Messiah's Complaint & Comfort In the Days of His Humiliation

a brief study of Psalm 102, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 9 April 2010


Psalm 102 is a psalm for the afflicted. We don’t exactly know who wrote it. It could have been David the sweet psalmist of Israel. But the content of the psalm gives us a hint that it might be written towards the end of the period of Babylonian exile. So commentators suggest that it might have been written by Daniel or Jeremiah as they look towards the restoration of Jerusalem.

But whatever might have been the personal intention of the writer, God the Spirit who inspired him had a higher purpose. It is just like: Psalm 45 was very probably written for the occasion of the wedding or enthronement of Solomon. But God the Spirit intended it rather to be a hymn of praise unto Christ for the Church through all ages.

So here is a song that was perhaps intended by the writer to reflect on the anticipated restoration of Jerusalem, but the intention of the Spirit, it appears, was to express the suffering and meditations of our Lord as He headed to the Cross.

Indeed, I can’t think of a better, or more biblical way to understand this psalm. For this is the only way, it appears to me, to be consistent with the way that the Holy Spirit interprets this Psalm in the New Testament. Turn to Hebrews 1. In verse 8, we read—

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

This is a quotation from Psalm 45:6-7. It is taken as the words of the Father unto the Son. And likewise, verse 10-12 are quoted as the words of the Father unto the Son—

 10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: 11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; 12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.

Where are these words taken from? They are taken from verses 25-27 of Psalm 102!

Now, it can’t be that this whole Psalm contains the word of the Father to the Son, for the Father does not pray to the Son as in verse 1 of the Psalm! It appears to me that the most meaningful way to think of this Psalm is that it is largely an expression of the prayer of the Son unto the Father, and the last few verses quoted by the writer of Hebrews are really the Father’s reply to the Son!

Indeed, does not verse 24 echo the sentiments expressed in the recorded prayer of the Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane: Father, if it be possible, take this cup from me. The Gospel account does not give us a reply, but here in Psalm 102, we are given an expression of how the Lord would have replied.

Thus Andrew Bonar entitles this Psalm as “Messiah’s complaint and comforts in the days of his humiliation.” “For,” he says, “here we see the Righteous One, the Lord Jesus, laying the foundation of his kingdom of redeemed ones, by fully satisfying the demands of justice in their room.”

This is how we may sing this Psalm. Indeed, it is with this in mind that we can sing this Psalm with full assurance that the Father will hear our cries, as we are singing essentially the words of the only begotten.

This Psalm has essentially 3 parts. In the first part, verses 1-10, we have a humble plea to the Father for His comfort in affliction. In the second part, verse 11-22, we have a comforting affirmation of the Father’s Care for His people. In the third part, verse 23-28, we have an urgent Plea to the Father for Deliverance and the Father’s Assurance of blessings.


1. A Humble Plea in Affliction (vv. 1-10)

1  Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry come unto thee.  2 Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily.

This is the prayer of an afflicted man, and as Augustine suggests, who is most afflicted but he who was rich and yet became poor for our sakes. Our Lord prayed with loud crying and great drops of sweat in the Garden of Gethsamene. No doubt one of the things that He dreaded was the prospect of His Father hiding His face from Him in the day of His trouble. Undoubtably He knew that this would happen—not only for the fact that it was prophesied in Psalm 22, but for the fact that He was bearing the sin of His people; and therefore He must experience the wrath of His Father (see v. 10).

But our Lord would express the desires of His heart, and so he cries: “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Mk 14:36).

Likewise, as our Lord was pouring out His heart to His Father, He would not have hesitated to use the words in verse 3-9 to express His sorrow of heart. Or to put it in another way, these same words which He inspired the Psalmist by His Spirit to write, expresses prophetically and spiritually His own anguish of heart as He headed to the Cross.

Our Lord’s earthly days were drawing to a close. His days were vanishing like smoke (v. 3a). His bones were aching (v. 3b); His heart filled with sorrows (v. 4). He feels a sense of loneliness—like the pelican in the wilderness, like the owl in the desert, or a lone sparrow looking down from the housetop (v.  6). His closest friends, His disciples would not even stay awake to pray with Him; and shortly they would abandon Him. He is not even able to enjoy the basic delights of life such as food and water. His bread, as it were, tasted like ashes to Him, and His drink was mingled with teardrops (v. 9).

His enemies derided Him. Many were clamouring for His blood (v. 8).

Why? Why was our Lord suffering so deeply? Our Lord was suffering so deeply because He was experiencing the wrath of the Father on our behalf (v. 10).

But though He suffered greatly, He never did doubt the His Father or His own mission. We see that in His comforting affirmation from verse 11-22.


2. A Comforting Affirmation (vv. 11-22)

11 My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass. 12 But thou, O LORD, shalt endure for ever; and thy remembrance unto all generations.…

Though He was very God, our Lord took the nature of a servant as the God-Man. As the God-Man, whose human nature was not yet glorified, our Lord would have to experience death. He would experience death that He might remove the sting of death from His elect.

But the LORD, the Father, would never die. He endures forever; and He has appointed that his remembrance will endure from generation to generation. That is to say, it please the Father that His people should remember Him from generation to generation.

Indeed, it was for this reason that Christ took on human flesh. He took on human flesh that the spiritual Zion, the church might experience God’s mercy and love from generation to generation.

As the Son would die for the justification of His people, the Father would arise to have mercy upon Zion. The time of the death and resurrection of the Lord is the fullness of time appointed by the LORD to show mercy unto His people (v. 13). These are the people who loves the Lord and His Church and all that is in Her as represented by stones and dust of Jerusalem (v. 14).

As the LORD arises for His people, so the heathen or gentiles are brought to fear His name. And one day when the fullness of the Church is fully gathered, then shall the LORD appear in His glory.

Remember how the apostle Paul speaks of the day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (Phil 2:10-11). Paul is speaking of the day when Jesus would be known as LORD, and as the LORD would appear with His people. In that day, the kings and the powerful people of the earth who would not bow down to Him when there is the opportunity will fear Him and cry unto the mountains and the rocks to cover them for the Day of the Lamb is come (Lk 23:30; Rev 6:16-17).

But the poor in spirit, and those who humble themselves before the Lord in this life, they will know the blessing and protection of the Lord. He will hear their prayers. He will preserve them unto all eternity that they praise and worship Him forever and ever (v. 18).

How is this accomplished? This is accomplished through the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ. Because of his sacrifice; the enmity between God and His people is removed. Because of Him, the Father would look down upon His people and hear their cries. He would have pity on them. He would free them from bondage to sin and death (v. 20). He would gather them together and put His name on them (v. 21). He would enable them to serve and worship Him forever and ever (v. 22).

Now, remember that our Lord would have been meditating on these things as He was suffering for His people. But those glorious thought while giving hope did not remove the reality of the suffering that our Lord had to endure.

So we see in the final part of this Psalm...


3. A Urgent Appeal & An Assuring Reply (v. 23-28)

Our Lord’s suffering was real. His desire to have the cup taken away was real.

23 He weakened my strength in the way; he shortened my days.  24 I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days: thy years are throughout all generations.

Once again, does this not sound very similar to the prayer recorded of our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane. “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Mt 26:39).

What was the Father’s reply?

25 Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. 26 They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed:  27 But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end. 28 The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee.

What was the Father telling the Son? The Father is reminding the Son of His eternal glory. He will never perish. Though He has a human nature, He has also a divine nature. He is in His divine nature, the Creator. He Created the Word together with the Father and the Spirit.

As such he will never perish. Creation may change. Creatures may die. But He is from everlasting to everlasting. He will never die even though for a season He must experience death for the sake of His Church.

Indeed, not only would He as divine endure forever, but as a human, He would be raised from the dead. He would become the head stone of the corner. He would the first born amongst many brethren. The children of His servants, i.e. His disciples would be established before Him. His Church would endure forever and ever.


Conclusion

Psalm 102 is one of my favourite Psalms, and I wish I could expound on it more fully and capture more heartily the emotions and the hopes expressed in it. But I trust that this brief introduction will give you a taste of it and bring you to a better understanding of the conflicts and comfort in the soul of our Lord even as He headed to the Cross to pay for the penalty of our sin.

Thank God for this Psalm. Thank God that the time for God’s favor upon the church has come, for Christ our Lord is risen from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father upholding all things by the Word of His power, bringing all things to pass for the blessing of His Church. Amen.  Ω