Christ as the Man of Sorrows in Anticipation of the Cross
Christ as the Man of Sorrows in Anticipation of the Cross
Psalm 102. This psalm is “A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before Jehovah”. We are not told who the author is, but most likely it was David, when fleeing from Saul or Absalom. Prophetically this Psalm speaks of Christ in His sorrow anticipating being “cut off” in death, and Jehovah’s blessed answer to Him! This prayer reflects the sentiments of Christ over His whole life, but culminating at the Garden of Gethsemane, and then at the cross itself. As with many other prophetic scriptures, this Psalm would be the Spirit of Christ in the remnant, so that the expressions would accurately reflect the experiences of the remnant of Israel, and also Christ who entered into the experiences of His people. This Psalm really shows us that the blessing of Israel depends on Messiah. In His humiliation, Jehovah in heaven answers Jehovah on earth (in the Person of the Son), and assures Him of the restoration of Israel.1
A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before Jehovah.
1 Jehovah, hear my prayer, and let my cry come unto thee.
2 Hide not thy face from me: in the day of my trouble, incline thine ear unto me; in the day I call, answer me speedily.
vv.1-2 Call for Jehovah to Hear. The Psalm opens with a call for Jehovah to hear. The voice is that of Christ, in “the day of trouble”, and this introduces the subject of the Psalm; i.e. Christ in anticipation of death, tormented by the Devil (John 14:30), and crying out for deliverance. There is a sense of urgency; “in the day I call, answer me speedily”. Chronologically, this would correlate Psalm 1o2 with Christ’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.
3 For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as a firebrand.
4 My heart is smitten and withered like grass; yea, I have forgotten to eat my bread.
5 By reason of the voice of my groaning, my bones cleave to my flesh.
6 I am become like the pelican of the wilderness, I am as an owl in desolate places;
7 I watch, and am like a sparrow alone upon the housetop.
8 Mine enemies reproach me all the day; they that are mad against me swear by me.
9 For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping,
10 Because of thine indignation and thy wrath; for thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down.
vv.3-10 Sorrow, Reproach, and Looming Judgment. Here we have the expressions of Christ as the Man of sorrows. Though Christ was only middle aged (v.24), He could say “my days are consumed like smoke”. Christ comes back to this point again and again in this Psalm. He was suffering from His enemies without, from the presence of sin around Him, and in the agony of anticipation. He could speak of His bones being on fire; a deep agony (v.3). His heart and mind were affected also (v.4). It is amazing to consider that Christ suffered these things as a man. He experienced deep emotional pain. He knew what it was to be heartbroken and deeply depressed (Matt. 26:37). He speaks of His loneliness on earth; “I am become like the pelican of the wilderness, I am as an owl in desolate places; I watch, and am like a sparrow alone upon the housetop”. This certainly was true all through the Lord’s life. Even when surrounded by His disciples, He was almost always misunderstood, and misjudged. We was a Man on earth, standing alone with God. But in the garden, when the Lord was suffering intense agony, anticipating His greatest trial, His own disciples fell asleep. Every human support was taken from Him there. The reproach of enemies weighed heavy on the Lord’s heart as well (v.8). But there, He knew the cause was Jehovah’s “indignation” and “wrath” against Israel. This isn’t exactly the same as suffering to expiate sin, as in Psalm 22, but Christ falling under the governmental judgment of God against sin, because He took the place as a representative for Israel; “for the transgression of my people was he stricken” (Isa. 53:8, see also Psa. 69).
11 My days are like a lengthened-out shadow, and I, I am withered like grass.
12 But thou, Jehovah, abidest for ever, and thy memorial from generation to generation.
13 “Thou” wilt rise up, thou wilt have mercy upon Zion: for it is the time to be gracious to her, for the set time is come.
14 For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour her dust.
15 And the nations shall fear the name of Jehovah, and all the kings of the earth thy glory.
16 When Jehovah shall build up Zion, he will appear in his glory.
vv.11-16 Refuge in the Greatness of Jehovah. The Lord returns to this thought of His life slipping away; “My days are like a lengthened-out shadow” or quickly passing, and “I am withered like grass” (here today, and gone tomorrow). But in the following verse, we have something wonderful. There is some difference of opinion even among the best espositors of scripture how to take v.12. On one hand, some take it to be the words of God to the Messiah (similar to the exchange in v.24), encouraging His Son as Jehovah; “thou, Jehovah, abidest for ever, and thy memorial from generation to generation”.2 On the other hand, it could be a continuation of Messiah speaking, like an expression of total selflessness; as if to say, “I am about to die, but I rejoice to know that You are immortal and eternal”. In the depths of His desolation, Christ as man clings to the character and glories of His God! In this case, it brings out something beautiful; that the suffering Messiah (the Apostle) was the very One capable of unfolding the glories of Israel’s God (the High Priest).345 I tend to align with this second view. When it is the desolation of Messiah, we have His cries of anguish, yet steadfast confidence in Jehovah. It isn’t until we come to v.24 where the death of Messiah is imminent, and He cries out for deliverance, that Jehovah answers His Son in a most profound and touching way! Then Christ is addressed as a Divine Person, Jehovah the Same. But here we have the suffering Messiah, speaking for the remnant, rejoicing to know that the blessing of Zion was in the hands of and eternal and merciful Jehovah. How could anyone doubt the future restoration of Israel! Jerusalem, which is trodden down of the Gentiles, will be rebuilt by Jehovah. The nations will fear Him. In v.16 we find that the official kingdom glory of Christ is linked with the rebuilding of Zion!
17 He will regard the prayer of the destitute one, and not despise their prayer.
18 This shall be written for the generation to come; and a people that shall be created shall praise Jah:
19 For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from the heavens hath Jehovah beheld the earth,
20 To hear the groaning of the prisoner, to loose those that are appointed to die;
21 That the name of Jehovah may be declared in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem,
22 When the peoples shall be gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve Jehovah.
vv.17-22 Confidence That the Prayers of the Sufferer Will Be Answered. In spite of all He was suffering in anticipating the cross, the Lord had confidence that His prayers would be answered. We see the Spirit of Christ in the remnant in v.18, with their confidence that Israel would be restored; “the generation to come”. The know that Jehovah was heard their prayers (vv.19-20). They look forward to the day when Jehovah’s praise will be sung in Jerusalem, and all the peoples of the earth will be gathered together to praise Jehovah.
23 He weakened my strength in the way, he shortened my days.
24 I said, My GOD, take me not away in the midst of my days! … “Thy years are from generation to generation.
25 Of old hast thou [LXX adds ‘O Jehovah’] founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands:
26 “They” shall perish, but “thou” continuest; and all of them shall grow old as a garment: as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed.
27 But thou art the Same, and thy years shall have no end.” [quoted Hebrews 1:10-12]
28 The children of thy servants shall abide, and their seed shall be established before thee.
vv.23-28 Jehovah’s Answer to Christ. The Psalm returns again to Christ in His extremity; anticipating the cross fast approaching. The Lord felt His natural strength waning, and His time drawing shorter. We find something remarkable here. Though Christ was Divine, that fact in no way made Him immune to suffering as a man. In v.24 He prays to God (singular), “My God, take me not away in the midst of my days!” What would restored Zion be without her Messiah? How could He be cut off? In this prayer, Christ “poured out his soul unto death” (Isa. 53:12). The Lord felt that natural repulsion to death; especially a premature death, and all that it meant for His rights as Messiah. The Lord was only in the midst of His days, being 33 1/2 years old. This prayer breaks off, and from the middle of v.24 we have the answer. Jehovah, addressing His Son as a man on earth, assures Him of His Godhead glory. In Hebrews 1:10-12 these verses are quoted to show Christ’s deity, even as a man on earth. All that Christ suffered as man did not rob Him one iota of His glory as God! He was the Creator, who made heaven and earth. The heavens and earth pass away (Revelation 21:1), but Christ will remain. He is Jehovah “the Same”, a Divine name (Heb. 13:7). What a wonderful assurance for Christ to receive in that time of His agony. Hebrews 5:7 tells us Christ was answered because of His piety; “who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear”. The Psalms in general, and this one in particular, really bring out the perfection of Christ as a man. He was so fully a man, and so fully suffered all these things, including death, that this “encouragement” from God to His Son was “warranted”. The Son was so fully human that these words, assuring Him of His Divine glory, were appropriate. This underscores the amazing mystery of the Person of Christ!
- This deep and wonderful psalm takes up the suffering of Christ as the pivot of the whole Jewish blessing — the accomplishment of the divine counsels, and the glory and revelation of the divine perfection and excellency of Christ Himself. – Darby, J.N. Heads of Psalms.
- It is God Himself telling His Son, “But You, O Lord, shall endure forever, and the remembrance of Your name to all generations.” We today have witnessed the fact that Christ has already arisen now beyond all possibility of such sorrow and anguish as He has once borne. – Grant. L.M. The Psalms.
- But He has identified Himself, as we have seen in Psalm 91, with the name and promises of Jehovah; He, as a shadow, gone, for the reproach too, and fidelity of Jehovah, but with this word, Jehovah is for ever; His support and faith perfect when there was nothing but Jehovah, and this is the essence and difficulty of faith in which Messiah was perfect, as in everything. – Darby, J.N. Heads of Psalms.
- The One who in lowly grace has given expression to the sorrows of His people is the One who can equally give expression to the glories of Jehovah. He is the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. He can bear up the sorrows of His people before Jehovah in priestly service: He can present the glories of Jehovah to His people as the Prophet. – Smith, H. The Psalms.
- Then from verse 12 He [Messiah] contrasts Jehovah’s permanence and fidelity to His covenant as the security of Zion, whatever her desolations, even in the set time to have pity on her, with the results sure and blessed, not only for the generation to come, but for the peoples and kingdoms and nations in that day of fearing and serving Jehovah. – Kelly, W. The Epistle to the Hebrews.