Text: Psalm 123

A pilgrim may face many perplexing situations on his journey to his destination. Perhaps it could be the hot weather, or the difficulty of finding food and water. He may also encounter many bandits and thieves, or enemies along the way. In the case of Psalm 123, it seemed that the pilgrim had to face the persecutions of proud men who hated the saints (v.3). As the days pass and the hostilities persist, he may begin to wonder how long it be before his tribulations would end.

Similarly, as strangers and pilgrims on the way to heaven, we do encounter many trials in this world. When problems refuse to go away, we may grow frustrated and lose patience. How long more do I have to endure?

It is such times that the Pilgrim Psalms are so comforting. The earlier psalms (such as Psalm 121) reminded us that we have a perfect Deliverer who watches over us. All we need to do is to be patient and wait for the Lord’s deliverance in His perfect timing.

The picture used in this psalm is that of a master-servant (or slave) relationship. In the time of the pilgrim psalmist, slaves were required to be extremely attentive to the movement of the master. The master would often direct the slaves with hand signals, and they must be ready to perform the wishes of the master to perfection. Thus, the expression, “waiting upon the hand” of the master. In addition, when it came to meals, the servants would have to wait for the master to finish his meal before they could eat. Even then, they must wait upon the instruction of the master before proceeding. They were wholly dependent on the goodness of their master for their provisions.

Using this illustration, the psalmist indicates that he and the other pilgrims are servants to the LORD. Moreover, the LORD is no ordinary master. He dwells in the heavens, while the pilgrims dwell upon the earth. This showed the superiority of their master, but also how he is sovereign over all affairs of this world. Therefore, the psalmist ought to humbly wait upon the instructions of the Master. He must “lift up” his eyes to look upon God and not the other way round. Servants are expected to bow humbly before their masters and look up to them for instructions. Subjects must bow to the king before they lift up their eyes to talk to the king. So must the servant pilgrim be with the LORD. He must never treat his Master with contempt. Thus, if it meant that he had to bear with difficult circumstances for a moment, he would gladly do it.

Alas, it is so easy for us to seek our own ways out of difficult situations. Instead of committing ourselves to the Lord, we would rather complain and moan about our lives. When we do so, we are treating our God with contempt.

As strangers and pilgrims on the earth, we must remember that God has already given us the perfect guidebook, the Bible, to successfully navigate our way upon this earth. The waiting pilgrim is thus one who commits his ways to the Lord in prayer, and to walk circumspectly in God’s will. He knows that his tribulations are but for a moment, and the Master who permits these circumstances will also see him all the way to his heavenly destination.

This reminds us of the chorus of the hymn, “Christ returneth”:

O Lord Jesus, how long, how long
Ere we shout the glad song –
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen
Hallelujah! Amen.

Is this also your song, dear waiting pilgrim? How we need the everlasting mercies of the Lord. May the Lord have mercy upon us.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew