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102. Psalm 102

Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come unto thee.

2Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily.

3For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth.

4My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread.

5By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin.

6I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert.

7I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top.

8Mine enemies reproach me all the day; and they that are mad against me are sworn against me.

9For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping,

10Because of thine indignation and thy wrath: for thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down.

11My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass.

12But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever; and thy remembrance unto all generations.

13Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come.

14For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof.

15So the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glory.

16When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.

17He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.

18This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord.

19For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the Lord behold the earth;

20To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death;

21To declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem;

22When the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the Lord.

23He weakened my strength in the way; he shortened my days.

24I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days: thy years are throughout all generations.

25Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands.

26They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed:

27But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.

28The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee.

18. This shall be registered for the generation that is to come The Psalmist magnifies still more the fruit of the deliverance of his people, for the purpose of encouraging himself and others in the hope of obtaining the object of their prayers. He intimates, that this will be a memorable work of God, the praise of which shall be handed down to succeeding ages. Many things are worthy of praise, which are soon forgotten; but the prophet distinguishes between the salvation of the Church, for which he makes supplication, and common benefits. By the word register, he means that the history of this would be worthy of having a place in the public records, that the remembrance of it might be transmitted to future generations. There is in the words a beautiful contrast between the new creation of the people and the present destruction; of which interpreters improperly omit to take any notice. When the people were expelled from their country, the Church was in a manner extinguished. Her very name might seem to be dead, when the Jews were mingled among the heathen nations, and no longer constituted a distinct and united body. Their return was accordingly as it were a second birth. Accordingly, the prophet with propriety expects a new creation. Although the Church had perished, he was persuaded that God, by his wonderful power, would make her rise again from death to renovated life. This is a remarkable passage, showing that the Church is not always so preserved, as to continue to outward appearance to survive, but that when she seems to be dead, she is suddenly created anew, whenever it so pleases God. Let no desolation, therefore, which befalls the Church, deprive us of the hope, that as God once created the world out of nothing, so it is his proper work to bring forth the Church from the darkness of death.

19. For he hath looked down from the high place of his holiness Now the prophet contemplates the deliverance after which he breathes with anxious desire, as if it had been already accomplished. That the malignity of men might not attempt to obscure such a signal blessing of Heaven, he openly and in express terms claims for God his rightful praise; and the people were constrained in many ways to acknowledge therein the divine hand. Long before they were dragged into captivity, this calamity had been foretold, that when it took place the judgment of God might be clearly manifested; and at the same time deliverance had been promised them, and the time specified to be after the lapse of seventy years. The ingratitude of men therefore could not devise or invent any other cause to which to ascribe their return but the mere goodness of God. Accordingly, it is said, that God looked down from heaven, that the Jews might not attribute to the grace and favor of Cyrus the deliverance which evidently proceeded from Heaven. The high place of his holiness or sanctuary is here equivalent to heaven. As the temple, in some parts of Scripture, (Psalm 26:8 and Psalm 76:2) is called “the habitation of God,” in respect of men, so, that we may not imagine that there is any thing earthly in God, he assigns to himself a dwelling-place in heaven, not because he is shut up there, but that we may seek him above the world.

20. To hear the groaning of the prisoner Here the prophet repeats once more what he had previously touched upon concerning prayer, in order again to stir up the hearts of the godly to engage in that exercise, and that after their deliverance they might know it to have been granted to their faith, because, depending on the divine promises, they had sent up their groanings to heaven. He calls them prisoners; for although they were not bound in fetters, their captivity resembled a most rigorous imprisonment. Yea, he affirms a little after that they were devoted to death, to give them to understand that their life and safety would have been altogether hopeless, had they not been delivered from death by the extraordinary power of God.

21 That the name of Jehovah may be declared in Zion Here is celebrated a still more ample and richer fruit of this deliverance than has been previously mentioned, which is, that the Jews would not only be united into one body to give thanks to God, but that, when brought back to their own country, they would also gather kings and nations into the same unity of faith, and into the same divine worship with themselves. At that time it was a thing altogether incredible, not only that the praises of God should within a short period resound, as in the days of old, in that temple which was burnt and completely overthrown, 154154     “Qui estoit brusle et du tout ruine.” — Fr. but also that the nations should resort thither from all quarters, and be associated together in the service of God with the Jews, who were then like a putrefied carcase. The prophet, to inspire the people with the hope of returning to their own land, argues that it was impossible that the place which God had chosen for himself should be left in perpetual desolation; and declares, that so far from this being the case there would be new matter for praising God, inasmuch as His name would be worshipped by all nations, and the Church would consist not of one nation only, but of the whole world. This we know has been fulfilled under the administration of Christ, as was announced in prophecy by the holy patriarch,

“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the Gentiles be,” (Genesis 49:10.)

But as the prophets are wont, in celebrating the deliverance from the Babylonish captivity, to extend it to the coming of Christ, the inspired bard in this place does not lay hold on merely a part of the subject, but carries forward the grace of God, even to its consummation. And although it was not necessary that all who were converted to Christ should go up to Jerusalem, yet following the manner of expression usual with the prophets, he has laid down the observance of the divine worship which was appointed under the law, as a mark of true godliness. Farther, we may learn from this passage, that the name of God is never better celebrated than when true religion is extensively propagated, and when the Church increases, which on that account is called,

“The planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified,” (Isaiah 61:3.)

23. He hath afflicted my strength in the way Some improperly restrict this complaint to the time when the Jews were subjected to much annoyance after the liberty granted them to return to their own land. We are rather to understand the word journey or way in a metaphorical sense. As the manifestation of Christ was the goal of the race which God’s ancient people were running, they justly complain that they are afflicted and weakened in the midst of their course. 158158     Way or journey is a term often used in Scripture to denote the course of a man’s life; and here the Psalmist speaks, as other sacred writers not unfrequently do, of the whole Jewish nation as if it were one man, and of its continuance, which was to be until the coming of Christ, as if the life of one man. It was now, so to speak, only in its meridian. An attention to this remark will assist the reader in understanding Calvin’s exposition of the passage. Thus they set before God his promise, telling him, that although they had not run at random, but had confided in his protection, they were nevertheless broken and crushed by his hand in the midst of their journey. They do not indeed find fault with him, as if he had disappointed their hope; but fully persuaded, that he does not deal deceitfully with those who serve him, by this complaint they strengthen themselves in the hope of a favorable issue. In the same sense they add, that their days were shortened, because they directed their view to the fullness of time, which did not arrive till Christ was revealed. 159159     Consequently, the ruin and desolation to which they seemed given up by the Babylonish captivity, was like the cutting off or shortening of their days. It accordingly follows, — (verse 24,) Cut me not off in the midst of my days. They compare the intervening period until Christ should appear to the middle of life; for, as has been already observed, the Church only attained to her perfect age at his coming. This calamity, no doubt, had been foretold, but the nature of the covenant which God had entered into with his ancient people required that he should take them under his protection, and defend them. The captivity, therefore, was as it were a violent rupture, on which account the godly prayed with the greater confidence, that they might not be prematurely taken away in the midst of their journey. By speaking in this manner, they did not fix for themselves a certain term of life; but as God, in freely adopting them, had given them the commencement of life, with the assurance that he would maintain them even to the advent of Christ, they might warrantably bring forward and plead this promise. Lord, as if they had said, thou hast promised us life, not for a few days, or for a month or for a few years, but until thou shouldst renew the whole world, and gather together all nations under the dominion of thine Anointed One.


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