Psalm 71 is a psalm about getting old. Some of us dont like to think about it, but we are all getting older every day we live. As we continue to advance through the years, we suddenly find ourselves facing old age.
You know you are growing old when
Everything hurts and what doesnt hurt, doesnt work, Your knees buckle and your belt wont. You sit down in a rocking chair and you can hardly get it going Your back goes out oftener than you do. You know all the answers but no one asks the questions. Your little black book contains a lot of phone numbers but they all end in M.D. Your mind makes agreements your body cant keep. Your favorite newspaper column was written 25 years ago. After painting the town red, you wait a long time before applying a second coat. You burn the midnight oil by 9 p.m. Anything under a quarter isnt worth bending over to pick up. Whenever you see a pretty lady go by, your pacemaker opens the garage door. You get winded playing checkers. Your children begin to look middle aged. The gleam in your eye is the sun reflecting on your bifocals. You sink your teeth into a nice juicy steak and they stay there. You climb the ladder to reach the top shelf, but forgot what you were up there searching for.
We are not really sure who wrote this psalm. It may have been David in his old age. We know that Psalm 72 ends what appears to be the first collection of psalms made for the temple musicians by King David. Psalm 72 is a psalm of David to his son Solomon written in his old age.
So Psalm 71 may also represent that time of his life. You may be like the psalmist who wrote this wonderful song of faith. You may be facing old age. This psalm shows us how we are to respond to the challenge of advancing years.
Spurgeon comments on this psalm, "We have here The Prayer of the Aged Believer, who, in holy confidence of faith, strengthened by a long and remarkable experience, pleads...and asks further blessings for himself."
In You, O Lord, I put my trust; let me never be put to shame.
Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape; incline Your ear to me, and save me.
Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually; you have given the commandment to save me, for You are my rock and my fortress.
The psalmist puts his trust in God. As we advance in years and are facing new difficulties, it is important to remember to place our trust in God. God has been our refuge in times past, and he will continue to be our rock and our fortress no matter what weakness, illness, or new challenges we may encounter.
The Treasury of David tells us, "Every day must we guard against every form of reliance upon an arm of flesh, and hourly hang our faith upon the ever faithful God. Not only on God must we rest, as a man stands on a rock, but in him must we trust, as a man hides in a cave. The more intimate we are with the Lord, the firmer will our trust be."
Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.
For You are my hope, O Lord God; you are my trust from my youth.
By You I have been upheld from birth; you are He who took me out of my mothers womb. My praise shall be continually of You.
Notice the psalmist has trusted God since his youth. It is easier to trust God when you get old if you trusted him when you were young. We may think that this psalm is written for the older generation. But if we dont live our lives for God when we are young, we will find that we have doubts and fears as we get older. The lessons of faith and trust that we learn as a young person will help us through trials and tribulations throughout our lifetime. Let us learn how to trust God in our youth. Allow God to have rule in our lives over all our desires, ambition, and will. I ran across a little saying which is so appropriate, "We live what we believe; all the rest is just religious talk."
I have become as a wonder to many, but You are my strong refuge.
Let my mouth be filled with Your praise and with Your glory all the day.
As we mature, we need to learn how to let our life be filled with praise all day long. It is important that we learn to experience Gods presence every day of the year. We need to allow our spirit to be ministered to by Gods Spirit. The psalmist tells us that his mouth praises God and his life is filled with Gods glory. Do you feel that way? If not, it is time to begin to start praising God throughout your day during the good times and even the bad times. Allow your spirit to soar up to heaven no matter how you feel. You will discover that God will fill your heart with his love, fill your soul with his presence, and even strengthen your feeble body.
Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength fails.
There comes a time in everyones life when they suddenly realize that they no longer have the invincibility and immortality of youth. Something happens to remind us of our human frailty. As the psalmist says, our strength will fail. My Mom would always say she didnt like getting old, but on the other hand she wasnt too thrilled with the alternative either. You may not be happy that your strength is failing or that you cant do what you want to do. The psalmist knew that even though he was entering old age, God would not forsake him. No matter what you are facing, God will not forsake you.
When we are young and facing confusion and needing direction, God is there for us. When we are married and have children, God is there to help us be the kind of parent and spouse that our family needs. As we enter middle-age and are facing the challenge of achievement and leaving our mark, God is there to show us the way and to give us his assurance. As we enter old age and are faced with the uncertainty of illness or loneliness or frailty, God is also there to strengthen and uphold us. No matter what you are facing, God will not forsake you.
For my enemies speak against me; and those who lie in wait for my life take counsel together,
Saying, "God has forsaken him; pursue and take him, for there is none to deliver him."
O God, do not be far from me; O my God, make haste to help me!
As we enter old age, we may feel pressure to be something that we are not. Here, David in his old age is confronting the taunts of his enemies. He realizes he cannot fight as he did when he was younger. But he also knew that God would not be far from him, and would be quick to help him.
Win Arn reports that a woman was asked the benefits of living to the age of 102. After a pause, she answered, "No peer pressure!" What pressure are you facing? Do you feel guilty because you cannot do everything that you want to do or wish you could do? Does your family make you feel like youre letting them down? Dont worry. God will be with you, and he will help you.
Let them be confounded and consumed who are adversaries of my life; let them be covered with reproach and dishonor who seek my hurt.
But I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more.
My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and Your salvation all the day, for I do not know their limits.
I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD; I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.
As we get older, its important that we share the testimony of our life. We need to share with our children and our grandchildren about all that God has done for us. Too often we spend our old age moaning and complaining to our relatives. Instead, let us be sharing all the goodness that God has done for us. Let us share all the blessings over all the years we have received from our merciful and forgiving God.
Spurgeon points out, "We are to bear testimony as experience enables us, and not withhold from others that which we have tasted and handled. The faithfulness of God in saving us, in delivering us out of the hand of our enemies, and in fulfilling his promises, is to be everywhere proclaimed by those who have proved it in their own history."
O God, You have taught me from my youth; and to this day I declare Your wondrous works.
Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, your power to everyone who is to come.
As David recounts all that God has done for him, he realizes how part of the purpose of him living all these years is so that he can pass on to the next generation those lessons of faith. David realizes that the time of old age is approaching. But he wishes to declare two things Gods strength to this generation of young people, and Gods power to everyone who is to come in the future. This is certainly a noble task. Even after a lifetime of declaring Gods wonderful works, we can say more to our family in a few years of illness and weakness in our old age as we maintain the joy of the Lord in spite of our suffering.
In the last few years I have learned a great deal about handling the last few years of life. First, I saw my Mother-in-Law who was fiercely independent learn how to accept her failing strength and never lose the joy of the Lord in her life. Next, I saw my own Mom accept her terminal illness and willingly faced death simply and with dignity. I have learned a lot from them. I would not have seen that part of their wonderful testimony if they did not have to endure the suffering of the end of their lives. I am ever grateful for what they taught me. And someday, I hope that I will be able to also face the end of my own life with the same faith, courage, and peace.
In 1719 Isaac Watts wrote this poem based on Psalm 71
Also Your righteousness, O God, is very high, you who have done great things; O God, who is like You?
You, who have shown me great and severe troubles, shall revive me again, and bring me up again from the depths of the earth.
You shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.
One of the advantages of living a long life is that we have seen God deliver us through many difficult times. As the psalmist writes in verse 20, "you have shown me great and severe troubles." We have had to face troubles in the past, but God has seen us through everyone of them. When we have seen Gods deliverance in the past, it is easier to trust for Gods deliverance in the present and the future. As we get older, let us learn from our past experiences. Let us never forget all that God has done for us over all the years we have been serving him.
The Treasury of David comments, "There is something touching in the sight of hair whitened with the snows of many a winter: the old and faithful soldier receives consideration from his king, the venerable servant is beloved by his master. When our infirmities multiply, we may, with confidence, expect enlarged privileges in the world of grace, to make up for our narrowing range in the field of nature. Nothing shall make God forsake those who have not forsaken him."
Also with the lute I will praise you-- and Your faithfulness, O my God! To You I will sing with the harp, O Holy One of Israel.
My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing to You, and my soul, which You have redeemed.
When David was younger, he would write psalms to God and play them on his stringed instrument. Again, he thinks of praising God as he has done in the past. David wrote many beautiful psalms of praise throughout his lifetime. Perhaps he waited until the end of his life to compose this beautiful psalm. David sang to God, not only with his stringed instrument and his voice, but also from his heart.
As we get older we find that our life has become a song of praise to God. People hear our song and respond to our praise. What song does your life sing of your Creator? Do people feel the music of love and the notes of mercy flowing from your being?
My tongue also shall talk of Your righteousness all the day long; for they are confounded, for they are brought to shame who seek my hurt.
As we advance in years, let us be like the psalmist and talk of Gods righteousness all the day long. There are many things we could talk about, and there are many things that we will want to share with others. But let us not forget to talk about all the wonderful things God has done for us. Let us never fail to talk about all of Gods blessings on our life. We are never too old to encourage others, to build up their faith, or to be a blessing to them.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the following lines:
This study on Psalm 71 © 1999 by David Humpal. All rights reserved.
All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the New King James Version © 1984, Thomas Nelson Publishers
Spurgeon: The Treasury of David, vol. II, pg. 207, MacDonald Publishing Company
The Treasury of David, vol. II, pg. 207, MacDonald Publishing Company
Saying from Christian Clippings, November 1998, pg. 17
Win Arn: Arcadia, California
Spurgeon: The Treasury of David, vol. II, pg. 210, MacDonald Publishing Company
Watts: The Psalms of David, Psalm 71, Part 1
The Treasury of David, vol. II, pg. 211-212, MacDonald Publishing Company