By Argile Smith, Louisiana College
Hope in the holiday season can be hard to come by these days if we try to find it in what’s going on around us.
However, we can always find hope when we turn to the Lord.
Of course, turning to Him comes by way of getting into His Word. For that reason, we do well to reflect on Psalm 102.
In this psalm, we’re reminded of the certain hope we have in the Lord as we face an array of uncertainties that can rob us of the joy that the holiday season represents.
The author of Psalm 102 endured extreme physical agony, and at the same time he grieved over the destruction of Jerusalem, the city he loved. In his pain, sorrow, and loneliness, he cried out to God for help. We don’t know the psalmist’s name, and we probably can’t identify with his situation.
But we can certainly get our hands around his anxiety. He probably lived in Babylonian exile when he wrote the psalm. Along with others from Israel who had been deported there after the destruction of Jerusalem, he longed to be home. In his painful ordeal, he pleaded with God for a response to his impassioned call for help.
His situation was desperate (1-6). His life seemed to be drifting away like smoke vanishing in the wind. His fever had become so unbearable that his bones seemed to be burning. The torment in his body made his heart ache too.
His morale withered away like a blade of grass in the hot, desert sun. He had no appetite. The thought of food no longer crossed his mind.
Loneliness made his agony worse (7). He described himself as an isolated desert owl alone in the night, crying out but having no one to hear his cries.
The ruins of what used to be the city of Jerusalem left an awful memory that added to his sense of isolation.
At night, when he couldn’t sleep, he agonized over the loneliness that his torment had brought him.
He portrayed himself perched on a roof like a solitary bird in the middle of the night crying out in the lonely darkness.
His enemies appeared to be his primary companions (8-9).
The Babylonian captors made his life even more miserable because of the verbal abuse that they hurled at him.
Apparently they passed up no opportunity to ridicule him.
In his physical misery, he had to endure the daily doses of their curses. His affliction and the attendant loneliness and abuse had a devastating effect on him. In those days, ashes symbolized grief and mourning. Eating ashes suggested the all-consuming sense of grief he felt over his situation. Drinking tears clearly implied that he wept constantly.
The absolute worst part of his struggle had to do with what the psalmist perceived to be God’s involvement in it (10-11). He wrote that God’s indignation over his sin must have caused his affliction. God had grabbed him like a fierce tornado that picked up a huge building in its path. Beaten and bruised because of the crushing affliction that swept over him like a storm, he knew that his death would come soon.
Like a shadow that lengthened over him with the setting of the sun, the darkness of death would soon cover him completely.
Then the psalmist made a radical shift (12-22). Instead of focusing anymore on himself, he turned his gaze to God. Instead of thinking about his own destiny, he began to extol God’s majesty.
By referring to God as Lord, or Yahweh, he used the most exalted name for God in the Old Testament. He affirmed that the Lord sat on His throne of sovereign authority and power.
Enthroned forever, He reigned over everything that happened in the world, and His royalty extended among His people from one generation to the next.
The psalmist brought up Zion as he wrote about God’s people. He affirmed that the day would come when God would act with compassion toward Zion.
The time to punish Israel had passed.
Now the time had come for God to show His favor on Israel by delivering His people out of captivity and into a new start in Jerusalem.
As he continued to write about Jerusalem, the psalmist recalled that the Babylonians completely destroyed the city.
What used to be the spiritual center of Israel had been reduced to a pile of debris on a lonely hill. But for the psalmist and other Israelites, the pile of stones continued to be important to God’s people.
Even though the temple and other structures in Jerusalem had been pounded into mounds of rubble, they still longed to be there. They lived in the hope that God would act with compassion to restore the city and His people.
Israel’s relentless devotion to Jerusalem had been fed by an understanding that God would restore Zion in due time.
From the rubble, He would rebuild the city into a world center in which people everywhere would gather to worship Him. With renewed hope, the psalmist asked God not to take his life. He wanted to stay alive so he could see for himself the finished product of God’s restoring power.
Notice the way the psalmist compared himself to God. Although his days would vanish, God’s years will never end (23-28). They would continue from one generation to another.
Although everything in creation would eventually die, God would always endure forever because He never changes.
God’s creation verified His endurance. Long before the psalmist or anyone in his generation was born, God began His creating work. In the beginning of time, He brought heaven and earth into being with His own hands.
Even though He created them long ago, they continue to exist as testimonies of His enduring presence. Granted, what He created will eventually perish. However, the Creator will continue to live forever.
Wise believers affirm with the psalmist that God’s creation will change sooner or later like clothing that will wear out in due time. Nothing will ever stay the same.
However, we can affirm our hope in Him to remain the same no matter what may change in His world. God’s years will continue into eternity because He Himself is eternal.
For that reason, we can live with confident hope.
Because He will never change, He will always be our anchor as we face changes.
When uncertainty strikes us, we can turn to Him to be our certain source of security.
We do well to reflect the psalmist’s reassuring affirmation of God’s eternal presence.
When we do, we understand why the author of Hebrews incorporated Psalm 102:26-27 into his description of God’s Son, Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:10-12).
That’s also why Simon Peter assured his Christian friend that they had a living hope (1 Pet. 1:3). Because Christ lives, our hope lives!
Do you have the psalmist’s brand of confidence in the Lord as you go through the holiday season?
Do you place your hope in Him as you deal with uncertainties that swirl around your life?
Psalm 102 shows us why we can turn to Him in our troubling circumstances. His unchangeable nature compels us to rest in Him as the source of our hope.