"Look to Him"
By TAHREN TERRELL BRANDON
Have you ever felt contempt? It is often a feeling difficult to describe until you experience it. The Israelites in Psalm 123 were in the thick of it on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. They were journeying to celebrate the Feast of the Lord but their current state was one of suffering, having faced rejection from the proud and arrogant, those who seemed to be living life with ease, without a care in the world. Prior to reading this passage, I was in a comparable place to the Psalmists. That particular day something happened that triggered emotions of rejection and worthlessness. The feelings it brought to surface promised to keep me up nights and burden me through the days. I needed to talk about it but there was no one to understand. That night I read Psalm 123. It was not by chance nor was it an accident that led me to this scripture. I keep a window open on my phone at all times to either Psalms or Proverbs, which I continuously read back to back. My 10-month old memorial stone limits the time I have to really concentrate on anything so sometimes days go by before I get back to reading.
When I was finally able to open that window in my phone again, it was on Psalm 123. After days of being open to this very chapter, unbeknownst to me, it began to serve its purpose. I was in awe of how specifically it spoke to my situation. These four verses described exactly how I felt, while also providing all of the guidance, instruction and encouragement that I needed to move on past these feelings of contempt. I had wasted valuable time trying to find someone to listen to me, care about my feelings and advise me when all the while God had the solution to my problem waiting for me before I even knew I had one.
My father, the beloved Rev. E. Phillip Terrell used to say, "Everyone cries sometimes, but isn't it far more effective and far more beneficial to cry unto the Lord?" The Psalmists open this passage doing just that, crying unto the Lord. At first, we do not even know what the problem is, all we know is to whom they looked, God in heaven (1); and how they looked, as servants to the master (2). We then hear their plea for mercy (3). And finally, in the last verse, we hear the reason mercy is needed (4). The problem itself is so irrelevant that mention of it is reserved until the end. The primary focus of the Psalm is not the problem but the Problem Solver. Even as believers, we are prone to look to our neighbors, friends, random strangers, anyone who will listen, before we look to God. But not these folks, they knew where to look, they sought the One who could solve any problem that they faced.
By the end of the passage, we understand that the Psalmists were “exceedingly filled with contempt.” Contempt: “the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn” (Merriam-Webster). Evangelist Albert Barnes puts it this way, "when people throw their contempt on us, we many times take it upon ourselves." And that is how we become filled with contempt, we absorb the scorn, the rejection, the disregard, the disdain that others have for us and let it fill us until we are soaked, saturated and exceedingly filled. The Psalmists were exceedingly filled, they had very real feelings that threatened to dictate their thoughts, play on their insecurities and fill their hearts with sorrow. But they were on their way to celebrate the Lord. They could not meet with God and the people of Jerusalem consumed with these feelings. They could not allow the ridicule and demoralization from others to get them down. They looked to the Lord to mend their hearts and prepare them for worship.
Likewise, we are sometimes so plagued with sorrow that we are not focused on worshipping the Lord. And although it is easy to allow contempt to consume us, we must look to God in Heaven. He will allow us to see things as they really are and to realize that when we are mistreated and disrespected by the world, we share the company of the apostles, our fellow believers and our Savior Jesus Christ. In Acts 5, the disciples were warned against preaching the Gospel, threatened with physical harm and even after suffering the harsh consequences of their righteous actions they kept their eyes on Christ and persisted in doing His will.
Sadly, we live in a world that rejects everything godly, especially Gods people. It is inevitable that believers will be the object of contempt from those who despise God. But what does it matter? We should take solace in the fact that Jesus was held in low esteem. He was despised, rejected and all too familiar with suffering and pain (Isa. 53:3). Should that make us feel better? Absolutely! When we share in Christs sufferings, we also share in His reward. Jesus was rejected but now He sits at the right hand of God the Father. He is coming back for those who endure the contempt of the world, interceding for us until that soon approaching day is come (Acts 7:56). Those emotions that once filled me exceedingly were replaced by the overwhelming amount of love I felt from a God who would go out of His way to comfort my soul with His Word. As with the Psalmists, He spared not His mercy or His grace in order to prepare my heart for its true purpose. The answer was there all along, and to think, all I had to do was look to Him.