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Author:Rev. George van Popta
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Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
Preached At:Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church
 Ancaster, Ontario
Text:Psalms 102:23-28 (View)
Occasion:New Years Eve

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Singing: Ps. 90:1,7,8; Hy. 7; Ps. 102:9,10; Ps. 102:11; Hy. 63

Reading: Psalm 102

Text: Psalm 102:23-28
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

This Psalm ends with speaking about children and descendants. V. 18 speaks about a future generation, about children not yet born. As we stand on the threshold of a new year, looking back at 2003 with its trial and troubles, its wars and danger, and looking forward to 2004 with its many uncertainties, we wonder about the whole concept of children and grandchildren. How do we dare bring children and grandchildren into this world? This world with its desolation, its despair, its misery, difficulties and wretchedness? How do we continue ourselves? How can we leave one year and enter another? How can we and remain sane at the same time?

We can because of the comfort and consolation that we have knowing we have a mighty King who rules over all. King Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ who once came as our Servant to die for our sins. And now rules as King who will take care of us. Of us and our children.

I preach to you this evening about desolation and consolation.

1. Human desolation; and, 2. Divine consolation.

1. The human author of Psalm 102 and the exact circumstances of it are a mystery to us. All we know is what the heading says: "A prayer of an afflicted man. When he is faint and pours out his lament before the LORD."

Some say it was written by someone who had suffered a terrible illness. Others say that it was likely written by an Israelite who had been exiled to Babylon. Yet others that someone who had witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem on another occasion wrote it.

We just do not know. We can make guesses but they remain just that: guesses.

What is clear is that God had humbled him. (Psa 102:23 NIV) In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut short my days.

The author had been sailing along quite nicely through life. Things had been going quite well. Then suddenly, right in the course of his life - in the midst of things - God broke his strength. The days of his life were cut short.

We tend to think we are invincible. Immortal. Especially young men think that. I know that because I was a young man once (1/2 my life ago). We think we have the world by its tail. And then God stops us short. He breaks our strength. Slow down, my child, says God. Do not forget to depend upon me.

I would think that every man my age or older (and many that are younger) here this evening knows whereof I speak. God broke my strength twenty years ago when he assigned me a chronic disease which has been my daily companion ever since. He breaks the strength of men in many different ways: illness, injury, financial failure, difficult handicap-many different ways.

In the vv 3-11, the author expanded upon how God had broken his strength and humbled him. He said that his days vanished like smoke and that his bones were burning like glowing embers. Smoke is easily blown away. You cannot hold on to it. It dissipates into the air. That is what his days were like. Life is so transient. His life was wasting away-disappearing like smoke.

It felt like his bones were on fire. He was experiencing physical distress. Human pain.

His pain was not only physical. It was also mental. The physical and the mental are so closely interrelated. The one affects the other. The pain reached into his heart, his soul, his mind. His heart was blighted and withered like grass. He was discouraged and depressed. His heart was weighed down.

Because of the physical and mental pain he experienced, he forgot to eat. He became anorexic. He was reduced to skin and bones.

His discouragement, his pain, his depression drove him away from the communion of saints. He was like a lonely bird. Like an owl haunting ruins of an old building. Like a bird alone on a rooftop. He could not sleep. He suffered insomnia. He lay awake at night.

To make things worse, he suffered the abuse, the scorn, of others.

When he did try to eat, his food tasted like ashes and he cried into his cup of water.

It is one thing to suffer due to your own fault. You can say, "It is my own fault. I have been foolish. I should not have done that to bring that misery on myself." Then you can learn from your mistakes.

It is even one thing to suffer at the hands of another person. It is awful, but you can blame that other person.

But now listen to what he says in v. 10: ... because of your great wrath, for you have taken me up and thrown me aside.

It is another thing not to know why you are suffering. It is another thing not to know what the lesson is. It is another thing to have God directly inflicting the pain.

He feels like God has discarded him. Thrown him aside. Cast him on the refuse pile.

He ends his litany of misery (in v. 11) where he began (in v. 3): His days were like an evening shadow; he withered away like grass.

Verses 3-11 are what he meant when he said, in v. 23, In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut short my days. He admitted his frailty. He confessed God's power and strength.

But look what he, then, did. Out of the midst of his desolation, he prayed to God. V. 24: He asked God not to take him away in the midst of his days. There he was in the middle of life. Things were coming to an end for him. Out of his physical and mental pain, he prayed. Not easy to do. But it is the good thing to do.

He had begun the Psalm with prayer. This was not half-hearted, routine prayer. This was passionate prayer. Listen: Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.

Five times he calls out to the Lord. Hear me! Listen to me! Don't hide from me! Turn your ear to me! Answer me!

Passionate prayer. May we pray that way when we suffer affliction? Yes, we may. We have a model here in Ps. 102.

Often our prayers become routine. We utter the right words and hardly know what we are saying anymore. There is nothing like a little distress to focus ones prayers. A desperate condition makes for a strong petition.

It is at this point that he began to find and experience consolation.

2. God brought his divine consolation to bear upon the man's human desolation.

As he began to pray, he quit looking at himself and his suffering. He began looking to God. The eternal God. In v. 25 he spoke about his own days and God's years. We live for days-a brief time. God lives for years-throughout the generations, forever.

Not only is God-everlasting compared to our brief sojourn upon the earth, but God created the heavens and the earth (v. 25). This is the God he will pray to. The everlasting God. The mighty God. The God who (v. 12) sits enthroned forever, whose great fame is spoken of generation after generation.

In the midst of our human transitions-birth, life, illness, death; lives a few days that disappear like smoke-in the midst of our lives, God remains forever. God will remain longer than his creation. V. 26-the heavens and the earth that God created-they will perish. They will wear out like your clothing wears out. Like you change your clothing and discard the worn out items, so the old heavens and the old earth will one day be discarded. But God will remain. He will remain the same. God's years will never end.

The day is coming when the first heaven and earth will have outlived its usefulness. God will discard them. He will remain. We know from the book of Revelation that the old heaven and earth will be replaced with a new heaven and a new earth. Peter wrote about this too: (2 Pet 3:13 NIV) But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

Not only will God outlast the first heaven and earth. We and our children will too. V. 28-The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you.

The unchanging everlasting God will create a new heaven and a new earth. We and our children will live in them, in the presence of God. We and our descendants will be firmly established before God forever.

Not only is our God powerful; he is also compassionate. The man writes about God's compassion. V. 13-God will arise and have compassion on his people. He will show favour to his church. V. 17-He responds to the prayers of the destitute and does not despise their prayers. God is not an unfeeling block of concrete. He is a faithful and loving father. He hears the groans of his suffering people. He responds gently, kindly, with care and love.

We may experience desolation in varying degrees. We may not understand why we experience certain difficulties. But let this console you: God is the unchanging, everlasting and ever-faithful and compassionate God. He is preparing a new heaven and a new earth for you where you will dwell in his presence forever beyond any desolation in the full experience of consolation.

This is yours in Christ. This good news is yours in the Lord Jesus Christ.

We know this because in Hebrews 1, Psalm 102:25 & 26 are applied to Christ. Hebrews 1:10-12 say that the beginning, [Christ] laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of [His] hands. [Creation] will perish, but [Christ will] remain; [creation] will all wear out like a garment. [Christ] will roll [heaven and earth] up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But [He will] remain the same, and [His] years will never end.

Heb. 1 teaches us that Psalm 102 is ultimately about the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our King, enthroned forever. He has the power. He has the compassion. He is our everlasting and unchanging Saviour. As Heb 13:8 says, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

The power and the compassion described in this Psalm belong to your Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. To the one who suffered all the desolation described in this Psalm. The suffering and desolation described in this Psalm belong to him as well. He underwent all the distress described in this Psalm. He suffered the physical pain. The mental anguish. The loneliness. The torment of his enemies. His life withered away like sun-scorched grass.

He suffered that for you. His strength was broken. His days cut short. He died a young man on a cross. He suffered the wrath of God for you.

He suffered it for you. To release you from all suffering and pain.

Oh, while we are still in this life, on this old earth, we still experience suffering and pain. But for us the wrath is gone. God uses suffering to discipline us, but not to punish us. The wrath is gone. Borne away by our Lord Jesus Christ. We look forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where there will be no tears. No tears in heaven.

This is the gospel for us. Gospel that brings us to praise the Lord. Even, as v. 18 says, for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord. It is for us and our descendants. As v. 28 says: "The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you." Gospel for us and succeeding generations.

Once again we stand upon the threshold of a new year. Without even really trying our minds drift to the future. We wonder what the year of our Lord 2004 will bring. We may even have our concerns about bringing children and grandchildren into this world. What a world! So much suffering! So much sadness, pain. So much to discourage us!

Let us rest in this. In the midst of the troubles of this life, let us rest in this: We have a Saviour who underwent all the human troubles and difficulties a person can endure; who underwent the wrath of God; who died but rose again and is now enthroned as our King. Our Saviour is the very same person who was there with the Father and the Spirit giving life to creation. The very same person who is going to come again, who is going to create a new heaven and a new earth. A place of us to dwell. A place where we, our forefathers and our children, will live forever with our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us rest in this. In this gospel. Consolation for 2004. AMEN

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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(c) Copyright 2003, Rev. George van Popta

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