When I reflected on those events, it seemed to me that such a severe tragedy for the Jewish people must have been foretold through the prophets. Searching the Scriptures, I think that indeed it was. David prophesied about a time of great tribulation that would lead to the appointed time to show favor to Zion. He described suffering and pain, becoming skin and bones, being taunted, having one’s name used like a curse, being thrown aside, placed among ruins, withering away, and even burning bones. I don’t think it requires too much imagination to visualize gold stars, ghettos, concentration camps, or the death camps with their gas chambers and ovens, when reading these descriptions. It would seem utterly hopeless, except for the final lines, “You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; The appointed time has come.” Out of this unspeakable tragedy, God changed the heart of the world and brought Israel once again back into her own land.
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 groan aloud and am 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 a roof. All day long my enemies taunt 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 great 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, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come. – Psalm 102:3-13 (emphasis added) NIV
It may be tempting for some Christians to think that the Jews brought all of that suffering on themselves because God rejected them for their hardness of heart; but God has repeatedly delivered his people through tribulation and travail to save them because He loves them. Remember the deliverance of Noah. If you think Noah was on a pleasure cruise for a year while the earth was being destroyed by water, you might have the wrong picture of what being saved through a global flood was like.
Job, too, was a preacher of righteousness in his day; and yet God put him through some terrible trials so that Job would know Him even better and serve as an example to future generations of those who fear God. In the days of Moses, again the people of Israel were delivered through great hardship. Later in the times of the Judges, God’s people were also delivered by travail. The days of Esther and the Maccabees were likewise such occasions. Each time, the hardships drew the people of God closer to himself and set an example of patience and endurance under tribulation—waiting for, and trusting in, God’s deliverance.
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. – Habakkuk 3:17-18
There is one more example of the fulfillment of Psalm 102 that God took upon himself. It can be seen in the trial of God asking Abraham to offer his son as a sacrifice, but instead, God himself provided the sacrifice (Genesis 22:13). Read the beginning words of Psalm 102 again and imagine them applied to our savior, Jesus Christ, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. God sent his Son, as the Messiah of Israel, to suffer and die, according to the prophets, at just the right time—the appointed time.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. – Romans 5:6
Remember, there can be more than one fulfillment of a given prophecy. It is a demonstration of God’s power and omniscience that can he make a proclamation with multiple fulfillments down through the ages, like a skipping stone. Before Psalm 102 pointed to the Holocaust of modern times, it first pointed to the time when God would send his one and only son, who would face a trial just as severe as the one he knew the Jewish people would face 1,900 years later. The purpose of both trials was for the ultimate deliverance of his people and of the nations. And this will also be true of the final travail that we must face, the great tribulation. And yet, once again, travail will yield to deliverance. Psalm 102 ends with a promise of deliverance. God will renew all of creation, as if changing worn out clothes.
They [heaven and earth] will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. – Psalm 102:26 NIV