spoken is expressed with the hand. That is the reason the psalmist uses this analogy. It isn't that he listens for the voice of God, but he looks to the hand of God for that which needs to be brought to his attention.

Application

That brings me to the third word that I want you to think about with me. The word is “application.” The attitude of the psalmist was one of delight in personal, private fellowship with his God. The analogy was presented of the relationship that existed between a master and servant and between a mistress and maid, but the application will be found in its real emphasis on what I have already hinted at–the hand.

The Hand of God

There are two words in Hebrew for “hand.” One of them describes a closed hand and speaks of warfare. Sometimes when we speak about the hand of God, it is that word that is used in connection with God because God does believe in war.

But there is another word for hand in the text and that is “the open hand.” And that is the word that is used here. It speaks, not of the closed fist, but of the open hand. The open hand, as it is described in the Scriptures when this particular word is used, is translated by a number of different English words. For example, it is translated by the word “means,” by the word “direction,” and by the word “power.”

Depend Upon God's Hand

I would like to use these three translations coming from the analogy which has been presented to us to make the application that I believe God would have us understand. As we make the application may I suggest to you that each one of us, as the unknown psalmist looked unto Him Who dwelt in the heavens, should look unto God in dependence, remembering that we can depend upon Him for anything we need. We can depend upon Him for the meeting of our material needs because of His means. I want to emphasize to you the importance of lifting up your eyes in dependence upon Him.

Now, of course, we are prone to talk about material needs; but there are many, many needs which individuals have which are not related to the material. Some of you young people will be in atmospheres which are not conducive to spirituality. You are going to be in atmospheres where people will not be understanding. You are going to be in atmospheres where you are going to find it hard to go on, and you will wonder if you can.

I want to remind you of something you already know. You can't, but He can. If you lift up your eyes to Him in dependence, then He can dip into the wealth of what He has and give to you, and you will have no problems at all. Don't be afraid to depend upon the Lord. Don't be afraid to pray the prayer that is in the last part of this psalm.

I love the word “mercy” in the Scriptures more than any other word. I'm so glad that the psalmist did not say, “Oh, Lord, be good to us.” I am so glad that he didn't say, “Oh, Lord, treat us right.” I'm so glad that he said, “Lord, we're going to wait for your mercy. Have mercy upon us, O Lord.” Learn to look to the Lord for complete dependence.

Directed By His Hand

I want you to notice something else about His hand–this hand of God, this open hand of God. This open hand of God is not only able to dip into the wealth of His resources and lay before you whatever you need, but this open hand of God is able to direct you in the path that you need to go.

This Hebrew word which is translated by the English word “hand” and which refers to the open hand, is also translated “direction” in the Word of God. Do you need direction? I, personally, have never come to the place where I don't need direction. I have never come to the place where I don't need to be told what to do. We should never get to the place where we can't go to others for advice. I want you to say, “I will lift up mine eyes unto Him that dwellest in the heavens. I will look to His hand for direction.”

Total Submission

I want to remind you of a verse which many of you have committed to memory. Turn to Proverbs, chapter 3, verse 5, where we read:

Proverbs 3

5Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

Notice the phrase “Trust in the Lord.” That is the same thing as being a bondslave. You've committed all to the Lord.

The Apostle Paul says the same thing in Romans 12:1,2, where he says:

Romans 12

1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Paul says, “That you might know what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. That you might learn what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” If language means anything at all, it means that God is never going to show you what His will is until you become His bondslave. You must become completely His before He tells you what He wants.

Revelation of God's Will

Now, I don't mean that if you become completely His today that in the next five minutes He is going to show you what He wants you to do ten years from now. The revelation of God's will is a progressive thing. But, you see, the matter is settled once you yield. That is what this part of Proverbs 3:5 means: “Trust in the Lord with all your Heart.”

Notice the next phrase in verse 3:

Proverbs 3

5………. and lean not unto thine own understanding.

Don't lean on what you know. You just don't know enough yet. Don't lean on your own understanding.

Then notice in verse 6:

Proverbs 3

6In all thy ways acknowledge him…..

That verse means to look for that open hand. You know, we are strange creatures. If we have some great big deal pending, oh, how we pray about it! We acknowledge Him then. Don't form that habit. Learn to look to His hand. Learn to look to His hand for direction even in the smallest detail. God is interested in the very smallest detail. And if you will look to His open hand, He'll give you that direction.

Accepting God's Discipline

The last thing that I want to suggest to you by way of looking to His open hand, by way of application, is that we should look to His hand in dependence; we should look to His open hand for direction, and we should look to His open hand for discipline. God has the power of discipline, and this is what this word “open hand” means.

As a matter of fact, the Hebrew word which we are thinking about is translated in the book of Job, chapter 1, verse 12, by the word “power.” When God said to the Devil, “Job is in the power of your hand,” you know what happened to Job. He went through some real discipline. He went through some real child training.

And I suggest to you that you and I need to learn to lift up our eyes to His hand. We need to lift up our eyes to His hand for discipline. Now, you may be thinking, “Why should I want God to punish me?” Beloved, don't think that the word “discipline” means punishment. The word translated “discipline” means, literally, “training.”

Now, sometimes the discipline has to come in the form of punishment. Some of us are so pig-headed that the only way we can learn anything is for the Lord to knock us in the head. My language isn't choice, but it gets the point across. God doesn't have to punish you, not at all. All that God needs to do is meet your needs for whatever training that He has for you. If you will look upon any circumstance which comes into your life as part of God's training for you, His bondslave, you will find a great many things easier to bear.

Conclusion

Now, in conclusion, I want you to remember that God's hand is open; it is there for training. If you will lift up your eyes to His open hand, and if you will say, “Lord, I'm depending upon You,” He will meet your need. If you will say, “Lord, I need your direction,” He will tell you which direction you need to go. You need to look to His hand and say, “Lord, I need to learn from this given circumstance what You want me to learn, so give me the grace to put up with it. Give me the power to bear it. Lord, teach me; I'm your. And as the servant looks unto the hand of his master and as the maiden looks unto the hand of her mistress, so do my eyes wait upon thee.”

Learn to delight in the fellowship of God. May I say to you that if you have not reached this place of spiritual growth in your Christian experience you have missed a great deal.


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