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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God Never Plays “Hide & Seek”: Psalm 102:1-2

Come out, come out. Wherever you are!
Come out, come out. Wherever you are!

Do Not Hide Your Face from Me

A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord.

102 “Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you!
Do not hide your face from me
    in the day of my distress!

Incline your ear to me;
    answer me speedily in the day when I call!”

Psalm 102:1-2, NLT

Affliction is the most common experience we will share. It seems that it is our natural environment, because we can be found there most of the time. Afflictions vary in intensity– from the casual, day-to-day stuff to the catastrophic. It’s good to be reminded of our common situation. It helps, a little.

I chose this psalm because of content and ‘heart.’ A quick read will reveal issues not normally discussed or pondered. It’s sort of like ‘super-gluing” your hand to the horn of an enraged rhino. You’re not sure where he’s going, but you’re going to get there very shortly.

Bible study is like that for me. The text I happen to be thinking about has incredible power. I sense it and I handle it, and I pray. Once I attach myself to the text, anything can happen. Responding to the Word can be exhilarating.

Commentary

V. 1, “Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you!”

Someone once said that just as breathing is to our physical bodies, prayer is the same to our spiritual ones. We must breathe. As a kid I remember having “breathing contests.” We would hold our breath for as long as it took to win. Weird, huh?

There is a definite need, as sure as anything, for each of us to fellowship with “the God of all comfort”.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NKJV

There is a heart-cry that comes out of the spirit of the believer. The Hebrew word chosen in verse 1 is one of the most intense found. It’s not just “whimpering”, but it goes far beyond that. This “cry” is strenuous and strong. It is the cry of a broken heart.

The psalmist does not intend to waste his sorrows. The pain he is feeling may just rip him into two; but he knows and believes that it has eternal value and everlasting purpose. (He knows this because he has faith).

Our faith was never meant to be spiritual medals and ribbons for decoration. Rather faith is a life boat we are swimming to reach. It is what I call, “the desperation factor”.

V. 2,  “Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress!

Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call!”

God does not play “hide and seek” with our hearts and souls. He absolutely loves it when His children are desperately looking for Him. He does not play tricks on us. We may have to walk in the dark, and have to listen through the cacophony of competing voices. But He is so close, “His eye is on the sparrow’.

There are often “time factors” that He uses. We will learn to wait. But waiting is first– never “passive.” We don’t need to go into a “spiritual hibernation” because things are quiet. Second– waiting does not mean “abandonment”.

The three Hebrew children stood in the furnace. This is the way they did executions back then. They stood in faith of a God who heard their prayers. They might as well have been standing in their bathrooms, as the fire couldn’t even singe them. The were so ‘insulated’ they didn’t even smell smokey.

But the king, peering through the walls of the furnace, could see a fourth man. The Lord God was quite present, even in this place of death.

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ybic, Bryan