Many exceedingly great and precious comforts are here thought of, and mustered up, to balance the foregoing complaints; for unto the upright there arises light in the darkness, so that, though they are cast down, they are not in despair. It is bad with the psalmist himself, bad with the people of God; but he has many considerations to revive himself with.
I. We are dying creatures, and our interests and comforts are dying, but God is an everliving everlasting God (Ps. 102:12): “My days are like a shadow; there is no remedy; night is coming upon me; but, thou, O Lord! shalt endure for ever. Our life is transient, but thine is permanent; our friends die, but thou our God diest not; what threatened us cannot touch thee; our names will be written in the dust and buried in oblivion, but thy remembrance shall be unto all generations; to the end of time, nay, to eternity, thou shalt be known and honoured.” A good man loves God better than himself, and therefore can balance his own sorrow and death with the pleasing thought of the unchangeable blessedness of the Eternal Mind. God endures forever, his church’s faithful patron and protector; and, his honour and perpetual remembrance being very much bound up in her interests, we may be confident that they shall not be neglected.
II. Poor Zion is now in distress, but there will come a time for her relief and succour (Ps. 102:13): Thou shalt arise and have mercy upon Zion. The hope of deliverance is built upon the goodness of God—“Thou wilt have mercy upon Zion, for she has become an object of thy pity;” and upon the power of God—“Thou shalt arise and have mercy, shalt stir up thyself to do it, shalt do it in contempt of all the opposition made by the church’s enemies.” The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this. That which is very encouraging is that there is a time set for the deliverance of the church, which not only will come some time, but will come at the time appointed, the time which Infinite Wisdom has appointed (and therefore it is the best time) and which Eternal Truth has fixed it to, and therefore it is a certain time, and shall not be forgotten nor further adjourned. At the end of seventy years, the time to favour Zion, by delivering her from the daughter of Babylon, was to come, and at length it did come. Zion was now in ruins, that is, the temple that was built in the city of David: the favouring of Zion is the building of the temple up again, as it is explained, Ps. 102:16. This is expected from the favour of God; that will set all to rights, and nothing but that, and therefore Daniel prays (Dan. 9:17), Cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary, which is desolate. The building up of Zion is as great a favour to any people as they can desire. No blessing more desirable to a ruined state than the restoring and re-establishing of their church-privileges. Now this is here wished for and longed for, 1. Because it would be a great rejoicing to Zion’s friends (Ps. 102:14): Thy servants take pleasure even in the stones of the temple, though they were thrown down and scattered, and favour the dust, the very rubbish and ruins of it. Observe here, When the temple was ruined, yet the stones of it were to be had for a new building, and there were those who encouraged themselves with that, for they had a favour even for the dust of it. Those who truly love the church of God love it when it is in affliction as well as when it is in prosperity; and it is a good ground to hope that God will favour the ruins of Zion when he puts it into the heart of his people to favour them, and to show that they do so by their prayers and by their endeavours; as it is also a good plea with God for mercy for Zion that there are those who are so affectionately concerned for her, and are waiting for the salvation of the Lord. 2. Because it would have a good influence upon Zion’s neighbours, Ps. 102:15. It will be a happy means perhaps of their conversion, at least of their conviction; for so the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, shall have high thoughts of him and his people, and even the kings of the earth shall be affected with his glory. They shall have better thoughts of the church of God than they have had, when God by his providence thus puts an honour upon it; they shall be afraid of doing any thing against it when they see God taking its part; nay, they shall say, We will go with you, for we have seen that God is with you, Zech. 8:23. Thus it is said (Est. 8:17) that many of the people of the land became Jews, for the fear of the Jews fell upon them. 3. Because it would redound to the honour of Zion’s God (Ps. 102:16): When the Lord shall build up Zion. They take it for granted it will be done, for God himself has undertaken it, and he shall then appear in his glory; and for that reason all that have made his glory their highest end desire it and pray for it. Note, The edifying of the church will be the glorifying of God, and therefore we may be assured it will be done in the set time. Those that pray in faith, Father, glorify thy name, may receive the same answer to that prayer which was given to Christ himself by a voice from heaven, I have both glorified it and I will glorify it yet again, though now for a time it may be eclipsed.
III. The prayers of God’s people now seem to be slighted and no notice taken of them, but they will be reviewed and greatly encouraged (Ps. 102:17): He will regard the prayer of the destitute. It was said (Ps. 102:16) that God will appear in his glory, such a glory as kings themselves shall stand in awe of, Ps. 102:15. When great men appear in their glory they are apt to look with disdain upon the poor that apply to them; but the great God will not do so. Observe, 1. The meanness of the petitioners; they are the destitute. It is an elegant word that is here used, which signifies the heath in the wilderness, a low shrub, or bush, like the hyssop of the wall. They are supposed to be in a low and broken state, enriched with spiritual blessings, but destitute of temporal good things—the poor, the weak, the desolate, the stripped; thus variously is the word rendered; or it may signify that low and broken spirit which God looks for in all that draw nigh to him and which he will graciously look upon. This will bring them to their knees. Destitute people should be praying people, 1 Tim. 5:5. 2. The favour of God to them, notwithstanding their meanness: He will regard their prayer, and will look at it, will peruse their petition (2 Chron. 6:40), and he will not despise their prayer. More is implied than is expressed: he will value it and be well pleased with it, and will return an answer of peace to it, which is the greatest honour that can be put upon it. But it is thus expressed because others despise their praying, they themselves fear God will despise it, and he was thought to despise it while their affliction was prolonged and their prayers lay unanswered. When we consider our own meanness and vileness, our darkness and deadness, and the manifold defects in our prayers, we have cause to suspect that our prayers will be received with disdain in heaven; but we are here assured of the contrary, for we have an advocate with the Father, and are under grace, not under the law. This instance of God’s favour to his praying people, though they are destitute, will be a lasting encouragement to prayer (Ps. 102:18): This shall be written for the generation to come, that none may despair, though they be destitute, nor think their prayers forgotten because they have not an answer to them immediately. The experiences of others should be our encouragements to seek unto God and trust in him. And, if we have the comfort of the experiences of others, it is fit that we should give God the glory of them: The people who shall be created shall praise the Lord for what he has done both for them and for their predecessors. Many that are now unborn shall, by reading the history of the church, be wrought upon to turn proselytes. The people that shall be created anew by divine grace, that are a kind of first-fruits of his creatures, shall praise the Lord for his answers to their prayers when they were more destitute.
IV. The prisoners under condemnation unjustly seem as sheep appointed for the slaughter, but care shall be taken for their discharge (Ps. 102:19, 20): God has looked down from the height of his sanctuary, from heaven, where he has prepared his throne, that high place, that holy place; thence did the Lord behold the earth, for it is a place of prospect, and nothing on this earth is or can be hidden from his all-seeing eye; he looks down, not to take a view of the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, but to do acts of grace, to hear the groaning of the prisoners (which we desire to be out of the hearing of), and not only to hear them, but to help them, to loose those that are appointed to death, then when there is but a step between them and it. Some understand it of the release of the Jews out of their captivity in Babylon. God heard their groaning there as he did when they were in Egypt (Exod. 3:7, 9) and came down to deliver them. God takes notice not only of the prayers of his afflicted people, which are the language of grace, but even of their groans, which are the language of nature. See the divine pity in hearing the prisoner’s groans, and the divine power in loosing the prisoner’s bonds, even when they are appointed to death and are pinioned and double-shackled. We have an instance in Peter, Acts 12:6. Such instances as these of the divine condescension and compassion will help, 1. To declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and to make it appear that he answers to his name, which he himself proclaimed, The Lord God, gracious and merciful; and this declaration of his name in Zion shall be the matter of his praise in Jerusalem, Ps. 102:21. If God by his providences declare his name, we must by our acknowledgments of them declare his praise, which ought to be the echo of his name. God will discharge his people that were prisoners and captives in Babylon, that they may declare his name in Zion, the place he has chosen to put his name there, and his praise in Jerusalem, at their return thither; in the land of their captivity they could not sing the songs of Zion (Ps. 137:3, 4), and God brought them again to Jerusalem in order that they might sing them there. For this end God gives liberty from bondage (Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name, Ps. 142:7), and life from the dead. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee, Ps. 119:175. 2. They will help to draw in others to the worship of God (Ps. 102:22): When the people of God are gathered together at Jerusalem (as they were after their return out of Babylon) many out of the kingdoms joined with them to serve the Lord. This was fulfilled Ezra 6:21; where we find that not only the children of Israel that had come out of captivity, but many that had separated themselves from them among the heathen, did keep the feast of unleavened bread with joy. But it may look further, at the conversion of the Gentiles to the faith of Christ in the latter days. Christ has proclaimed liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those that were bound, that they may declare the name of the Lord in the gospel-church, in which Jews and Gentiles shall unite.