The motorists on the New Jersey Turnpike near the Newark Liberty International Airport were stuck. As commuters and travelers know all too well when the traffic jams on the interstate, something must have happened. But they couldn’t see what it was. All they could do was sit and wait, hoping that the carnage was not too horrific and the congestion didn’t last too long. Some in the line of parked cars were perhaps thinking about what they could do differently so that they could make some progress. But they couldn’t see far enough down the road to know what to do.
In the few minutes that seemed like forever, the carnage was obviously cleared and the travelers were on their way once again. As they moved forward, they finally saw what had caused the delays. On the side of the road they saw two smashed crates. Then they could see feathers flying in the wake of passing cars. Then, to their surprise, they saw a herd of two dozen turkeys cornered on a makeshift pen. Turkeys bound for the banquet tables of families across the region. They had almost escaped![i]
As we make our journey into the presence of God, our progress can be slowed and our vision can become clouded. We find ourselves stuck in traffic, not knowing what to do because we can’t see what’s ahead. Or we’re hung up in a fog that obscures the pathway. Or we come to a crossroads and don’t know the best way to go. We need vision for our journey that will lead us into the presence of God.
So where can we turn for clarity? The psalmist leads the travelers around him to find the clarity of vision that all of Christ’s followers need. He leads them and us in a chorus of confidence and clarity.[ii] He helps us this morning gain a vision for our journey to the summit of God’s presence.
“To You I lift up my eyes, O 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 upon us.” (Psalm 123:1–2, ESV)
1. We look to God for vision today
If I’m walking through a maze, I can make that journey with ease when someone who can see the beginning, the exit, and all paths between directs my steps. When there is someone who can see the “dead-ends” of the maze giving direction, we can find our way to our destination successfully. The psalmist leads us to lift our eyes to God today. He is the Lord God in heaven, and from His vantage point, we find clarity for life today.
This morning, we must look to the One who sees everything with clarity. God sees it all! He is the Lord God in heaven, and He has the vision we need to make our journey into His presence. He is also the Lord God, the ruler of heaven and earth. He is the One who has power over heaven itself and the vision beyond the twists and turns of life.[iii] God can see everything, so we need to look to Him today to see our lives through His eyes. To see which way to go. To gain the vision we need to take another step into His glorious presence.
2. We look to God for blessing today
Walk with me through the maze again. Imagine that it is the most difficult maze of all time. Twists, turns, and “dead-ends.” Tragedy, trickery, and despair. Without help, we can never escape the maze and make it to our destination. So, we lift our eyes to the One who longs to help us, and we ask His help and grace to lead us step by step through the confusion and congestion of the maze.
It won’t help to follow others in the maze. They may be confident about their vision and direction, but they can see no more than what we can see. We need to look beyond our friends in the puzzle and lift our eyes to the Master of Life to lead us through.
We have this kind of image in this psalm. We are servants, completely dependent upon the Master. So, we look to God for blessing, for His kindness and help. It is the intent gaze of the humble seeking the sign of the master’s wish and will.[iv] We are completely dependent upon Christ to help us through this journey. We need a vision of our dependence as we look up to God.
The pilgrim’s vision looked beyond his own dependence to the need for God’s blessing. He asks God to grant him gracious favor.[v] We need God’s blessing in our lives today in order to make a successful journey. We need His vision and the blessing that His vision provides, especially when those around us begin to jeer and taunt us.[vi] They make fun and laugh, and it hurts. His hand of favor to surround us with His special care to direct our steps when our sight becomes dimmed by the cloud of mockery, the fog of circumstances, the confusion of the crossroads.
Today, Lord God, we ask You to pour Your gracious blessing and intervening care into our lives. We look to You to find the clarity of Your compassionate vision to direct our steps as we take one step closer into the unsurpassed pleasure of Your presence.
[i]Wayne Parry, “Live Turkeys Fall Off Truck in New Jersey,” Associated Press (Friday, November 18, 2005).
[ii]Claus Westermann [The Praise of God in the Psalms, trans. K. R. Crim (Richmond: John Knox, 1965), 55, 80] and Leslie Allen [Psalms 101-150, WBC (Waco: Word, 1983), 160] indicate that this is a psalm of “communal complaint” so that verses 2-4 “fall into this formal pattern clearly as a confession of trust, a petition and a description of the situation of complaint which functions as a motivating force to support the petition.”
[iii]Leslie Allen [Psalms 101-150, WBC (Waco: Word, 1983), 161] suggests that “the cultic representative who brings their prayers to Yahweh begins by expressing his own dependence upon God: Yahweh is the heavenly king for whose power human opposition is no match.”
[iv]James L. Crenshaw, The Psalms: An Introduction (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 21. He suggests that the image of the slave in verse 2 evokes thoughts of God’s people looking to Him for favor and blessing.
[v]BDB, “chānăn,” 1093. This verb in verse 3 signifies someone pleading for kindness and help.
[vi]Elmer Martens, s. v., “bûz,” in TWOT, 95-96. He notes that “contempt is characteristic of the wicked (Prov 18:3) and is often directed at the righteous (Ps 31:18 [H 19]), who then cry for God’s mercy and intervention (Ps 123:3-4; cf. Ps 119:22).”