(The following texts highlighted in this color of blue is taken from The Treasury of David

 by Charles Haddon Spurgeon)  "Excerpted text  Copyright AGES Library,

LLC. All rights reserved.  Materials are reproduced by permission."

 

 

                                                            Psalm 102

 

“A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint (moanings)

before the Lord”

 

THE “title” of this psalm is altogether peculiar, being “a Prayer for the afflicted, when

he faints, and pours out his complaint before Jehovah.”

 

The writer appears to have belonged to the period of the Captivity, and probably to

the later portion of it (v. 13). It has been conjectured that he is Daniel; but there are no

sufficient grounds for assigning the composition to any special individual. It is the

voice of a representative sufferer in Babylon, mourning over his own afflictions

and those of his nation.

 

SUBJECT. This is a patriot's lament over his country's distress. He arrays himself in

the griefs of his nation as in a garment of sackcloth, and casts her dust and ashes upon

his head as the ensigns and causes of his sorrow. He has his own private woes and

personal enemies, he is moreover sore afflicted in body by sickness, but the miseries

of his people cause him a far more bitter anguish, and this he pours out in an

earnest, pathetic lamentation. Not, however, without hope does the patriot mourn;

he has faith in God, and looks for the resurrection of the nation through the omnipotent

favor of the Lord; this causes him to walk among the ruins of Jerusalem, and to say

with hopeful spirit, "No, Zion, thou shalt never perish. Thy sun is not set for ever; brighter

days are in store for thee." It is in vain to enquire into the precise point of

Israel's history which thus stirred a patriot's soul, for many a time was the land

oppressed, and at any of her sad seasons this song and prayer would have been a

most natural and appropriate utterance.

 

TITLE. A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint

before the Lord. This Psalm is a prayer far more in spirit than in words.

The formal petitions are few, but a strong stream of supplication runs from beginning

to end, and like an under-current, finds its way heavenward through the moanings of

grief and confessions of faith which make up the major part of the Psalm. It is a prayer

of the afflicted, or of "a sufferer”, and this Psalm is as eminently expressive of consolation

as of desolation. It is scarcely correct to call it a penitential Psalm, for

the sorrow of it is rather of one suffering than sinning. It has its own bitterness,

and it is not the same as that of the Fifty-first. The sufferer is afflicted more for

others than for himself, more for Zion and the house of the Lord, than for his

own house. When he is overwhelmed, or sorely troubled, and depressed.; it is well

when that which is in the soul is such as may be poured out in the presence of God,

and this is only the case where the heart has been renewed by divine grace. The

word rendered "complaint" has in it none of the idea of fault-finding or repining,

but should rather be rendered "moaning, "—the expression of pain, not of rebellion.

To help the memory we will call this Psalm THE PATRIOT'S PLAINT.

 

·        In the first part of the Psalm, Psalm 102:1-11, the moaning monopolizes

     every verse, the lamentation is unceasing, sorrow rules the hour.

 

·        The second portion, from Psalm 102:12-28, has a vision of better things,

     a view of the gracious Lord, and His eternal existence, and care for

            His people, and therefore it is interspersed with sunlight as well as shaded

            by the cloud, and it ends up right gloriously with calm confidence for the

            future, and sweet restfulness in the Lord. The whole composition may be

            compared to a day which, opening with wind and rain, clears up at noon

            and is warm with the sun, continues fine, with intervening showers, and

            finally closes with a brilliant sunset.

 

 

v. 1 - “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee(comp.

Psalm 27:7; 39:12; 54:2; 55:1). “Stereotyped expressions,” but the fittest to express

a sufferer’s urgent need.Hear my prayer, O LORD”.   Or O JEHOVAH. Sincere

supplicants are not content with praying for praying's sake, they desire really to

reach the ear and heart of the great God. It is a great relief in time of distress to

acquaint others with our trouble, we are eased by their hearing our lamentation, but

it is the sweetest solace of all to have God himself as a sympathizing listener to

our plaint.  It would be the direst of all our woes if we could be indisputably

convinced that with God there is neither hearing nor answering; he who could argue

us into so dreary a belief would do us no better service than if he had read us our

death-warrants. Better die than be denied the mercy-seat. As well be atheists at once

as believe in an unhearing, unfeeling God.  “And let my cry come unto thee”.  (Even

Jesus our Savior set the example – “Who in the days of His flesh, when He had

offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that

was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared”(Hebrews

5:7)  When sorrow rises to such a height that words become too weak a medium of

expression, and prayer is intensified into a cry, then the heart is even more urgent

to have audience with the Lord. If our cries do not enter within the veil, and reach to

the living God, we may as well cease from prayer at once, for it is idle to cry to the winds;

but, blessed be God, the philosophy which suggests such a hideous idea is

disproved by the facts of every day experience, since thousands of the saints can

declare, "Verily, God hath heard us.(me)"

 

v. 2 – “Hide not thy face from me” – As “the light of God’s countenance” is

the greatest of all goods (Psalm 4:6), so its withdrawal is the worst of all evils.

Favor me with looks of compassion.  “Incline thine ear unto me”. Bow thy greatness

to my weakness. If because of sin thy face is turned away, at least let me have a side

view of thee, lend me thine ear if I may not see thine eye. Turn thyself to me again if,

my sin has turned thee away, give to thine ear an inclination to my prayers.

“In the day when I call answer me speedily”.  Because the case is urgent, and

my soul little able to wait. We may ask to have answers to prayer as soon as possible,

but we may not complain of the Lord if He should think it more wise to delay. We

have permission to request and to use importunity, but no right to dictate or to be petulant.

If it be important that the deliverance should arrive at once, we are quite right

in making an early time a point of our entreaty, for God is as willing to grant us a favor now

as to-morrow, and He is not slack concerning his promise. It is a proverb

concerning favors from human hands, that "he gives twice who gives quickly,

"because a gift is enhanced in value by arriving in a time of urgent necessity; and we

may be sure that our heavenly Patron will grant us the best gifts in the best

manner, granting us grace to help in time of need.

 

In these two verses the psalmist has gathered up a variety of expressions and the

whole may be regarded as a sort of preface to the prayer which follows.

 

v. 3 - “For my days are consumed like smoke” -  are consumed into smoke,”

i.e. “disappear, pass away into nothingness.”  I seem to be but a puff of vapor which

has nothing in it, and is soon dissipated. The metaphor is very admirably chosen, for,

to the unhappy, life seems not merely to be frail, but to be surrounded by so much that

is darkening, defiling, blinding, and depressing, that, sitting down in despair, they compare

themselves to men wandering in a dense fog, and themselves so dried up thereby that they

are little better than pillars of smoke. When our days have neither

light of joy nor fire of energy in them, but become as a smoking flax which dies out ignobly

in darkness, then have we cause enough to appeal to the Lord that he would

not utterly quench us. (Of Jesus it is said  the smoking flax He will not quench” –

(Isaiah 42:3) “And my bones are burned as an hearth” - “My bones smoulder like

a firebrand,  (For the sentiment, see  Psalm 31:10; 32:3; 42:10.)  He became as dry as

the hearth on which a wood fire has burned out, or as spent ashes in which scarcely a

trace of fire can be found. His soul was ready to be blown away as smoke, and his

body seemed likely to remain as the bare hearth when the last comforting ember is quenched.

How often has our piety appeared to us to be in this condition! We have had to

question its reality, and fear that it never was anything more than a smoke; we

have had the most convincing evidence of its weakness, for we could not

derive even the smallest comfort from it, any more than a chilled traveler can

derive from the cold hearth on which a fire had burned long ago. Soul-trouble

experienced in our own heart will help us to interpret the language here

employed; and church-troubles may help us also, if unhappily we have been called

to endure them. The psalmist was moved to grief by a view of national calamities, and

these so wrought upon his patriotic soul that he was wasted with anxiety, his spirits

were dried up, and his very life was ready to expire. There is hope for any country

which owns such a son; no nation can die while true hearts are ready to die for it.

 

 

v. 4 – “My heart is smitten, and withered like grass” - The psalmist's heart was as

a wilted, withered flower, a burned up mass of what once was verdure. His energy, beauty,

freshness, and joy, were utterly gone, through the wasting influence of his anguish -  “so

that I forget to eat my bread” – a proof of the heart’s condition – (compare Job 33:20

and Hannah – I Samuel 1:7)  or "because I forget to eat my bread."

Grief often destroys the appetite, and the neglect of food tends further to injure the

constitution and create a yet deeper sinking of spirit. As the smitten flower no longer

drinks in the dew, or draws up nutriment from the soil, so a heart parched with

intense grief often refuses consolation for itself and nourishment for the bodily

frame, and descends at a doubly rapid rate into weakness, despondency, and

dismay. The case here described is by no means rare, we have frequently met with

individuals so disordered by sorrow that their memory has failed them even upon

such pressing matters as their meals, and we must confess that we have passed

through the same condition ourselves. One sharp pang has filled the soul,

monopolized the mind, and driven everything else into the background, so that such

common matters as eating and drinking have been utterly despised, and the appointed

hours of refreshment have gone by unheeded, leaving no manifest faintness of body,

but an increased weariness of heart.

 

v. 5 – “By the reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin”.

(compare Job 19:20, Lamentations 4:8)  He became emaciated with sorrow. He had

groaned himself down to a living skeleton, and so in his bodily appearance was the

more like the smoke-dried, withered, burnt-up things to which he had previously

compared himself.  This good man was so moved with sympathy for Zion's ills that

he was wasted down to skin and bone.

 

v. 6 - “I am like a pelican of the wilderness” – the pelican is a bird which haunts

marshy and desolate places – it is a mournful and even hideous object, the very image

of desolation.  “I am like an owl of the desert” -  loving solitude, moping among

ruins, hooting discordantly. The Psalmist likens himself to two birds which were

commonly used as emblems of gloom and wretchedness; on other occasions he

had been as the eagle, but the griefs of his people had pulled him down, the

brightness was gone from his eye, and the beauty from his person; he seemed to

himself to be as a melancholy bird sitting among the fallen palaces and prostrate

temples of his native land. Should not we also lament when the ways of Zion

mourn and her strength languishes? Were there more of this holy sorrow we

should soon see the Lord returning to build up His church. It is ill for men to be

playing the peacock with worldly pride when the ills of the times should make

them as mournful as the pelican; and it is a terrible thing to see men flocking like

vultures to devour the prey of a decaying church, when they ought rather to be

lamenting among her ruins like the owl.

 

v. 7 – “I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top  - Sparrows are

very common in Palestine. One observer says that he has often heard a sparrow

which had lost its mate, uttering “by the hour” its sad lament, seated upon a housetop

I keep a solitary vigil as the lone sentry of my nation; my fellows are too selfish, too

careless to care for the beloved land, and so like a bird which sits alone on the

housetop, I keep up a sad watch over my country. The Psalmist compared himself to a

bird, —a bird when it has lost its mate or its young, or is for some other reason made to

mope alone in a solitary place.  Probably he did not refer to the cheerful sparrow of our

own land, but if he did, the illustration would not be out of place, for the sparrow is

happy in company, and if it were alone, the sole one of its species in the neighbourhood,

there can be little doubt that it would become very miserable, and sit and pine away. He

who has felt himself to be so weak and inconsiderable as to have no more power

over his times than a sparrow over a city, has also, when bowed down with

despondency concerning the evils of the age, sat himself down in utter wretchedness to

lament the ills which he could not heal. Christians of an earnest, watchful kind often

find themselves among those who have no sympathy with them; even in the church

they look in vain for kindred spirits; then do they persevere in their prayers and labors,

but feel themselves to be as lonely as the poor bird which looks from the ridge of the roof,

and meets with no friendly greeting from any of its kind.

 

v. 8 – “Mine enemies reproach me all the day:  and they that are mad against

me are sworn against me”

 

v. 9 – “For I have eaten ashes like bread” - He had so frequently cast ashes

upon his head in token of mourning, that they had mixed with his ordinary

food, and grated between his teeth when he ate his daily bread. One while

he forgot to eat, and then the fit changed, and he ate with such a hunger

that even ashes were devoured. Grief has strange moods and tenses.

and mingled my drink with weeping” - His drink became as nauseous as his

meat, for copious showers of tears had made it brackish. This is a telling

description of all-saturating, all-embittering sadness, —and this was the

portion of one of the best of men, and that for no fault of his own, but

because of his love to the Lord's people. If we, too, are called to mourn, let

us not be amazed by the fiery trial as though some strange thing had

happened unto us. Both in meat and drink we have sinned; it is not

therefore wonderful if in both we are made to mourn.

 

v. 10 -  Because of thine indignation and thy wrath: for thou hast lifted

me up and cast me down” – the allusion is go the former prosperity of Israel

in their own land contrasted with their present misery in Babylon  - A sense of the

divine wrath which had been manifested in the overthrow of the chosen nation and

their sad captivity led the Psalmist into the greatest distress. Our translation gives the

idea of a vessel uplifted in order that it may be dashed to the earth with all the greater

violence and the more completely broken in pieces; or to change the figure, it reminds

us of a wrestler whom his opponent catches up that he may give him a more desperate

fall (the modern “pile-drive” – CY – 2009). The first interpretation which we have

given is, however, more fully in accordance with the original, and sets forth the utter

helplessness which the writer felt, and the sense of overpowering terror which bore

him along in a rush of tumultuous grief which he could not withstand.

 

v. 11 -  My days are like a shadow that declineth; literally, that lengthens, as

shadows do when the day declines (comp. v. 24). The psalmist, like his nation, is old

before his time; the shades of evening have come upon him, when he should have been

in his midday brightness. A shadow is unsubstantial enough, how feeble a thing must a

declining shadow be? No expression could more forcibly set forth his extreme

feebleness.   and I am withered like grass” -  (comp. v. 4). The “I” here is emphatic

(yna) — not only is the psalmist’s heart withered, but he himself is altogether scorched

and dried up. He was like grass, blasted by a parching wind, or cut down with a scythe,

and then left to be dried up by the burning heat of the sun. There are times when through

depression of spirit a man feels as if all life were gone from him, and existence had become

merely a breathing death. Heart-break has a marvellously withering influence over our entire

system; our flesh at its best is but as grass, and when it is wounded with sharp sorrows, its

beauty fades, and it becomes a shriveled, dried, uncomely thing.

 

The second part of the psalm here begins. Against the complaint is to be set the

confident hope and consolation.  Now the writer's mind is turned away from his

personal and relative troubles to the true source of all consolation, namely, the

Lord Himself, and His gracious purposes towards His own people.

 

v. 12 – “But thou, O Lord, shalt endure forever. God does not “wither” or decay —

God and God’s purposes “endure forever.” It matters not that Israel is brought so

low, and seems at the last gasp; God can raise up his people, and will do so

in His own good time (vs. 13-17).   I perish, but thou wilt not, my nation has become almost

extinct, but thou art altogether unchanged. The original has the word "sit, "—"thou,

Jehovah, to eternity shalt sit:" that is to say, thou reignest on, thy throne is

still secure even when thy chosen city lies in ruins, and thy peculiar people are carried into

captivity. The sovereignty of God in all things is an unfailing ground for

consolation; He rules and reigns whatever happens, and therefore all is well.

 

                        Firm as His throne His promise stands,

                                    And He can well secure,

                        What I have committed to His hands.

                                    Till the decisive hour.

 

 and thy remembrance unto all generations” or, thy memorial (Revised Version);

see Exodus 3:15. God’s “remembrance,” or “memorial,” consists in the recollection,

that His faithful ones have, of His  historically manifested attributes.  Men will forget

me, but as for thee, O God, the constant tokens of thy presence will keep the race of

man in mind of thee from age to age. What God is now He always will be, that

which our forefathers told us of the Lord we find to be true at this present time,

and what our experience enables us to record will beconfirmed by our children

and their children's children. All things else are vanishing like smoke, and withering like

grass, but over all the one eternal, immutable light shines on, and will shine on

when all these shadows have declined into nothingness.

 

v. 13 – “Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion:  for the time to favor her,

yea, the set time, is come”  God is said to “arise,” when He bestirs Himself

to take vengeance on His enemies, and deliver His saints out of their hands. The

Zion,” on which He would “have mercy,” was not the city only, but the people

belonging to it. For the time to favor her (or, pity her), yea, the set time, is come. By

the set time” is probably meant the time fixed by Jeremiah for the termination of the

Captivity and the restoration of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10), and alluded to

by Daniel in Daniel 9:2. This time, the psalmist says, approaches.  Zion had been

chosen of old, highly favored, gloriously inhabited, and wondrously preserved, and

therefore by the memory of her past mercies it was certain that mercy would again be

showed to her. God will not always leave His church in a low condition; He may for a

while hide Himself from her in chastisement, to make her see her nakedness and

poverty apart from Himself, but in love He must return to her, and stand up in her

defense, to work her welfare.  “For the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is

come”. Divine decree has appointed a season for blessing the church, and when

that period has arrived, blessed she shall be. There was an appointed time for the Jews

in Babylon, and when the weeks were fulfilled, no bolts nor bars could longer

imprison the ransomed of the Lord. When the time came for the walls to rise stone

by stone, no Tobiah or Sanballat (Nehemiah 6:1) could stay the work, for the Lord

Himself had arisen, and who can restrain the hand of the Almighty? When God's

own time is come, neither Rome, nor the devil, nor persecutors, nor atheists, can

prevent the kingdom of Christ from extending its bounds. It is God's work to do it;

—He must "arise"; He will do it, but He has His own appointed season; and meanwhile

we must, with holy anxiety and believing expectation, wait upon Him!

 

v. 14 - “For thy servants take pleasure in her stones(comp.  Isaiah 64:10-11;

Lamentations 4:1; Nehemiah 2:13; 4:2). To this day the same affection is shown by

Israelite pilgrims at the “Jews’ Wailing Place.” And favor (rather, pity) the dust

thereof. The rubbish in which the stones lay (Nehemiah 4:2) seems to be intended.

They delight in her so greatly that even her rubbish is dear to them.  It was a good

omen for Jerusalem when the captives began to feel a homesickness, and began to

sigh after her. We may expect the modern Jews to be restored to their own land when

the love of their country begins to sway them, and casts out the love of gain. To the church

of God no token can be more full of hope than to see the members thereof

deeply interested in all that concerns her; no prosperity is likely to rest upon a church when

carelessness about ordinances, enterprises, and services is manifest; (a la –

public sales in the vestibule, forms and pictures on screens to take the place of

what use to be envisioning Jehovah, who is Spirit and not likened to images – etc –

CY – 2009) but when even the least and lowest matter connected with the Lord's work

is carefully attended to, we may be sure that the set time to favor Zion is come. The poorest

church member, the most grievous backslider, the most ignorant convert,

should be precious in our sight, because forming a part, although possibly a very

feeble part, of the new Jerusalem. If we do not care about the prosperity of the

church  to which we belong, need we wonder if the BLESSING OF THE LORD

IS WITHHELD!

 

 

 

 

v. 15 – “So the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord” - Mercy within the church

is soon perceived by those without. When a candle is lit in the house, it shines through the

window. When Zion rejoices in her God, the heathen begin to reverence His

name, for they hear of the wonders of His power, and are impressed thereby “and all

the kings of earth thy glory” – the effects of the rebuilding of the earthly Jerusalem

will be extended to the establishment on earth of the new and heavenly Jerusalem

(Isaiah 65:17-25; Revelation 21:1-24).  A church quickened by divine power is so

striking an object in current history that it cannot escape notice, rulers cannot ignore it,

it affects the Legislature, and forces from the great ones of the earth a recognition of

the divine working.  Oh that we might see in our days such a revival of religion that

our senators and princes might be compelled to pay homage to the Lord, and own His

glorious grace. This cannot be till the saints are better edified, and more fully builded

together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

 

v. 16 – “When the LORD shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory” -

As kings display their skill and power and wealth in the erection of their capitals, so

would the Lord reveal the splendor of His attributes in the restoration of Zion, and

so will He now glorify Himself in the edification of His church. Never is the Lord

more honorable in the eyes of His saints than when He prospers the church. To add

converts to her, to train these for holy service, to instruct, illuminate, and sanctify the

brotherhood, to bind all together in the bonds of Christian love, and to fill the whole

body with the energy of the Holy Spirit—this is to build up Zion. Truly, when we see

the church in a low state, and mark the folly, helplessness, and indifference of those

who profess to be her builders; and, on the other hand, the energy, craft, and influence

of those opposed to her, we are fully prepared to own that it will be a glorious work of

omnipotent grace should she ever rise to her pristine grandeur and purity.

 

v. 17 – “He will regard the prayer of the destitute” –The word translated “destitute”

is elsewhere (Jeremiah 17:6) only used as the name of a shrub — probably the dwarf

juniper, still so called by the Arabs. The dwarf juniper has “a gloomy stunted appearance” 

and well symbolizes the Israel of the Captivity period, dry and withered, like a

wretched desert shrub.  Only the poorest of the people were left to

sigh and cry among the ruins of the beloved city; as for the rest, they were strangers

in a strange land, and far away from the holy place, yet the prayers of the captives and

the forlorn off-scourings of the land would be heard of the Lord, who does not hear

men because of the amount of money they possess, or the breadth of the acres which

they call their own, but in mercy listens most readily to the cry of the greatest need.

and not despise their prayer; rather, He hath regardedand hath not despised

(see the Revised Version).  When great kings are building their palaces it is not reasonable

to expect them to turn aside and listen to every beggar who pleads with them, yet when

the Lord builds up Zion, and appears in His robes of glory, He makes a point of

listening to every petition of the poor and needy. He will not treat their pleas with

contempt; He will incline His ear to hear, His heart to consider, and His hand to

help. What comfort is here for those who account themselves to be utterly destitute;

their abject want is here met with a most condescending promise. It is worth while to

be destitute to be thus assured of the divine regard.

 

v. 18 - “This shall be written for the generation to come” -  or, let it be written;

grafh>tw au[th, LXX. The mercy of God in restoring His people to their own land

and city must be recorded in writing, as His past mercies have been (Exodus 17:14;

Deuteronomy 31:19), for the edification of future generations. The record was made

by Ezra and Nehemiah.   .)  A note shall be made of it, for there will be destitute ones

in future generations, —"the poor shall never cease out of the land” (Deuteronomy

15:11) and it will make glad their eyes to read the story of the Lord's mercy to the

needy in former times. Registers of divine kindness ought to be made and preserved;

we write dcwn in history the calamities of nations, —wars, famines, pestilences, and

earthquakes are recorded; how much rather then should we set up memorials of the

Lord's lovingkindness! Those who have in their own souls endured spiritual

destitution, and have been delivered out of it, cannot forget it; they are bound to tell others

of it, and especially to instruct their children in the goodness of the Lord.

and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord” -  Restored Israel is

spoken of as a new creation (comp. Psalm 22:31; Isaiah 43:7, 21). It was, indeed, a sort

of resurrection from the dead (see Ezekiel 37:1-10). (For the “praise” immediately

rendered, see Ezra 3:10-11; 6:16-22; Nehemiah 12:27-43)  The Psalmist here intends

to say that the rebuilding of Jerusalem would be a fact in history for which the Lord would

be praised from age to age.  Revivals of religion not only cause great joy to

those who are immediately concerned in them, but they give encouragement and

delight to the people of God long after, and are indeed perpetual incentives to

adoration throughout the church of God. This verse teaches us that we ought to have

an eye to posterity, and especially should we endeavor to perpetuate the memory

of  God's love to His church and to His poor people, so that young people as they

grow up may know that the Lord God of their fathers is good and full of

compassion.  Sad as the Psalmist was when he wrote the dreary portions of this complaint,

he was not so absorbed in his own sorrow, or so distracted by the national calamity, as to

orget the claims of coming generations; this, indeed, is a clear proof

that he was not without hope for his people, for he who is making arrangements for

the good of a future generation has not yet despaired of his nation. The praise of

God should be the great object of all that we do, and to secure Him a revenue of

glory both from the present and the future is the noblest aim of intelligent beings.

 

v. 19 - “For He hath looked down from the height of His sanctuary.  God’s true

sanctuary is the heaven of heavens wherein he dwells. from heaven did the Lord

behold the earth”(comp. Exodus 2:23-25). As God in the days of old had looked

down on the affliction of His people in Egypt, so did He now “look down” and

behold their sufferings in Babylon.  What was the object of this leaning from the

battlements of heaven? Why this intent gaze upon the race of men? The answer is full

of astounding mercy;

 

v. 20 - To hear the groaning of the prisoner” - (see Exodus 2:24, “God heard

their groaning;” and comp. Exodus 3:7; 6:5). “To loose those that are appointed to

death” -  literally, the sons of death (comp. Psalm 79:11). Captive Israel regarded its

life in Babylon as little better than death (see Ezekiel 37:11).  Now the groans of those

in prison so far from being musical are very horrible to hear, yet God bends to hear

them: those who are bound for death are usually ill company, yet Jehovah deigns to

stoop from His greatness to relieve their extreme distress and break their chains. This

He does by providential rescues, by restoring health to the dying, and by finding food

for the famishing: and spiritually this deed of grace is accomplished by sovereign

grace, which delivers us by pardon from the sentence of sin, and by the sweetness of

the promise from the deadly despair which a sense of sin had created within us. Well

may those of us praise the Lord who were once the children of death, but are now

brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

 

v. 21 -  To declare the Name of the Lord in Zion” - The great object of Israel’s

restoration was the glory of God — that Jew and heathen, joined together in one,

might unitedly bless God, and praise His glorious Name. The complete fulfillment

was, of course, only after the coming of Christ. and His praise in Jerusalem”. Especially

in the “new Jerusalem” - Great mercy displayed to those greatly in need

of it, is the plainest method of revealing the attributes of the Most High. Actions

speak more loudly than words; deeds of grace are a revelation even more

impressive than the most tender promises. Jerusalem restored, the church re-edified,

desponding souls encouraged, and all other manifestations of Jehovah's power to

bless, are so many manifestoes and proclamations put up upon the walls

of Zion to publish the character and glory of the great God. Every day's

experience should be to us a new gazette of love, a court circular from heaven, a

daily despatch from the headquarters of grace. We are bound to inform our

fellow Christians of all this, making them helpers in our praise, as they hear of

the goodness which we have experienced.  While God's mercies speak so

eloquently, we ought not to be dumb. To communicate to others what God has done

for us personally and for the church at large is so evidently our duty, that we ought not

to need urging to fulfill it. We ought not wilfully to defraud God of the revenue of

His praise.

 

v. 22 – “When the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the

Lord” – (compare Psalms 22:27, 68:29-32, Isaiah 49:6-7,18) The great work of

restoring ruined Zion is to be spoken of in those golden ages when the heathen

nations shall be converted unto God; even those glorious times will not be able to

despise that grand event, which, like the passage of Israel through the Red Sea, will

never be eclipsed and never cease to awaken the enthusiasm of the chosen people.

Happy will the day be when all nations shall unite in the sole worship of

Jehovah, then shall the histories of the olden times be read with adoring

wonder, and the hand of the Lord shall be seen as having ever rested upon

the sacramental host of His elect: then shall shouts of exulting praise ascend

to heaven in honor of Him who loosed the captives, delivered the condemned, raised

up the desolations of ages, and made out of stones and rubbish a temple for His

worship.

 

 

vs. 23-28 - The third strophe begins with an acknowledgment of weakness but with

an ascent to a higher confidence than any displayed previously — a confidence that

God, who is everlasting (vs. 24-27), will perpetually protect His people, and,

whatever becomes of the existing generation, will establish their seed before Him

forever (v. 28).

 

v. 23 - He weakened my strength in the way” - “He has brought down my

strength in the way,” and explains “the way” as “the journey of life.”  The

Psalmist’s sorrow had cast down his spirit, and even caused weakness in his

bodily frame, so that he was like a pilgrim who limped along the road, and

was ready to lie down and dieHe shortened my days” -  “made me grow old

prematurely” (comp. ver. 11).  Though he had bright hopes for Jerusalem, he

feared that he should have departed this life long before those visions had become

realities; he felt that he was pining away and would be a short-lived man. Perhaps

this may be our lot, and it will materially help us to be content with it, if we are

persuaded that the grandest of all interests is safe, and the good old cause secure in

the hands of the Lord.

 

v. 24 - I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days” - Compare

the complaint of Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:10). A pious Israelite regarded himself as entitled

to a fairly long life, which was promised him directly (Exodus 20:12) and by

implication, since it was only the wicked that were “not to live out half their days”

(Psalm 55:23). He betook himself to prayer. What better remedy is there for heart-sickness

and depression? We may lawfully ask for recovery from sickness and may

hope to be heard. Good men should not dread death, but they are not forbidden to

love life: for many reasons the man who has the best hope of heaven may

nevertheless think it desirable to continue here a little longer, for the sake of his

family, his work, the church of God, and even the glory of God itself. Some read the

passage, "Take me not up, "let me not ascend like disappearing smoke, do not whirl

me away like Elijah in a chariot of fire, for as yet I have only seen half my days, and

that a sorrowful half; give me to live till the blustering morning shall have softened

into a bright afternoon of happier existence.   Thy years are throughout all

generations”.  Thou livest, Lord; let me live also. A fullness of existence is with thee,

let me partake therein. Note the contrast between himself pining and ready to expire,

and his God living on in the fulness of strength for ever and ever; this contrast is full

of consolatory power to the man whose heart is stayed upon the Lord.  Blessed be His

name, He faileth not, and, therefore, our hope shall not fail us, neither will we despair

for ourselves or for His church.

 

v. 25 - “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth (comp. Isaiah 48:13) Creation

is no new work with God, and therefore to "create Jerusalem a praise in

the earth" will not be difficult to Him. Long ere the holy city was laid in ruins

the Lord made a world out of nothing, and it will be no labor to Him to raise the

walls from their heaps and replace the stones in their courses. We can neither

continue our own existence nor give being to others; but the Lord not only is, but He

is the Maker of all things that are; hence, when our affairs are at the very lowest ebb

we are not at all despairing, because the Almighty and Eternal Lord can yet restore us.

and  the heavens are the work of thy hands” - (see Genesis 1:1, 7; 2:4; Psalm 89:11;

Hebrews 1:10).  Thou canst therefore not merely lay the foundations of Zion, but complete

its roof, even as thou hast arched in the world with its ceiling of blue; the loftiest stories of

thine earthly palace shall be piled on high without difficulty when

thou dost undertake the building thereof, since thou art architect of the stars, and the

spheres in which they move. When a great labour is to be performed it is eminently

reassuring to contemplate the power of Him who has undertaken to accomplish it;

and when our own strength is exhausted it is supremely cheering to see the unfailing

energy which is still engaged on our behalf.

 

v. 26 - They shall perish” The coming destruction of the world that now is, is very

frequently declared in Holy Scripture (see Isaiah 51:6; 65:17; Matthew 24:35; Mark

13:31; Luke 21:33; 2 Peter 3:7,10,12).  But thou shalt endure” -  With the

perishable nature of the whole material creation, the psalmist contrasts the absolute

eternity of God (comp. ver. 12; also Psalm 9:7; Hebrews 1:11).  The power which

made them shall dissolve them, even as the city of thy love was destroyed at thy

command; yet neither the ruined city nor the ruined earth can make a change in thee,

reverse thy purpose, or diminish thy glory. Thou standest when all things fall.  Yea,

all of them shall wax old like a garment” (comp. Isaiah 51:6)  As a vesture shalt

thou change them, and they shall be changed.”  Compare the prophecies of “a new

heaven and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1).  Time impairs

all things, the fashion becomes obsolete and passes away. The visible

creation, which is like the garment of the invisible God, is waxing old and wearing

out, and our great King is not so poor that He must always wear the same robes; He

will ere long fold up the worlds and put them aside as worn out vestures, and He will array

himself in new attire, making a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth

righteousness. How readily will all this be done.  "Thou shalt change them and they

shall be changed; " as in the creation so in the restoration, omnipotence shall work its

way without hindrance.

 

v. 27 - “But thou art the same literally, but thou art HE (comp. Isaiah 44:4; 46:4);

i.e. “thou art the one eternal and unchangeable existence — the one reality.”

As a man remains the same when he has changed his clothing, so is the Lord

evermore the unchanging One, though His works in creation may be changed, and

the operations of His providence may vary. When heaven and earth shall flee away

from the dread presence of the great Judge, He will be unaltered by the terrible

confusion, and the world in conflagration will effect no change in Him; even so, the Psalmist

remembered that when Israel was vanquished, her capital destroyed, and her temple

leveled with the ground, her God remained the same self-existent,

all-sufficient being, and would restore His people, even as He will restore the

heavens and the earth, bestowing at the same time a new glory never known

before. The doctrine of the immutability of God should be more considered than it is,

for the neglect of it tinges the theology of many religious teachers, and makes them

utter many things of which they would have seen the absurdity long ago if they

had remembered the divine declaration, "I am God, I change not, therefore

ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." (Malachi 3:6)  And thy years shall have no

end.”   It is by an accommodation to human modes of thought that God’s “years”

are spoken of. An eternal existence is a unity — not made up of years and days.

God lives on, no decay can happen to Him, or destruction overtake Him. What a

joy is this! We may lose our dearest earthly friends, but not our heavenly Friend.

Men's days are often  suddenly cut short, and at the longest they are but few, but

the years of the right hand of the Most High cannot be counted, for they have neither

first nor last, beginning nor end. O my soul, rejoice thou in the Lord always, since

HE IS ALWAYS THE SAME!

 

v. 28 - “The children of thy servants shall continue” -  The nation descended

from those who served thee of old shall continue,” or, “abide” — i.e. not only continue

to exist, but have a permanent abiding-place (comp. Psalm 37:39; 69:36).  The

Psalmist had early in the psalm looked forward to a future generation, and here he

speaks with confidence that such a race would arise and be preserved and blessed of

God. Some read it as a prayer, "let the sons of thy servants abide." Any way, it is full

of good cheer to us; we may plead for the Lord's favor to our seed, and we may

expect that the cause of God and truth will revive in future generations. Let us hope

that those who are to succeed us will not be so stubborn, unbelieving and erring

as we have been. If the church has been minished and brought low by the luke-

warmness of the present race, let us entreat the Lord to raise up a better order of men,

whose zeal and obedience shall win and hold a long prosperity. May our own dear

ones be among the better generation who shall continue in the Lord's ways, obedient

to the end.  and their seed shall be established before thee”(comp. Jeremiah 30:20).

God does not neglect the children of His servants. It is the rule that Abraham's Isaac should

be the Lord's, that Isaac's Jacob should be beloved of the Most High, and that

Jacob's Joseph should find favor in the sight of God. Grace is not hereditary, yet God loves

to be served by the same family time out of mind, even as many great

landowners feel a pleasure in having the same families as tenants upon their estates

from generation to generation. Here is Zion's hope, her sons will build her up, her offspring

will restore her former glories. We may, therefore, not only for our own

sakes, but also out of love to the church of God, daily pray that our sons and

daughters may be saved, and kept by divine grace even unto the end, —established

before theLord.

 

We have thus passed through the cloud, and in the next psalm we shall bask in the sunshine.

Such is the checkered experience of the believer. Paul in the seventh of

Romans cries and groans, and then in the eighth rejoices and leaps for joy; and

so, from the moaning of the hundred and second psalm, we now advance to the songs

and dancing of the hundred and third, blessing the Lord that, "though weeping may

endure for a night, joy cometh in the morning."

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                ADDITIONAL NOTES

 

 

vs. 23-28 - The Mortality of Man and the Eternity of God.  The psalmist returns to

his own personal condition; he considers himself as one who has but a narrow span of life,

and even that small span is likely to be shortened; his heart is troubled at the

thought of —

 

 

THE BREVITY AND UNCERTAINTY OF OUR MORTAL LIFE.

 

·        The length of our life is regarded by us very differently, according to the

            portion of it which we have spent. In youth it seems long, and we are eager

            to get on further, we anticipate the coming years; but in age it seems short

            indeed, and we wish we were younger than we are. Many, immersed in

            cares or pleasures, have no time to measure the life they are fast expending;

            but to the thoughtful (as well as to the merely imaginative) human life

            seems a painfully short time in which to sustain its pure and holy

            relationships, in which to gather its fruits of learning and wisdom, in which

            to do its work and achieve some solid and enduring task. All too soon does

            that shadow decline, all too quickly do the flowers wither (see v. 11).

 

·        And this pensiveness is deepened by the thought of the uncertainty of

            life. Sudden sickness comes, and the strong man in his prime is laid on the

            bed of death. The fatal accident occurs, and men and women are removed

            in an hour from the scenes of their activity, the homes of their affection.

            The land mourns its prince, its statesman, its scholar; the Church deplores

            its ruler, its minister, its counselor; the home laments its head, its mistress,

            its ornament, — that one that should long have stayed and been its strength

            and joy. But in sharp and striking contrast with this is —

 

THE ETERNITY OF GOD.

 

·        He is from everlasting. Our finite mind cannot possibly comprehend the

            idea of the infinite. We cannot take into our imagination the absolutely

            boundless past. But we can think of that which was indefinitely and

            immeasurably remote, and consider that God was long before that. We

            think of the ages behind us, when the first foundations of the earth were

            laid, and we reflect that all that vast and unknown period counts not even

            one degree of the time that God has been.

 

·        He is to everlasting. Similarly, we look on to that distant hour,

            inconceivably far away, when our planet itself will be consumed or be

            congealed, or even to the time when the whole sidereal system will be

            dissolved, and we think that that immense tract of time will not count one

            unit of “the years of the right hand of the Most High.”  (see Isaiah 19 –

            The Dispensational Teaching of the Great Pyramid – this web site)

 

·        He is the Unchangeable One. Not that the idea of boundless temporal

            duration includes that of moral and spiritual constancy; but it suggests it,

            and it may be said to imply it; for surely it is only the Unchangeable that

            could be and would be the Eternal. So that while we are placing our

            mortality in contrast with the immortality of God, we may also place our

            fickleness and unreliableness in contrast with His immutability, and give the

            fullest meaning to the words, “thou art the same” (see James 1:17;

                        Hebrews 13:8).

 

·        THE REDEEMING THOUGHT. The psalmist seems to feel that

            God, out of the exceeding riches of His eternity, might well bestow upon

            him a few more years of life (v. 24). But he closes with the relieving

            thought that the children of God’s servants will dwell in the land, that they

            will find a home there from which they will not be driven, and that their

            children will still be found in happy occupation, through coming

            generations (v. 28). We have, in this Christian dispensation, a far more

            precious consolation. That is twofold. It consists of:

 

ü      The fact that the briefest human life, spent in the service of God

      and of man, holds a worth which no arithmetic can compute, no

      wealth can weigh.

 

ü      The truth that a holy life on earth conducts to a blessed and glorious

                        immortality beyond. “They shall perish, but thou shalt endure.”

                        So also shall we, and our years shall have no end; for “he that doeth

                        the will of God abideth forever.” (I John 2:17)

 

 

 

(Words highlighted in this color of blue were taken from  The Treasury of David

 by Charles Haddon Spurgeon)  "Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC.

All rights reserved. Materials are reproduced by permission."