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God’s Word for You

Psalm 102:8-13 a lengthening shadow

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, July 23, 2019

8 All day long my enemies taunt me;
  those who mock me use my name to curse.
9 For I eat ashes as my bread
  and mingle my drink with tears
10 because of your great wrath,
  for you have picked me up and thrown me aside.

The king shows how much he has been humiliated. His name is used for a curse. Those who do this “mock” him. By using a special verb form (the poal used here inversively) he lets us know that he was used to hearing “Hallelujah”-type praises, but now they are only curses and mockery. People once praised God for him; now they only taunt him.

Ashes and tears are the diet of grief. After Tamar was raped by her brother, she put ashes on her head and wept (2 Samuel 13:19). The exiles acted the same way when the Persian king published Haman’s intent to destroy the Jews (Esther 4:3). Here, the grieving king understands that his troubles have come because God picked him up and tossed him aside. This wasn’t a mere whim on God’s part, but a calamity brought about by sin. God had removed his protection so that the king would remember to recognize that protection and to ask for it; to set aside his sinful life and look to God for every good thing.

11 My days are like a lengthening shadow;
  I wither away like grass.

The king compares himself to things that don’t last. A shadow, a field of grass. What’s more, with an ingenious use of poetic skill, the shadow is nata, “stretching out” (NIV “the evening shadow”). Soon it will stretch out into total darkness. David used the same turn of phrase in Psalm 109:23, “I fade away like an evening shadow; I am shaken off like a locust.” There David compared his dignity to that of a bug that you brush off from your shoulder. But the king is not just self-absorbed in the shortness or the indignity of his life. His real comparison is with what comes next…

12 But you, O LORD, remain forever;
  your renown endures from generation to generation.
13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
  for it is time to show favor to her;
  the appointed time has come.

God’s eternal nature is summed up with “you remain forever.” God’s existence has no beginning and has no ending. God himself sums up what such an existence is like with his name, “I Am” (Exodus 3:14). Every generation of the world has known and revered God, from Adam and his wife down to you and your friends. In eternity, God chose you to be his own. In eternity, you will be God’s child, and live with him in joy and true peace forever and ever.

In verse 13 our writer shows that he associates his own fortunes with that of Zion. He even places the city above himself. If God will show compassion on Zion and show favor to “her” (Zion’s people), then that is what the writer desires most. These things show the mind of a king. The portrait we have of this man is a king who fell into grave sin, sin that caused God’s wrath to descend upon the whole nation. The king has now turned to the Lord in prayer.

By doing this, the king points ahead to the greater King, Jesus Christ. His prayer was that God would show compassion on Israel, God’s people, and this is what Jesus desired most. He came to bring God’s protection and forgiveness to all who believe. He said, “My prayer is not that you [Father] would take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15). Through his blood we have atonement for our sins, freedom from the devil’s power, and protection even from the world and our own sinful nature. Trust in Jesus, and keep turning to him.

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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