Reading through the Bible together
This is one of the saddest of the Psalms. It is a prayer of someone overwhelmed by great afflictions. His complaints are followed by words of consolation. The Psalm can be read from three points of view:
1) A young exile in the land of captivity complains about his pain, sorrow, loneliness, persecution, sickness and fear of dying in his youth before returning to his homeland. His hope is that the prophesy of restoration is about to be fulfilled: “For the time to favor [Zion], yes, the set time, has come.” At the end of his prayer, he expresses confidence in God’s enduring love in dealing with His children.
2) Psalm 102 can be considered to be a Messianic Psalm such as the one from which Jesus quoted when He was on the cross: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” It can be read as a dialogue between Jesus and His Father. It begins with Jesus pouring out his complaints: “I . . .am like a sparrow alone on the housetop. My enemies reproach me all day long; those who deride me swear an oath against me.” He speaks of God’s indignation against Him: “You have lifted me up and cast me away.” The Father’s response and consolation is in verses 12-22: “But You, O Lord,” He says to His son, “shall endure forever, and the remembrance of Your name will be to all generations. You will arise and have mercy on Zion; for the time to favor her, Yes, the set time, has come. . . .”In a weakened condition Jesus briefly prays, “O my God, take me not away in the midst of my day.” The Father’s response, partly quoted in Hebrews 1:10-12, establishes Jesus’ divinity:
“Of old You laid the foundation of the earth,
And the heavens are the work of Your hands.
They will perish, but You will endure;
Yes, they will all grow old like a garment;
Like a cloak You will change them,
And they will be changed.
But You are the same.
And Your years will have no end.”
Read this Psalm over and over and be moved by Jesus’ suffering, but savor His victory and His eternal constancy in loving and caring for you.
3) When I taught grades 7 through 10 at a rural church school in Floral Crest, Alabama, for morning worship my students often selected their favorite hymn, “Lord, in the Morning.” The beginning of Psalm 102 reminds me of that hymn. I liked the first stanza but winced at the last word of the second stanza:
Lord, in the morning Thou shalt hear
My voice ascending high;
To Thee will I direct my prayer,
To Thee lift up mine eye--
Up to the hills where Christ is gone
To plead for all His saints,
Presenting at His Father’s throne
Our songs and our complaints.
“Our complaints.” I did not like the idea of taking complaints to God. I thought it was disrespectful. When I was a child, I frequently heard my parents say, “Quit your complaining.” But complaints are given to God over and over in the Psalms. Not just telling God about troubles that come upon us, but complaining to God about things He has done or has not done.
I am now thankful for the "complaint" Psalms. When we are overwhelmed, God would rather we take our complaints to Him than keep them to ourselves. By complaining to God, we acknowledge that He exists. But we don’t have to stop there. We can acknowledge His power, wisdom, goodness, mercy, love, and care for us. We can find joy in praising Him. In this Psalm, we who are living in the 21st Century may find assurance of heavenly consolation in times of overwhelming distress.
R. Lynn Sauls
Retired Professor of English and Journalism
Southern Adventist University