The Psalmist is here engaged in prayer. We find much that clearly refers to the person of Christ. The sorrows expressed, considered with reference to him, are very striking: and the refuge taken in the eternal strength of Jehovah, as the strength of the redeemed, forms a most interesting part in this divine Psalm.
A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord.
From the authority of the Holy Ghost, in having caused his servant, the apostle Paul, to quote a portion of this psalm, in his first chapter of his Epistle to the Hebrews, in direct reference to the person of Christ, it is plain, that the church now, as the Apostle did then, ought to be always upon the look-out for Jesus in every part of Scripture. For my own part, when I consider Christ as our Head and Surety, who in all our affliction was afflicted; and when I hear the strong cries of Jesus in the days of his flesh, and connect with it the cause, I find it profitable to consider him going before, in all the tribulated path of sorrow, and to behold him, who endured such a contradiction of sinners against himself; as the best method to avoid being wearied, and faint in my mind. As such, I read this psalm, first, with reference to the person of Jesus; and then, as, in Him, forming a suitable form of words to approach God in Christ, at a mercy-seat, in seasons of soul exercises and trouble. Hebrews 12:3.
I make no chasm in the reading of these verses, because they form together a complete detail of the state of the sufferer, and serve the better, in an united point of view, to interest our hearts in the perusal. Suppose, Reader, that you and I consider these words, as spoken by the prophet with reference to Jesus: we have several portions to the same effect, which the Holy Ghost hath explained by direct application to Jesus. See and compare Psalms 22:8, with Matthew 27:43; Psalms 22:1, with Matthew 27:46; and Psalms 16:10, with Acts 2:29-31. I conceive such views to be very blessed. And, first, observe the days of Christ are said to be, as the smoke, or the shadow. Jesus was only thirty years old (counting after the days of his flesh), when he entered upon his public ministry; and the whole period from that time to the cross, was only about three years and a half. Taking upon him our nature, and bearing the sin of that nature, induced those effects which are here spoken of. Luke 3:23. Secondly, remark the sorrow of those days, in the consequences it induced. He saith, his heart was smitten, and withered like grass. He forgot to eat bread. What he did eat was like ashes, and mingled with tears. And such was his groaning, that his bones would scarce cleave to his flesh. These things could only be said of Jesus, as the sinner's Surety. David, king of Israel, in no period of his troubles, waded through either bodily or soul distresses like these. But nothing can be more suited than these expressions to Christ. The prophet described him as having a visage marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men; Isaiah 52:14. And in the gospel account of the Evangelists, the relation exactly corresponds. From the manger to the cross, he was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; Isaiah 53:3. Thirdly, note what the patient sufferer complains of; the reproaches of his enemies all the day long, and of their being sworn together against him; these things were so literally fulfilled in the person of Jesus, as they never could be in any other. He was accounted a deceiver, a blasphemer, nay, a devil; when, in the same moment, in his mouth, there was no guile. Precious Jesus! how very endearing are such views of thee and of thine unequalled sorrows, beheld, as thou art in thyself; and as thou art in thy tender love to us, and to our poor fallen nature! Lastly, and above all, observe the cries of Christ, on account of God the Father's displeasure against sin, which He, as the sinner's Surety, sustained, when he said in this Psalm, I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping, because of thine indignation and thy wrath: for thou hast lifted me up and cast me down! Who shall say what the holy soul of Jesus felt in those unequalled moments of sorrow, when, for our sin, it pleased the Father to bruise him, and to put him to grief? Isaiah 53:10. Who shall ever conceive the anguish of heart, that Jesus experienced, when the sword of justice received a command to awake and smite him? Zechariah 13:7. And what form of words can be found to explain the nature of that soul-agony which constrained the holy Jesus to exclaim, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death? Mark 14:34. Lamb of God! when I think of these things, shall my mind be led away to think of other afflictions, or the exercises of myself, or other sinners, when thy spotless soul, in which was no sin, was borne down, under a pressure that would have crushed a whole creation, where sin is found? Do I not hear thee say, Behold and see, if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me, in the day of his fierce anger? Lamentations 1:12.
Still prosecuting the subject of this most blessed psalm, with reference to our adorable and glorious Mediator, may we not accept the several expressions here, as spoken by Christ, in his capacity of Surety; and as taking confidence for himself and church in the covenant-engagements of the Father? I stay not to enlarge, but I refer the reader to those most interesting passages of Scripture, in other parts of the divine word, which serve to explain the doctrine. Isa 49 throughout; Psalms 89:3-4; Psa_89:19-37; Psa 87 throughout.
How truly lovely is it to observe, through every part of Scripture, the confirmation of the everlasting love, and unchangeable purposes of Jehovah, concerning redemption! It was this tender look of God from heaven (speaking after the manner of men) which prompted the infinite mind of God, our Father, to raise up a Saviour, and a Great One; and to send his Son to be the Saviour of the world. Compare Isaiah 19:20; Isa_61:1-3; with Luke 4:18-19.
I do not presume to say as much, but I would ask, is not this verse a prayer of Christ, as the Christ of God? Taking it in connection with what went before, God the Father is represented as beholding the sin and misery of the church. He adds, in this view, that his name shall be declared in Zion; and he will loose those appointed unto death. To these blessed declarations the answer is, that the church's great Head, in the days of his flesh is afflicted, yea, his strength is weakened, as had been said before, Psalms 102:3; Psa_102:11: Destroy not then (saith the humble petitioner), neither take me away in the midst of my years. Similar to that passage, Isaiah 65:8.
From the apostle Paul's quotation of this glorious passage, Hebrews 1:10, etc. and his illustration of it, as there explained, it should seem very evident that these verses contain God the Father's answer to Christ's prayer, and form a blessed summary of all redemption mercies ensured to the church in Him. And therefore the church may, with full assurance of faith, take to herself, and every individual of the church, with equal right in Christ, the whole blessings of covenant promises in redemption: for as Christ is, so is his church in him. His love the same, his grace the same, his redemption the same, yesterday, and today, and forever.
READER, I know not what soul exercises or afflictions your heart may be wounded with; but I venture to believe, that the truest relief under all, is to view Christ in his unequalled sorrows. Poring over ourselves, or over our own sorrows, and magnifying them, will never bring comfort. But if I see Jesus with the eye of faith, in the tribulated path; if I mark his footsteps, and he calls to me, and leads me by the way of the footsteps of his flock, where he feeds his kids, beside the shepherds tents; I shall feel comfort. They had an eye unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed. He, whose bread was ashes, and whose drink was mingled with tears, will turn my water into wine; make my very crosses sweet, and cause my tears to become like the spiced juice of the pomegranate. May the Lord the Holy Ghost so glorify the Lord Jesus to our view; cause us, in our sorrows, as well as in our joys, to be always looking to Him, living upon Him, walking with Him, and making Him our all in all, in every state!
And, Reader, do not let us overlook the blessedness this psalm contains of a sure victory, and happy issue, to all our exercises. They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy. Jesus's unchangeable love, everlasting righteousness, and all the covenant engagements of Jehovah in, and to Him, makes all sure and fixed. Though all things are changing, fluctuating, dying, perishing here below; - though in ourselves, in our friends, in our houses, in the church, in the world; all like a vesture are folding up, and hastening to decay; yet Jesus lives: and, in that, all is secure: for he hath said, Because I live, ye shall live also. Hail, holy, great, almighty Saviour! Thou art he whom the Father loveth, and hath given all things into thine hands. Eternally secure in thee, we are screened from every danger: thy children shall continue, and thy seed shall be established before thee. And when heart, and strength, and all shall fail, thou art, and wilt be, the strength of our heart, and our portion forever.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Psalms 102". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://pro.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29