Psalms Chapter 102:1-14, 24-28 Antique Commentary Quotes

John Calvin
Psa 102:1
1O Jehovah! hear my prayer This earnestness shows, again, that these words were not dictated to be pronounced by the careless and light-hearted, which could not have been done without grossly insulting God. In speaking thus, the captive Jews bear testimony to the severe and excruciating distress which they endured, and to the ardent desire to obtain some alleviation with which they were inflamed. No person could utter these words with the mouth without profaning the name of God, unless he were, at the same time, actuated by a sincere and earnest affection of heart. We ought particularly to attend to the circumstance already adverted to, that we are thus stirred up by the Holy Spirit to the duty of prayer in behalf of the common welfare of the Church. Whilst each man takes sufficient care of his own individual interests, there is scarcely one in a hundred affected as he ought to be with the calamities of the Church. We have, therefore, the more need of incitements, even as we see the prophet here endeavoring, by an accumulation of words, to correct our coldness and sloth. I admit that the heart ought to move and direct the tongue to prayer; but, as it often flags or performs its duty in a slow and sluggish manner, it requires to be aided by the tongue. There is here a reciprocal influence. As the heart, on the one hand, ought to go before the words, and frame them, so the tongue, on the other, aids and remedies the coldness and torpor of the heart. True believers may indeed often pray not only earnestly but also fervently, while yet not a single word proceeds from the mouth. There is, however, no doubt that by crying the prophet means the vehemence into which grief constrains us to break forth.

Albert Barnes
Psa 102:1
Hear my prayer, O Lord – The prayer which I offer in view of my personal trials; the prayer which I offer as one of an afflicted people. Compare Psa_4:1; Psa_17:1; Psa_18:6.

And let my cry come unto thee – My prayer, accompanied with an outward expression of my earnestness. It was not a silent, or a mental prayer; it was a loud and earnest cry. Psa_5:2; Psa_18:6, Psa_18:41; Psa_30:2; Psa_72:12; Job_35:9; Job_36:13.

John Calvin
Psa 102:2
2Hide not thy face from me in the day of my affliction The prayer, that God would not hide his face, is far from being superfluous. As the people had been languishing in captivity for the space of nearly seventy years, it might seem that God had for ever turned away his favor from them. But they are, notwithstanding, commanded, in their extreme affliction, to have recourse to prayer as their only remedy. They affirm that they cry in the day of their affliction, not as hypocrites are accustomed to do, who utter their complaints in a tumultuous manner, but because they feel that they are then called upon by God to cry to him.

Make haste, answer me Having elsewhere spoken more fully of these forms of expression, it may suffice, at present, briefly to observe, that when God permits us to lay open before him our infirmities without reserve, and patiently bears with our foolishness, he deals in a way of great tenderness towards us. To pour out our complaints before him after the manner of little children would certainly be to treat his Majesty with very little reverence, were it not that he has been pleased to allow us such freedom. I purposely make use of this illustration, that the weak, who are afraid to draw near to God, may understand that they are invited to him with such gentleness as that nothing may hinder them from familiarly and confidently approaching him.

Albert Barnes
Psa 102:2
Hide not thy face from me – The Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate render this, “Do not turn away thy face from me.” The sense is essentially the same. The prayer is, that God would not refuse to look graciously upon him; that he would turn his attention to him; that he would regard his supplications. See the notes at Psa_10:1; compare Psa_13:1; Psa_27:9; Job_13:24; Job_34:29; Deu_31:17.

In the day when I am in trouble – When sorrows come upon me; when I need thy gracious help. Literally, “When there is distress to me.”

Incline thine ear unto me – See Psa_5:1, note; Psa_17:6, note; compare Psa_17:1; Psa_55:1; Psa_86:6; Psa_39:12.

In the day when I call, answer me speedily – Grant at once my requests; give me immediate evidence that my prayer is heard. The psalmist believed in an immediate answer to prayer. He often had evidence that his prayer was answered at once; his mind became calm; he had comfort and peace; he obtained the blessing which he earnestly sought. No one can doubt that prayer may be answered at once; no one who prays can fail to find such answers in his own case, in his peace, his calmness, his joy. In multitudes of cases blessings are granted in such a way that there can be no doubt that they have come in answer to prayer. Compare the notes at Dan_9:20-23.

John Calvin
Psa 102:3
3For my days are consumed like smokeThese expressions are hyperbolical, but still they show how deeply the desolation of the Church ought to wound the hearts of the people of God. Let every man, therefore, carefully examine himself on this head. If we do not prefer the Church to all the other objects of our solicitude, we are unworthy of being accounted among her members. Whenever we meet with such forms of expression as these, let us remember that they reproach our slothfulness in not being affected with the afflictions of the Church as we ought. The Psalmist compares his days to smoke, and his bones to the stones of the hearth, which, in the course of time, are consumed by the fire. By boneshe means the strength of man. And, were not men devoid of feeling, such a melancholy spectacle of the wrath of God would assuredly have the effect of drying up their bones, and wasting away their whole rigor.

Adam Clarke
Psa 102:3
My days are consumed like smoke – He represents himself (for the psalmist speaks in the name of the people) under the notion of a pile of combustible matter, placed upon a fire, which soon consumes it; part flying away in smoke, and the residue lying on the hearth in the form of charred coal and ashes. The Chaldeans were the fire, and the captive Jews the fuel, thus converted into smoke and ashes.

Albert Barnes
Psa 102:3
For my days are consumed like smoke – Margin, “into smoke.” Literally, “in smoke.” That is, They vanish as smoke; they pass away and become nothing; they are spent in affliction, and seem to accomplish nothing. The idea is, that in his affliction he seemed to accomplish none of the ends of life. His life seemed to be wasted. This is often the feeling in trial: and yet in trial a man may be more useful, he may do more to accomplish the real ends of life, he may do more to illustrate the power and excellence of religion, than he ever did in the days of prosperity.

And my bones are burned as an hearth – Or rather, as faggots or fuel. Literally, “They are burned as a burning.” The idea is, that in his troubles, his very bones, the most solid and substantial part of himself, seemed to be consumed and to waste away. See the notes at Psa_31:10.

John Calvin
Psa 102:4
4My heart is smitten, and dried up like grass Here he employs a third similitude, declaring that his heart is withered, and wholly dried up like mown grass. But he intends to express something more than that his heart was withered, and his bones reduced to a state of dryness. His language implies, that as the grass, when it is cut down, can no longer receive juice from the earth, nor retain the life and rigor which it derived from the root, so his heart being, as it were, torn and cut off from its root, was deprived of its natural nourishment.

The meaning of the last clause, I have forgotten to eat my bread, is, My sorrow has been so great, that I have neglected my ordinary food. The Jews, it is true, during their captivity in Babylon, did eat their food; and it would have been an evidence of their having fallen into sinful despair, had they starved themselves to death. But what he means to say is, that he was so afflicted with sorrow as to refuse all delights, and to deprive himself even of food and drink. True believers may cease for a time to partake of their ordinary food, when, by voluntary fasting, they humbly beseech God to turn away his wrath, but the prophet does not here speak of that kind of abstinence from bodily sustenance. He speaks of such as is the effect of extreme mental distress, which is accompanied with a loathing of food, and a weariness of all things. In the close of the verse, he adds, that his body was, as it were, consuming or wasting away, so that his bones clave to his skin.

Adam Clarke
Psa 102:4
My heart is smitten, and withered like grass – The metaphor here is taken from grass cut down in the meadow. It is first smitten with the scythe, and then withered by the sun. Thus the Jews were smitten with the judgments of God; and they are now withered under the fire of the Chaldeans.

Albert Barnes
Psa 102:4
My heart is smitten – Broken; crushed with grief. We now speak of “a broken heart.” Even death is often caused by such excessive sorrow as to crush and break the heart.

And withered like grass – It is dried up as grass is by drought, or as when it is cut down. It loses its support; and having no strength of its own, it dies.

So that I forget to eat my bread – I am so absorbed in my trials; they so entirely engross my attention, that I think of nothing else, not even of those things which are necessary to the support of life. Grief has the effect of taking away the appetite, but this does not seem to be the idea here. It is that of such a complete absorption in trouble that everything else is forgotten.

Albert Barnes
Psa 102:5
By reason of the voice of my groaning – By suffering and trouble, so great as to produce groaning, my flesh is wasted away.

My bones cleave to my skin – Margin, “flesh.” The Hebrew word means “flesh.” The effect described is that of a wasting away or an emaciation of flesh from deep distress, so that the bones became prominent, and had nothing to hide them from view; so that they seemed to adhere fast to the flesh itself. See the notes at Job_19:20.

John Calvin
Psa 102:6
6I have become like a pelican of the wilderness Instead of rendering the original word by pelican, some translate it bittern, and others the cuckoo. The Hebrew word here used for owlis rendered by the Septuagint νυκτικοραξ, which signifies a bat. But as even the Jews are doubtful as to the kind of birds here intended, let it suffice us simply to know, that in this verse there are pointed out certain melancholy birds, whose place of abode is in the holes of mountains and in deserts, and whose note, instead of being delightful and sweet to the ear, inspires those who hear it with terror. I am removed, as if he had said, from the society of men, and am become almost like a wild beast of the forest. Although the people of God dwelt in a well cultivated and fertile region, yet the whole country of Chaldea and Assyria was to them like a wilderness, since their hearts were bound by the strongest ties of affection to the temple, and to their native country from which they had been expelled. The third similitude, which is taken from the sparrow, denotes such grief as produces the greatest uneasiness. The word צפור, tsippor, signifies in general any kind of bird; but I have no doubt that it is here to be understood of the sparrow. It is described as solitary or alone, because it has been bereaved of its mate; and so deeply affected are these little birds when separated from their mates, that their distress exceeds almost all sorrow.

John Gill
Psa 102:6 I am like a pelican of the wilderness,…. It may be so called, to distinguish it from another of the same name that lives upon the waters; which has the name of “pelican” in the Greek tongue, as is said, from its smiting and piercing its breast, and letting out blood for the reviving of its young; and in the Hebrew language, from its vomiting shell fish it has swallowed down; See Gill on Lev_11:18 where the word is rendered a “pelican” as here, and in Deu_14:17, the same we call the “shovelard”; but a “cormorant” in Isa_34:11, however, it seems to be a bird of solitude, and therefore the psalmist compares himself to it. According to Isidore (g), it is an Egyptian bird, that inhabits the desert of the river Nile, from whence it has the name of Canopus Aegyptus:

I am like an owl of the desert; or “of desert places”; so the Tigurine version; it is translated “the little owl” in Lev_11:17. It delights to be on old walls, and in ruined houses, and cares not to consort with other birds, and it makes a hideous sorrowful noise (h). Jarchi renders it the hawk, but that, as Kimchi (i) observes, is found in habitable places. Bochart (k) thinks the “onocrotalos” is meant, a bird so much of the same kind with the pelican, that they are promiscuously used by learned men; and which is a creature, as Jerom (l) says, that is used to dwell in desert places; and Isidore (m) observes, that there are two sorts of them, one that lives in the water, and another in the desert; it has its name from its braying like an ass; and Aelianus (n) speaks of a bird of this sort in India, which has a large crop like a sack; and the Hebrew word “cos” here used signifies a cup or vessel, from whence it may have its name; and which he says makes a very disagreeable noise, to which the psalmist may compare the voice of his groaning, Psa_102:5.

(g) Origin. l. 12. c. 7. (h) “Solaque culminibus ferali carmine Bubo, saepe queri—-“, Virgil. Aeneid. 4. (i) Sepher Shorash. rad. כוס. (k) Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 2. c. 20. col. 275, 276. (l) Comment. in Esaiam, c. 34. fol. 64. A. (m) Ut supra. (Origin. l. 12. c. 7.) (n) De Animal. l. 16. c. 4.

Albert Barnes
Psa 102:6
I am like a pelican of the wilderness – A bird in the midst of desolation becomes a striking image of loneliness and distress. The word rendered “pelican” – קאת qâ’ath – is supposed to have been a name given to the pelican from the idea of vomiting, as it “vomits the shells and other substances which it has too voraciously swallowed.” The word occurs in the following places, where it is rendered as here “pelican:” Lev_11:18; Deu_14:17; and in Isa_34:11; Zep_2:14, where it is rendered “cormorant.” The following description, taken from the “Land and the Book,” vol. i. p. 403, by Dr. Thomson, will illustrate this passage. Speaking of the outlet of the Huleh, and the region of the exit of the Jordan from that lake in its course toward the sea of Tiberias, he says, “Here only have I seen the pelican of the wilderness, as David calls it. I once had one of them shot just below this place, and, as it was merely wounded in the wing, I had a good opportunity to study its character. It was certainly the most sombre, austere bird I ever saw. It gave one the blues merely to look at it. David could find no more expressive type of solitude and melancholy by which to illustrate his own sad state. It seemed as large as a half-grown donkey, and when fairly settled on its stout legs, it looked like one. The pelican is never seen but in these unfrequented solitudes, and to this agree all the references to it in the Bible.”

I am like an owl of the desert – The owl is a well-known bird which dwells in solitudes and old ruins, and which becomes, alike by its seeking such places of abode, by its appearance, and by its doleful cry, the very emblem of desolation.

John Gill
Psa 102:7 I watch,…. Night after night, and take no sleep; cannot get any by reason of thoughtfulness, care, and trouble:

and am as a sparrow alone upon the housetop; or, “as a bird” (o); for there is no necessity of limiting it to a sparrow, to which the account does not seem so well to agree; for sparrows will not only perch on housetops and solitary places, but will make their nests in dwelling houses, and in places of public resort, as temples; hence David speaks of the sparrow finding an house near the altars of God, Psa_84:3 and Herodotus (p) makes mention of sparrows and other birds making their nests in the temple at Branchides; which may serve to illustrate the text last mentioned: wherefore this may be understood of any solitary bird, and especially of the owl (q); the Jews had flat roofs upon their houses, and here birds of solitude would come and sit alone in the night season, to which the psalmist likens himself; being either forsaken by his friends and acquaintance; or, being in melancholy circumstances, he chose to be alone, mourning over his sorrowful state and condition.

(o) כצפור “sicut avis”, Gejerus, Schmidt. (p) Clio, sive, l. 1. c. 159. (q) “——–tectoque prophanus Incubuit bubo” Ovid. Metamorph. l. 6. Fab. 8. “E tectis strix”, &c. Tibullus, l. 1. Eleg. 5. v. 52.

Adam Clarke
Psa 102:7
As a sparrow alone – צפור tsippor, seems to be often used for any small bird, such as the swallow, sparrow, or the like. Bochart supposes the screech owl is intended.

John Calvin
Psa 102:8
8.My enemies have reviled me daily The faithful, to excite the compassion of God towards them, tell him that they are not only objects of mockery to their enemies, but also that they swore by them. The indignity complained of is, that the ungodly so shamefully triumphed over God’s chosen people, as even to borrow from their calamities a form of swearing and imprecation. This was to regard the fate of the Jews as a signal pattern in uttering the language of imprecation. When, therefore, at the present day the ungodly, in like manner, give themselves loose reins in pouring forth against us contumelious language, let us learn to fortify ourselves with this armor, by which such kind of temptation, however sharp, may be overcome. The Holy Spirit, in dictating to the faithful this form of prayer, meant to testify that God is moved by such revilings to succor his people; even as we find it stated in Isa_37:23, “Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed, and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice? even against the Holy One of Israel;” and in the verse immediately preceding the prophet had said, “He hath despised thee, O daughter of Zion! against thee hath he shaken the head, O daughter of Jerusalem!” It is surely an inestimable comfort that the more insolent our enemies are against us, the more is God incited to gird himself to aid us.

In the second clause the inspired writer expresses more strongly the cruelty of his enemies, when he speaks of their being mad against him. As the verb הלל, halal, which we have rendered mad, generally signifies to praise, it might here be understood as having, by the figure antiphrasis, a sense the very opposite — those who dispraised or reproached me. But it is better to follow the commonly received interpretation. Some maintain that they are called mad, because they manifested their own folly, making it evident from the manner in which they acted, that they were worthless persons; but this opinion does too much violence to the text. The more satisfactory sense is, that the people of God charge revilers with cruelty or furious hatred.

Albert Barnes
Psa 102:8
Mine enemies reproach me all the day – Continually. They reproach me as one of thy people; or, I bear reproaches in common with others, and it becomes to me a personal matter, so entirely are my feelings and interests identified with those of thy people. Perhaps there were also, mingled with this, personal reproaches and calumnies.

And they that are mad against me – Angry; excited even to madness.

Are sworn against me – literally, “swear by me,” or against me. The meaning is, that they have conspired together under the solemnity of an oath to do me harm. It is not the wrath of an individual that I am to meet, but the combined wrath of those who act under the solemnities of an oath. Compare Act_23:12.

John Calvin
Psa 102:9
9For I have eaten ashes like bread Some think that the order is here inverted, and that the letter כ, caph, the sign of similitude, which is put before לחם, lechem, the word for bread, ought to be placed before אפר, epher, the word for ashes; as if it had been said, I find no more relish for my bread than I do for ashes; and the reason is, because sorrow of heart produces loathing of food. But the simpler meaning is, that lying prostrate on the ground, they licked, as it were, the earth, and so did eat ashes instead of bread. It was customary for those who mourned to stretch themselves at full length with their faces on the ground. The prophet, however, intended to express a different idea — to intimate, that when he partook of his meals, there was no table set before him, but his bread was thrown upon the ground to him in a foul and disgusting manner. Speaking, therefore, in the person of the faithful, he asserts that he was so fixed to the ground that he did not even rise from it to take his food. The same sentiment is expressed in the last part of the verse, I have mingled my drink with weeping; for while mourners usually restrain their sorrow during the short time in which they refresh themselves with food, he declares that his mourning was without intermission. Some, instead of reading in the first clause, as bread, read, in bread; and as the two letters, כ, caph, and ב, beth, nearly resemble each other, I prefer reading in bread, which agrees better with the second clause.

Albert Barnes
Psa 102:9
For I have eaten ashes like bread – I have seated myself in ashes in my grief (compare Job_2:8; Job_42:6; Isa_58:5; Isa_61:3; Jon_3:6; Dan_9:3; Mat_11:21); and ashes have become, as it were, my food. The ashes in which he sat had been mingled with his food.

And mingled my drink with weeping – Tears have fallen into the cup from which I drank, and have become a part of my drink. The idea is, that he had shed copious tears; and that even when he took his food, there was no respite to his grief.

John Calvin
Psa 102:10
10.On account of thy anger and thy wrath He now declares that the greatness of his grief proceeded not only from outward troubles and calamities, but from a sense that these were a punishment inflicted upon him by God. And surely there is nothing which ought to wound our hearts more deeply, than when we feel that God is angry with us. The meaning then amounts to this — O Lord! I do not confine my attention to those things which would engage the mind of worldly men; but I rather turn my thoughts to thy wrath; for were it not that thou art angry with us, we would have been still enjoying the inheritance given us by thee, from which we have justly been expelled by thy displeasure. When God then strikes us with his hand, we should not merely groan under the strokes inflicted upon us, as foolish men usually do, but should chiefly look to the cause that we may be truly humbled. This is a lesson which it would be of great advantage to us to learn.

The last clause of the verse, Thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down, may be understood in two ways. As we lift up what we intend to throw down with greater violence against the ground, the sentence may denote a violent method of casting down, as if it had been said, Thou hast crushed me more severely by throwing me down headlong from on high, than if I had merely fallen from the station which I occupied. But this seems to be another amplification of his grief, nothing being more bitter to an individual than to be reduced from a happy condition to extreme misery, the prophet mournfully complains that the chosen people were deprived of the distinguished advantages which God had conferred upon them in time past, so that the very remembrance of his former goodness, which should have afforded consolation to them, embittered their sorrow. Nor was it the effect of ingratitude to turn the consideration of the divine benefits, which they had formerly received, into matter of sadness; since they acknowledged that their being reduced to such a state of wretchedness and degradation was through their own sins. God has no delight in changing, as if, after having given us some taste of his goodness, he intended forthwith to deprive us of it. As his goodness is inexhaustible, so his blessing would flow upon us without intermission, were it not for our sins which break off the course of it. Although, then, the remembrance of God’s benefits ought to assuage our sorrows, yet still it is a great aggravation of our calamity to have fallen from an elevated position, and to find that we have so provoked his anger, as to make him withdraw from us his benignant and bountiful hand. Thus when we consider that the image of God, which distinguished Adam, was the brightness of the celestial glory; and when, on the contrary, we now see the ignominy and degradation to which God has subjected us in token of his wrath, this contrast cannot surely fail of making us feel more deeply the wretchedness of our condition. Whenever, therefore, God, after having stripped us of the blessings which he had conferred upon us, gives us up to reproach, let us learn that we have so much the greater cause to lament, because, through our own fault, we have turned light into darkness.

Albert Barnes
Psa 102:10
Because of thine indignation and thy wrath – Hebrew, “From the face of thine indignation,” etc. That is – he regarded all his sufferings as proof of the indignation and wrath of God against him. See Psa_90:7-9.

For thou hast lifted me up – In former times. Thou hadst given me prosperity; thou hadst given me an elevated and honorable place among men.

And cast me down – Thou hast brought me into a low condition, and I feel it all the more from the fact that I had enjoyed prosperity. Compare the notes at Psa_30:7. The passage, however, is susceptible of another interpretation: “Thou hast lifted me up, and cast me away.” That is, Thou hast lifted me from the ground as a storm or tempest takes up a light thing, and hast whirled me away. This idea occurs in Isa_22:18. See the notes at that passage. The former, however, seems to me to be the more correct interpretation.

John Calvin
Psa 102:11
11.My days are like the shadow which declineth When the sun is directly over our heads, that is to say, at mid-day, we do not observe such sudden changes of the shadows which his light produces; but when he begins to decline towards the west the shadows vary almost every moment, This is the reason why the sacred writer expressly makes mention of the shadow which declineth What he attributes to the afflicted Church seems indeed to be equally applicable to all men; but he had a special reason for employing this comparison to illustrate the condition of the Church when subjected to the calamity of exile. It is true, that as soon as we advance towards old age, we speedily fall into decay. But the complaint here is, that this befell the people of God in the very flower of their age. By the term days is to be understood the whole course of their life; and the meaning is, that the captivity was to the godly as the setting of the sun, because they quickly failed. In the end of the verse the similitude of withered grass, used a little before, is repeated, to intimate that their life during the captivity was involved in many sorrows which dried up in them the very sap of life. Nor is this wonderful, since to live in that condition would have been worse than a hundred deaths had they not been sustained by the hope of future deliverance. But although they were not altogether overwhelmed by temptation, they must have been in great distress, because they saw themselves abandoned by God.

Adam Clarke
Psa 102:11
My days are like a shadow that declineth – Or rather, My days decline like the shadow. I have passed my meridian, and the sun of my prosperity is about to set for ever. There may be here an allusion to the declination of the sun towards the south, which, by shortening their days, would greatly lengthen their nights. Similar to the exclamation of a contemporary prophet, Jer_8:20 : “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” There is now scarcely any human hope of our deliverance.

John Calvin
Psa 102:12
12.And thou, O Jehovah! shalt dwell for ever When the prophet, for his own encouragement, sets before himself the eternity of God, it seems, at first sight, to be a far-fetched consolation; for what benefit will accrue to us from the fact that God sits immutable on his heavenly throne, when, at the same time, our frail and perishing condition does not permit us to continue unmoved for a single moment? And, what is more, this knowledge of the blessed repose enjoyed by God enables us the better to perceive that our life is a mere illusion. But the inspired writer, calling to remembrance the promises by which God had declared that he would make the Church the object of his special care, and particularly that remarkable article of the covenant, “I will dwell in the midst of you,” (Exo_25:8 ) and, trusting to that sacred and indissoluble bond, has no hesitation in representing all the godly languishing, though they were in a state of suffering and wretchedness, as partakers of this celestial glory in which God dwells. The word memorial is also to be viewed in the same light. What advantage would we derive from this eternity and immutability of God’s being, unless we had in our hearts the knowledge of him, which, produced by his gracious covenant, begets in us the confidence arising from a mutual relationship between him and us? The meaning then is, “We are like withered grass, we are decaying every moment, we are not far from death, yea rather, we are, as it were, already dwelling in the grave; but since thou, O God! hast made a covenant with us, by which thou hast promised to protect and defend thine own people, and hast brought thyself into a gracious relation to us, giving us the fullest assurance that thou wilt always dwell in the midst of us, instead of desponding, we must be of good courage; and although we may see only ground for despair if we depend upon ourselves, we ought nevertheless to lift up our minds to the heavenly throne, from which thou wilt at length stretch forth thy hand to help us.” Whoever is in a moderate degree acquainted with the sacred writings, will readily acknowledge that whenever we are besieged with death, in a variety of forms, we should reason thus: As God continues unchangeably the same — “without variableness or shadow of turning” — nothing can hinder him from aiding us; and this he will do, because we have his word, by which he has laid himself under obligation to us, and because he has deposited with us his own memorial, which contains in it a sacred and indissoluble bond of fellowship.

Albert Barnes
Psa 102:12
But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever – Though my condition has been changed, though I have been cast down from an exalted position, though kingdoms rise and fall, yet thou art unchanged. Thy purposes will abide. Thy promises will be fulfilled. Thy character is the same. As thou hast been the hearer of prayer in past times, so thou art now. As thou hast interposed in behalf of thy people in other ages, so thou wilt now. As thy people in affliction have been permitted to come to thee, so they may come to thee now. The psalmist here brings to his own mind, as an encouragement in trouble, as we may at all times, the fact that God is an unchanging God; that he always lives; that he is ever the same. We could have no ground of hope if God changed; if he formed purposes only to abandon them; if he made promises only to disregard them; if today he were a Being of mercy and goodness, and tomorrow would be merely a Being of justice and wrath. This argument is enlarged upon in Psa_102:25-28.

And thy remembrance unto all generations – Thy memory; or, the remembrance of thee. My days are like a shadow. I shall pass away, and be forgotten. No one will recollect me; no one will feel any interest in remembering that I have ever lived (see the notes at Psa_31:12). But while one knows that this must be so in regard to himself and to all other people – that he and they are alike to be forgotten – he may also feel that there is One who will never be forgotten. God will never pass away. He will be always the same. All the hopes of the church – of the world – are based on this. It is not on man – on any one individual – on any number of people – for they will all alike pass away and be forgotten; but one generation of people after another, to the end of time, may call on God, and find him an ever-living, an unchanged and unchangeable protector and friend.

John Calvin
Psa 102:13
13.Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion. We have here the conclusion drawn from the truth stated in the preceding verse — God is eternal, and therefore he will have compassion upon Zion. God’s eternity is to be considered as impressed upon the memorial, or word, by which he has brought himself under obligation to maintain our welfare. Besides, as he is not destitute of the power, and as it is impossible for him to deny himself, we ought not to entertain any apprehension of his failing to accomplish, in his own time, what he has promised. We have observed, in another place, that, the verb to arise refers to what is made apparent to the eye of sense; for although he continues always immutable, yet, in putting forth his power, he manifests his majesty by the external act, as it is termed.

When the prophet treats of the restoration of the Church, he sets forth the divine mercy as its cause. He represents this mercy under a twofold aspect, and therefore employs different words. In the first place, as in the matter under consideration, the good deserts of men are entirely out of the question, and as God cannot be led from any cause external to himself to build up his Church, the prophet traces the cause of it solely to the free goodness of God. In the second place, he contemplates this mercy as connected with the Divine promises. Thou shalt have mercy upon Zion, for the time appointed, according to thy good pleasure, is come Meanwhile, it is to be observed that, in magnifying the Divine mercy, his design was to teach true believers that their safety depended on it alone. But we must now attend to what time is alluded to. The word מועד, moed, signifies all kind of fixed or appointed days. There is, then, beyond all doubt, a reference to the prophecy of Jeremiah, recorded in Jer_29:10, and repeated in the last chapter of the Second Book of Chronicles, at the 21st verse. That the faithful might not sink into despondency, through the long continuance of their calamities, they needed to be supported by the hope that an end to their captivity had been appointed by God, and that it would not extend beyond seventy years. Daniel was employed in meditating on this very topic, when “he set his face unto the Lord God, to seek, by prayer and supplications,” the re-establishment of the Church, (Dan_9:2 ) In like manner, the object now aimed at by the prophet was to encourage both himself and others to confidence in prayer, putting God in mind of this remarkable prophecy, as an argument to induce him to bring to a termination their melancholy captivity. And surely if, in our prayers, we do not continually remember the Divine promises, we only cast forth our desires into the air like smoke. It is, however, to be observed, that although the time of the promised deliverance was approaching, or had already arrived, yet the prophet does not cease from the exercise of prayer, to which God stirs us up by means of his word. And although the time was fixed, yet he calls upon God, for the performance of his covenant, in such a manner, as that he is still betaking himself to his free goodness alone; for the promises by which God brings himself under obligation to us do not, in any degree, obscure his grace.

Albert Barnes
Psa 102:13
Thou shalt arise – Thou wilt come forth – as if God had been inattentive or inactive.

And have mercy upon Zion – That is, Upon Jerusalem – represented as in a state of desolation. God would at length pity her, and interpose in her behalf.

For the time to favor her – Implying that there was an appointed time to favor her, or to bring her troubles to an end.

Yea, the set time is come – The word used here – מועד mô‛êd – means properly an appointed season – a designated moment. It refers to some purpose or appointment in regard to anything that is to be done, as in 1Sa_13:8, 1Sa_13:11; 2Sa_20:5; Gen_17:21; or to a fixed period, as when certain things are to be done, certain festivals to be held regularly at a certain season of the year, Lam_1:4; Lam_2:6; Hos_9:5; Hos_12:9; Lev_23:2, Lev_23:4,Lev_23:37, Lev_23:44. Here it means that there was some period fixed in the Divine Mind when this was to occur, or a definite time when it had been predicted or promised that it would occur. The language is such as would be applicable to the captivity in Babylon, concerning which there was a promise that it should continue but seventy years. If the psalm refers to that, then the meaning is that there were indications in the course of events that that period was about to arrive. Compare the notes at Dan_9:2. What those indications were in this case, the psalmist immediately states, Psa_102:14. It may be remarked here, that there are usually some previous intimations or indications of what God is about to do. “Coming events cast their shadows before.” Even the divine purposes are accomplished usually in connection with human agency, and in the regular course of events; and it is frequently possible to anticipate that God is about to appear for the fulfillment of his promises. So it was in the coming of the Saviour. So it was in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. So it is when God is about to revive religion in a church. So it is, and will be, in regard to the conversion of the world.

John Calvin
Psa 102:14
14.For thy servants take pleasure in her stones To restrict this to Cyrus and Darius is altogether unsuitable. It is not at all wonderful to find the Jewish doctors hunting, with excessive eagerness, after foolish subtilties; but I am surprised that some of our modern commentators subscribe to such a poor and cold interpretation. I am aware that, in some places, the unbelieving and the wicked are called the servants of God, as in Jer_25:9, because God makes use of them as instruments for executing his judgments. Nay, I admit that Cyrus is called by name God’s chosen servant, (Isa_44:28 ) but the Holy Spirit would not have bestowed so honorable a title, either on him or Darius, without some qualification. Besides, it is probable that this psalm was composed before the edict was published, which granted the people liberty to return to their native country. It therefore follows, that God’s people alone are included in the catalogue of his servants, because it is their purpose, during the whole of their life, to obey his will in all things. The prophet, I have no doubt, speaks in general of the whole Church, intimating that this was not the wish entertained merely by one man, but was shared by the whole body of the Church. The more effectually to induce God to listen to his prayer, he calls upon all the godly, who were then in the world, to join with him in the same request. It, unquestionably, very much contributes to increase the confidence of success, when supplications are made by all the people of God together, as if in the person of one man, according to what the Apostle Paul declares, “Ye also, helping together by prayer for us, that, for the gift bestowed upon us, by the means of many persons, thanks may be given by many on our behalf.” (2Co_1:11 )

Farther, when the deformed materials which remained of the ruins of the temple and city are emphatically termed the stones of Zion, this is designed to intimate, not only that the faithful in time past were affected with the outward splendor of the temple, when, besides attracting the eyes of men, it had power to ravish with admiration all their senses, but also, that although the temple was destroyed, and nothing was to be seen where it stood but hideous desolation, yet their attachment to it continued unalterable, and they acknowledged the glory of God, in its crumbling stones and decayed rubbish. As the temple was built by the appointment of God, and as he had promised its restoration, it was, doubtless, proper and becoming that the godly should not withdraw their affections from its ruins. Meanwhile, as an antidote against the discouraging influence of the taunting mockery of the heathen, they required to look into the Divine word for something else than what presented itself to their bodily eyes. Knowing that the very site of the temple was consecrated to God, and that that sacred edifice was to be rebuilt on the same spot, they did not cease to regard it with reverence, although its stones lay in disorder, mutilated and broken, and heaps of useless rubbish were to be seen scattered here and there. The sadder the desolation is to which the Church has been brought, the less ought our affections to be alienated from her. Yea, rather, this compassion which the faithful then exercised, ought to draw from us sighs and groans; and would to God that the melancholy description in this passage were not so applicable to our own time as it is! He, no doubt, has his churches erected in some places, where he is purely worshipped; but, if we cast our eyes upon the whole world, we behold his word every where trampled under foot, and his worship defiled by countless abominations. Such being the case, his holy temple is assuredly every where demolished, and in a state of wretched desolation; yea, even those small churches in which he dwells are torn and scattered. What are these humble erections, when compared with that splendid edifice described by Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah? But no desolation ought to prevent us from loving the very stones and dust of the Church. Let us leave the Papists to be proud of their altars, their huge buildings, and their other exhibitions of pomp and splendor; for all that heathenish magnificence is nothing else but an abomination in the sight of God and his angels, whereas the ruins of the true temple are sacred.

John Gill
Psa 102:14 For thy servants take pleasure in her stones,…. Meaning not Cyrus and Darius, who gave leave and orders for the rebuilding of the city and temple of Jerusalem, as some; nor Nehemiah, and Ezra, and others, who took more pleasure in the stones and rubbish of the temple, as it lay in ruins, than in all the stately palaces in Babylon; and who were very desirous of, and took delight in gathering these stones, and putting them together again, as others; but, the ministers of the Gospel, and other Christians, in the latter day, who will take pleasure in the great number of converts that there will then be, who, as lively stones, will be built up a spiritual house; and especially when those stones shall be laid with fair colours, and the headstone shall be brought in with acclamations, crying, Grace, grace unto it; see 1Pe_2:5.

and favour the dust thereof; which sometimes designs multitudes, Num_23:10, perhaps here it may denote the meanest of the Lord’s people, who will be regarded, and not despised by his servants; but they will show favour to them, do them all the good they can, and wish well to them, and pray for their prosperity, and for the peace of Zion; that God would make it the joy of the whole earth; and when there shall be such a delight in the stones and dust of Zion, and a spirit of grace and supplication poured forth upon the servants of the Lord, to pray for the promised glory and happiness of it, it will be a token for good, and an intimation that the set time to favour her is at hand; which seems to be the sense of the psalmist: such great reverence and respect have the greatest of the wise men among the Jews for the land of Israel, literally understood, that they kiss the borders, the stones of it, and roll themselves in its dust (a), having perhaps in mind this passage of Scripture.

(a) Maimon. Hilchot Melachim, c. 5. s. 10.

Albert Barnes
Psa 102:14
For thy servants take pleasure in her stones – Those who profess to be thy servants; thy friends. This was the “evidence” to the mind of the psalmist that God was about to visit his people, and to rebuild Jerusalem. It was an “awakened interest” among the professed people of God, leading them to manifest their love for Zion, and for all that pertained to her – a love for the very stones that lay in undistinguished heaps where the city once stood – the piles of rubbish where the walls and dwellings had once been. The people of God in their captivity began to look with strong interest on these very ruins, and with an earnest wish that from these ruins the city may again arise, and the walls be rebuilt.

And favor the dust thereof – literally, pity – or, show compassion for. They no longer look with indifference on these ruins of Zion. They look with a tender heart on the very dust of those ruins. They feel that a wrong has been done to Zion; they ardently desire its restoration to its former splendor and glory. They long for a return to it as to their home. They are weary with their captivity, and they are anxiously waiting for the time when they may revisit their native land. This would seem to refer to an awakened interest on the subject, caused perhaps in part by the fact that it could be ascertained (see Dan_9:2) that the period of the captivity was about to end, and partly by an influence on their hearts from on high, awakening in them a deeper love for Zion – a revival of pure religion. The practical truth taught here is, that an indication of a coming revival of religion is often manifested by the increased attention to the subject among its professed friends; by the desire in their hearts that it may be so; by tenderness, pity, compassion among them in view of abounding desolations, the coldness of the church, and the prevalence of iniquity; by their looking with interest on that which had before been neglected, like shapeless ruins – the prayer-meeting, the communion, the sanctuary; by a conscious returning love in their hearts for all that pertains to religion, however unimportant it may be in the eyes of the world, or however it may be despised. A surrounding world would look with unconcern on the ruins of Jerusalem; a friend of God, in whose heart religion was revived, would look with the most tender concern even on that rubbish, and those ruins. So it is in a revival of religion, when God is about to visit his church in mercy. Everything in regard to the church becomes an object of deep interest.

John Calvin
Psa 102:24
What then does the prophet mean when he prays, Let us not perish in the midst of our course? The reason stated in the clause immediately following, Thy years are from generation to generation, seems to be quite inapplicable in the present case. Because God is everlasting, does it therefore follow that men will be everlasting too? But on Psa_90:2, we have shown how we may with propriety bring forward his eternity, as a ground of confidence in reference to our salvation; for he desires to be known as eternal, not only in his mysterious and incomprehensible essence, but also in his word, according to the declaration of the Prophet Isaiah, “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field; but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”Isa_40:6

Now since God links us to himself by means of his word, however great the distance of our frail condition from his heavenly glory, our faith should nevertheless penetrate to that blessed state from which he looks down upon our miseries. Although the comparison between his eternal existence and the brief duration of human life is introduced also for another purpose, yet when he sees that men pass away as it were in a moment, and speedily evanish, it moves him to compassion, as shall presently be declared at greater length.

John Gill
Psa 102:24 I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days;…. Which was always reckoned as a judgment, as a token of God’s sore displeasure, and as what only befell wicked men, Psa_55:23, in the Hebrew it is, “cause me not to ascend” (f); either as smoke, which ascends, and vanishes away; or rather it designs the separation of the soul from the body at death, when it ascends upwards to God that gave it; so Aben Ezra compares it with Ecc_12:7, the Targum is,

“do not take me out of the world in the midst of my days, bring me to the world to come:”

some, who think that Daniel was the penman of this psalm, or some other, about the time of the Babylonish captivity, curiously observe, that that period was much about the middle between the building of Solomon’s temple and the coming of Christ, the antitype of it; which was about a thousand years, of which four hundred and ninety were to come, according to Daniel’s weeks; so, representing the church, prays they might not be destroyed, as such; but be continued till the Messiah came:

thy years are throughout all generations; which are not as men’s years, of the same measure or number; but are boundless and infinite: the phrase is expressive of the eternity of God, or Christ; which the psalmist opposes to his own frailty, and which he illustrates in the following verses, by setting it in contrast with the discontinuance and changeableness of the heavens and the earth; see Job_10:5.

(f) אל תעלני “ne ascendere facias me”, Montanus, Gejerus.

Albert Barnes
Psa 102:24
I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days – This was the burden of my prayer, for this I earnestly pleaded. See Psa_30:9; Isa_38:1-3, Isa_38:9-18. The word used here means “to cause to ascend or go up” and the expression might have been translated, “Cause me not to ascend.” The Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate render it, “Call me not away.” Dr. Horsley,” Carry me not off.” In the word there may be an allusion – an obscure one, it is to be admitted – to the idea that the soul ascends to God when the body dies. The common idea in the Old Testament is that it would descend to the regions of the departed spirits – to Sheol. It is plain, however, that there was another idea – that the soul would ascend at once to God when death occurred. Compare Ecc_3:21; Ecc_12:7. The word rendered “in the midst” means properly in the half; as if life were divided into two portions. Compare Psa_55:23.

Thy years are throughout all generations – Thou dost not die; thou art ever the same, though the generations of people are cut off. This seems to have been said here for two reasons:

(1) As a ground of consolation, that God was ever the same; that whatever might happen to people, to the psalmist himself, or to any other man, God was unchanged, and that his great plans would be carried forward and accomplished;

(2) As a reason for the prayer. God was eternal. He had an immortal existence. He could not die. He knew, in its perfection, the blessedness of “life” – life as such; life continued; life unending. The psalmist appeals to what God himself enjoyed – as a reason why life – so great a blessing – should be granted to him a little longer. By all that there was of blessedness in the life of God, the psalmist prays that that which was in itself – even in the case of God – so valuable, might yet a little longer be continued to “him.”

John Calvin
Psa 102:25
25Thou hast aforetime founded the earth Here the sacred writer amplifies what he had previously stated, declaring, that compared with God the whole world is a form which quickly vanishes away; and yet a little after he represents the Church as exempted from this the common lot of all sublunary things, because she has for her foundation the word of God, while her safety is secured by the same word. Two subjects are therefore here brought under our consideration. The first is, that since the heavens themselves are in the sight of God almost as evanescent as smoke, the frailty of the whole human race is such as may well excite his compassion; and the second is, that although there is no stability in the heavens and the earth, yet the Church shall continue steadfast for ever, because she is upheld by the eternal truth of God. By the first of these positions, true believers are taught to consider with all humility, when they come into the divine presence, how frail and transitory their condition is, that they may bring nothing with them but their own emptiness. Such self-abasement is the first step to our obtaining favor in the sight of God, even as He also affirms that he is moved by the sight of our miseries to be merciful to us. The comparison taken from the heavens is a very happy illustration; for how long have they continued to exist, when contrasted with the brief span of human life, which passes or rather flies away so swiftly? How many generations of men have passed away since the creation, while the heavens still continue as they were amidst this continual fluctuation? Again, so beautiful is their arrangement, and so excellent their frame-work, that the whole fabric proclaims itself to be the product of God’s hands. And yet neither the long period during which the heavens have existed, nor their fair embellishment, will exempt them from perishing. What then shall become of us poor mortals, who die when we are as yet scarcely born? for there is no part of our life which does not rapidly hasten to death.

Interpreters, however, do not all explain these words, The heavens shall perish, in the same way. Some understand them as expressing simply the change they shall undergo, which will be a species of destruction; for although they are not to be reduced to nothing, yet this change of their nature, as it may be termed, will destroy what is mortal and corruptible in them, so that they shall become, in a manner, different and new heavens. Others explain the words conditionally, and make the supplement, “If it so please God,” regarding it as a thing absurd to say that the heavens are subject to corruption. But first, there is no necessity for introducing these supplementary words, which obscure the sense instead of making it plainer. In the next place, these expositors improperly attribute an immortal state to the heavens, of which Paul declares that they “groan and travail in pain,” like the earth and the other creatures, until the day of redemption, (Rom_8:22 ) because they are subject to corruption; not indeed willingly, or in their own nature, but because man, by precipitating himself headlong into destruction, has drawn the whole world into a participation of the same ruin. Two things are to be here attended to; first, that the heavens are actually subject to corruption in consequence of the fall of man; and, secondly, that they shall be so renewed as to warrant the prophet to say that they shall perish; for this renovation will be so complete that they shall not be the same but other heavens. The amount is, that to whatever quarter we turn our eyes, we will see everywhere nothing but ground for despair till we come to God. What is there in us but rottenness and corruption? and what else are we but a mirror of death? Again, what are the changes which the whole world undergoes but a kind of presage, yea a prelude of destruction? If the whole frame-work of the world is hastening to its end, what will become of the human race? If all nations are doomed to perish, what stability will there be in men individually considered? We ought therefore to seek stability no where else but in God.

Adam Clarke
Psa 102:26
They shall perish – Nothing can be eternal a parte ante, or a parte post, but thyself. Even that which thou hast created, because not necessarily eternal, must be perishable; necessary duration belongs to God only; and it is by his will and energy alone that universal nature is preserved in existence, and preserved from running into speedy disorder, decay, and ruin.

Yea, all of them shall wax old – Every thing must deteriorate, unless preserved by thy renewing and invigorating energy. Even the heavens and the earth are subject to this law; for that which is not, from the infinite perfection of its own nature, Eternal, must be perishable; therefore the heavens and the earth must necessarily come to an end. They contain the seeds of their own dissolution. It is true that in sublunary things, the vicissitudes of seasons is a sort of check to the principle of dissolution; but it only partially corrects this tendency. Even the productions of the earth wear out or deteriorate. Plant the same seed or grain for several years consecutively, and it degenerates so as at last not to be worth the labor of tillage, however expensively the soil may be manured in which it is planted. I may instance in wheat and in the potatoe, the two grand supporters of life in European countries. All other seeds and plants, as far as they have fallen under my observation, are subject to the same law.

Adam Clarke
Psa 102:27
But thou art the same – ואתה הוא veattah Hu, but thou art He, that is, The Eternal; and, consequently, he who only has immortality.

Thy years shall have no end – לא יתמו lo yittammu, “they shall not be completed.” Every thing has its revolution – its conception, growth, perfection, decay, dissolution, and death, or corruption. It may be said that regeneration restores all these substances; and so it does in a measure, but not without deterioration. The breed of animals, as well as vegetables, wears out; but God’s eternal round has no completion. I repeat it, – what is necessarily eternal is unchangeable and imperishable; all created beings are perishable and mutable, because not eternal. God alone is eternal; therefore God alone is imperishable and immutable.

John Calvin
Psa 102:28
28.The children of thy servants shall dwell. By these words the prophet intimates that he does not ask the preservation of the Church, because it is a part of the human race, but because God has raised it above the revolutions of the world. And undoubtedly, when He adopted us as his children, his design was to cherish us as it were in his own bosom. The inference of the inspired bard is not, therefore, far-fetched, when, amidst innumerable storms, each of which might carry us away, he hopes that the Church will have a permanent existence. It is true, that when through our own fault we become estranged from God, we are also as it were cut off from the fountain of life; but no sooner are we reconciled to Him than he begins again to pour down his blessings upon us. Whence it follows that true believers, as they are regenerated by the incorruptible seed, shall continue to live after death, because God continues unchangeably the same. By the word dwell, is to be understood an abiding and everlasting inheritance.

When it is said that the seed of God’s servants shall be established before his face, the meaning is, that it is not after the manner of the world, or according to the way in which the heavens and the earth are established, that the salvation of true believers is made steadfast, but because of the holy union which exists between them and God. By the seed and children of the godly, is to be understood not all their descendants without exception — for many who spring from them according to the flesh become degenerate — but those who do not turn aside from the faith of their parents. Successive generations are expressly pointed out, because the covenant extends even to future ages, as we shall again find in the subsequent psalm. If we firmly keep the treasure of life intrusted to us, let us not hesitate, although we may be environed with innumerable deaths, to cast the anchor of our faith in heaven, that the stability of our welfare may rest in God.

Albert Barnes
Psa 102:28
The children of thy servants shall continue – The descendants of those that serve and obey thee. This represents the confident expectation of the psalmist that, as God was unchangeable, all his promises toward his people would be fulfilled, even though the heavens and the earth should pass away. God was the same. His word would not fail. His promises were sure. Compare Mat_5:18; Mat_24:35. The word rendered “continue,” means to dwell, as in a habitation; then, to abide. It stands opposed to a wandering, nomadic life, and indicates permanency.

And their seed shall be established before thee – The word used here means properly to stand erect; then to set up, to erect, to place, to found, to make firm, as a city, Psa_107:36; the earth, Psa_24:2; the heavens, Pro_3:19. It means here that they would be firmly and permanently established: that is, the church of God would be permanent in the earth. It would not be like the generations of people that pass away. It would not be like the nomadic tribes of the desert that have no fixed habitation, and that wander from place to place. It would not be even like the heavens that might put on new forms, or wholly pass away: it would be as enduring and changeless as God himself; it would, in its proper form, endure forever. As God is eternal and unchangeable, so would the safety and welfare of his people be.

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