102:0Psalm 102 has 2 stories! The first was when a young man who was dying wrote the psalm. The other was when, 300 years later, the Jews in Egypt translated the psalm into Greek. (Jews are people who were born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.) They changed the end. They did not change it very much. But then the young man who was dying meant Jesus!
The first young man lived about 540 BC. BC means years Before Christ came to the earth. The young man was a Jew. But he did not live in Judah. The Babylonian army had beaten Judah and taken many of the people to live in Babylon. We call this the exile. It started in 606 BC and ended 70 years later. The prophet Jeremiah had said the exile would go on for 70 years. A prophet is someone who speaks or writes God's words. He wrote ‘After you have lived 70 years in Babylon, I (the Lord) will come to you. I will do what I said I would do. I will cause you to come back to this place (Judah)’ (Jeremiah 29:10). Now the young man that wrote the psalm must have known this. He wrote in verse 13, ‘The time has come when this should happen.’ He knew that God would do what he had promised. Lord is a special name for God. It is a special name that his servants used. They agreed that they would love and obey him. Then he would protect them (stop people hurting them).
We do not know why the young man was ill. We know that he was young because he wrote in verse 23 ‘He (God) has made me ill in the middle of my life.’ So, he was not an old man. He did not remember Judah. But he wanted to live long enough to go with them when the Jews returned home. So he prayed in verse 24, ‘Do not let me die in the middle of my life.’ We pray when we talk to God. We call what we say to him a prayer.
A Young Man with Trouble
This is the prayer of a man that is weak and in trouble.
He pours out to the Lord this sad song.
102:0The psalm has 3 parts:
– Verses 1-11: the young man describes his illness.
– Verses 12-22: the young man says that God will build Jerusalem again.
– Verses 23-28: the young man says that he will soon die, but God will never die.
1 Lord, hear my prayer
and listen when I cry to you for help.
2 Do not hide your face from me when I am in trouble.
Turn your ear to me.
Answer me soon, now that I am praying to you.
102:2In verse 2, ‘hide your face’ means ‘look away and not listen.’ ‘Turn your ear’ means ‘listen.’
3 Because my life is disappearing like smoke disappears.
Also, my bones are burning as a fire burns.
102:3His illness makes him feel hot. We call this illness ‘a fever.’
4 I am so ill that I am as dried grass.
I even forget to eat my food.
5 Because of my loud groans,
I am just skin and bone.
102:5He could not eat anything and he was just ‘skin and bone’, (verses 4 and 5). ‘Skin and bone’ is a way to say ‘very, very thin.’
6 I am as a wild bird in a lonely place.
I am as a night bird in a broken building.
102:6The wild bird may be a vulture, the night bird an owl and the small bird a sparrow.
7 I lie awake and feel like a small bird
by itself on the roof of a house.
8 All day my enemies say bad things about me.
People that are angry with me use my name as a curse.
102:8But not only is the young man ill with a fever and lonely. People are saying bad things about him, verse 8.
9-10 Because you are so angry with me:
· eat ashes as my food;
· mix my drink with my tears.
Because you picked me up and then you threw me away.
102:9-10In verse 10, ‘tears’ are the water that drops from your eyes when you cry. Poetry often uses different words that mean the same thing. ‘As’ and ‘like’ is another example.
11 My days are as an evening shadow.
I am dying as grass soon dies.
102:11In verse 11, an evening shadow is one that will soon be gone. It will disappear into the night.
12 But you, Lord, will always be king.
You will always be famous,
everybody that will live will know about you.
13 You will stand up and be kind to Zion,
because it is time to show her that you love her.
The time has come when this should happen.
102:13In verse 13, ‘it is time to show that you love her’ makes us remember Isaiah. Isaiah said that God would build Jerusalem again after the exile. This is in chapters 40-66 of his prophecy. When God did build her again, it would ‘show that you love her.’ ‘Her’ means Jerusalem. In this psalm, Zion is another name for Jerusalem. ‘The time has come’ means the time in Jeremiah 29:10.
14 Because her stones are valuable to your servants.
Her broken stones make them very sad.
102:14The stones in verse 14 mean the buildings that the Babylonian army destroyed. Now (about 540 BC) they were just stones lying on the ground.
15 The nations will be afraid of the name of the Lord.
And all the kings of the earth will kneel before your glory.
16 Because the Lord will build Zion again
and appear in his glory.
17 He will answer the prayers of people that have nothing
and he will not laugh at what they ask.
102:17It may be easier to understand verses 15-17 in the order 17, 16 and 15. Verse 17 tells us that God will answer his people's prayers. Verse 16 says that the Lord will build Zion again and show everyone his glory (his bright light). ‘Appear in his glory’ means that ‘he will shine and be bright as the sun.’ Then, in verse 15, all the nations (countries with governments) and kings (leaders of the people) will kneel before God. ‘Kneel’ means ‘fall to your knees.’
18 Write this down for people that will be alive in future times.
Then people that God has not yet created will praise the Lord.
19 The Lord looked down from his home in heaven,
from the skies he saw the earth.
20 He heard the groans of people in prison.
The people that were going to die he made free.
21 So people will shout the Lord's name in Zion
and they will praise him in Jerusalem.
22 This will happen when people and kingdoms
meet together to worship the Lord.
102:22In verses 18-22, there are several important words:
– Created means ‘made by God.’
– Praise the Lord means ‘tell the Lord that he is very great.’
– Worship the Lord means ‘tell the Lord that you love him and believe that he is very great.’
– The heavens means ‘the skies.’
– Kingdoms are ‘countries that have a king.’
– Groans are the ‘noises that people make when they are hurting.’
So, verses 18-22 tell us that God will always be famous. People will learn that he did what he promised. This will give them help to believe that he will still do what he has promised.
23 He has made me ill in the middle of my life.
He will make my life short.
24 So I said, ‘My God, do not let me die in the middle of my life.’
You will always be alive.
25 At the beginning of time you built the earth so that it was strong.
Also, your hands created the heavens.
26 They will not always remain, but you Lord will.
They will wear out as clothes do.
Like clothes, you will change them and throw them away.
27 But you Lord will always be the same
and your life will never end.
102:27Verses 23-27 tell us that God will always be alive. At the beginning of time, he created the earth and the skies above it. ‘Your hands’ in verse 25 is another way to say ‘you.’ But the earth and skies will not remain for ever. Like clothes, they will wear out. This means that they will become old. Then people cannot use them. Then they will throw them away.
God will do the same with the heavens and the earth! When they are old, he will throw them away. Both Psalm 102 and Hebrews 1 make the earth and the skies sound like God's clothes! But the good news is this. Just as people put on new clothes, so God will make a new heaven and a new earth. Isaiah 65:17 says, ‘Look; I will create new heavens and a new earth. (People will) not remember the old earth, or bring it to their minds.’
28 We are your servants and our children will live always live here.
And their children will be safe where you are.
102:28In verse 28, ‘live here’ means live in Jerusalem; and ‘where you are’ is where God is – Jerusalem.
It is important to know that Jerusalem for Jews was the capital city of Judah. For Christians it is not a place on earth, but where all the people of God live.