“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 prisoner
and release those condemned to death.’”
Psalm 102: 18-20
The author of this Psalm is an individual who dearly loves his Nation, who acutely and in great distress, feels the pain of her fallen condition. He clearly has his own struggles which, combined with his concern for his people, results in groaning, illness and failure to eat and sleep; he almost withers away (3-11). He vividly describes his condition and that of the Nation in these verses. God’s wrath is upon His people because of their waywardness (10). The answer is to call upon the Lord in utter honesty (1-2).
As he walks amongst the rubble of Jerusalem (14) he focuses upon God and His character, thus enabling a resounding statement of faith, “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.” As well as lamenting the present the Psalmist looks to a future in God that is certain (18-28). The Nation will be rebuilt, prisoners freed and God’s people will live in the presence of their Saviour. He is confident of this outcome because of His focus upon and recognition of who God is. God hears and answers prayers (1-2, 17), He is compassionate (13), He saves and frees (20), He is unchanging (27), and He is utterly Sovereign (12). With this focus of faith, complaint has changed to praise, the Psalmist found strength through honest and heartfelt lament.
I am utterly certain that we all have troubles, although we may not all have severe trials that lead to sleeplessness, failure to eat and a blighted heart. The truth though is that, to some degree, we all know pain and suffering. I am also sure that we care and feel for our own Nations and the countries in which we live. How do we respond?
Honest lament conveyed to God can transform situations; prayers are answered. Emotions expressed in authentic lament and complaint can act as God given safety valves in our lives. Prayers in truth from our hearts are those which God truly hears and honours.
Oftentimes we fail to pray because we think we are not good enough, our prayers not professional or ‘happy’ enough. This Psalm beautifully blows those illusions out of the water. God WANTS to hear our agonies, our laments. He loves and cares for; He desires to help.
The Psalm also calls us to turn our focus to God once the lament has been expressed. Looking at God transforms our state of heart and mind from pain, fear and worry to faith, hope and praise. God is unchanging and, as His children, we have an absolutely certain future in His presence (27-28)
The Questions of Application
What woes for the world and for yourself do you need to honestly express before God? What promises of God will you focus upon to ignite faith and joy?
God of unchanging mercy, look with compassion upon all who-suffer: the sick and the friendless, the homeless and the captive, the weary and the depressed. Be present to them, and to us, in the power of your healing love; give all health, comfort, and hope; and bring all to share in the life of your risen Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen
God of this City by Chris Tomlin
For the Healing of the Nations by Ruth and Joy Everingham
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.