Bible Studies on the Messianic Psalms
Psalm 102 - Change and the Unchangeable One
by I Gordon
We have before us today an interesting Psalm. That's not to say the
others we have been looking at weren't interesting. Okay, they are all
interesting. But this one is a little different in that with a casual
reading there isn't anything that would yell out to you saying 'Hey -
I'm Messianic!' And yet with the right key you can turn the lock and
find some fascinating two way conversations within the Godhead that you
didn't know existed! As I read through it I was mainly drawn to the
last part of the Psalm which speaks of change and the unchangeable
One... so we'll focus more on that, but let's read the first part to
get some context.
One lonely man...
Psalms 102:1-11 A prayer of an afflicted man. When he is faint and
pours out his lament before the LORD. Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my
cry for help come to you. (2) Do not hide your face from me when I am
in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly. (3)
For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. (4)
My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food.
(5) Because of my loud groaning I am reduced to skin and bones. (6) I
am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. (7) I lie awake; I
have become like a bird alone on a roof. (8) All day long my enemies
taunt me; those who rail against me use my name as a curse. (9) For I
eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears (10) because of
your great wrath, for you have taken me up and thrown me aside. (11) My
days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass.
We don't know the author of this Psalm. People have speculated that it
is David but we don't know for sure. The title for this Psalm sets the
scene for us however: 'A prayer of an afflicted man who is faint and
pours out his lament before the Lord.' From that we could say that this
Psalm is possibly, just possibly, not going to be read at too many
weddings. We see early on that this man is struggling. He feels like
his days are vanishing and his life is withering like grass. He is
completely dry and running on empty. Maybe you have been there? Maybe
you are there? He is crying out to the Lord but is wondering if the
Lord is even listening. There certainly isn't any instant response
coming from the heavens as God is silent. This isn't an uncommon event
for we used to have a fridge magnet that said 'I believe in the sun
when it does not shine, I believe in God when He is silent.' That is
true and should be remembered. But this man, at this stage, sees only
clouds. They are too thick, too dark. His vision is blocked from seeing
There are several comparisons made in this first section to describe
how he feels. How many times have you found yourself saying 'I feel
like a pelican of the wilderness' or 'Oh I am so like an owl in the
ruins'? Well, ok, maybe not the analogy you like to use, but you can
probably relate to the feeling of isolation and loneliness the psalmist
had. The Amplified Bible helps us a bit here expanding on the thought
Psalms 102:6-7 I am like a melancholy pelican or vulture of the
wilderness; I am like a [desolate] owl of the waste places. (7) I am
sleepless and lie awake [mourning], like a bereaved sparrow alone on
You don't see a lot of sparrows who are single or have got no buddies.
They are a very social little bird. I have a couple of sparrows that
have made their home in my home. They come and make their nest to have
their babies each year. And I normally see them in the mornings sitting
on the gutter of my roof above the porch, surveying their little
kingdom. They are normally up before me... which isn't hard. But I don't
think they realize that they have made their home in my home. I don't
think it has entered into their little bird brain that they are
actually building a little nest inside someone else's far bigger nest.
The scale of my house would be far beyond their wildest dreams! I think
we can miss God for the same reason. He is too big for us. Compared to
God we are the little bird brain. And that is being kind to us. The
work that He does even in our lives has a grand eternal scope and plan.
We normally operate with a day to day focus of just trying to get
through the next issue. He works with eternity in mind to conform us
into the image of His Son so that we can have eternal treasures in
Heaven. We miss Him because our focus is far too narrow. This man in
our psalm is like that. He can't see the woods for the trees. He is
focused very much on the smaller issues that are pressing in upon him
and has lost sight of the big picture... but then it comes...revelation!
The clouds recede and the light shines through
(12) But you, O LORD, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures
through all generations. (13) You will arise and have compassion on
Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come.
(14) For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them
Suddenly, in the midst of the Psalm, there is a change. There is a
parting of the clouds and the light shines through. Revelation comes
and he is able to see and focus on the bigger eternal picture. Let's
explore briefly what helped him by looking at parts of what he said:
But you, O Lord
: That in itself is enough. Even if we have a lot of things against
us, a Christian always needs to remember that 'but' - 'But you O
Lord... Much is against me, but You are for me.' I read the other
night about a man called Mitchell Heisman. He committed suicide in
late 2010 in front of the memorial church on the campus of Harvard
University. His suicide note that he left behind was over 1900
pages. In it he speaks of the hopelessness of humanity despite the
rise of technology. He filled his suicide note/book with admiring
quotes from humanistic scholars and evolutionary professors such as
Richard Dawkins. The note ends in complete hopelessness and
despair. His basis is that being the product of evolution, we are
nothing and there is no purpose - which is actually true if you
subscribe to evolution
. No matter what the circumstance the Christian always has hope and
meaning for they know God - the author and dispenser of both!
Whatever the situation the Christian always can say 'but', 'but
you, O Lord'. That in itself makes all the difference.
Sit enthroned forever
: Secondly the man in our psalm knew that God is on the throne.
That can be said as a bit of a clichŽ. 'Oh I'm sorry to hear you
have lost it all Roger, but God is still on the throne.' That God
is on the throne means nothing if He doesn't care. But He does. It
means that He is in control. It means that trials and tribulations
that come my way do not catch Him by surprise but have been allowed
- Vetted by the Father for the children He loves!
Your renown endures through all generations
: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. God is
tested and tried throughout the ages. Men and women in every
generation, through a myriad of trying situations have tested this
rock and have testified of His goodness.
You will arise and have compassion, for the appointed time has
: We also need to know that there is an appointed time for all
things. The difficulties won't go on forever. Now that time may not
be 1 minute after we pray for God would only develop spiritual
weaklings with no faith or backbone if that was the case. But there
is an appointment time for God to arise and have compassion so we
can thank Him for that!
The future is filled with hope!
(15) The nations will fear the name of the LORD, all the kings of the
earth will revere your glory. (16) For the LORD will rebuild Zion and
appear in his glory. (17) He will respond to the prayer of the
destitute; he will not despise their plea. (18) Let this be written for
a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD:
(19) The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he
viewed the earth, (20) to hear the groans of the prisoners and release
those condemned to death." (21) So the name of the LORD will be
declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem (22) when the peoples and
the kingdoms assemble to worship the LORD.
We see here that the man in this Psalm is able to take courage and
hope, even lifting himself into the bliss of the coming day when the
Lord will appear, the nations will all fear the Lord and the kings of
the earth will see the glory of God! He is gaining an eternal
perspective! I devoted the last message entirely to what this will be
like so I won't concentrate on this too much here. But please note
verse 16. In the KJV and the Amplified Bible it reads a little
Psalms 102:16 When the Lord builds up Zion, He will appear in His
This verse is seen by many Bible prophecy teachers as another clue as
to when the Lord will return. This verse links together the building up
of Zion with the glorious appearing of the Lord. For nearly 2000 years
the Israelites were scattered into all the nations of the world and
didn't have a nation of their own. But this generation has seen the
nation of Israel come into existence once again and the city of
Jerusalem once again come under the control (mostly!) of the Jewish
people. Note also that the Psalmist said that what is being written is
not for his time but is for a future generation and for a people not
yet created. I believe we are that people which will see the return of
the Lord! In that day 'the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem.'
Who is speaking to whom?
(23) In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut short my
days. (24) So I said: "Do not take me away, O my God, in the midst of
my days; your years go on through all generations. (25) In the
beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are
the work of your hands. (26) 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. (27) But you remain the same, and your
years will never end. (28) The children of your servants will live in
your presence; their descendants will be established before you."
This part of the Psalm is pretty obvious and straight forward. The
Psalmist cries out to God not to let him die and expresses his
confidence in the eternal, unchangeable nature of God. Right? Well,
actually, no. Here is where this Psalm takes on a little twist and gets
even more interesting. The writer of Hebrews, under the inspiration of
the Holy Spirit, tells us that this isn't the Psalmist just writing
down his thoughts about God. That is how we have been looking at it so
far but it is far from the full story! The Psalmist is actually
recording a conversation between God and Father and His Son. Let's have
a look because that statement requires proof!
What the Father says about the Son
Hebrews 1:1-14 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the
prophets at many times and in various ways, (2) but in these last
days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all
things, and through whom he made the universe. (3) The Son is the
radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being,
sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided
purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty
in heaven. (4) So he became as much superior to the angels as the
name he has inherited is superior to theirs. (5) For to which of
the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have become
your Father" ? Or again, "I will be his Father, and he will be my
Son" ? (6) And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world,
he says, "Let all God's angels worship him." (7) In speaking of the
angels he says, "He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of
fire." (8) But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will
last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of
your kingdom. (9) You have loved righteousness and hated
wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your
companions by anointing you with the oil of joy." (10) He also
says, "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the
earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. (11) They will
perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. (12)
You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be
changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end."
(13) To which of the angels did God ever say, "Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet" ? (14) Are not
all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit
The writer of Hebrews was writing to Hebrews, fellow Jews, and one of
his main aims is to show how much 'better' Jesus is. He is better than
Moses, better than the prophets; He has brought in a better covenant
based on better promises. And, as he discusses in the first chapter, He
is better than the angels. To prove this he gives a series of quotes,
nearly all from the Psalms, where God the Father is speaking of, or to,
His Son. Verse 9 is an interesting case where God the Father calls
Jesus, His Son, God! Now in verses 10-12 the writer of Hebrews quotes
from the Psalm we are looking at (Psalm 102) and says that it is
actually God the Father speaking to His Son. This is the key we've been
So it turns out that this 'man' in Psalm 102 that is struggling and
crying out to God isn't just any man. It is the Lord Jesus
. He is the One feeling the extreme loneliness. He is the One wondering
if God is listening. He is the One facing death. He is the One with
enemies surrounding Him and His name being cursed. He is the One taking
comfort in the hope of God and the thoughts of eternity and the things
to come. And that is why Jesus can relate to us, and why we can relate
to Him. He went through everything and more that we are faced with.
Hebrews 5:7-8 During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered
up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who
could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent
submission. (8) Although he was a son, he learned obedience from
what he suffered.
Hebrews 2:18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is
able to help those who are being tempted.
Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to
sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been
tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin.
So let's return to our Psalm and use this key to unlock it.
The Lord Jesus was encouraged by the Father
Psalms 102:23-24 In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut
short my days. (24) So I said: "Do not take me away, O my God, in the
midst of my days; your years go on through all generations.
We are listening to the prayer of the Lord Jesus here. We don't know
exactly where this was given but it is likely to have been in the
garden of Gethsemane or from the cross. He was the One whose strength
was broken and cut off in the midst of His days. Other famous
prophecies use this same term:
Daniel 9:26 '...the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing...'
Isaiah 53:8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who
can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of
the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
But listen again as the Father replies and encourages Him as Jesus is
In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the
heavens are the work of your hands. (26) 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. (27) But you remain
the same, and your years will never end. (28) The children of your
servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be
established before you."
You will see here that the Father turned Jesus' focus onto the things
of eternity - both eternity past and eternity future.
He took Jesus right back to the beginning: 'In the beginning you
laid the foundation of the earth and the heavens are the work of
your hands.' He also took Jesus to the very end of the age saying:
'They will perish but you will remain.'
He reminded Jesus that everything will come to an end, but that He
never would: 'They will wear out like a garment... but you remain and
your years will never end.'
He reminded Jesus of the results of His travail - And that is
people... believers!: 'Your servants will live in your presence;
their descendants will be established before you.'
It is difficult, but not impossible, for us to see the same things. The
word of God helps us to refocus in such verses as this:
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 '...we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we
are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
(17) For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an
eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (18) So we fix our eyes
not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is
temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.'
Change, change, change
When I first read this Psalm it was verses 26 and 27 that most stood
out to me the most. It mentions that everything will change. People
have said the only constant in this world is change. But change itself
is not a constant - it is accelerating.
More information has been produced in the last thirty years than in
the previous five thousand years.
More than one-half the scientists who have ever lived are alive
Ninety per cent of all the items in the supermarket today did not
exist ten years ago.
It is estimated that fifty per cent of college graduates are going
into jobs which did not exist when they were born.
The top technology jobs in 2010 didn't exist in 2004.
The Prophet Daniel spoke of change in terms of the explosion in
knowledge and travel. Concerning travel someone said:
"My great-grandfather rode a horse, but was afraid of the train. My
grandfather rode on a train, but was afraid of a car. My father
rode in a car, but was afraid of an airplane. I ride in an
airplane, but I'm afraid of a horse."
But it's not just change in terms of the effects of technology.
Morality is changing. Black is being called white and white black.
Christianity is changing as large parts of 'Christendom' follow the
current flavor and thoughts of the world. World powers, and with them
key alliances in the world, are also changing. And there have been many
voices within Christianity sensing and speaking of dramatic changes
that are coming. Joel Rosenberg (end of June 2015):
'I feel a tremendous sense of urgency about this column. The United
States is hurtling towards severe trouble, and the events of the
past few months - and what may be coming over the next few months -
grieves me a great deal. Something is coming. I don't know what.
But we all must be ready in every possible way.'
What comes out of all this we just watch, wait and see. Eventually,
everything will change as our scripture indicates. Jesus Christ created
both the heavens and the earth but even they groan and wearing out like
an old garment. This is in accordance with the Newton's 2nd
law of thermodynamics - entropy - that systems and matter go from order
to disorder over time. The universe is constantly getting more
. And we're not just talking about your house or bedroom!
So I understand why some greenies hug trees. If your only hope is in
this planet then you would cling to what you have. But a Christian's
hope is far, far greater! In the midst of all this change that is
happening, and will happen, how good is it to know some things, or
rather someone, never changes - Jesus Christ!
Malachi 3:6 For I, the LORD, do not change. Jesus Christ is the
same yesterday, today and forever!
He doesn't have a bad day or wake up grumpy. He doesn't ever need
counseling or correction from a friend to put him back on the right
track. He is never confused, anxious or fretting over what to do. He is
not forgetful (apart from when He chooses not to remember our sins!)
and never loses track of what is happening in the world or in the life
of the least of His children.
The man we spoke about earlier, Mitchell Heisman, who took his own
life, was an ardent evolutionist. He was a great supporter of science
and thought that would give him the answers he needed. He didn't want
God and ended up leaving a suicide 'book' speaking of the hopelessness
of humanity despite the rise of technology.
Even the author of the Psalm we have been looking at was really
struggling. But he had a difference. He came to his senses, lifted his
eyes, and said 'But you O Lord are enthroned forever...' He was able to
lift his head and see things again from God's perspective. He was also
able to see, and hope, in God's faithfulness and plan still to come:
'You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show
favour to her; the appointed time has come.'
In fact we have seen that even Jesus needed to be encouraged by the
Father for verses 25-28, as we have seen from the book of Hebrews, are
actually what the Father said to the Son. How much more do we need to
allow Him to speak to us? And if we are experiencing change currently,
or face difficult change in the future, let us still look up and give
thanks that we are heirs of that which cannot be shaken. The last
generation before the return of the Lord will see incredible change. It
will be change for the worse before it is change for the better. But
thank the Lord that Jesus doesn't change!