On this third Lord’s day of 2013 we turn to Psalm 102 for our worship readiness. At first glance this Word of God may not seem to be very fitting or inspiring for worship. The title to it says “A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the LORD.” And sure enough, the first half of it is a song of lament, in which the psalmist pleads with God to hear him and not hide His face from him. He is in deep affliction and pain in body and soul (vss.3-7), not only because his enemies reproach him all day (v.8), but also and especially because God is angry with him and has cast him down (v.10). And even in the second half of the psalm, where the psalmist is more positive and promising in hope, he speaks of his pain and trouble (v.23-24).
As we have been working our way through the OT Psalter, we have noticed many other psalms which contained songs of lament, and therefore have had opportunity to explain their place in the Christian’s life and their appropriateness for worship. Is not affliction the portion of all God’s people? Do we not come into God’s house of prayer and praise with our burdens of body and soul too? We do not enter His courts with a false spirit of happiness and a pious smile on our faces, pretending all is well when we are in deep affliction. We do not drop our pains at the door of praise. No, we bring them into His presence and drop them at the feet of our sovereign, majestic God! We praise Him through our pain by casting ourselves upon Him and laying our burdens before His throne of mercy and grace. This is precisely what the psalmist did, and many others before him. Indeed, our time of affliction is no reason to withhold worship from the Lord. Whether on or off our bed of pain, we must praise our holy, righteous, and loving Father. And we praise Him by crying out to Him for comfort and help.
But more than this, shall we only think of the psalmist’s affliction and our own when we read and sing and pray this psalm?! Must we not think of the Perfect Psalmist, our Lord Jesus Christ?! Is not the cry of Psalm 102 His cry? Is this not supremely His song of lament? For when the Son of God came in our flesh, He was the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53). No one was hated and reproached by men more than He. No one had more pain in body and soul than our Lord. And that’s because, as we well know, He was not simply bearing “everyman’s” affliction but His people’s sins and the wrath and curse of God for them. No wonder He cried out as He did here and in many other places in the Psalter! Hear Christ in Psalm 102, and sing with Him this song of grief! And thank and praise God that He sang these words, for they speak of our deliverance from sin and of reconciliation with God!
Which is why there is the second half of the psalm (vss.12ff.). Here the psalmist speaks confidently of the Lord’s mercy to His people and of her sure restoration (some think this was penned after the Babylonian captivity). And he rests so confidently in this because the Lord is eternal and unchanging (vss.12, 26, 27). Yes, we are saved and have comfort and hope in every affliction because our God is faithful to His Word and promises – for Christ’s sake!
And so we know that this is indeed Christ’s cry and that we are heard and saved for His sake, Heb.1:10-12 takes the words of vss.25-27 of Psalm 102 and applies them to Christ. For proof that He is the eternal, unchanging Son of God – in our human nature! Perfectly qualified to be our Mediator. Perfectly able to bear our sins and God’s wrath, and bring us back to God. Perfect Savior to give us perfect salvation. Look those verses up and see them in the light of all that Hebrews teaches. And then by faith and with understanding sing Ps.102. Maybe in your own pain today. Certainly the pain of our sin, which is always with us. But sing it in Christ, and sing with praise in your soul to the mighty God of mercy.
Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee.
2Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily.
3For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth.
4My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread.
5By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin.
6I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert.
7I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top.
8Mine enemies reproach me all the day; and they that are mad against me are sworn against me.
9For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping,
10Because of thine indignation and thy wrath: for thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down.
11My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass.
12But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever; and thy remembrance unto all generations.
13Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come.
14For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof.
15So the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glory.
16When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.
17He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.
18This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord.
19For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did theLord behold the earth;
20To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death;
21To declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem;
22When the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the Lord.
23He weakened my strength in the way; he shortened my days.
24I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days: thy years arethroughout all generations.
25Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands.
26They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed:
27But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.
28The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee.
If you wish to meditate through music on this psalm, there are five (5) versifications of this psalm in the 1912 Psalter (scroll down the list to the numbers for Psalm 102). One of my favorites is this one, in part because the tune fits the words so well. Click on the title for piano accompaniment.
273. The Deliverance of Zion. Psalm 102. L.M.
Thou, O Jehovah, shalt endure,
Thy throne forever is the same;
And to all generations sure
Shall be Thy great memorial Name.
The time for Zion’s help is near,
The time appointed in Thy love;
O let Thy gracious aid appear,
Look Thou in mercy from above.
O Lord, regard the prayer of those
Who love the walls of Zion well,
Whose hearts are heavy for her woes,
Who sad amid her ruins dwell.
Thy power and glory shall appear,
And Zion’s walls shall be restored;
Then all the kings of earth shall fear
And heathen nations serve the Lord.
The Lord has heard and answered prayer
And saved His people in distress;
This to the coming age declare,
That they His holy Name may bless.
The Lord, exalted on His throne,
Looked down from heaven with pitying eye
To still the lowly captive’s moan
And save His people doomed to die.
All men in Zion shall declare
His gracious Name with one accord,
When kings and nations gather there
To serve and worship God the Lord.