We're gonna read from the Bible now. So if you wanna grab a Bible And if you have a church bible, we're reading from some 102 on Page 6 0 5. That's Psalm 102. Here my prayer, 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. For my days vanish like smoke, my bones burn like glowing embers, My heart is blighted and withered like grass. I forget to eat my food. In my distress, I grown aloud and I'm reduced to skin and bones. I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins.
I lie awake I have become like a bird alone on the roof. All day long, my enemies taunts me. Those who rail against me Use my name as a curse for I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears because of your grace wrath for you have taken me up and thrown me aside. My days are like the evening shadow. I wither away like grass.
But you, Lord, sits and thrown forever. Your renowned endears through all generations. You will arise and have compassion on Zion. For this time to show favor to her, the appointed time has come. For her stones are jancier servants, her very dust moves them to pity.
The nations will fear the name of the lord all the kings of the Earth will revere your glory. For the lord, we'll rebuild Zion and appear in his glory. He will respond to the prayer of the destitute. He will not despise their plea. Let this be written for future generation as a people not yet created may praise the Lord.
The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high from heaven, he view the earth to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death. So the name of the lord will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the lord. In the course of my life, he broke my strength. He cut short my days. So I said, do not take me away my God in the midst of my days.
Your years go on through all generations. In the beginning, you lay the foundations of the earth. And the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish but you remain. They will all wear out like a garment Like clothing, you will change them and they will be discarded.
But you remain the same and your years will never end. The children of your servants will live in your presence, their descendants will be established before you. And now, Tom is going to come and explain that word to us. Great. And And if we haven't met already, I'm 1 of the pastors here at the church.
Lovely to have some new And so if you are here for the first time, ever really really well, probably have some children with us. You have you you're welcome. It's good that we're look this song together. So just what? They're about Phil leading.
Leaving on the piano, isn't it? I texted him earlier today just to say, oh, we I vocals, you know, doing the singing. And he said, no. I'm just gonna stare at people when it's time for them to sing. And I thought that might be a good leadership strategy going forward.
Have less people telling what to do and more people just staring at us when it's time to do things. Yeah. Initially, quite hostile. If you're new to the church, I think, but just a staring when it's time for you to do things. So But thank you for serving us Phil.
Let's pray together as we open up this song. Father, we do thank you that your years are without end. Everything else in this world and even this world itself is passing and it is fading. And yet we come to you this evening and recognize that you will reign forever and ever and ever. You do not change.
You are not subject to weakness and sickness and frailty. Tim yesterday, and you rule forever. Thank you that that is news for us that we can trust you and know the joy of being part of something, that is so much bigger and stronger than ourselves. And we pray that as we look at this, been this evening that you would really convince us on a heart level of the truth of your word that we might change in light of it in Jesus name, amen. Now if you were in the morning We were looking at a passage in the new testament from the book of James James chapter 4, and we were spending our time in verse and team.
This, just to remind you of that. Says now listen. Today or we will go to that city. Carry on business and make money. Why?
Do not what will happen to is your life? Missed, while and and initially at a first reading, you might think that's quite a depressing v but a miserable way to think about life. You know, I'm just a I'm a shadow. I'm fading. My years are running out.
It doesn't sound very hopeful and positive. And yet, I hope that we saw both this morning and I hope we will see this evening that actually realizing that about ourselves is really, really good news. Because when we realize that that is true about our lives, what it does is it cuts out boasting. It just cuts through arrogant boasting. It just chops pride down at the legs and makes us realize, yes, that is what I am.
And therefore I need to look to 1 and trust in 1 who is so much bigger than my than myself. And I did about you, but I I really do need that perspective all all the time because that is not something that comes naturally to to me, not something that comes naturally to me. But I am thankful that the lord in his goodness and in his kindness is merciful enough to show me and to show all of us that that is what our lives are like, that we are fragile, that we are vulnerable so that we can look to him and find our joy in him. And that is the reason that we're looking at this Psalm this evening, Psalm 102 because if you were there this morning, you you may have noticed that there's lots of similar ideas here, lots of similar language, and this is 1 of the old testament passages that really, you know, sits under James chapter 4. So you can see verse 3 for instance.
He says, for my days, vanish like smoke. My bones burn like glowing embers. Or in verse 11, he says my days are like the evening shadow. I wither away like the grass. And so here is a person who has learned about himself what James is teaching in chapter 4.
He's actually come to realize that that is what his life is like. It's it's a shadow. It's like the grass. It's like the mist. And yet in his realizing of that, he also comes to understand who his god is, that his god is so very different to him.
So much greater than him in that sense. And it turns out that when shadows and mists like us to scrubber who God is. That is always a wonderful wonderful discovery. And so I hope this evening whether we're you know, the oldest in the room or whether the kids were the youngest in the room that we will see how how good it is to realize that our lives are short. But that God is amazing and lives forever and that we can we can trust in him.
And so there's just 2 headings for us tonight from this from this quite big Psalm. And the first the first 1 is this. I'll just turn that on. That would help. Like an owl among the ruins, the cry of the afflicted, like an owl among the ruins, the cry of of the afflicted.
And if you're new to this book of Psalms, if you never read it before, This is often called the songbook of the bible. It's a book of prayers and songs and meditations, which tell us lots about God. Which tell us all about people's experience of trying to live with God and for God. And it's very, very honest in in lots of ways and it's helped Christians in their prayer lives for generations because of that. And if you have a look at the top bit, it may just flash back it.
So you can see it. If in case you haven't got a bible, I'll go all the way back there. That first bit, the the heading, just under the word Psalm 102, It's quite helpful really because it says that a prayer of an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the lord. And that is actually not an editors an editors note. That is part of the song.
That's as much a part of the Hebrew, this was written in as verse 1. And it's a really useful introduction because it tells us what we're dealing with here. Tells us what the Psalm is about. We are about to read the experiences of 1 who has been afflicted and grown weak and pours out a lament before the lord. Now that word affliction can mean lots of different things.
It can mean someone who has become poor, it can mean someone who's struck down with a sickness. It can mean someone who's been humbled in in all kinds of different ways and and yet is turning is turning to the lord in that weakness. And yeah, I think we're supposed to see here that this is more than just an individual Psalm. This is a Psalm that all of God's people can pray together. And you pick that up in verses 12 12 to 13.
You see it moves from the individual to the zion word, which really is about city of God or the people of God. So the writer says, but you, Lord, sit in throne forever. Your renowned endures through all generations. You will arise and have compassion on zion. So this is about an individual, but the individual stands for the nation.
That's the kind of thing going on. And as you can see in the first few verses, this person is in a really bad way Look at all the different descriptions. He talks about a fever in his bones, a fever inside of himself. He talks about hunger in his belly. You know, that's 1 of the things when you're really, really sad, isn't it?
That you actually forget to eat and drink. Have you ever had that when you've been so been so mournful. Esther's thinking, no, I've I've literally never had that experience. I've always wanted to eat it. But that is what people can go through when they're very, very sad.
They can't eat and they can't drink. He talks about sleeplessness at night. You know, can't can't even find sleep because he's in such turmoil. There's sadness in his own soul. There's loneliness in his community.
He feels rejected by his enemies. This is like it's like reading a tragedy. Isn't it? You know, the people of God according to the old testament were supposed to be like a vineyard that was flourishing and healthy and getting bigger and bigger. It was supposed to be like a city that had strong foundations and shone in the world and was getting bigger and bigger.
But now look what they've become. And then verse 8, all day long my enemies taunts me. Those who rail against me use my name as a curse. Imagine that. Have been so hated that your name is used as a swear word used as a curse.
That's what that's what Bikat has become. And again, it's a tragedy, isn't it? Because you think about what the people of God were supposed to be, They were supposed to be a light to the nations. They were supposed to be a city on a hill, a lamp, on a stand. So that as the world looked at them and saw them prospering under God, They'd be attracted to that community.
They wanna be part of it. But who's gonna be want to be part of this? You said ruins They're being mocked by everybody else. And so you can see this is a this is a tragedy. And what has caused this, that's good question to ask.
Isn't it? What has caused this? Well, have a look at verse 9. For I eat ashes as my food, and mingle my drink with tears because of your great wrath. For you have taken me up and thrown me aside.
And then verse 23, it says in the course of my life, he broke my strength. He cut short my days. Now, it's not clear exactly why the lord has done this from this Psalm. It's not clear that there's a particular sin that is being disciplined here. We're not told that there's anything that is actually repented of or a sin that they're being disciplined for.
But the point is this that the lord god, our heavenly father, humbles these people, gets them to see what their life is like. So that they may turn turn to him. And if that happened to this writer and to this nation, then we can be sure Similar things will happen to those of us who take God's name in this generation. In God's kindness and his mercy, And because he loves us so much, he will do all kinds of things to humble us and to show us that our lives are a mist and that we it might that we need him. You know, it might be a weakness of some kind that we that we feel in ourselves.
It might be periods of sickness that we go through. It might be persecution that we experience. If you're at school maybe and you want to talk about church and following God and people laugh at that, but that's a hard thing. It makes us feel weak, doesn't it, when that happens? It might be it might be all all all different kinds of things.
And yet the law sends these things to show us how It might be that he allows our sin to run its course sometimes to show us our weakness. It's interesting, isn't it very often when we sin And I don't think we realized this that the lord in his kindness quickly steps intohem us in. You know, stops us going as far as we could go. In his mercy. But sometimes he might withdraw his hand slightly, leave us to follow the course of our sin so that we may realize how weak and vulnerable we are.
Sometimes, God shows us our weakness by being extra kind to us. If you've had that experience. In Romans chapter 2, verse 4, Paul says that God's kindness leads us to repentance. I was reading something on this this week, and 1 American writer was talking about an argument that he and his wife had in their in their home. And it was a silly thing really, but the the husband had found in the garage this this big box of rotting fruit that that had been left there.
And he went in and said saying to his wife, why, you know, why has the fruit been left or right in the garage? Did you forgotten all about it? You know, did you buy it? You know, why didn't you bring it in? They had this row over this rotting fruit and she went off to her room and was very upset.
And he was feeling bad and he went outside to the to the mailbox or to take the rubbish out and just stood there for a moment and just felt that the glorious summer sunshine on his face and a soft breeze upon his cheeks. And he just he just felt that God was kissing him. That even though he'd been so horrible, God and this was being so merciful and he just started crying apparently it just broke him. That display of kindness that kind of led him to repentance. He says God would have been in his rights to send a car flying over the pavement into me to shut my mouth, to stop me doing it again.
It would have been well within his rights, and I would have been without reason to complain. But he chose to show me kindness in that moment to bring me to repentance. And the Lord can do that. Can't he shows us how weak we are by being extra kind to us sometimes. It might be that he he stretches us.
You know, there's a new challenge in life, something that we feel that we don't have the resources to complete. We feel like we're unable to do it. And that forces us to say, Lord, I'm gonna need you all the time for this. I'm gonna I'm gonna need you because I can't do this. In my in my own strength.
And so the point is that there there are all sorts of things that the lord uses to make us realize how fragile we are. Now unfortunately, we're not spirit inspired authors of the bible in the same way, so we can't absolutely say how God is doing that all the time. But we do know that he is absolutely sovereign and he is absolutely loving and he will do what is necessary to make us see. That we are fragile and we are shadows and we are myths and that we we need him. And that's where I think the title of this song is quite encouraging.
Because you notice in what, in 1 sense, it's quite vague, isn't it? The prayer of an afflicted person who has grown we can pours out and lament before the Lord. And I think the lack of specifics there is an intentional thing because it invites us to read our own afflictions into it. We can say, yes, that's like what I'm going through. That's what I need to learn.
It's not just tied to 1 person in history. It's something that we can all experience, something that we all need, and something that we can all pray. And so the key thing here about this affliction in Psalm 102 is that, you know, undoubtedly what he's going through is not a pleasant experience. But the point is it's it's not condemnation either. But the lord is not punishing this person.
This is not a condemnation. This is the work of a loving father who's trying to humble his people and this person to get them to to realize that. Because there is already 1 who has taken the condom. And when you read versus 3 to 11 and you think about Jesus, suddenly a light goes on in your in your mind, doesn't it? And you think, oh 0, yeah.
Who who is that? Ultimately, Who's that person? Who is the person who was distressed and grown aloud? Who is the person who was reduced to skin and bones? Who was the 1 who cried out in desolation and loneliness?
My God, I'm mistaken. Who was the 1 who had enemies gathering around in to taunt him? Using his name as a swear word, mocking him. Who was that? Ultimately, who is this afflicted servant?
Well, it's the lord Jesus Christ, isn't it? It's the lord Jesus on the cross, being afflicted and mocked, being punished for our sins so that we don't have to be. There is 1 who has already taken our condemnation. And so we know that whatever humbling experiences we go through, it is not it's not punishment because the punishment's been paid. It's discipline, it's kindness, it's showing us that we we need we need the lord.
And so that first point then is all about the cry of a cry of the afflicted person. And let's move now to the second point. You will arise and have compassion, the hope of God's servants. So we've looked at the cry of affliction. Let's look at the hope of God's servants.
And did you notice how encouraging verse 1 is? It begins this way. Here, my prayer lord. Let my cry for help come to you. Where does he turn in his affliction?
Well, he doesn't turn to drink He doesn't turn to drugs. He doesn't turn to lust. He doesn't turn to wealth. He doesn't turn to a whole host of things. That could provide him with comfort in his sadness.
He turns to the lord. Here, my prayer lord. Let my cry for help come to you and notice what he calls God. It's that capital l o r d which is the name of God's personal name. It's Yahweh, it's the covenant name.
And so the hope of this Psalm is that this person is turning to the lord and praying within the safety of the covenant. He already knows that this God will hear him, that this God is committed to him, that this God has made promises to him, and there's safety even his his affliction because there's a big promise making god who he's turning to. He turns to the lord. And not only in prayer, he preaches to himself, You notice that? He preaches to himself in his affliction and oh, how we need to learn to do that?
More and more preach truth to ourselves. When we're going through these type of things. I mean, if the Psalm finished after verse 11, it would change the feel of it completely, wouldn't it? Look at verse 11. My days are like the evening shadow.
I wither away like grass the end. I would change the feel of it. But you, Lord, sit in throne forever, and your renowned endures through all gen breaches. To himself, say, in the course of my life, he broke my strength, he cut short my days So I wallowed in self pity for the rest of my life. No.
So I said, do not outweigh my god in the Your years go on through all the generations. See how he preaches to himself. He moves from I and me and self to you and god, and it moves from I language to you language. He preaches to himself about what he needs, what he needs to know. And what does he find the most comfort here?
What does he find most comfort in? Well, it's this. The source of his comfort and strength in his affliction is that God is not like him. Say that again because it's a big thing here. The source of his comfort in his affliction is that God is not like him.
See, at Christmas time, we remember the opposite of that in some ways. Don't we? We remember the moment in history where God did become like us in every way except for sin. He became like us. He became 1 of us.
And we celebrate that all the year round because all of our hope and salvation is in that. But it is also very, very good news that God is not like us. Now why is that? Well, because what shadows and myths need is not a god who is also a shadow and a mist. We don't want a god like us doing in that respect.
We don't want a god in heaven who is fading and who is dying and who is weak and who is changing every other week. We want him to be radically different from us in that respect. We want him to be unchanging and strong and ever living. We want him to be different from us. And notice that's where he goes, verse 12.
I mean, it's just contrast is is amazing. My days are like the evening shadow. Now saying this morning, what's interesting about the evening shadow is it's the 1 that stretching and fading into darkness. It's getting longer and longer and then it disappears. I wither away like grass, but you, lord, sit enthroned forever.
Your renowned endures through all generations. It's the difference between him and god that makes him feel hopeful again. I used to live with a a person at university. When I was studying at university, I have 1 of my housemates who was a a girl who was studying in Kingston. And she had this and I'll never forget it.
She had on her wall this big kind of college of sayings and verses from different religions and philosophies in the world. And what she'd done over the course of a few years was to find the ones that most resonated with her from the different religions, cut them out, stuck them together, and and for her That is what that is what God was. That was what she worshiped, what she looked to. This God made in her own image from all the philosophies of the world. But you see that is that's a massive problem with New Age spirituality.
Which says I can define God, I can have him on my terms. Why is that problematic? Because you can't trust a God like that. You can't depend on 1 like that. You can't turn to 1 like that in affliction because you've created him and you're not quite sure what he's like.
And if you discover something good about him from another religion, which you haven't already known, then you gotta change him because you gotta make him adapt to fit with that new thing which you now love, which you didn't know about before. And so he's this changing shadow that you can't trust. We don't want a God like that. Do we? We want 1 like this.
You sit in throne forever. You endure through all the generations. How good is this? Our days are vanishing like smoke. Before we know it, this 1 will be gone and the next 1 will be gone and the next year will be gone.
They are vanishing like smoke, the holidays, which we look forward to so much. And we we put so much weight of expectation on them. The relaxation I'm gonna enjoy, the reading I'm gonna be able to do, the fun I'm gonna be able to have, and they've gone by Tuesday. Tuesday, they vanish like smoke. Even the heavens and the earth.
Did you notice what he says about the heavens and the earth at the end of the Somme? Verse 25. In the beginning, you lay the foundations of the earth and the heavens of the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain. They will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing, you will change them, and they will be discarded, but you remain the same. Isn't that extraordinary. But not only our lives, but the very ground on which we walk, the universe that we live in is vanishing like smoke. It's here 1 minute and gone the next. It's like a garment that is gonna be rolled up and changed.
But verse 27, here's the hope again. But you remain the same and your years will never end. Love the contrast there again between my days and your years. My days are like this. Your years are like that.
What is the hope of god's people when they are afflicted and they feel their lives to be missed? Their hope is in the difference between them and god and not in the similarity that he is so different from us and that is really good news. But our hope is also in his compassion. And this Psalm is so full of his compassion. Have a look at verses 13 to 14 with me in the song.
You will arise and have compassion on Zion for it is time to show her favor. The appointed time has come for her stones are dear to your servants. Her very dust moves them to pity. Verse 17, the Lord will respond to the prayer of the destitute. He will not despise their plea verse 19.
The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high from heaven he viewed the earth to hear the groans of the prisoners. And release those who are condemned to death. Here is the eternal unchanging God whose years extend forever and he is full of compassion for his people. He's moved to pity towards them. He comes and he wants to release them.
From death. He wants to rebuild them when they've been ruined. He wants to re home them when they feel lonely. Even the smallest part of the people of God is precious to him. You notice that the dust, it says, the dust is precious to his servants.
Even the smallest, most insignificant part of god's city is precious. The dust is precious. The dust moves him to pity. And this is the hope of God's servants, isn't it? But God is not just eternal and distant.
He is eternal and moves towards us in pity and compassion to save us and to raise us up and to strengthen us again. It would not in the end be good news if God was just the eternal, eternal, unmoving, unchanging rock far away and distant. We want 1 who is like that. But looks at us and loves us and cares about us and moves towards us and lifts us out of our sufferings. And that is what the Lord does.
That is the hope of God's servants, and that was the hope of Jesus as well. That was his hope. See, it's interesting, verse 25 to 27. If you look at that again, verse 25 to 27, it feels like at first glance, just an extension of what this psalmist has already been praying. Doesn't it?
In the beginning, you laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens of the work of your hands. And in 1 sense, it is just a continuation of his prayer. But actually, when you turn to Hebrews 1, you see a different perspective on this because this is not just the voice of the psalmist anymore. This is the voice of God to Jesus. This is what the father says to Jesus.
Have a look with me at Hebrews 1, it's on the screen. He also says, now in Hebrews 1, that's the lord. The lord is telling us why Jesus is greater than the angels. And here's what he says, the father, the Lord says, and he's talking to Jesus. In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens of the work of your hands.
They will perish but you remain. They will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe, like a garment, they will be changed, but you remain the same and your years will never end. That's really interesting, isn't it? That the father is saying that to Jesus in Hebrews 1.
He's saying, you, my son, you were afflicted. You were this person. You were punished for the sake of your people, but now you are raised to glory, and your years will never end. And you're gonna reign forever and ever and yours will be the new creation and you will reign over Zion forever and it will belong to you my son, my king of kings, my appointed 1. The father is praying that to Jesus.
So this was not just the hope of the salvation, This prayer was the hope of Jesus that he was gonna reign after his sufferings forever and ever and ever and so will, so will we. So will we? And so we see here a wonderful journey. Don't we? The cry of the afflicted and then the hope of God's the hope of God's servants And just as we finish, a couple of things for us to to take away.
Because it might be that you're here and, you know, either you're still in the very early stages of life and, you know, or you or you just to be honest, you read about vanishing like smoke and burns bones burning like embers, and you think that I just can't sympathize with that. I mean, my life looks nothing like that. I I feel quite comfortable. I feel quite strong. I feel like my best years are ahead of me.
Well, that may be true, but I think 1 of the reasons that this is here is to help us to understand other people who go through go through things like this. I think when we read of this, it gives us language to under stand people suffering. So we can begin to sympathize with them. We can understand how God's servants do feel sometimes in this world. And I so I think it's good even if we find it hard to actually read ourselves into it at the moment to know it so that we can say, oh, this might be like what my brothers and sisters are feeling at the moment.
This might be what it's like for them. Maybe I can read this and try to understand that a bit more. But if you're hearing you're saying, well, no, this is so completely foreign to me. I've got no idea what this writer is talking about, then maybe you should pray with the psalmist in Psalm 90 verse 12. Where he says, teach me to number my days that I may gain a heart of wisdom.
Teach me to number my days. Because the truth is if we are going to have a heart of wisdom in this world, we need to have this perspective. We will be foolish and we will be unwise and we will make shipwreck of our lives if we do not learn to number our days properly. We need to see that we are myths, but that God is a great God. So that's the first thing.
Second thing and lastly, the main thing really is I hope you can see the value of this perspective. At the beginning, I said, I hope it's not in the end depressing. To realize that your life is a is a mist and that your days are vanishing like smoke. It can actually be the best news that you've ever heard. If you realize it and then turn to turn to the lord and realize how different from you he is and yet how much love he has for you.
It's great when you realize that. I missed, I'm vanishing, but my God loves me and he's gonna rain forever. And I'm and I'm with him. So as long as you then turn it to faith, it becomes great news. And that's how the cry of verse 1 becomes the confident faith of verse 28.
You see how he ends, the children of your servants will live in your presence. Their descendants will be established before you. Yes, we are missed. But this psalmist would have us leave here thinking, although that is true and no matter how weak we are, you are part of a great a great success story, a great success story. 1 day Jesus is gonna come again in his glory And if you love him now, you will be with him there then.
You will be. And you will share in the greatest success of all And on that day, our lives will no longer be a shadow. Our years will no longer vanish, but we will live forever and ever and ever and ever going from strength to strength and from 1 degree of glory to the next. As we reign with our eternal God. We are a mist, but only for a while, because on the day of resurrection, we will reign with our God forever and ever, and that future is certain because he rains forever.
He rains forever. Let's pray. I'll just give you a moment just to think through the flow of that song from the feelings of affliction, the feelings of being humbled to the greatness of God and just give you a chance to respond and then I'll lead us in a prayer. Father, we thank you that you are such a good father to us. And we thank you that you love us too much to leave us in our arrogance and our boastful schemes.
And that you will use all sorts of things to bring us to the same conclusions that this service came to. That our days are vanishing, that our years are fading, that our shadows are lengthening, that we are passing from this world. But that you are the God who reigns forever and ever, and you are not subject to any change. You do not grow weak or die or fade. We do not have to update you or patch you or download new versions of you.
You are forever good and forever the same. And that is in the end exactly what we want so that we can trust you in this world of changing, shifting advice. We thank you, lord, that you are not just the eternal force, but that you are the God of compassion. Who looks upon us in weakness and comes to rescue us through the lord Jesus. We thank you that this Psalm ultimately points us to him the afflicted servant who now reigns forever and ever.
And we pray lords that as we continue in life, whether we're whether we're just at the beginnings of life or towards the end, please help us to get this perspective to know what we are like, to know what you are like, and to invest our lives in the best way. And we ask all of these things in Jesus name. Amen?