A Meditation on Psalm 123

Kevin J Youngblood
To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
2 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 upon us.
(Psalm 123:1-2)

The emphasis on the psalmists’ eyes looking to YHWH in Psalm 123 is striking. I am reminded of the way each of my children have learned to look at me in such a way that just makes my heart melt. Any parent will immediately know what I am talking about. Whether this is an inborn or acquired skill, our children somehow always know how to look at us in such a way as to nearly always get what they want. I don’t mean to belittle as this some manipulative ploy. Far from it! I think this ability speaks to a profound connection. That pleading, helpless look that our children acquire when they really need or want something is, in reality, an appeal to the best aspects of our humanity – evidence of their confidence in our abiding love and empathy for them.

I thought of this as I read these words from Psalm 123 this morning. The psalmist turns to YHWH with the very same look in his eyes that melts my heart when I see it in the eyes of my children. He does this because he is confident of YHWH’s compassion. He knows that YHWH’s mercy abounds and can be appealed to in dire circumstances. Such a look is born of a deep, remarkable, unbreakable bond between God and his children. Feeling safe in and certain of YHWH’s mercy and grace, we turn our eyes to him welling with tears, filled with pleas for relief, for divine intervention, for a tangible manifestation of the deep and abiding love that we feel binding us to him in the Holy Spirit.

This is one of the many reasons why I love the psalms. Their poetry is filled with poignant imagery that often catches me by surprise by its tenderness. Perhaps no other portion of Scripture is as richly adorned with metaphors for the incomprehensible love of God.

It is also interesting to note that the Psalm moves from the singular to the plural in the transition from verse 1 to verse 2. The psalmist encourages all God’s children to turn to him with that longing, wistful look that melts every parent’s heart. I think that my children’s eyes have this effect on me precisely because God has created me in his image. He is the prototypical father whose heart is predisposed to melt when his children look to him in this way. For that matter, did he not place that ability to look at him in this way within us precisely to provoke his tenderness toward us? Is it perhaps the Spirit within us looking through our eyes to the Father – the immanent God within us gazing at the transcendent God without – that causes this chemistry? Could this be a non-verbal aspect of prayer, a way the Spirit, God within us, prays to the Father, God beyond us, through the Son, God with us? Is this the look that accompanies the Spirit’s groans too deep for words?


Thank you for having the kind of heart that melts when we, your children, look to you with fear, longing, and helplessness in our eyes. Thank you for establishing this connection between ourselves and you as well as between us and our own children so that we can know something of your paternal heart. Our confidence in your love and mercy inspires our prayers. Lord Jesus, is this the look you had in your eyes when you prayed in Gethsemane? Or maybe this is the way you always look at the Father in prayer. Regardless, thank you for praying from our side of the divide and thank you for teaching us how to pray with such intimacy. Holy Spirit, thank you for prompting our prayers, sustaining our prayers, and for translating our unutterable groans to the Father. Thank you for turning our eyes to him that look that his Father-heart cannot resist.