Summary: Psalm 102


As early as the fifth or sixth century Psalm 102 was named one of the seven penitential Psalms or Psalms of Confession in the Bible, along with Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143. The speculation of authorship includes Nehemiah. Unlike other penitential psalms this pslam is not attributed to individuals or titled a psalm, but a prayer.

Admit your Failings and Ask for Forbearance

A prayer of an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the Lord.

1 Hear my prayer, Lord; let my cry for help come to you. 2 Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly. 3 For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. 4 My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. 5 In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones. 6 I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. 7 I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof. 8 All day long my enemies taunt me; those who rail against me use my name as a curse. 9 For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears 10 because of your great wrath, for you have taken me up and thrown me aside. 11 My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass. (Psalm 102:1-11)

The prayer side of the Psalms is often overlooked. Not every psalm gets to be a poem, a psalm and a prayer technically. The word ¡§prayer¡¨ occurs 32 times in Psalms, more than any book in the Bible - nine times as the title or in the first verse, and more times in this psalm than any other (vv 1 twice, 17 twice - KJV). Who is the afflicted person in the title? An afflicted person is one who is poor (Ex 22:25) and lowly (Zech 9:9) in KJV. The reason for the depressed state is because his or her ¡§weakened¡¨ condition. Half of the 16 times the word ¡§weak¡¨ from the Bible is found in the Psalms and it is translated as hideth (Job 23:9), overwhelmed (Ps 61:2), fainted (Ps 107:5), fail (Isa 57:16) and swoon (Lam 2:11). Another word for the verb ¡§pour out¡¨ in the title is shed (Gen 9:6), gush out (1 Kings 18:28), cast (2 Kings 19:32) and slip (Ps 73:2), and for the noun ¡§lament¡¨ is complaint (1 Sam 1:16), talking (1 Kings 18:27), communication (2 Kings 9:11), prayer (Ps 64:1), meditation (Ps 104:34) and babbling (Prov 23:29). The verb pour pout implies that our discontent must be shared and not stored, surrendered and not saved, spitted out and not stuck, stopped or silenced.

The first two verses, rightly so, must be address God ¡V Lord, you (v 1), your twice (v 2). The clause ¡§HEAR (my prayer)¡¨ is unique to Psalms (Ps 4:1, 39:12, 54:2, 84:8, 102:1, 143:1), all in the determined, demanding and desperate imperative mood. The complaint in the title quickly turned into a cry in verse 1 and croaking or groaning in verse 5. While the Psalms recorded the most ¡§cry¡¨ in the Bible (Ps 18:6, 34:15, 39:12, 40:1, 145:19), the first cry in the Bible was from the Israelites in Egypt, when their ¡§cry¡¨ came up unto God by reason of the bondage (Ex 2:23). A cry is only good when it is vocalized, vertical and volunteered to God.

The next imperative ¡§turn¡¨ (v 2) is also translated as spread (Gen 33:19), stretch (Ex 6:6), bowing down (Ps 17:11), extend (Ezra 9:9), incline (Josh 24:23) and prolong (Job 15:29). It means closeness, contact, and connection.

The third imperative ¡§answer¡¨ is not about result, reasons, and remedy, but reply, respond and remember, just as ¡§quickly¡¨ does not mean instantly, immediately, but speedily (KJV), soon and sure.

Hear Turn Answer

Attitude Affection Attention

Cry Contact Communication

Trouble Tenderness

Distance (incline) Time (quickly)

Verse 3 reveals the first reason (¡§for¡¨) behind the Psalmist cry. ¡§Consume¡¨ as to do with consumed fire ¡V smoke, burn and growing embers. Smoke is singular noun, burn is the verb, and embers is plural noun. The second reason in verse 4 says that he forgot to eat, with the result is that he is reduced to skin and bone, or ¡§my bones CLEAVE to my skin¡¨ in KJV. The three verbs contrast bones (v 3), belly (v 4, eat) and body (v 5, bones and skin), or skeleton or structure (v 3, bones), stomach (v 4) and skin (v 5).

Verse 3-5 in KJV refer to ¡§my bones¡¨ (v 3), ¡§my heart¡¨ (v 4) and ¡§my skin¡¨ and ¡§my bones¡¨ again (v 5). One is emotional, the next is physical and social (v 8).

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