Psalm 102 – Faithful In Affliction
It is believed that this psalm describes Jerusalem (Zion) after its destruction and the Psalmist could have been one of the exiles mourning over his personal and national affliction.
Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to you!
Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call!
The Psalmist was in an extremely dire situation. He cried out to God and asked God to answer him as soon as soon as he called Him, in the same day. Fearing that God might not hear him, he asked God to incline His ear to him.
Have we ever been severely afflicted like the Psalmist? Have we questioned, “Where are you God?” but only heard silence? In situations like this, most of us would choose to hide and blame God, or refuse to talk to God or anyone else. But the Psalmist persisted in calling God to hear him. His faith in God was like a rock.
Whatever happens in life, God is here. God may not answer our prayers speedily enough, but we cannot deny God’s existence either. If we trust that God is love, we must trust that God has His reasons for any delay in answering our prayers.
For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace.
My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread.
Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh.
This part of the psalm resembles the book of Job. The Psalmist could have been suffering from a sickness. In comparing his days with smoke, which disappears without a trace, he reflected on his mortality. He felt an aching in his bones and a fever. His heart ached, and he had lost his appetite. He groaned in pain, and he had become skinny.
I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places;
I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.
All the day my enemies taunt me; those who deride me use my name for a curse.
The Psalmist continued his string of imagery, comparing himself to an owl in the wilderness and a lonely sparrow. He felt he was friendless, and had enemies instead. They taunted him non-stop and his name was used as a curse.
For I eat ashes like bread and mingle tears with my drink,
because of your indignation and anger; for you have taken me up and thrown me down.
My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass.
The “ashes” described here could literally be from the ruins of the destroyed city, or a poetic description of the Psalmist’s despair. He cried a lot because he felt that God had punished him. He felt like he was withering away.
But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations.
Despite the feeling of hopelessness, there was a “But”. The one last hope the Psalmist had was God. Although he had felt that God was punishing him, his hope was still placed in God. Everything can go wrong, BUT we’ll always have God.
You will arise and have pity on Zion; it is the time to favour her; the appointed time has come.
Though in deep affliction, the Psalmist was sure that God would show mercy to Jerusalem (Zion) again. Our new Jerusalem is heaven. We may feel discouraged by various difficult situations in life. God may even be the one moving His hand to crush us, so we’ll be humbled and turn to Him. BUT, no matter how tough things get, we know they will end, and we have the hope of salvation. Christ has resurrected. He will have pity on Zion, his Church.
God loves me, so dearly. He is our Creator, yet He shows me favour; that is unimaginable but that is my God.
For your servants hold her stones dear and have pity on her dust.
The city may have become broken stones and dust, yet the people still loved Jerusalem. They could love the Holy City even though it was in ruins. Do we love our church despite its weaknesses and have the confidence that God will restore it?
Nations will fear the name of the LORD, and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory.
For the LORD builds up Zion; He appears in His glory;
He regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer.
Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD:
that He looked down from His holy height; from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die,
that they may declare in Zion the name of the LORD, and in Jerusalem His praise,
when peoples gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the LORD.
The Psalmist made a prophecy that nations (beyond Israel) will fear God. He will hear the prayers of those who are physically or spiritually destitute.
The Psalmist was steadfast in his faith in God. He was not in a favourable situation, yet he thought of future generations who were not born yet. He cared about their salvation too. He had a vision for others, and not just himself or his family. The future generations the Psalmist prayed for includes us, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Shouldn’t we learn the unselfish farsightedness of this Psalmist? As Christians, we should give hope of salvation to others. We need to think beyond ourselves, and think about future generations too.
God looks down from heaven to hear the “groans of the prisoners” (people who are imprisoned by sins), and he sets free those who are “doomed to die” (eternal condemnation). The people who are set free will declare God’s praise and worship him together.
That’s what has happened to us. We are set free from sin and we’ve been given salvation. Do we declare God’s praise to everyone? Do we worship God with joy? Or do we keep dwelling on our affliction? God sees our affliction and understands our pain. The Psalmist saw hope in God despite his affliction. Let’s find hope in God too.
He has broken my strength in midcourse; He has shortened my days.
“O my God,” I say, “take me not away in the midst of my days – you whose years endure throughout all generations!”
The Psalmist felt God has taken away his strength and shortened his life. Perhaps he was sick or dying. Yet he did not sound as though he was blaming God. Instead, he pleaded to God for his life.
Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
but you are the same, and your years have no end.
The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.
At the end of his life, the Psalmist reflected on God’s eternity. Everything will wear out and perish, but God will remain forever. We cannot place our security in anything in the world, because they’re all impermanent. The security that we (and our future generations) hope for can only be established through our eternal God.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit. Andy joined the Central Christian Church in 1990.