Psalm 123

Readings for this week July 6 – 10
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – The Posture of a Servant

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 123:1

Jesus came as a servant. He came to serve, as one who put himself at the disposal of others, who put their needs first. The ultimate model he gives us is one of servanthood, loving, sacrificial servanthood. The downside that we sometimes create out of this circumstance is when we see Jesus as a servant and therefore take the position of master for ourselves. We see Jesus as someone who is to serve us, who is to answer to our beck and call, who is to step in and do things for us when we are too tired or lazy or unwilling to do them ourselves. Now, this is absolutely not to deny the reality of God as someone who helps his children and offers them blessings and gifts and lives of wholeness and fulfilment (as subsequent readings will show). But it is to raise the question of how we respond to the servant king. It is a question of posture.

God did not condescend to become a servant so that we could order him around. We are not called to look down on God as a master does a servant, but rather are called to take upon ourselves the position of servant, like Jesus, and look up at God. This is the posture of servitude. There is a large element of imitation expected from anyone who chooses to follow Jesus and the servanthood that he inhabited and exhibited is at the heart of our posture towards God, and also towards others. We are called to live out a redemptive life of sacrificial love and service.

Questions to Consider
How does your life show the posture of a servant? In what ways is servanthood a major component of your life with others?

Prayer
Lord God, you came and revealed the fullness of your servant heart, and showed us how to love and serve and care for others. Help my posture; teach me how to be a better servant of others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – The Call to Freedom

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 123:2

Freedom is a big deal these days – and rightly so. Although in the West we have largely done away with institutionalised slavery in our own society, and though we no longer have such a strongly rigid hierarchical class structure in New Zealand, there are still many ways in which people are not free. The psalmist lived in a society that had institutionalised servanthood and slavery, but that still (imperfectly) clung to the word of God that declared all people are made in his image, all are worthy of love and dignity, and all are to be treated well regardless of their position in society.

Achieving freedom is important, and as various groups of various types have shown, there are many people still striving and struggling to have their freedoms recognised, whether by a legal system that has acknowledged and legislated for their rights but has never properly enforced them, or by a system that has never even recognised them, never mind their rights. This is an important struggle and one that God’s people must join in with. But we must also realise that total freedom is an illusion without a relationship with God. We are called to be servants. We are called to acknowledge God as master. Only then does true freedom – not just freedom to but also freedom for and freedom to be – become possible. When we submit to God, we find ourselves, and as we do so we learn how to serve a better master and also how to better serve our master – and others. Freedoms must be fought for and people must be freed, so that they can serve the master they were always meant to.

Questions to Consider
How is freedom a big issue in the world today? For whom? Why?

Prayer
Loving Lord, show us how to work for freedom for others. Give us courage to stand with those who have no one to stand for them. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Cry for Mercy

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 123:3

To look up to God does not mean that God is only ever distant and far away. Although verse one talks of the psalmist looking up to God dwelling in heaven, the cry of mercy that comes in halfway through the psalm is proof that the psalmist, in this posture of servitude before God, does not expect God to remain in heaven. For when do we cry mercy? We cry for mercy when we want someone to intervene on our behalf. We cry for mercy when we are casting about for someone to take our side and actively alleviate our pain and suffering. We cry for mercy – to God in particular – because we entertain an expectation that he will come to us and intervene on behalf of his children, enter into the circumstances of our lives, and work out his redemptive purposes.

We cry for mercy because we know that God loves us and longs to have us with him. We don’t need to force him. We don’t need to twist his arm. When we cry mercy, we aren’t trying to beseech, trick, coerce, or inveigle him into doing something that he doesn’t want to do, or that is outside his nature, his character. God loves us. He intends good for us. He will work his purposes in us, and will do so in a way that actually gives us an integral, fulfilling role in the coming of his kingdom, and that, through the power of his Spirit, allows us to grow into the fullness of our God ordained humanity at the same time.

Questions to Consider
What does it mean to be merciful? How is God merciful to us? What opportunities do we have today to be merciful to others?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, you offer us mercy and call us to offer the same to a world that still seeks to live without you. May we be merciful as you are merciful. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – The Pattern Set for Us

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 123:4

We learn to serve others by serving God. If we can learn how to be a good servant of God, then this learned servanthood will overflow into the rest of our relationships and serving others will start to come naturally. Romans 12 talks about how we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices. What is a ‘living sacrifice’? Unlike other sacrifices which are a one-off event, a living sacrifice is ongoing. When we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, we give God our ordinary walking-around existence. We are his to use however he wants. Our whole lives are to be used in his service. We are to offer our everyday, ordinary lives. Psalm 123’s focus on actual physical service is mirrored in Paul’s call for us to place our lives before God as an offering, as service. We are his—our time, energy, actions, thoughts, resources, hopes and dreams—everything. It is an entire life of service that we are called to.

After all, it is an entire life of service that Jesus has modelled for us. He is the perfect example of a life lived in service to others. In John 13: 14-15 Jesus says, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done.” The pattern he has set for us is a very practical one that involves getting up close to people, investing in their lives, and serving and loving them as Jesus served and loved us.

Questions to Consider
What type of pattern did Jesus set? What does the washing of the disciples’ feet teach us?

Prayer
Gracious God, may we look to you more to learn how to live. The example of your son is always before us; help us look deeper at his way and deeper into his love for the sake of serving others. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Ourselves as a Gift in Service to Others

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Peter 4:10

God loves to give and he has given us the gift of ourselves. We are a gift both to ourselves and to people around us. We were created to share the kindness, the love, the grace of God with others. Realising this, we are able to become who we are meant to be, reflecting the image of God. Our life is a gift of service that we can selfishly keep to and for ourselves, or that we can openly offer to God, allowing him to shape us into a gift for others. We are gifts designed to share God’s gracious love with others.

We are each of us a potential gift to others, if we will allow the life of service we offer God to flow over into our other relationships. We have been made to show and share God’s grace with others as we share this life together. We are called to serve others. We’re not here to improve our own position but give ourselves every day to help people in need. Such service won’t often be extraordinary, or miraculous, or something others couldn’t do. Mostly it will be simple small acts of help and service offered unobtrusively in quiet kindness. And it is a lifelong obedience that we are cultivating when we serve others, when we unselfishly help the poor, stand with the oppressed, and fight for those battling injustice. A life of service is just that: a life. An entire life. All of it. Everything. All that we have been given as a free gift, now freely given back to God and also freely given to others.

Question to Consider
How has your life been a gift for others lately? What gifts have you offered in service to others?

Prayer
Father God, my entire life – all I am, all I have, my very existence – is a gift from you. As extravagant as the gift of life is, may I extravagantly give this gift you have given me to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)