The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 102

Psa 102:1

SUPERSCRIPTION: "A PRAYER OF AN AFFLICTED MAN. WHEN HE IS FAINT AND POURS OUT HIS LAMENT BEFORE THE LORD." Psa 17 is comparable in character. (Other "prayers" in psalm titles: Psa 86, 90, 142.) Sw vv 1,17 below. "The afflicted" fits Hezekiah (cp Isa 38:1-6; the same double theme there: personal restoration, and the salvation of Zion).

Vv 1-11: (NT) The loneliness of Christ in his ministry, and his wrestling in the garden of Gethsemane.

LET MY CRY FOR HELP COME TO YOU: Hezekiah's cry would have to suffice; for he, being both sick and unclean (with leprosy), could not literally come into the presence of God (cp Psa 42:1-4; 84:2,3).

"The spirit of prayer is caught, not taught. It is caught from the prayers of the faithful in the Bible, and from the example of Jesus.

"There may be difficulties. Some who have grown old in the Faith have confessed that they had not found it easy to pray; perhaps because of diffidence in speaking to the Father, or because it had been mistakenly assumed that one should use a particular form of words. Some found that they did not know what to pray for, or about. Yet the Father is the truest Friend of all and we can reveal things to Him that could never be told to anyone else.

"Prayer is the opportunity for worship, for praise and thanksgiving, for supplication and for the joy of talking with the Father. It can be silent or uttered, and used anywhere and at any time: in a tram or bus, when driving a car or walking to work; at home, in the office or factory; or even whilst standing before a king in great distress" (JM).

Psa 102:2

FACE (of God): In Psalms, always ref God's presence in ark/tabernacle/temple: see VL, Pss, God's face.

ANSWER ME QUICKLY: And God did (2Ki 20:4)! Faith turns a pitiful beseeching into an imperative.

(NT) And He did, in Gethsemane, with an Angel from heaven (Luk 22:43); and on the cross, with a manifestation of the Shekinah Glory (Psa 22:22-31n).

Psa 102:3

Cp Psa 37:20; 68:2. Briefly describes the ravages of his disease. That is, 'I suffer undeservedly, as though I were full of wickedness.'

Psa 102:4

Cp v 11; Psa 121:6. The serious debility of a sick man affects his powers of thought and ability to take any interest in the affairs of life. "Heart" (v 4) and "bones" (v 5) = "mind and body" -- ie the whole person.


Psa 102:5

"My bones cleave to my skin": AV (Psa 22:17; Lam 4:18). Cp Job's description of his leprosy (Job 19:20).

Psa 102:6

"I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert" (AV). Both birds are unclean (Lev 11:13-18; Deu 14:12-17) and solitary (Isa 34:11 and Zep 2:14 -- where "cormorant" is sw as "pelican"; and Jer 50:39) -- sym of Hezekiah, unclean by illness and secluded in his palace. "The pelican is a magnificent bird in flight, with its huge white wings, and long yellowish bill. [But] when it sits motionless at the edge of a swamp, its head against its breast, digesting the fish it scooped up in its pouch, it becomes the very image of brooding sorrow" (A Parmelee, All the Birds of the Bible 169). Some translators call the first bird a "vulture" (RSV, Amplified), and the second a "pelican" (Aglen) -- since the Heb word rendered "owl" in the AV is literally "cup", calling attention (poss) to the huge bill of the pelican. Either way, the basic ideas of uncleanness and separation hold true.

Psa 102:7

As in Isa 38:14, Hezekiah again compares himself to a sparrow (see also Psa 84:3).

Psa 102:8

ALL DAY LONG MY ENEMIES TAUNT ME: Cp Psa 42:10; 44:13. Sw 8 times about Rabshakeh's crude propaganda campaign outside the walls of Jerusalem (2Ki 19:4,16,22,23; Isa 37:4,17,23,24; cp Psa 44:16; 74:10 -- also sw). Also cp David's experiences (Psa 69:9,10, sw again).

(NT) The ceaseless campaign of vilification and plotting against Jesus (cp Psa 69:12).

THOSE WHO RAIL AGAINST ME USE MY NAME AS A CURSE: That is, 'they have sworn to their gods', or 'they have cursed me by their gods.' The Israelite/Assyrian war had become a contest between Yahweh and the gods of Nineveh (2Ki 19:4,10,15-19; Isa 46). Hence the drastic action taken by God against Sennacherib's army.

Psa 102:9

(NT) Strong expressions to signify the intense vexation and frustration which frequently beset Jesus in his ministry. And especially, the mingled sorrow and joy of the "Passover" in the upper room.

Psa 102:10

Certainly God's anger was against His people, not against the king; but Hezekiah was being taught to see himself as the representative of -- and vicarious sufferer for -- his entire nation (see esp Isa 53 and WIsa 456-475).

BECAUSE OF YOUR GREAT WRATH: (NT) A strong way of expressing how heavy was the burden which he bore for mankind. The Father had laid upon the Son the reproach and iniquity of all men (Isa 53:6; 2Pe 1:20-25; see GB, PSS 1:47, 220, 229, 230, 297, 298, 397, and 398).

FOR YOU HAVE TAKEN ME UP AND THROWN ME ASIDE: A very vivid figure of speech. The "lifting up" was the prosperity and revival of Temple activity and true worship of Jehovah during the early days of Hezekiah's reign. And the "casting down"? Only too well-described here.

(NT) Moments of exhilaration in the course of the Lord's ministry, but also -- and more generally -- much experience of disappointment and depression (see esp Isa 49:4).

Psa 102:11

MY DAYS ARE LIKE THE EVENING SHADOW: An outstandingly appropriate allusion to the sundial of Ahaz (see Isa 38:7,8).

I WITHER AWAY LIKE GRASS: As in v 4 and Isa 40:6-8.

Psa 102:12

The Assyrian campaign against trust in Yahweh (Isa 36:15; 37:4) must be exposed as empty human futility.

YOUR RENOWN ENDURES THROUGH ALL GENERATIONS: This alludes to God's Covenant Name (Exo 3:15), and so also in every use of this word in the psalms.

Psa 102:13

COMPASSION ON ZION: Cp Isa 54:8 and context. The linking of this theme with that of the king's sickness would be absurd if (as some suppose by a mistaken reading of a couple of texts) the Assyrian invasion and Hezekiah's illness were separated by quite a number of years. But it is all too plain that his suffering and the threat of Assyrian attack on Jerusalem came simultaneously (see esp Isa 38:5,6).

THE APPOINTED TIME: This Heb word moed always refs to one of Israel's religious feasts, in this instance to Passover, for the Assyrian attack came at that very time (Isa 26:20,21; 30:29 -- sw; and Isa 31:5,8).

Psa 102:14

HER STONES: Are the saints themselves the "stones" of Jerusalem (ie 1Pe 2:5)? Cp the "stones" that cry out (Hab 2:11; Luk 19:40).

HER VERY DUST MOVES THEM TO PITY: "Thy servants... favour [even] the dust thereof" (AV), meaning that Jerusalem is no longer an unclean leprous city (Lev 14:41).

Psa 102:15

The effect of the tremendous destruction of Sennacherib's army was to put all surrounding nations in awe of the power of the God of Israel (2Ch 32:23; Isa 37:20; 45:6; 59:19; see also v 22 here).

(NT) As a prophecy of the coming kingdom this is wonderful. The return of Christ will -- eventually -- cause all kings and other powers to acknowledge and worship him (Psa 72:10,11; Isa 60:3,9-12). He who was merely (if that is the right word!) King of the Jews will have then become King of the whole World (Rev 5:8-14; 11:15; 12:10; 15:4; Phi 2:8,10; Dan 4:17,25; Isa 24:23; 26:9; 45:23; Psa 22:27-29; 86:9; etc).

Psa 102:16

THE LORD WILL REBUILD ZION AND APPEAR IN HIS GLORY: Cp Isa 45:13; 60:10. (NT) It appears, from Zec 14:4, that Jerusalem will have been largely destroyed by an earthquake, and will literally need rebuilding before it can become the city of the Great King (Mat 5:35). But this is also a reference to the "new Jerusalem" -- the embodiment of the glorified saints (Gal 4:26; Heb 12:22; Rev 21:2,9,10). In the last and best sense, it is there, through them, in immortal human beings which enshrine His character, and that of His Son, that God will truly appear in all His glory (Rev 21:3; 22:3,4)!

THE LORD WILL... APPEAR IN HIS GLORY: It was by this means that the Assyrian camp was decimated (Isa 37:36; 30:30,31). This may also ref to the Lord's Glory being manifested in Hezekiah's recovery from his fatal illness -- perhaps the Shekinah Glory that caused the shadow (cp v 11 here!) of the sundial to go backward ten degrees (2Ki 20:8-11).

Psa 102:17

Isa 37:1; 38:2,3. Hezekiah was without heir ("destitute") at this time (cp sw in Gen 15:2; Lev 20:20,21; and Jer 22:30).

(NT) Israel, repentant at last (Lev 26:40-42; Deu 30:1-3; Psa 81:13,14; Eze 20:42-44; Joe 2:12-20; Zec 12:10; Mat 23:39; Act 3:19,20; Rom 11:15), will cry to God out of her misery, and He will send His Son to redeem Israel from her captivity.

Psa 102:18

A PEOPLE NOT YET CREATED MAY PRAISE THE LORD: Hezekiah's state and nation seemed to be virtually obliterated -- the Land ravaged from end to end, 200,000 captives taken away, great numbers of refugees now in foreign lands, cities destroyed, farms and forests burnt, only Jerusalem not yet desolated. Yet within one year all was renewed -- the Land fertile and productive, the captives returned, cities rebuilt, and Jerusalem "re-created" a rejoicing in the earth: Psa 67:6; 81:16; 85:12; 96:12; Isa 35:1,2,6,7; 44:26; 45:13; 48:12,13; 55:10,11,13; 58:11,12; 60:3-5; 62:5-7; 65:17-19; 66:22; Mic 4:10.

(NT) The Heb "bara" sig: 'made afresh': Psa 22:31; Isa 43:5,21. This is now seen to be the new, spiritual "Creation" in Christ: 2Co 5:14-19; Gal 6:15; Eph 2:1-10; 4:22-24; Col 1:15-18; 3:9,10; Jam 1:18; Rev 3:14.

Psa 102:19

Vv 19,20: The captives returning from Assyria, as in v 18 note.

HIS SANCTUARY... HEAVEN: The two are juxtaposed, or equated with one another, here -- as in 1Ki 8.

Psa 102:20

Cp, generally, Isa 61:1. Hezekiah condemned to death, and then given 15 years of life.

Comment on Psa 102:21

The same "captives" are now brought forth to praise the Lord in Jerusalem. Surely this provides evidence as to the locality of the saints' immortalization, and thus (presumably) the locality of the Judgment Seat of Christ (cp Isa 25:7,8; Psa 87:5,6; 133:1-3; see PSS 1:384-388).

Psa 102:23

HE CUT SHORT MY DAYS: Hezekiah's sickness: "Set thine house in order: thou shalt die, and not live" (2Ki 20:1; Isa 38:1).

Psa 102:24

I SAID: This phrase is a Hezekiah characteristic (Isa 38:10,11).

IN THE MIDST OF MY DAYS: The king had reigned 14 years when another 15 years was added to his life. With "my days" here ct "thy years", which "shall have no end" (here, and v 27).

YOUR YEARS GO ON THROUGH ALL GENERATIONS: It is as though this good king prays: 'Out of Your eternity -- an inexhaustible store -- will You not spare me just a few more years?'

Psa 102:25

Vv 25-27: The whole of Heb 1; 2 was written to prove that Christ is greater than the angels. How does the quotation of these vv in Heb 1:10-12 fit into this?

Those words are certainly about the greatness of Yahweh, but they also describe the removing of an old creation [(a) that of Gen 1? or (b) the Law of Moses? cp Isa 51:6,16; also cp Isa 50:3,9]. Therefore the New Creation which takes its place must be better, just as the New Covenant is better than the old (Heb 8:13). The old creation (both a and b) was brought in by angels (a: Gen 1:26; Psa 33:6; b: Heb 2:2; Acts 7:35,38,53; Gal 3:19), but the New Creation is brought in by the Messiah. Therefore Messiah must be greater than the angels, because his "Creation" -- "the world to come" (Heb 1:2; 2:5) and the saints who rule it (2Co 5:14-19; Gal 6:15; Eph 2:1-10; 4:22-24; Col 1:15-18; 3:9,10; Jam 1:18; Rev 3:14) -- will continue forever!

And, in Psa 102:28, the "children" of this new world can "continue" only by sharing the endless years of Yahweh (vv 26,27), that is, by undergoing a change to His divine nature. This is already true of the Messiah (v 27; Heb 13:8), and it will most surely be true of all "in him" (Heb 10:9)!

Literally speaking, the earth will of course not be burned up, despite Peter's words in 2Pe 3:10. This is proven by passages too numerous to list (just a few examples: Isa 45:18; 11:9; Hab 2:14; Ecc 1:4; 1Ch 16:30; Mat 5:5; Psa 37:9-11; 115:16; Pro 10:30). The "new heavens and earth" will be a re-creation, or reordering, of the old. This is evident by, among other points, the fact that the new "heavens and earth" will still include a Zion and a Jerusalem (Psa 102:13,20; Isa 65:18,19). But -- as with the flood of Noah's day -- the wicked works of man will be totally destroyed (2Pe 3:5,6), and the "new" heavens and earth will solely by the dwelling place of righteousness (v 13). Or, to use the Biblical figure of speech found in this context, the heavens and earth will shed their old, tattered "garments" and replace them with bright new ones!

Psa 102:28

Here Hezekiah is pleading the unshakable continuity of the Promise made to David (2Sa 7:12-16).

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