When’s the last time you groaned about something? Not when you groaned at a bad joke. Sometimes I grunt at Far Side cartoons, but that’s a kind of fake groan. A sincere cry is deep and full of pain. Have you injured yourself and groaned as you felt your body part break or get pulled unnaturally? Most of us groan for ourselves when we are needy or in agony. But parents, grandparents, and closes relatives know what it’s like to lament deeply over someone else’s pain or trouble. And, right now, we’re groaning for the residents of Afghanistan and Haiti, which is appropriate. So is moaning internally when we have conflicts with others or are frustrated in our plans. Pain makes us cry when we lovingly feel someone else’s pain. But we probably don’t moan in love as much as we should because we don’t love as we are called. How often or deeply do we mourn over the destiny of the unsaved, condemned to eternal damnation for their unbelief? I have been on my knees (figuratively, at least) for the salvation of some people for over thirty years. By God’s grace, I have matured in Christ and no longer think I know what they need or try to convince them to believe in him. Now I humbly ask the Lord to intervene and share my love for God with them whenever possible. But I rarely groan passionately for them. I hope that these devotions on repentance will continue to significantly impact my view of how compassion and confession lead to sincere repentance on my part and for everyone.
A Model of Lamenting
In Psalm 102, the psalmist, in lonely agony, calls to God for quick help. He intends to see God praised and worshipped for his compassion on the doomed. He models calling on God with groans. On this side of the cross, we remember Christ’s agony, endured for our deliverance. The psalmist laments those who are doomed to condemnation. “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! For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread. Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh. I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places; I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop…Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be Lord may praise the Lord: that he looked down from his holy height; from heaven the Lord looked at the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die, that they may declare in Zion the name of the Lord, and in Jerusalem his praise, when peoples gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the Lord.” (Psalms 102:1-7, 18-22) Let’s face it, we don’t usually pray like this. Last Sunday our church family confessed together: “Precious Savior, we come to you confessing our pride. We confess our arrogance and tendency to think we are always in the right. Give us hearts that are responsive to your will and way. Make us quick to repent and seek your kingdom first. In so doing, we pray we would show froth your gospel, not just in holy living, but also in humility, sorrow over sin, repentance that leads to life and enduring joy.” If we let our sorrow for the unsaved sink in and repent of our intellectualism and detachment, we will be more useful to the Lord for the sake of the gospel.
A Model of Vulnerability and Christlikeness
The psalmist honestly and transparently writes about his suffering, partly due to his enemies taunting him, “who deride me use my name for a curse” (v. 8). However, he also acknowledges God’s “indignation and anger,” implying that he has deserved it for his sin (v. 10). As a result, he feels his life is like smoke, his bones burning in a fire, a withered heart, no appetite, loud groaning to his depths, and feeling utterly alone and cut off (vs. 3-7). It’s not easy to yield to Christ’s call for deep humility and weakness, but it’s essential if we are to move past our issues in concern for others. We aren’t loving, gracious, and kind to others when we are caught up in our fears, pride, or anxieties. It’s only when we are willing to pour out our hearts to God that we can focus on the needs of others with the love of Christ, as God works repentance in us. Otherwise, we serve half-heartedly in our own strength, usually unaware that we are doing so. The psalmist calls on God to answer his prayer quickly so that he can put his mind and heart to the people of Zion (vs.1-2). “Good men are always for speedy answers of prayer; they would have them the day, the hour, the moment they are calling upon God.” (1) Job repeatedly voiced his desire to meet with the Lord “Today also my complaint is bitter; my hand is heavy on account of my groaning. Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know what he would answer me and understand what he would say to me. Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; he would pay attention to me. There an upright man could argue with him, and I would be acquitted forever by my judge.” (Job 23:1-7) “Blessed be God, we may know where to find him. He is in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself; and upon a mercy-seat, waiting to be gracious. Thither the sinner may go; and there the believer may order his cause before Him, with arguments taken from his promises, his covenant, and his glory.” (2)
A Model for Moving On
“Having broken the damaging preoccupation with self that so often strangles our spiritual lives, the psalmist now finds himself thinking about other situations and other people and praying confidently for them…[In verses 18-22] he prays for the rebuilding of Jerusalem…his concern for the city embraces his concern for the people in it. When the people of God cease thinking about themselves so much and begin thinking about the state of things around them, particularly our cities and those who are suffering in them, then God may indeed hear our prayers and send a revival. [He also prays for] the conversion of the Gentile nations, whom he sees coming to worship God at some future day. This is nothing less than a worldwide missionary outlook, a view that has always marked the church in its best periods. We need it today… [A third thing he prays for is] the church of the future. One of the most fascinating things about the transformed, global outlook of the psalmist is that he sees his own time relating to a future time, for he is sure that what God is about to do to save and deliver his people will be recorded in writing to be a source of blessing for the future church. (v. 18)” (3)
Are we willing to groan for the world, not just ourselves and our immediate circle of family and friends? Are we going to remember Christ’s agony, which he endured for our deliverance, and those who are doomed to condemnation? “Most of the nations of the world are beset with national sins that demand repentance. Abortion defiles entire lands. Sexual promiscuity blackens every corner of the earth….The persecution of God’s children is a national evil that cannot escape punishment…National repentance must start somewhere. Why shouldn’t it start with you? If your repentance is in place, ask God to give you a voice that others will hear.” (4) We must ask ourselves, “Is my repentance in place?” Only then are we able to effectively pray for repentance for others and the world. “‘Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise,’ says the Lord; ‘I will place him in the safety for which he longs.’” (Psalms 12:5)
Related Scripture: Exodus 2:23-24; Deuteronomy 31:19; Job 30:24-31; Psalm 22;22, 29-31; 72:11; 79:11; 84:1-4; 142:1-2; Isaiah 65:24; Zechariah 9:14-17; Romans 8:20-25; 15:4-7; 2 Corinthians 5:1-5; James 4:14.
- Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalm 102:1-2, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-102.html
- Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Job 23:1-7, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/job-23.html
- Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Psalm 102, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
- Roberts, Richard Owen, “Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel,” pp. 292, Crossway, 2002.
August 19, 2021