· The study guide provides background to the fact that 102 is a psalm of lament. One of the interesting observations of this specific lament is that the nature of the psalm seems to be especially serious, and possibly even tragic—“a prayer of the afflicted when he is overwhelmed” in the superscription, as well as the descriptions of a dire situation throughout verses 3-11.
· Who wrote Psalm 102? Most commentators associate both the construction of the lament and the references to Zion, as pointing to a time of the Babylonian captivity. This would have been well after David. Possible authors include Daniel, Jeremiah, Nehemiah or any number of other prophets during this time of captivity. Additionally, the lament appears to be individualistic in authorship, “a prayer of the afflicted one,” “hear my plea,” “in my time of distress,” yet also it is a plea on behalf of an entire community of God’s people. Again, pointing to a captive nation. In fact, it has also been referred to as a ‘patriots lament’ in which there is lamenting over a country’s distress.
· In regards to structure, most of the laments in Psalms, as well as those in Jeremiah, Lamentations and Job, follow a similar literary style. It goes like this:
1. Address to God (102:1-2) There is an urgency in this address; “when I call, answer me quickly.” In this anxious time, the psalmist was pleading for God to hear his cry and to see his distress
2. Complaint (102:3-11) In these next 9 verses, the psalmist says, “Lord, here is what I am / we are going through, and we cry out to you in this time of great distress.” Take a look at the vivid imagery of these verses. There is a sense of great physical, mental and spiritual crisis. Albert Barnes (19th century theologian and Presbyterian Minister) observed of Psalm 102: This is often the feeling of our trials. And yet in trial, a man may be more useful, he may do more to accomplish the real ends of life, he may do more to illustrate the power and excellence of religion, than he ever did in the days of prosperity.” In other words, we tend to send out our most heartfelt cries, and express our greatest levels of personal faith, when faced with life’s greatest troubles.
3. Confession of Trust (102:12-22) These are the thoughts that help God’s people endure. God is trustworthy and will be faithful to His promises. He will be vindicated and “This will be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.” The psalmist had such great faith in what God would do, that he expected future generations would learn from and honor God’s deliverance from these troubles (see Small Group Emphasis below).
4. Petition (102:23-24) This distress (our nation’s captivity) has beaten us down so low that we have no hope on our own. So we pray to God that our days be extended and that we are delivered. That you give life to your people.
5. Words of Assurance & Praise (102:25-26) God is eternal and is greater than our current troubles. He will outlast this crisis and “the children of your people will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you.”