Speaking to the Soul – January 10


Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy, for we have had our fill of contempt. We have had more than our fill of the scoffing of the proud and the contempt of the arrogant. Psalm 123:3-4

To be treated with contempt is a horrible experience. To be written off as worthless is agonising and the Bible tells us about many people who knew just how painful it was to suffer in this way. Nehemiah certainly had the experience when he worked to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Many scholars think that this might be the background to this particular psalm. Nehemiah was convinced that God himself had commissioned him to undertake the rebuilding of the city. But that cut no ice with Sanballat and Tobiah, who did everything they could think of to ridicule his efforts. They were eager for Nehemiah to fail and tried endless ways to undermine his efforts. In the New Testament we see the way in which Jesus was treated with ridicule and contempt by the Pharisees and teachers of the law, leading to his death on the cross.

If you have ever been treated with contempt you will know what a depressing and discouraging experience it is. Very easily it can dominate all of our thinking and make life a complete misery. It can happen to any one of us and so it is good to see what the psalmist did. And that was to turn his attention to the Lord. The psalm begins with these words: “I lift my eyes to you, O God, enthroned in heaven.” When we are mistreated, the temptation is to focus all our attention on the other person and the misery that they have caused. As we do so we are inclined to become increasingly negative about them, and perhaps to start planning the way in which we can exact revenge. Very quickly we can become bitter and angry. It can easily become very destructive.

The psalmist chose to focus his attention on the Lord and we need to do the same. He knows the whole situation and understands us completely. He alone, the God of mercy, can set us free from our destructive reactions to life and enable us to face our critics with grace and love.

How have you responded to those who have treated you badly?
Loving Father, I realise that I need your loving care every moment of my life. Please grant me your strength, grace and wisdom today. Amen