Psalm 102


In this psalm, we find the psalmist mourning over his current situation, that is, they appear to be far away from home. The psalmist longs to go back to the land of their fathers but is confident that God hadn’t forsaken His people.

We don’t know who the author of this psalm is but the historical background appears to be the time when the Jews were in exile.


‘A prayer of an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the LORD.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding about the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

The heading tells us this is a prayer of an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the LORD.

‘Hear my prayer, LORD; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly. For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones. I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof. All day long my enemies taunt me; those who rail against me use my name as a curse. For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears because of your great wrath, for you have taken me up and thrown me aside. My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass.’ Psalm 102:1-11

The psalmist begins by asking God to hear their prayers, their cries for help because of their current distress. The intensity of their prayer was measured by the depth of their distress, Daniel 9:20-23.

Their distress was so great that they asked God to give a quick answer to his deliverance from the situation in which he lived, Job 35:9 / Job 36:13.

They ask God ‘not to hide His face’ from them, that is, they felt that God wasn’t present, they felt that God didn’t care, Job 13:24 / Job 34:29 / Deuteronomy 31:17.

The psalmist compares their life to smoke which quickly vanishes, that is, they feel their life is short and meaningless, James 4:14. Their bones burn like glowing embers, Psalm 31:10.

His heart is blighted and withering like grass, in other words, they’re struggling and it’s clear the psalmist in their distress, is feeling mental and emotional stress. Their distress is really effecting them, they have lost their appetite, 1 Kings 21:4 / 2 Samuel 12:16 / Daniel 10:3.

Their body has given up food, and so, it was withering away. Hunger pains had already passed and he was in a state of starvation. The lack of food means that they are now more or less just ‘a bag of bones’, Job 19:20.

The psalmist feels like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins, Isaiah 34:11 / Zephaniah 2:14. When they lie awake, they feel like a lonely bird on a roof, Leviticus 14:4 / Deuteronomy 14:11 / Daniel 4:12 / Daniel 4:14 / Daniel 4:21. In other words, they were feeling extremely lonely as they looked out on to the world around them.

Their enemies didn’t help their case either, they taunted them all day long, and used their name as a curse word. In other words, they were constantly taunting and cursing him, Acts 23:12.

The psalmists mourning continues, as he eats ashes for food, possibly because of fasting, and their tears fall into their drink, Job 2:8 / Job 42:6 / Isaiah 58:5 / Isaiah 61:3 / Jonah 3:6 / Daniel 9:3 / Matthew 11:21.

The psalmist is so low, they believe that all their mourning and all the distress they were experiencing was because of God’s wrath. In other words, they thought their world was turned upside down because God was punishing them, they felt that he wasn’t in favour with God, Isaiah 22:18.

To the psalmist, they felt that their days were like an evening shadow, like grass that withers away, that is, they felt their life was short and had no real meaning, 2 Kings 20:10 / Isaiah 38:8.

‘But you, LORD, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favour to her; the appointed time has come. For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity. The nations will fear the name of the LORD, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory. For the LORD will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory. He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea. Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD: “The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.” So the name of the LORD will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the LORD.’ Psalm 102:12-22

After pouring out their deep emotions to God, after feeling that God has forsaken them, the psalmist now focuses on the bright side of his relationship with God.

The psalmist’s life may feel short and meaningless but God sits on His throne forever, His renown, that is, His fame endures through all generations.

In other words, God is a God who can be relied upon, He won’t fail and His greatness will be known to all generations to come. God endures with His people, He doesn’t forget His people.

The psalmist, despite feeling in distress, has full confidence in God to arise, that is act and have compassion on Zion, that is, Jerusalem. But this was only going to happen at God’s appointed time.

If the historical background to this psalm is the time when the psalmist was in exile, the set time points to the 70 years set by God for Israel’s captivity, Jeremiah 25:11-13 / Jeremiah 29:10 / Daniel 9:2.

As Jerusalem lay in ruins, the Israelites held the ruined stones dear to them, 1 Peter 2:5, and showed favour to the dust. When God shows compassion on Jerusalem, the nations will fear God’s Name and the kings of the earth will revere God’s glory.

Because Jerusalem was rebuilt by the returned Jews, the nations realized again that God was working with His people. God will respond to their prayers and pleas.

When God fulfilled His promises concerning Jerusalem, it was to be written for future generations in order that God may be praised. When the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity it was the fulfilment of prophecy that they would return to rebuild, Isaiah 20:20-27.

God looks down from His sanctuary, that is, heaven, He views the earth, hears the groans of His people in prison, and realises those condemned to death. The psalmist groaned in Babylonian captivity, as Nehemiah wept over the devastation of the city, Nehemiah 1:4.

God listened to the groaning prayers and responded by allowing the Jews to return to the promised land. As a result, His people were again gathered out of the nations in order to serve God. Notice though that other kingdom would assemble to worship God, Isaiah 2:1-4 / Micah 4:1-2 / Matthew 28:18-20 / Mark 16:15-16.

‘In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut short my days. So I said: “Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days; your years go on through all generations. In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end. The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you.” Psalm 102:23-28

The psalmist now focuses on the shortness of their life, compared to the longevity of God’s creation. The psalmist acknowledges their own human weakness, they feel that God broke their strength and shortened the days they will live, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

They ask God not to allow them to die, it’s possible they wanted to see God’s fulfilment concerning Jerusalem, Job 21:21 / Psalm 89:45. They cry out in prayer, pleading for God’s merciful help, Psalm 30:9 / Isaiah 38:1-3 / Isaiah 38:9-18.

The psalmist’s words written in verses 25-27 are quoted by the Hebrew writer in Hebrews 1:10-12. In Hebrews they are the words of God spoken to His unchangeable Son.

The psalmist is confident God wouldn’t change from His promises that He had made concerning the restoration of His people and so, God’s servants would continue throughout many generations to come.

The psalmist is confident that some of the things God creates will perish like garments and clothing, but God Himself will remain the same forever. Only God has the power to change His creation but He Himself is unchanging and eternal.

The psalmist ends by declaring that the children of God’s servants will live in God’s presence, and their descendants will be established before Him, Matthew 5:18 / Matthew 24:35.


The psalmist openly expressed how they were feeling to God, however, despite feeling in deep distress, they received some kind of comfort in knowing that God doesn’t chance. The psalmist’s words written in verses 25-27 are quoted by the Hebrew writer in Hebrews 1:10-12.

The writer of Hebrews says that these quotations are talking about the Son. He emphasizes the role of the Son in creation, the Son laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens. Further, the Son is eternal, all of creation will perish, but He remains, Hebrews 1:10-12.

When we read this plasm which is clearly written to God and relate the psalmist’s words to the Hebrew writer, we soon discover that Jesus is Deity, John 1:1-3 / John 1:14. He remains the same, Hebrews 13:8, and His years will never end, Hebrews 7:3.

Go To Psalm 103


"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."

1 Corinthians 10:13