Weds 13 April - Psalm 102
1 Hear my prayer, Lord;
let my cry for help come to you.
2 Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.
3 For my days vanish like smoke;
my bones burn like glowing embers.
4 My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
I forget to eat my food.
5 In my distress I groan aloud
and am reduced to skin and bones.
6 I am like a desert owl,
like an owl among the ruins.
7 I lie awake; I have become
like a bird alone on a roof.
8 All day long my enemies taunt me;
those who rail against me use my name as a curse.
9 For I eat ashes as my food
and mingle my drink with tears
10 because of your great wrath,
for you have taken me up and thrown me aside.
11 My days are like the evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.
12 But you, Lord, sit enthroned for ever;
your renown endures through all generations.
13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to show favour to her;
the appointed time has come.
14 For her stones are dear to your servants;
her very dust moves them to pity.
15 The nations will fear the name of the Lord,
all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.
16 For the Lord will rebuild Zion
and appear in his glory.
17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
he will not despise their plea.
18 Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:
19 ‘The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death.’
21 So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem
22 when the peoples and the kingdoms
assemble to worship the Lord.
23 In the course of my life he broke my strength;
he cut short my days.
24 So I said:
‘Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days;
your years go on through all generations.
25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
27 But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.
28 The children of your servants will live in your presence;
their descendants will be established before you.’
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Meditation on Psalm 102
(Please note that there won't be a Psalm devotion the week after Easter)
We come to a group of psalms (101-110) that are surrounded by two other groups (90-100) and (111-119).
Psalms 90-100 begins with ‘prayer’ and ends with ‘praise’.
Psalms 111-119 begin with ‘a celebration of the characteristics of God’ and end with the ‘power of the Word of God’.
In between we have this group of 10 psalms. Psalms 102 and 109 are the prayers of an individual in times of trouble. They could also refer to communities or nations.
Psalms 103 and 108 celebrate the love of God that reaches to the heavens.
Psalms 104 and 107 celebrate the wonderful deeds of the LORD through His lordship over creation and His lordship over people.
Psalms 105 and 106 are salvation-history psalms - 105 reminding us of the history of Israel’s redemption and 106 reminding us of the history of Israel’s rebellion.
The two book-ends -Psalms 101 and 110 remind us of the king and his authority, looking ahead to the Messianic King.
So we come to Psalm 102. Here is the heart-rending cry of someone who is in distress. The title of the psalm tells us that this is ‘the prayer of an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the LORD’.
This is not the first psalm we have come across where the author is struggling to cope because he is struggling to come to terms with where he is at. Nor will it be the last.
But it is honest.
- Verses 1-2 GOD, I NEED YOU NOW
- ‘Hear me’
- ‘Help me’
- ‘Don’t hide your face from me’
- ‘Turn your ear to me’
- ‘Answer me quickly’
Psalm 13:1-4 has similar cries when the psalmist says,
- ‘How long?’; ‘How long?’; How long?’; ‘How long?’
This is not just the cry of an individual. This is the cry of a people, a nation.
I googled ‘where is there armed conflict around the world today?’ The list of countries would take up more space than allowed.
Maybe, you are also asking some of these questions.
Maybe, you are wondering if God really cares about you.
- Verses 3-11 GOD, HERE’S MY PROBLEM
The psalmist pours out his pain.
- ‘days that vanish like smoke’ – here one moment and gone the next
- ‘bones that hurt’
- ‘heart trouble’
- ‘psychological issues – I forgot to eat my food’
- ‘significant weight loss’
- ‘like a desert owl’ – speaks of being on its own in a desert
- ‘like a bird on a roof’ – speaks of loneliness
- ‘provoked by enemies’
- ‘constantly mourning’ – ashes for food and tears with drink
- ‘rejected – tossed aside’
- ‘days that wither away like grass’
There are huge psychological, physical, emotional and spiritual issues that the psalmist faces.
No wonder he is dejected.
Spurgeon comments: ‘he felt that God was treating him as wrestlers treat one another, when a man deliberately lifts up his opponent in order that he may give him the worst fall.’
But the psalm doesn’t end there.
- Verses 12-17 GOD, THERE IS HOPE, ISN’T THERE
Here is another of the great ‘BUT…’ in Scripture.
In spite of the terrible situation in which the psalmist finds himself, he now turns his attention to the LORD.
Notice that in the first 11 verses the psalmist uses ‘my’; ‘I’; ‘me’.
Now, in verses 12-17 he changes to ‘you’; ‘your’.
At first glance these verses seem out of place with the rest of the psalm. Why does the psalmist turn his thoughts to Zion?
Just as the psalmist felt broken, so he likens that brokenness to Zion, the place where God dwells but which was in ruins. Mount Zion is the place where Yahweh, the God of Israel, dwells; the place where He is King; the place where God installed His king, David. It is the seat of Yahweh’s action down through history.
Zion has a future glory which will be brought in when Jesus returns to set up His Kingdom, of which we will be part.
Whilst the psalmist has been pouring out his pain, especially the shortness of his life, he knows he can have confidence in the LORD who is eternal and whose renown is eternal.
Humans come and go but the LORD is on the throne for ever.
And those ‘stones’ (v.14a) will be used in the rebuilding of Zion.
And this will have a universal effect on the nations.
The nations will fear the LORD.
The kings of the earth will honour the LORD.
And then comes the psalmist’s confidence in the LORD when he testifies, ‘He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; He will not despise their plea.’
So, yes, there is hope.
- Verses 18-22 GOD, YOU ARE GREAT – THANK YOU
We have the testimony of the psalmist as he looks forward to the generations to come.
He wants to make sure that the testimony is recorded so that we can have the same confidence…
‘so that a people not yet created may praise the LORD.’
You and I, as God’s children, have a testimony to pass on to the next generation.
The psalmist rejoices that the LORD ‘looks down from heaven…He looks at the earth… He HEARS… He RELEASES…’
Zion will once again become the centre of worship and praise and we will be part of that – ‘when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the LORD.’
I am just listening to a song – ‘How beautiful heaven must be’. We are on our way there – God, thank you.
- Verses 23-28 GOD, YOU ARE FOREVER
It’s as if the psalmist just wants to go back to the opening verses and make sure that everything is going to be all right.
He reminds us that his strength was gone so he just wanted to check with God that everything would be all right.
Whatever happens to him, however short his life may be, he can be assured that God is eternal. In fact, he goes back to the beginning and reminds us that God is ‘from everlasting to everlasting’.
Even creation will end but ‘you remain the same and your years will never end.’
And generations of people ‘will live in your presence’.
Even so, come Lord Jesus.
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