Faith Demands Tests: Psalm 102:3-6

Chemistry1
Our faith needs to be tested to prove its authenticity

3 “For my days disappear like smoke,
    and my bones burn like red-hot coals.
My heart is sick, withered like grass,
    and I have lost my appetite.
Because of my groaning,
    I am reduced to skin and bones.
I am like an owl in the desert,
    like a little owl in a far-off wilderness.”

Psalm 102:3-6, NLT

There is a deeper awareness that seasons our life with frailty and futility and emptiness. This is not some kind of bummer or downer. We arrive at this point, over time and some maturity, to feel this weakness. It can be very profound.

As I speed-read these four verses, I’m  become aware of the following.

  1. The verses all seem to be based on the same foundation.
  2. Metaphors change, but the message stays consistent.
  3. The Holy Spirit who directed the writing, has perfectly chosen each “visual.”
  4. As grim as it may seem, we all need to pass through these experiences.
  5. We really do need to use these words, phrases and metaphors to rightly make sense of our own issues. Like a physical key will open a specific door or lock– so these verses will open up, all that which is now closed.

Commentary

V. 3, For my days disappear like smoke,
    and my bones burn like red-hot coals.”

The imagery is everything. There is a heavy sense of loss, and things just seem to slip through our fingers. Nothing has a handle for us to grab unto. We are in a special place; it’s all sort of vague and bewildering. We are perplexed spiritually.

‘Fire in my bones’ is an intense picture of being consumed at the deepest level. This fire burns viciously and is hidden from casual contact. There are seams of coal in West Virginia that have caught fire underground, and they can’t be extinguished.

V. 4, “My heart is sick, withered like grass,
    and I have lost my appetite.”

Sick and withered. Sick– it’s like having the flu. Withered– clearly like a wilted bush in the desert. (If you had to pick one, which would you choose?) But the psalmist describes a person with both issues.

Loss of appetite is seldom a problem for me. I dearly love to eat. You can take me anywhere– Mexican, Italian, German, and Chinese. I like fried chicken and BBQ ribs. But the writer has no desire at all to eat. He doesn’t want any more cheese cake. There is a time to feast and ‘make merry’ but the psalmist wants none of it.

V. 5, “Because of my groaning,
    I am reduced to skin and bones.”

The spiritual has a direct effect on the physical. The writer is in pain, and he moans out of the depths of his soul. He carries affliction, deep inside. The physical is now involved, as he now has become a complete ruin. He is emaciated, no longer the man he used to be. Like the photos of little children in Uganda, totally wasted and in ruin. The spiritual condition will often reflect into the physical.

V. 6, “I am like an owl in the desert,
    like a little owl in a far-off wilderness.”

The psalmist has been ‘ransacking’ his vocabulary, trying to describe to us his present condition. He wants us to have a full and clear understanding of what he is facing.

These owls were fairly common. They are solitary and seek out solitary places. A “desert” in the scriptures is almost always used to describe a place of testing. A desert is a place of extremes. It is where plants struggle and water is scarce. The heat can be brutal and yet must be endured.

An insignificant “little owl” that lives in a far away wilderness, is the psalmist description of himself. In spite of the conditions, this is perhaps a very healthy view of oneself.

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ybic, Bryan

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