We return this month to a versification of Psalm 102. Last month we looked at the middle section of the Psalm (verses 12-22) where we found comfort in the deliverance of God from our afflictions. We now go backwards to look at the depth of affliction and sorrow. The comfort of this passage comes at the very outset with the truth that God hears His people when they pray.
There appear to be differing opinions of when this Psalm was written. Some suggest that it was written by one of the prophets either during the Babylonian captivity or immediately after, and others suggest that David may have written it during a very difficult time in his life. The author and time period are not really significant to us because it, as all Scripture, is written for the benefit of the church through the ages. We see that truth in II Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
In returning to the Psalm at hand, we reflect that it is for the afflicted in the church. This applies to personal afflictions but also to the public afflictions of the church. In the United States at this time the church suffers little or no public difficulties. We know that this is not true of the church in other parts of the world. We hear of Christians being persecuted and churches being unable even to meet publicly due to persecution. This is primarily true in the East, we think of areas such as: India, Myanmar, and China. May we who are not persecuted enjoy and appreciate the freedom that we have been afforded as it may be soon taken from us.
We look in the second stanza of Psalter 272 to the third line and see that the grief consumes the very strength of the writer. One who has experienced the loss of a dear loved one, I am sure, can appreciate how this can happen. When a church is afflicted, this may happen to its members as they try to maintain the truth of God and proclaim it to the world. These members of the church are ones who are truly committed to God and the church. The stanza goes on to speak of the days passing as smoke quickly away indicating that one is totally absorbed in this sorrow to not even notice the passing of time.
The third and fourth stanzas go on to speak of the effects of this deep sorrow. The heart is withered and one forgets to eat his daily bread. We can imagine this in our personal sorrows but can we imagine ourselves being that sorrowful for the House of God? The church of God should be our primary concern in this life. We live in such a materialistic culture that we need to take time away from the busyness of the world and reflect on the importance of the church in our lives. The grief of the Psalmist here is very intense. Will we be that sorrowful when our church is taken from us? We think first of the building but I encourage you rather to think of the loss of the fellowship of the saints. What a sorrow when we will not be able to gather together and encourage one another. For that is really a part of what our church is about. May we appreciate more deeply the gift of the church that we have.
Now we return to the first stanza of this Psalter versification where we find our comfort. It is the supplication to God to hear our prayers. We would not even dare to cry out to God if we did not know that He hears us. This is the confidence with which the Psalmist cries here. We know that God always hears our prayers, especially when in distress and sorrow. We are reminded of passages such as: Ephesians 6:18, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints,” and Philippians 4:6, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
As we sing the sad words of Psalter 272 may we be reminded that there is also comfort in the sadness. We rest in the assurance that God will hear our prayers and care for His people in their own distresses and the church in her troubles. God’s truth shall forever stand sure.