PSALM 102 OVERVIEW.
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 favour 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 it bears the marks of its parent age; as it is recorded of Jabez that "his mother bore him with sorrow," so may we say of this Psalm; yet as Rachel's Benoni, or child of sorrow, was also her Benjamin, or son of her right hand, so is this Psalm 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. The best of men are not always able to stem the torrent of sorrow. Even when Jesus is on board, the vessel may fill with water and begin to sink. And poureth out his complaint before the LORD. When a cup is overwhelmed or turned bottom over, all that is in it is naturally poured out; great trouble removes the heart from all reserve and causes the soul to flow out without restraint; 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.
DIVISION. In the first part of the Psalm, Psalms 102:1-11 , the moaning monopolizes every verse, the lamentation is unceasing, sorrow rules the hour. The second portion, from Ps 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.
Verse 1. 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. That he is such is no dream or fiction, but an assured fact. 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. 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."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. A prayer, etc. The prayer following is longer than others. When Satan, the Law-Adversary, doth extend his pleas against us, it is meet that we should enlarge our counter pleas for our own souls; as the powers of darkness do lengthen aud multiply their wrestlings, so must we our counter wrestlings of prayer. Ephesians 6:12 Ephesians 6:18 . Thomas Cobbet, 1667.
Title. When he... poureth out, etc. Here we have the manner of the church's prayer suitable to her extremity illustrated by a simile taken from a vessel overcharged with new wine or strong liquor, that bursts for vent. Oh the heart-bursting cries she sends out all the day! Here is no lazy, slothful, lip labour, stinted forms of prayer, no empty sounds of verbal expressions, which can never procure her a comfortable answer from her God, or the least ease to her burdened soul; but poured-out prayers as Hannah, 1 Samuel 1:15 , and Jeremy, Lamentations 2:12 , pressed forth with vehemence of spirit and heart pangs of inward grief: thus the Lord deals with his church and people; ere he pour out cups of consolation they must pour out tears in great measure. Finiens Canus Vove.
This is the mourner's prayer when he is faint,
And to the Eternal Father breathes his plaint. John Keble.
Whole Psalm. The psalm has been attributed to Daniel, to Jeremiah, to Nehemiah, or to some of the other prophets who flourished during the time of the captivity. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews has applied Psalms 102:25-27 to our Lord, and the perpetuity of his kingdom. Adam Clarke.
Whole Psalm. I doubt whether, without apostolic teaching, any of us would have had the boldness to understand it; for in many respects it is the most remarkable of all the Psalms -- the Psalm of "THE AFFLICTED ONE" -- while his soul is overwhelmed within him in great affliction, and sorrow, and anxious fear. Adolph Saphir, in "Expository Lectures on the Epistle to the Hebrews."
Verse 1. Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry come unto thee. When, at any time we see the beggars, or poor folks, that are pained and grieved with hunger and cold, lying in the streets of cities and towns, full of sores, we are somewhat moved inwardly with pity and mercy; but if we our own selves attend and give ear to their wailings, cryings, and lamentable noises that they make, we should be much more stirred to show our pity and mercy on them; for no man else can show the grief of the sick and sore persons, so well and in so pathetic a manner as he himself. Therefore, since the miserable crying and wailing of those that suffer bodily pain and misery can prevail so much upon the hearts of mortal creatures; I doubt not, Good Lord, but thou, who art all merciful, must needs be inclined to exercise thy mercy, if my sorrowful cry and petition may come unto thine ears, or into thy presence. John Fisher (1459- 1535) in "A Treatise concerning the fruitful Sayings of David," 1714.
Verse 1. My prayer. His own, and not another's; not what was composed for him, but composed by him; which came out of his own heart, and out of unfeigned lips, and expressed under a feeling sense of his own wants and troubles; and though dictated and inwrought in his heart by the Spirit of God, yet, being put up by him in faith and fervency, it is called his own, and which he desires might be heard. John Gill.
Verse 1. My cry. Lest my praying should not prevail, behold, O God, I raise it to a cry; and crying, I may say, is the greatest bell in all the ring of praying: for louder than crying I cannot pray. O, then, if not my prayer, at least let my cry come unto thee. If I be not heard when I cry, I shall cry for not being heard; and if heard when I cry, I shall cry to be heard yet more; and so whether heard or not heard, I shall cry still, and God grant I may cry still; so thou be pleased, O God, to "hear my prayer," and to "let my cry come unto thee." Sir R. Baker.
Verse 1-2. This language is the language of godly sorrow, of faith, of tribulation, and of anxious hope: of faith, for the devout suppliant lifts up his heart and voice to heaven, "as seeing him who is invisible," ( Hebrews 11:27 ) and entreats him to hear his prayer and listen to his crying: of tribulation, for he describes himself as enduring affliction, and unwilling to lose the countenance of the Lord in his time of his trouble: of anxious hope, for he seems to expect, in the midst of his groaning, that his prayers, like those of Cornelius, will "go up for a memorial before God" who will hear him, "and that right soon." Charles Oxenden, in "Sermons on the Seven Penitential Psalms," 1838.
Verse 1-2. The Lord suffereth his babbling children to speak to him in their own form of speech, (albeit the terms which they use be not fitted for his spiritual, invisible, and incomprehensible majesty); such as are, "Hear me," "hide not thy face," "incline thine ear to me," and such like other speeches. David Dickson.
Verse 1-2. Note, David sent his prayer as a sacred ambassador to God. Now there are four things requisite to make an embassy prosperous. The ambassador must be regarded with favourable eye: he must be heard with a ready ear: he must speedily return when his demands are conceded. These four things David as a suppliant asks from God his King. Le Blanc.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- Afflicted men may pray.
- Afflicted men should pray even when overhelmed.
- Afflicted men can pray -- for what is wanted is a pouring out of their complaint, not an oratorical display.
- Afflicted men are accepted in prayer -- for this prayer is placed on record.
Verse 1-2. Five steps to the mercy-seat. The Psalmist prays for,
- Audience: "Hear my prayer."
- Access: "Let my cry come before thee."
- Unveiling: "Hide not thy face."
- An intent ear: "Incline thine ear."
- Answer. C. Davis.
Verse 1,. 17, 19-20. An interesting discourse may be founded upon these passages.
- The Lord entreated to hear -- Psalms 102:1 .
- The Promise given
that he will hear -- Psalms 102:17 .
- The Record that the Lord has heard -- Psalms 102:19-20 .