Lift up Your Eyes

Reading: Psalm 123


“The eyes have it!” so it seems.

Babies soon learn to look at the eyes – that’s the point of contact and communication with another person.

Even an animal looks at the eyes and may be aroused to friendship, fear or anger. On TV not long ago the “crocodile hunter” was travelling the world looking for the spitting cobra. He found plenty – and picked them up by the tail. They “found” him too and he had to wear his sun glasses to protect his eyes from their deadly accuracy.

The eyes become a test of integrity and truth. Can you look the accused – or the enquirer – “straight in the eye” and still say it? The interrogator may look in the eyes to see if there is any sign of wavering or doubt.

Some practitioners of alternative medicine believe that all kinds of physical maladies manifest themselves in the eyes. Whatever degree of faith or sceptism we have in “iridology” as a tool of diagnosis, we tend to judge a person’s well-being, far more than we realise, by the look in their eyes.

The eyes are also seen as the “window of the soul.” They express our laughter and sadness. It is by our eyes that we are seen to be “downcast” or “uplifted.”

In Genesis 4 we read that the Lord didn’t look with favour on Cain and his offering – “So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast” (v. 5). We picture him gloomy, staring at the ground, kicking the stones…

In Psalm 42 we have the refrain, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God” (vv. 5, 11; also 43.5).

“Downcast” – discouraged, depressed, deserted, betrayed… Whenever we feel like that, we look down. Our view is limited by our humanness, our circumstances, our inability to rise above the attitudes, comments and actions of others.

The Psalmist’s experience of such circumstances is very real, but he sees beyond them – “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.”

The writer of Psalm 123 has had plenty to be “downcast” about too – “We have endured much ridicule from the proud, much contempt from the arrogant” (v. 4). He doesn’t deny his circumstances, but has made the deliberate choice to look up – “I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven” (v. 1).

He is looking for relief from his circumstances to the highest possible authority – “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” (v. 2).

“Mercy” in this context is “relief.” The ridicule and contempt aren’t God’s doing. The Psalmist is looking for the Lord’s gracious intervention in the circumstances created by others who are proud and arrogant. Any “attack” on the servant is an attack on his master. It is for the master to protect his servant.

For a whole range of factors and circumstances, we can find ourselves “downcast.” How do we react? We can sink down in self-pity and discouragement – never seeing beyond ourselves and our seemingly insoluble circumstances. Or we can choose to “lift up our eyes” – acknowledging the presence and grace of God in the midst of our circumstances and seeking his mercy, his protection and relief.

Sometimes we will know his deliverance from those circumstances. At other times, we will know his deliverance in the circumstances.Whatever happens, we will know his presence and his help.

Many times we find ourselves in the situation of needing to bring encouragement to someone else who is “downcast.” We are best able to do this when we ourselves have learned to lift up our eyes to the Lord.

Sadness, discouragement, depression… are very real. But so are the mercy and help that come as we lift up our eyes to the Lord.

Prayer: Lord God, in so many ways our lives, our community, our world… fail to express your good purposes. We become downcast and depressed, unable to see beyond our circumstances, limitations, frustrations… We forget that you are here. Lord, we lift up our eyes. You are here. Your grace is available to forgive. Your Spirit is here to empower and enable. You are working your good purposes, no matter what happens to us. Help us to encourage others to lift up their eyes too. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Be of Good Cheer

When I am pressed

on every side,

depressed,

discouraged,

inadequate,

frustrated,

not knowing

which way

to turn

or how to move,

be of good cheer –

the Lord is here!

 

When daily life

brings daily news

of daily strife,

a world

uncertain,

changing,

violent,

at a loose end

losing it,

be of good cheer –

the Lord is here!

 

When life is brown,

I won’t

look down!

Lift up my eyes!

Be of good cheer –

the Lord is here!

 


© Peter J. Blackburn, Burdekin Blue Care devotions, 12 October 2002
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.


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