A Young Man With Trouble

Psalm 102

An EasyEnglish Translation with Notes (about 1200 word vocabulary) on Psalm 102


Gordon Churchyard

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

Words in brackets, ( ), are not in the Hebrew Bible.

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Jesus said, "Do not let trouble stay in your mind. *Believe in God and believe in me also". (John 14:1) "Destroy this *temple and in three days I will raise it up again". (John 2:19)

Psalm 102

  (This is) the *prayer of a man that is weak and in trouble.
  He pours out to the *LORD this sad song.

v1   *LORD, hear my *prayer
  and listen when I cry to you for help.

v2   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.

v3   Because my life is *disappearing *like smoke (*disappears).
  Also, my bones are burning as a fire burns.

v4   I am so ill that I am as dried grass.
  I (even) forget to eat my food.

v5   Because of my loud *groans,
  I am just skin and bone.

v6   I am as a (wild) bird in a lonely place.
  I am as a (night) bird in a broken building.

v7   I lie awake and feel *like a (small) bird
  by itself on the roof of a house.

v8   All day my enemies say bad things about me.
  People that are angry with me use my name as a *curse.

v9 - v10   Because you are so angry with me:
    I eat ashes as my food;
    I mix my drink with my *tears.
  Because you picked me up and then you threw me away.

v11   My days are as an evening shadow.
  I am dying as grass (soon dies).

v12   But you, *LORD, will always be king.
  You will always be famous,
  everybody that will live (will know about you.)

v13   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.

v14   Because her stones are valuable to your servants.
  (Her) broken stones make them very sad.

v15   The *nations will be afraid of the name of the *LORD.
  And all the kings of the earth will *kneel before your *glory.

v16   Because the *LORD will build *Zion again
  and appear in his *glory.

v17   He will answer the *prayers of people that have nothing
  and he will not laugh at what they ask.

v18   Write this down for people that will be alive in future (times).
  Then people (that God has) not yet *created will *praise the *LORD.

v19   The *LORD looked down from his home in the *heavens,
  from the skies he saw the earth.

v20   He heard the *groans of people in prison.
  The people that were going to die he made free.

v21   So people will shout the *LORDís name in *Zion
  and they will *praise him in Jerusalem.

v22   (This will happen) when peoples and *kingdoms
  meet together to *worship the *LORD.

v23   He has made me ill in the middle (of my life).
  He will make my life short.

v24   So I said, "My God, do not let me die in the middle of my life.
  You will always be alive.

v25   At the beginning (of time) you built the earth so that it was strong.
  Also, your hands *created the *heavens.

v26   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.

v27   But you (*LORD) will always be the same
  and your life will never end.

v28   (We are) your servants and our children will live always live here.
  And their children will be safe where you are.

The Story of Psalm 102

Psalm 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 B.C. B.C. 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 B.C. 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 Godís 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.

Christians thought of the young man dying as Jesus. But why did the *Jews change the end of the psalm when they translated it from *Hebrew into Greek? Hebrew was the language that the *Jews spoke in 540 B.C., but later they spoke either Aramaic or Greek. Now there were no vowels in the *Hebrew language when they wrote it down. Vowels are the letters a, e, i, o and u. In 250 B.C., when they translated it into Greek, the *Jews used one set of vowels. Later, when they wrote the *Hebrew down many years later, they used another set of vowels. Most of the psalm is the same in both *Hebrew and Greek, but the end is different. Here is the end translated from the Greek Bible:

v23   He answered him in his strong way.
  Tell me how short my life is.

v24   Do not let me die in the middle of my life.
  You will always be alive,
  as long as there are people living (on the earth).

v25   At the beginning (of time) you built the earth so it was strong.
  Also, your hands *created the *heavens.

v26   They will not always remain, but you (*LORD) will.
  They will wear out as clothes do.
  *Like clothes, you will roll them up,
  and you will change them.

v27   But you (*LORD) will always be the same
  and your life will never end.

When Paul (or another Christian) wrote the Letter to the Hebrews (in the *New Testament), he repeated these words from the Greek Bible. He said that they were about Jesus! Here is what he wrote in Hebrews 1.

v8 But to the Son (God said) ...

v10 ... You, *Lord, at the beginning (of time), you built the earth so that it was strong. Also, your hands *created the *heavens.

v11 They will not always remain, but you (*Lord) will. They will wear out as clothes do.

v12 *Like clothes, you will roll them up, and you will change them. But you (*Lord) will always be the same and your life will never end.

The word *LORD is not in the New Testament (second part of the Bible). "Lord" is now the name for Jesus. The important change is in verse 23. Hebrews 1:10 makes God say these words to Jesus. In the *Hebrew psalm the young man in trouble said them.

So, there are two stories for Psalm 102! That is why there are two verses from the *New Testament at the top of this psalm. There is one for each story. "Believe in God" is more than "think about God". It is also "hope that God will give help". The temple was Godís house in Jerusalem.

What Psalm 102 means

Study the psalm in 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.

Remember that Hebrews 1:8-12 tells us that Psalm 102 is a prophecy. A prophecy says what God will do. Just as God will build the *temple again after the young man dies, so he will build it again after Jesus dies. But the two *temples are not the same! One is the *temple in Jerusalem, Godís house that Solomon built. The other *temple is the body of Christ that we call the Church.

The young manís illness

This is a *prayer for help. A prayer is the words we say when we pray. In verse 2, "hide your face" means "look away and not listen". "Turn your ear" means "listen". The young man is "in trouble". This means that he has trouble. We do not know what it was. He says that his "life is disappearing like smoke" in verse 3. "Like" is another word for "as".

"Disappear" means the opposite of "appear". He means that as smoke *disappears into the air, so his life is *disappearing. This is a poetic way of saying "I am dying". Poetry is a special way to use words. All the psalms are *Hebrew poetry. "All my bones" is a *Hebrew way to say "all my body". His illness makes him feel hot. We call this illness "a fever". There are many different fevers. It made him look *like dried grass. He 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". Also, he feels lonely, as a bird by itself, (verses 6 and 7). The wild bird may be a vulture, the night bird an owl and the small bird a sparrow. But not only is the young man ill with a fever and lonely. People are saying bad things about him, verse 8. They even use his name as a curse. A curse is when you say bad things will happen to people. In 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. In verse 11, an evening shadow is one that will soon be gone. It will *disappear into the night.

God will build *Zion again

In 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. The stones in verse 14 mean the buildings that the Babylonian army destroyed. Now (about 540 B.C.) they were just stones lying on the ground. But the

*Jews still loved them, even when broken to small bits or dust. It may be easier to understand the next three verses 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". In 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.

God will never die

Verses 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". In 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.

Something to do

1. The young man prayed for himself, but also for his people. Do the same! When you pray for yourself, remember your own people, and Godís people, the Church.

2. If you have a Bible, study Hebrews 1. Find these verses from the psalms repeated in Hebrews 1; Psalms 2:7-8; 45:6-7; 102:25-27; 103:20-21; 104:4; 110:1.


© 2001-2002, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level A (1200 words).

June 2002

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