Some thoughts on Psalm 102 – where pilgrim struggles get real!
The writer of Psalm 102 is afflicted. As he is fainting he pours out his troubles to the Lord. Sickness and affliction it seems, has forced him to the truth depths of his own frailness.
Pilgrims shouldn’t act as if they are anything but frail. Pilgrims, like the writer of Psalm 102, should turn to God, who is never weak, to find refuge.
The psalm opens with eleven verses of lament; the psalmist is describing his weakened condition and deep afflictions. The first two verses quickly set the tone through repetition as the writer appeals to God to hear him.
Hebrew poetry is of course rich in repetition and parallelism. One line or thought is followed by a second (with slight variation of words) giving power and a richness of meaning to the thought. Repetition brings amplification.
If this is true, then the opening of Psalm 102 is screaming at us (or at God)! Repetition here is extreme, five requests in six lines, all saying the same thing…
“Hear my prayer”
“Let my cry for help come to you”
“Do not hide your face”
“Turn your ear to me”
“Answer me quickly”
Desperate conditions make for strong petitions.
After verse two, we get a glimpse of the situation:
- His life was like smoke (verse 3): Sounds like Job’s words in Job 5:6-7, where Job realizes that our lives are like a smoldering log on a fire.
- He was sick (verse 5): He is reduced to skin and bones (it seems that the writer knew Job well).
- He was lonely and isolated (verses 6-7)
- His enemies mocked him (verse 8): The mocking was continuous.
- He couldn’t explain his suffering (verse 10), even though he attributes it to his sin, we get no additional information or a confession…could it be the psalmist, like Job, didn’t really know why he was being singled out?
Then comes verse 12 and 13…
“But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever;
you are remembered throughout all generations.
You will arise and have pity on Zion;
it is the time to favor her;
the appointed time has come.”
This is the turning point for the sufferer and afflicted. The psalmist is so frail it is as if he is wasting away. Like smoke billowing to the sky, his life is vanishing before his own eyes.
But you, O Lord, — are not like that!
But you, O Lord, — are eternal!
But you, O Lord, — are immutable!
But you, O Lord, — are never weary!
But you, O Lord, — are always faithful!
God’s renown, his fame, last forever!
Lord, help me in my frailness and weakness to be encouraged by one thing — You! Guard my heart from being preoccupied with removing obstacles or making life better, but instead turning to see you for who you are and worshipping you, the Eternal One, even in my frailty.