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God’s Word for You

Psalm 102:23-28 You laid the foundations of the earth

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, July 26, 2019

23 Along the way, 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.”

With these words, the afflicted king prays that God will not end his life so soon. Our time of grace is determined by the Lord, and we are subject both to his grace and to his judgment. But since in general a man’s lifespan is seventy or eighty years (Psalm 90:10), it is not sinful to pray that God would extend our days when sickness or trouble seems like it might cut that time short. But since we look forward to our life in “the world to come” (Hebrews 2:5), we understand that he may have reasons for cutting a life short in this world, reasons that go beyond our understanding. And when our time of grace in this life is cut short by an accident or by a sinfully malicious act that is not according to God’s plan, we still have the certainty of our place in heaven. The martyrs, after all, are not lesser residents of heaven, but are given the white robes of God’s own righteousness (Revelation 6:9-11).

  “Your years go on through all generations.
25 You laid the foundations of the earth in the beginning.
    The heavens are the work of your hands.
26 Even they will perish, but you remain the same.
    All of them will wear out like a garment.
    Like clothing you will change them and they will disappear.
27 But you are he,
    your years will never end.
28 The children of your servants will live in your presence;
    their descendants will be established before you.”

Most of this section (102:25-27) is quoted in the New Testament (Hebrews 1:10-12), where it is clearly taken as a Messianic prophecy. The Greek translation of verse 25 adds the words “O Lord,” and this is also understood by the writer of Hebrews. With or without “O Lord,” it is certainly applied to Christ by the Holy Spirit. The question that remains is only whether this is a direct prophecy of Christ or a typical prophecy. The difference is this: In a direct prophecy, words in the Old Testament (or sometimes in the Gospels, such as Mark 8:31) are a direct prediction of the works of Jesus for the salvation of man. Genesis 3:15 is such a prophecy. In a typical prophecy, the works or life of Jesus can be seen in a prophecy about an Old Testament individual who serves as a “type” or shadow of Christ. For example, God told Abraham, “Through your seed all nations on earth will be blessed” (Genesis 22:18). This blessing can be seen coming through Abraham’s child, Isaac, but ultimately through his descendant, Jesus.

Let’s be clear about this part of the Psalm. Verses that say things such as “You laid the foundations of the earth” and “They will perish but you remain the same” do not describe any mortal man, king or not. They describe God and the Son of God. The real question is whether the Psalm writer is speaking to God in these verses (24b-28), or whether God is responding to the plea of verses 23-24 and speaking directly to Christ. Since the book of Hebrews takes them as a prophecy about Christ, we can bow to the judgment of the Holy Spirit and apply the verses the same way.

A remarkable detail is the little phrase at the beginning of verse 27, “You are he.” Many translations take this to be “You are the same,” but the phrase is different than the one in verse 26, and the Hebrew text is just two words: “You…he.” This is called a nominal phrase, and it calls for a simple verb such as “are” to be supplied. Since the surrounding verses speak to the Messiah as the true God, we can take it to mean “You are he—you are the one true God and Savior.”

In verse 28, the confident confession of all Christians brings the Psalm to its close. The children of your servants will rise to live in your presence. All who have faith in you will live with you for all eternity. We can say this because it is what God has promised us: “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:26). This is the way that God’s word works. He gives us the simple truth, and then he invites us to believe it. Everyone who believes will live with him forever in heaven. Since you trust in him, your years, too, will never end.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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