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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Psalms 102

Verses 1-2

Introduction

While three disciples on the mountain of transfiguration (Luke 9:29-Amos :) were eyewitnesses to the majesty of the Lord Jesus during the realm of peace (2 Peter 1:16), Moses and Elijah spoke to the Lord of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:31), that is, about His suffering and death. We see the same thing here in Psalms. While in Psalms 93-101 we admire the majesty of the LORD, that is the Lord Jesus, adoringly, in Psalm 102 He speaks of His suffering (cf. Luke 24:26). In this psalm we find prophetic what is later mentioned in Hebrews 5: “In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety” (Hebrews 5:7).

This psalm is called a penitential psalm. The origin of this designation lies in its use in the liturgy of the church, in which the seven penitential psalms are sung on Ash Wednesday. Psalm 102 is the fifth of the seven so named (Psalms 6; 32; 38; 51; 102; 130; 143). In this psalm, the psalmist does not speak of his sins, but of the great misery in which he finds himself. The psalmist is depicted as the epitome of misery in every possible area of life. Medically, spiritually, emotionally, socially, and socially, he has reached a low point.

It is a Messianic psalm. The Messiah is speaking here. This is evident from the quotation of Psalms 102:26-Hosea : in Hebrews 1 where the quotation refers to Christ (Hebrews 1:10-2 Kings :). This psalm is not so much about Christ’s atoning suffering, but about His suffering in connection with the judgment that God had to bring upon Israel and Jerusalem. Christ makes Himself one with His people, the faithful remnant, who suffer from that judgment. The New Testament clearly distinguishes between the atoning suffering of the Lord Jesus – then suffering is mentioned in the singular – and suffering as God’s Witness – then suffering is mentioned in the plural. The latter is a suffering that must also be endured by believers.

The suffering described in this psalm is not only His suffering in Gethsemane or before Pilate and Herod and at His crucifixion. His whole life from His birth has been suffering. This does not mean that He has been under the anger of God all His life. That is an absolutely reprehensible teaching. Only during the three hours of darkness did He bear the anger of God for sins. All His life God was well pleased in Him. He has had no part in sin and, precisely because of that, has had a perfect sense of it. This has caused Him to suffer in a way that we cannot comprehend. That suffering has weighed Him down.

What the believing remnant acknowledges as a just suffering, He voluntarily experienced by becoming Man. It is a suffering in His soul caused by seeing the consequences of sin. For example, the Lord wept at the grave of Lazarus (John 11:35). He has thus shown His sympathy in the sorrow of Mary and Martha. Yet His sorrow is much deeper than that of the sisters, for He perfectly knows the cause of death, which is sin. He did not weep so much over the loss. He knew that a few moments later He would raise Lazarus from the dead to life. He wept for the cause of it.

Cry For Help

Psalms 102:1 is the title of the psalm. As a title, it is exceptionally long. Everything in the title draws extra attention to the suffering of Christ. In this psalm we hear Christ as Man speaking of the feelings of His heart in the midst of circumstances that press Him down. We must always keep this in mind as we read this psalm. At the same time, we must never forget that He is God Himself. We are reminded of this in an impressive way in the final verses of the psalm.

Christ here calls Himself “the Afflicted” (cf. Psalms 86:1), an expression that also applies to the remnant. He is afflicted because God’s people have been severely punished by God for their unfaithfulness. The cause of that judgment, the realization of its necessity, weighs so heavily on Him that He “is faint”. All He can do is complain. It is one great “complaint”. He pours out His complaint “before the LORD”.

He personally, of course, has no part in the unfaithfulness of God’s people, but He shares in its consequences. He sympathizes with the faithful remnant who will be particularly strengthened by His sympathy. Thus He helps them bear the consequences of their unfaithfulness. It is one of the many occasions during His life that shows that in all their affliction He was afflicted (Isaiah 63:9). We see something similar when the Lord Jesus is baptized by John the baptist. He does this for the sake of righteousness, for in this way He makes Himself one with the believing remnant of Israel.

He does not lay His complaint down before God, but pours it out. ‘Pouring out’ indicates the power with which He prays. That He does it “before the LORD” shows on Whom He has placed His hope, with Whom He seeks help. This is an example for us when we are in great need.

The Lord Jesus is the Praying One (Psalms 102:1; Psalms 109:4). As mentioned, we see Him in this psalm as a true Man. He asks the LORD to listen to His prayer and let His cries for help come to Him. The Lord Himself knows that the Father always hears Him (John 11:42), but here He is the mouth of the remnant. He is in great need and cries out to God, but has the feeling that God is not listening to His cries for help. That is why He addresses Him so insistently. The Lord Jesus wept when He saw Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). He wished that the city might have known the things which make for peace.

He also asks God not to hide His face from Him because He has the impression that God does (Psalms 102:2). Humbly pleading, He asks if God will incline His ear to Him. It is a plea for His attention. He longs fervently for the listening ear of God.

It is for Him “the day of my distress”. Therefore, it is the day that He calls and looks forward to a speedy hearing. Days of distress are days of special trial and great need. God allows such days to test the hearts of His own and see where they seek their help. For the Lord Jesus, God has always been His refuge, He was cast upon Him from the womb (Psalms 22:10).

Verses 3-11

Lifted Up and Cast Away

The sufferings of Messiah during His life on earth were deep. We find in Psalms 102:3-Deuteronomy : His physical suffering, in Psalms 102:6-Judges : the suffering of His soul, in Psalms 102:8 the suffering from the side of men, and in Psalms 102:9-2 Samuel : the suffering from the side of God.

To be able to somewhat empathize with the reality of His feelings that He shares with us in these verses, we need the help of God’s Spirit. Often it is with us as with Peter, James and John. The Lord Jesus asks them to watch with Him, while He is grieved and greatly distressed because of the work He is going to accomplish on the cross. But they fall asleep, while the Lord Jesus is in severe battle, and He has asked them to watch with Him (Matthew 26:36-John :; Mark 14:32-Matthew :).

He complains that His days “have been consumed in smoke” (Psalms 102:3). So quickly and volatile He sees His days passing, while no result is visible. The effort of His life in the service of His God has cost Him everything, but it all seems to have been in vain (cf. Isaiah 49:4). It is the suffering of the deathbed, facing death. His “bones have been scorched like a hearth”. The bones glow with a high fever, which makes the strength disappear.

His heart has been smitten with the affliction in which He is (Psalms 102:4). It is “smitten like grass and has withered away”. The life has gone out of it through dehydration. He is so engrossed in affliction that He has forgotten to “eat” His “bread”. The affliction of Zion, which He feels to be His affliction, has completely seized Him, He cannot think of anything else. All appetite has disappeared.

His suffering is visible. He suffers intense pains. Because of “the loudness of” His “groaning”, His bones cling to His flesh (Psalms 102:5; cf. Job 19:20). The loud groaning takes all His energy. His bones become visible through His skin.

Added to this is His great loneliness! He felt Himself to be “a pelican of the wilderness” and “like an owl of the waste places” (Psalms 102:6). It is not certain which bird, of which the name is translated here as “pelican”, it was. What we do know for sure is that this bird is lonely. A wilderness is a model of loneliness.

The owl is a bird that lives in solitude and has waste places as its natural habitat. The emphasis is on the fact that the environment has become a mess. This has become the Lord’s habitat. No one understood Him, neither His family nor His disciples. He has been alone in His perfect sensing of the real spiritual situation of Jerusalem and Zion, which have become a mess. Under this He has suffered.

His suffering is not just present during the day. He complains that He lies awake (Psalms 102:7). The affliction is so great that it keeps Him awake, restless. He cannot sleep because of it. Loneliness is often felt even more deeply at night than during the day. The Lord says that He has “become like a lonely bird [or: sparrow] on a housetop”. The sparrow mostly lives with others. A lonely sparrow on the roof is a paragon of solitude, which at the same time makes him vulnerable to birds of prey, his natural enemies.

The Hebrew word is actually the general term for “bird”, which is often translated as “sparrow”. A solitary bird on the roof at night is a model of restlessness, but also of vulnerability.

That the Lord Jesus is lonely does not mean that He is left alone. Added to the pain of solitude is the scorn of His enemies which they pour out on Him all day long (Psalms 102:8; cf. Isaiah 53:3). It is as rubbing salt in someone’s wounds. There is no one who feels sorry for Him. On the contrary, His enemies exploit His vulnerability to rage against Him.

Thereby they use His Name “as a curse”. They swear by His Name that they will do Him harm. We can compare it to names like those of Zedekiah and Ahab, which were used as a curse during the time of exile (Jeremiah 29:22). Thus the name of the psalmist is used as a curse by saying to someone: ‘May happen to you what happened to the psalmist!’ It is a curse. It is also not just a few who want to harm Him, but a whole group.

Daily food consists of bread and drink. For the Lord, it was not so. In Psalms 102:4 He says that He forgot to eat His bread. Now He says that He has “eaten ashes like bread” (Psalms 102:9). Bread serves to strengthen (Psalms 104:14). From ashes all life is gone and speaks of death and the sorrow that accompanies it (Jeremiah 6:26).

What He drank, He “mixed with tears” (cf. Psalms 42:3). Drinking serves to refresh, but tears are caused by sorrow. To drink tears means to drink sorrow. This does not refresh, but depresses. These are mourning rituals (Jeremiah 6:26; Esther 4:1). That ashes are eaten instead of sprinkled on the head and tears are drunk instead of shed means extreme mourning.

Twice in the Gospels it is mentioned that the Lord Jesus wept (John 11:35; Luke 19:41). One time it is silently shedding tears, and the other time it is crying aloud. Here we read that His whole life was marked by tears and sorrow. Here we get a deep glimpse into the soul, the emotional life of the Lord. If we can get an eye and a heart for this as we walk with Him, how much more precious He becomes to us!

In Psalms 102:1-Exodus :, Christ is speaking to God. We see this in the use of the words “You” and “Your”. Then in Psalms 102:3-1 Samuel : we hear the reasons for His cry for help. In Psalms 102:10, Christ speaks to God again. He says to God that He accepts suffering from His hand. He speaks of what God has done to Him. He tells the LORD, His God, that He has “lifted” Him “up”, or exalted Him, to be the Messiah of His people. But instead of being able to take possession of the kingdom, He has “cast” Him “away”, or humiliated Him (cf. Psalms 30:7).

Instead of living a long life in the favor of God as Messiah to His people, His days are “like a lengthened shadow” (Psalms 102:11; Psalms 109:23). When shadows lengthen, it indicates that the sun will soon set and it will be night. The Messiah does not see it getting light, but He sees that soon night will fall over His life. He foresees His death. He experiences that He withers away “like grass” (cf. Psalms 102:5). All prosperity disappears from His life, all life flows from His body.

Verses 12-17

God Takes Care of Zion

The Messiah, after describing the affliction in which He finds Himself and the suffering He bears, turns to the “LORD” (Psalms 102:12). The word “but” with which this verse begins indicates that a contrast with the preceding follows. The Messiah suffers, but not forever because He knows that the LORD abides forever and with it His faithfulness to what He has promised. The name “LORD”, Yahweh, by which He addresses God, already indicates this. After all, LORD is the Name of God as the God of the covenant. The remembrance of that Name goes “to all generations” (cf. Psalms 100:5; Psalms 22:30Psalms 78:3-Judges :).

In Psalms 102:12 the emphasis is on the fact that the faithfulness of the LORD is everlasting. He is LORD, the I AM, or the everlasting One, He is the same yesterday and today, forever and ever. Therefore, His lovingkindness toward His people is unchanging. But … how is this compatible with the condition of the psalmist in Psalms 102:1-1 Kings :?

We find the answer in Psalms 102:13. Now the LORD “will arise” and “have compassion on Zion”. He will arise and go and act, and that for the sake of the remembrance of His Name. In all affliction, this is the assurance of faith in the LORD. He will intervene on behalf of His people and His city. He will do so when His judgments have the result He desires.

The LORD has set a time to bring Israel back, a time to restore Israel and Zion (Daniel 9:24). The latter begins with the command to restore (the walls) of Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25; Nehemiah 2:1-Joshua :). When God’s time has come, He will have compassion on Zion. The people have deserved total judgment, but He is keeping a remnant according to the election of His grace. At the appointed time, He will accept His people again. Faith sees that ahead.

God will do a work in His servants. He will give love in their hearts for “her stones”, indicating that Zion is broken down (Psalms 102:14). He will fill them with feeling pity “for her dust”, indicating how much Zion is in ruins. The word for “feel pity” in Psalms 102:14 is the same as “have compassion” in Psalms 102:13. As the LORD is gracious to Zion, so the remnant is to the dust and stones of Zion. We see a foreshadowing of this in people like Ezra and Nehemiah who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon full of love and compassion for Zion. In the end times, it will happen through the faithful remnant.

We may well ask ourselves about our love and compassion for the church of God which is also a mess. Do we long to rebuild what lies in ruins? We can do that by helping everywhere with God’s Word where people long to be a local church as God has made known in His Word. To the remnant, as well as to us, it is said: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalms 122:6), which is the dwelling place of God in the midst of His earthly people. We may pray that for what is now God’s dwelling place on earth, God’s heavenly people, His church.

When Zion is rebuilt, the nations surrounding Israel will “fear the Name of the LORD” (Psalms 102:15). The rebuilding of Zion is proof that God is not against His people, but for them. The nations have spoken against God’s people defamatory of Him as a powerless God (2 Chronicles 32:9-Esther :; Nehemiah 4:2). At the time appointed by God, they will see that He is for His people and therefore be in awe of Him.

The LORD is building Zion, though He uses His servants to do so (Psalms 102:16; cf. Psalms 127:1). When He has rebuilt Zion, which now lies in ruins, He will appear “in His glory”. He will dwell in Zion in the midst of His people. From there, His glory will be seen all over the earth.

He will do His restorative work in response to “the prayer of the destitute”, showing that He has “not despised their prayer” (Psalms 102:17). “The destitute” or “naked” are those who have lost all their dignity and have a very low opinion of themselves. They are “the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3) and therefore the opposite of the spirit of Laodicea (Revelation 3:17). The Lord Jesus is the true “poor in spirit” (cf. Psalms 109:22; Psalms 109:25). He never sought His own glory, but always that of His God. The believing remnant exhibits His features.

How much has been prayed for the restoration of Zion throughout the ages. This applies above all to the Messiah. Following Him, it is also true of the faithful remnant – whom God has always kept to Himself throughout the ages – in the future (Zephaniah 3:12-1 Chronicles :).

Verses 18-22

Assurance of Restoration of Zion

In these verses, in answer to the prayer of the destitute remnant (Psalms 102:17; Psalms 102:20), the Holy Spirit gives a description of the restoration of Zion, that is Jerusalem, under the reign of the Messiah. The LORD will restore the dignity of the remnant and of Zion. This is “written for the generation to come” (Psalms 102:18). This description is fixed. Each succeeding generation can read here God’s plan for the future of Jerusalem. It will culminate in a people “to be created”. That people will “praise the LORD”. God is working restoration and He is creating a people who will enjoy the blessings of this restoration.

The word “for” with which Psalms 102:19 begins indicates that the reason for what was said in the previous verse now follows. He has “looked down from His holy height” (cf. Deuteronomy 26:15; Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 63:15). He is exalted high above the earth and in His holiness also perfectly separated from the sin that is rampant there. Yet He has always been involved in what goes on on the earth and especially in what is done to His people. He has gazed “from heaven … upon the earth” (cf. Psalms 113:5-Joshua :).

In heaven He has heard “the groaning of the prisoner” (Psalms 102:20; cf. Exodus 2:23-Lamentations :; Exodus 3:7-Ruth :). His purpose is “to set free those who were doomed to death”. Death is a prison. In it, not only Israel is imprisoned, but all people are imprisoned in it. In this prison are people who are condemned to die. From that prison only Christ can deliver. He is stronger than death and the devil who has the power of death (Hebrews 2:14-Ezra :).

Through what He will do with His people, the believing remnant, they “will tell of the name of the LORD in Zion and His praise in Jerusalem” (Psalms 102:21). Every work of restoration, whether in Israel or, in our day, in an individual believer or a local church, has as its goal that God is given thanks and praised.

Those who have been brought into connection with God and Christ are living proof of the power of God to turn things around for the better. From that comes a testimony, which works praise for God in the place where He dwells. When the Lord Jesus reigns, “the peoples are gathered together” to tell Him His praise (Psalms 102:22). “The kingdoms” will come “to serve the LORD”. Everything and everyone will be subject to Him and serve Him joyfully (Isaiah 2:3).

Verses 23-28

God Is the Same

After the encouraging prospect of the restoration that will come in Psalms 102:12-Song of Solomon :, we hear the suffering Messiah speak again (Psalms 102:23). The Messiah sees the hand of God in what befalls Him. He accepts everything from the hand of God. God has pressed down His power on the way He has gone on earth.

The word “afflicted” in Psalms 102:1 is derived from the word “weakened” here in Psalms 102:23. In Psalms 102:1 Christ is the Afflicted. Here in Psalms 102:23 He returns to His suffering described in Psalms 102:1-1 Kings : as the suffering in which God pressed Him down. Here we see the Messiah going His way on earth in humiliation. He identifies Himself again with His people, who feel powerless in the way they must go.

Besides being rendered powerless (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:4), the days of His sojourn on earth were shortened. He has not been able to make them full. For this He complained to His God, saying to Him: “O my God, do not take me away in the midst [literally: half] of my days” (Psalms 102:24; cf. Isaiah 38:2-Leviticus :). He was thirty-three years old when He died and thus in the prime of His life as Man. When He speaks of Himself as ‘the green tree’ (Luke 23:31), we hear in it the same sentiments. The contrast here is between the God Who is eternally enthroned (Psalms 102:12) and His own downtrodden life cut off in the midst of the normal human age of seventy years (Psalms 90:10).

As a God-fearing Israelite, if He is obedient, He has the promise of a long life in the land. By His blameless life, He earned it. And now He is taken away from life. As Man this is a terrible prospect for Him. No one has ever been so obedient and devoted to God, and yet He is being eradicated, taken away from life.

Halfway through Psalms 102:24, the Speaker changes and the Messiah receives an answer from God to His questions. The proof that this is about the Messiah is found in Hebrews 1, where Psalms 102:25-Daniel : of this psalm are quoted to prove that the Lord Jesus is the LORD, Yahweh, Himself (Hebrews 1:10-2 Kings :). Therefore, God says to Him that His years continue “throughout all generations”. He will be taken away at the half of His days, but He will rise from the dead. Here we find one of the many indications that Christ had to die and then rise from the dead (Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:22-Isaiah :Matthew 20:17-Psalms :).

Then His God says to Him that He is the Creator of earth and heaven (Psalms 102:25; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-Esther :; Hebrews 1:2). No matter how humbled He may be as a Man on earth, He has “of old … founded the earth” and “the heavens are the work” of His “hands”. He is at the beginning of all things. All things owe their origin to Him Who Himself did not originate, but is the Eternal.

Here we find one of the many indications that Christ is both the Son of Man and the eternal God. Christ is the Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 8:8; Matthew 1:23), the ‘God with us’. He who was taken away halfway His days of His life on earth (Psalms 102:23-Jeremiah :), is the eternal One (Psalms 102:24-Daniel :), the Creator of heaven and earth (Psalms 102:25-Ezekiel :).

Nor does He have an end, while His works do, for “they will perish” (Psalms 102:26). Mockers may say that everything remains as it was from the beginning of creation (2 Peter 3:3-Numbers :), but they will be deceived. The material world has no life in itself, nor is it eternal like its Creator. The transition from Psalms 102:25 to Psalms 102:26 is the transition from creation to decay, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 21 (Genesis 1:1; Revelation 21:1). It indicates the tremendous contrast that exists between the Creator and the creation.

It will be with creation as with a “garment”. A garment wears out through use. He will deal with creation as with “clothing”. He will do with it what a man does when He puts on another coat. Then He takes off the old one and puts on the new one. In both cases, what was there at first disappears. The old disappears after a process of wearing out, the new appears by a brief act. This is how the Son acts with creation. The old creation disappears as old. He exchanges it for a new creation. He creates a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 20:11; Revelation 21:1).

But the Son does not change. He is “the same” forever (Psalms 102:27; Hebrews 13:8). His “years will not come to an end”. His years will continue endlessly, even now that He has become Man, for even as Man He knows no end. Creation will be changed, regenerated (Matthew 19:28) and renewed (Revelation 21:1), but He Himself is the Eternal and Unchanging One. He is at the beginning of all things and at the end of all things He is still there.

This is also a great encouragement in view of the coming generations (Psalms 102:28). We may sometimes wonder how they will fare. Then we may look to Him. He is to each generation what He has been to earlier generations. Generations and circumstances change, but He does not change.

Therefore, the children dwell securely and “their descendants will be established before” God. This means that the descendants of the believing remnant will remain steadfast in the faith (Isaiah 59:21). They will no longer be driven from their inheritance and from their land or taken away. Yahweh’s promise guarantees this. Heaven and earth will pass away, but His words will not pass away (Matthew 5:18; Matthew 24:35).

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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 102". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/psalms-102.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.