Psalm 102 – Wasteland Bird

Psalm 102 Bible With Lily's Original Dark Chocolate on zebra plate

Today’s ChocolateLily’s Original Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassagePsalm 102

Conveniently, Psalm 102 summarizes itself in its own epigraph: “A Prayer of the Afflicted when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord.” In physical misery and shame before his enemies, the psalmist remembers God’s eternal nature and appeals to his longstanding faithfulness. This is a complex psalm, with several moves toward and away from disorientation, and I don’t expect to unpack all its intricacies in today’s post–but let’s see what I can dig up.

The psalmist dedicates the first seven verses to describing his affliction to God. It’s an odd practice, considering that God as God already knows every moment of the psalmist’s suffering as if God experienced it himself. On the other hand, our unidentified lyricist may intend not to remind God, but rather to implore him not to act as if it weren’t happening: “Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my distress” (102:2). And he may simply be looking for someone to listen to him, some space in which to express himself.

And he drops some potent imagery here. He describes his bodily suffering in scouring terms, but the end of this segment grabbed my attention. He compares himself to “a pelican of the wilderness,” “an owl of the waste places,” and “a lonely bird on a housetop” (102:6-7). There’s something striking about that to me: some gaunt bird in a desolate environment, perhaps perched on a dry tree or abandoned hut, an empty being in an empty world. It’s strong poetry, and perhaps there’s even a measure of theodicy in it: if God hadn’t let the psalmist go through this experience, we never would have gotten this psalm.

And of course that’s just scratching the surface of the psalmist’s suffering and plea here. If you’d like me to spend a second day on this psalm, please drop a comment to let me know. I’d be glad to postpone Psalm 103 for a day if there’s interest in camping out here for a bit longer.

Lily's Original Dark Chocolate Bar in wrapper, with Bible in background
Today’s chocolate is brought to you by my mom. Without her, I would not be alive, nor would I have this delicious bar of Lily’s chocolate.


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