Humility and Mercy
Humility and Mercy
Words of Faith 12-11-18
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
As Jesus climbed the hills of Judea from the east toward Jerusalem, He would have heard the fifteen Psalms of ascent said aloud and meditated upon as pilgrims made their way over each vista in the road. This is the fourth.
Psalm 123:1 A Song of Ascents
I lift up my eyes to you,
to you whose throne is in heaven.
 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he shows us his mercy.
 Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us,
for we have endured much contempt.
 We have endured much ridicule from the proud,
much contempt from the arrogant.
The pilgrim moving toward Jerusalem first "lifted his eyes to the hills" in Psalm 121 recognizing that help can only come from the Lord who made the heavens and the earth. Now his eyes are lifted to the Lord for mercy, and just the thought is overwhelming. While this is not a stroll into the Holy of Holies, the pilgrim contemplated the majesty of God and His throne in heaven and the thought was overpowering.
The image was that of a slave looking up to their master. In the ancient world slavery was common. The Jewish people had been enslaved by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. They lived among the Roman culture where people were sold into slavery to cover debts or family obligations. The master was sovereign. The slave was "at the mercy" of the master.
In our modern thinking, we don't like to think of God in this way but the image is powerful. We can give thanks that God does not treat us in this way even though He could! He has chosen instead to relate to us as children, not slaves. In Jesus, God has declared that we are His friend, not His servant because of the work Jesus was about to do.
It is interesting that in the person of Jesus these images were turned upside down. Do you remember how the Apostle Paul put it in his letter to the Philippians? Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! (Philip. 2:5-11)
We should not forget the humility of our approach to God. As we draw nearer to the Lord we discover our place of humility before Him. The next level up on this journey is a "level down" in a sense as we come in utter humility. We simply come to seek the mercy of God.
It is interesting that there has been no confession of personal sin thusfar in the Psalms of approach. It will be seven more "vistas" before sin and forgiveness are dealt with. But the image of the slave and master is a different type of confession. It is a confession of our utter helplessness before God. It is a confession of our overwhelming need for God and His mercy. It is a confession of our powerlessness in the world.
The pilgrim will seek a more personal forgiveness, but right now the Psalm seeks mercy from the Lord concerning the hardness of life. Mercy from those who treat us with contempt and ridicule. Mercy from the proud and arrogant. That mercy was on its way.
Those walking the hills near Jesus had no idea that Mercy was striding up the hill at that very moment. The words must have had a particular depth for Jesus. In just a few days, Jesus would hear the laughter and experience the mockery and humiliation of the proud on our behalf. He would endure the ridicule and cruelty of the arrogant for us. The prayer of a million pilgrims would soon be answered.
Have you recognized your utter helplessness before God? It is only in His mercy that we journey at all. Have called out to Him for the mercy that only He can give? Have you heard the Good News in Jesus that He has chosen to call you a friend and not a slave! Have you heard that He has taken the humiliation and ridicule for you? There is no better news.
Father God, I am so grateful for Your mercy expressed in the person of Jesus. I am so grateful for all that He endured on my behalf. Walk with me today on the vistas of life, and help me to see with eyes of gratitude. Help me to share the Good News of Jesus everywhere I go. In Jesus' name.