Scripture reading – Psalm 102
The author of Psalm 102 is unknown; however, the psalm’s title may offer insight into the period in which it was composed. The title reads, “A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord.” Speculative on my part, but I agree with some scholars who suggest its author was living in Babylon during the captivity.
A Cry of Lamentation (Psalm 102:1-11)
Assuming the psalm was penned by an exile, I understand the pitiful cry of its author, who earnestly prayed and longed for the LORD to lend a sympathetic ear and answer his prayer (Psalm 102:1-2). Reflecting on his miseries, the psalmist gave us a portrait of his physical and emotional state (Psalm 102:3-8).
He felt his life was passing, and his bones were wasting away (Psalm 102:3). His heart was depressed, and his appetite was lost (Psalm 102:4). Physically, he was reduced to skin and bones (Psalm 102:5). Like a sparrow that had lost its mate, he moaned there was no one to comfort him (Psalm 102:6-7).
The psalmist did not identify his adversary, but his enemy was unrelenting in his attacks (Psalm 102:8). He had become inconsolable. He could not hide his sorrows, and his tears flowed till they ran into his drink (Psalm 102:9). Like a fading shadow or grass that withers in the sun’s heat, he felt he was perishing (Psalm 102:11).
A Confession of Faith, Hope, and Trust (Psalm 102:12-22)
Amid his darkest hour, the psalmist looked past this mortal, temporal life and prayed, “But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever; And thy remembrance unto all generations” (Psalm 102:12). With his hope renewed, he confessed his confidence that the LORD had appointed a time when He would “have mercy upon Zion” (Zion was a reference to the mountain range upon which Jerusalem and the Temple had been built, Psalm 102:13). Knowing the LORD would not forsake Israel forever, the author believed He had set the time He would renew His favor, and Jerusalem would be rebuilt (Psalm 102:14-16).
Looking past sorrows, the psalmist was confident, though God was enthroned in heaven, His eye was always upon His people, and He heard their groanings (Psalm 102:19-20). Stirring hope anew, our author looked forward to the time the LORD’s name would be declared in His city, and the people would worship and serve Him (Psalm 102:21-22).
The Majesty of God Overshadows Human Frailty (Psalm 102:23-28)
Have you been through dark times? Do you recall how you felt as though you were riding an emotional rollercoaster and experiencing life’s physical, emotional, and spiritual ups and downs?
The psalmist began Psalm 102 with a prayer and cried for sympathy, but then his faith carried him to spiritual heights, and he believed the LORD had heard and would answer his prayers. Yet, from a pinnacle of rejoicing, the present realities of his sorrows suddenly plunged him into a sensation that his strength would fail him (Psalm 102:23a), his life would be shortened (Psalm 102:23b), and he would not live to see Israel restored to her homeland (Psalm 102:24).
Then, the psalmist remembered. He remembered God had revealed Himself as the Creator (Genesis 1) and had “laid the foundation of the earth: And the heavens [were] the work of [God’s] hands” (Psalm 102:25). He foresaw the temporal nature of the earth, the stars, and the planets, and that they would all “perish…[and] wax old like a garment” (Psalm 10:26; Luke 21:33). He believed the LORD would change the earth and the heavens like you and I change our clothes (Psalm 102:26; 2 Peter 3:13).
Closing thoughts –
I believe our author was familiar with Isaiah’s prophecies, for the LORD had revealed to that prophet, “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: And the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind” (Isaiah 65:17). He surely knew the LORD had promised Israel, “For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, Shall remain before me, saith the Lord, So shall your seed [Israel] and your name remain” (Isaiah 66:22).
The earth and the heavens are temporal, and the days of a man’s life pass “like a shadow” (Psalm 102:11); however, the LORD is immutable and eternal, for His “years shall have no end” (Psalm 102:27).
Be confident, my friend! The LORD’s divine character backs up His every promise, and He is immutable and eternal! (Psalm 102:28)
Questions to ponder:
1) Considering Psalm 102 was possibly written during Israel’s exile in Babylon, what circumstances moved the psalmist to write today’s Scripture? (Psalm 102:2-4)
2) How had others treated the writer? (Psalm 102:8)
3) What changed in the psalmist’s perspective that he began to express hope? (Psalm 102:12-14)
4) How did the psalmist express his confidence in God as his Creator? (Psalm 102:25)
5) What two doctrines regarding the nature of God are expressed in Psalm 102:27?
Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith
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