Text: Psalm 102
Clay mentioned “The Raven” in his message to the children. Similarly, today’s scripture brought something to my mind as well. I remember the first time I heard “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel. The opening piano grabbed my attention, but it was that quiet opening lyric that was so meaningful: “When you’re weary, feeling small…” The song goes on to offer friendship as a bridge over that troubled water; what an encouraging song to those who are weak and weary!
That’s what the Psalms are. They are songs for every season of life. They were as familiar to God’s people as some popular songs are to us. Last week we talked about struggle and looked at Psalm 33. This week is close to that: I want to talk about being weak and weary. If anything, perhaps that is a step past struggle. If you are struggling, you still have some fight left in you. “Weak and weary” sounds like what happens after lots of struggling, when you are feeling small. Psalm 102 has four movements to it that I want to look at with you…
Hear me! See me! (vv.1-2)
The first movement, in my words, is “Hear me! See me!” It’s such a human cry. It’s what we say and feel when we wonder where God is, if God cares, if God notices us. And it’s all right there in the first two verses: “Hear my prayer… do not hide… incline your ear… answer me quickly.”
Do you ever pray prayers like that? It takes a certain amount of faith to do it I think. But I remember that being one of the first lessons in this series a number weeks ago… to let human struggle and faith intermingle. We treat them like they can’t co-exist, but scripture – and especially the Psalms – teach us to be honest, be real, and call out to God. So out of that weakness and weariness, you can hear the power of this prayer: “Hear me! See me! Help me!”
This is My Life (vv.3-11)
The second movement of this Psalm is what I would call the “this is my life” section. The Psalmist describes the people, situations, and things that have brought him to this state of weakness and weariness. Some of those descriptions are specific and literal: “I forget to eat.” And some wax poetic like “my heart has been smitten like grass and has withered away.” Yet others are strange to us, but equally vivid word-pictures like pelicans, owls, and birds – all alone and forlorn in their places.
It’s a little ironic, I know: how weak and weary can you be if you are generating poetry like this? But music, writing, and the arts have long been one healthy outlet for suffering. For you it may be writing in a journal, or exercise, or cooking. Or talk to a counselor! Even in this time of social distancing, most counselors will talk on the phone or by video. But however you do it, get it out; find some way to name and express the things that are pressing in on you and wearing you out. Find some way to say or express, “this is my life.”
Why I’m Talking to God (vv.12-17)
The third movement of this Psalm is what I would call the “why I’m talking to God” section. We’ve seen this in several of the Psalms we’ve looked at. After an honest expression of human experience, the songwriter will give some time to describing who God is and what God has done. This is such a healthy expression of faith. Even if we aren’t “feeling it” it can be helpful to remember and express what we believe about God. That’s one reason we recite things like the Apostles’ Creed in worship. It reminds us who God is.
So the Psalmist says – and we are reminded – that God is eternal (v.12), compassionate (v.13), and powerful (v.15). And remembering all these important characteristics brings the Psalmist to what is, perhaps, the key verse of the whole thing:
God has regarded the prayer of the destitute and has not despised their prayer. (v.17)
Remember where we started… with God, where are you?… and “Can you hear me?” And the sequence of being honest and recalling who God is has brought us to this point of remembering that God DOES hear and see those in need. God does not turn away from their prayers. This is why we talk to God!
Hope for the Future and the Story that will be Told (vv.18-28)
And in a final and fourth movement, the songwriter expresses what I would call “hope for the future and the story that will be told.” In verse 18, we read literally that “this will be written for the generation to come.” That’s one of my favorite long-term, big picture, faith-filled verses in the Bible: “that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord.”
The Psalmist goes on to write the story of what he believes will come to pass: that God will see, that God will hear, that God will act. In what is an honest and faith-filled moment, he even notes that he may not get to see the whole story unfold. But he longs to! What hope; what faith!
It is so easy to get caught up in the here and now, whether the here and now is going well or a time of great difficulty. But when we take time to reflect on our current situations and remember God’s faithfulness, we may well find our horizon of faith widening and wellspring of hope deepening.
At the conclusion of the service today we will sing a familiar and beloved hymn that comes from scriptures like these. The opening line expresses just what we’ve read about in Psalm 102 and what I hope you’ll take away if you are feeling weak and weary today: that God is…
our help in ages past; our hope for years to come.
Some Music Used
- Blessed Be Your Name
- Be Unto Your Name
- OFFERTORY: Just a Closer Walk with Thee (jazz piano, Rick Bean)
- ASSURANCE: Mercies Anew
- O God, Our Help in Ages Past