Upward-Focused and Downward-Pressed
by Sarah Ivill
To You I lift up my eyes, to You who are enthroned in the heavens! Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, As the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, So our eyes look to the Lord our God, till He has mercy on us.
Surely you know what it feels like to be downward-pressed. News of an incurable cancer. Infertility. A tragedy in your family. Financial ruin. Chronic pain. The battle against the same old sin. The mundane seemingly closing in around you. The hard work of marriage and parenting. Difficult relationships. Unruly circumstances. On this side of glory we will be downward-pressed. The question is: Where will we focus during those moments? Down at our circumstances and relationships that seem depressing, or up at our Savior who holds all things in His hands? Once again, the Songs of Ascents (120-134), pilgrim songs that they are, answer for us, especially Psalm 123:
To You I lift up my eyes, to You who are enthroned in the heavens!
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
As the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he has mercy on us
Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud.
Upward-focused (123:1-2). In his distress the psalmist lifts his eyes to the King enthroned in the heavens. Thankfully, he is not alone; he suffers in the midst of the covenant community and with the covenant community. There’s no greater gift during suffering than Christ and His people. Their servant eyes will remain fixed on their Master until mercy comes. Such trust and hope is rooted in God’s covenant love for them. The Lord commanded the priesthood to bless the people of Israel with these words, “the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you” (Num. 6:25). Their eyes are turned in hope to the One who has declared grace to them.
Downward-pressed (123:3-4). Their trust and hope is ridiculed. Contempt closes in on them, scorn slithers toward them, and the proud prowl around them. You’ve been there too, haven’t you? Placing our faith in Christ and planting ourselves in the midst of His people seems foolish to some people. These scorners don’t have the final word though. The pilgrims pray their way through the suffering, crying out to the Lord for mercy and trusting He will make good on His promises.
The author of Hebrews tells us our eyes should be fixed on Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:1-3). He has delivered mercy to us by atoning for our sins. God withholds the wrath we deserve because His Son has redeemed us. Our Master’s yoke is gentle and offered to those who are weary of trying to save themselves. It is Christ, the Merciful One, who turns our eyes to Him and bestows mercy on His beloved bride. Today, when you’re tempted to turn your eyes downward toward your circumstances and relationships, turn them upward instead. Turn them to Christ, our Head.
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is the author of several Bible studies and books, including The Covenantal Life: Appreciating the Beauty of Theology and Community. She is a wife, mother to four children, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more about Sarah, visit her website: www.sarahivill.com.
STORE UP MORE TREASURES
At some point in our lives, we or someone we know will go through great suffering. I encourage you to go the MARKINC website and listen to the interview "Loss of A Child" so that you can store up treasures of encouragement for the next rainy day in your life or someone else's. Here is a summary and teaser of this resource:
In this interview, Dr. Chuck and Sharon Betters discuss their story as parents who lost Mark, their sixteen year old son, in a devastating car accident. They are honest and they are real about their struggle to not only face each day without Mark but also to reconcile the love of God with His sovereign care.
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Contact Sharon with comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.