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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 71

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

Verses 1-24

Psalms 71:1-24

In Thee, O Lord, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion.

A picture of a pious old man

The entreaties of a pious old man.

1. Against evil.

(1) Moral failure (Psalms 70:1).

(2) General danger (Psalms 70:2; Psalms 70:4).

(3) Divine desertion (verse 9).

2. For good.

(1) Divine protection (Psalms 70:3). I want a “strong” refuge, a “habitation,” where I shall feel sheltered from all storms. I want a habitation where I may “continually resort,” one close at hand, always open to me. O God, be such a “habitation” to me, shivering on the margin of the awful future, the storms of retribution gathering around me.

(2) The spirit of worship (verse 8).

The blessed memories of a pious old man. It is natural for age to turn to the past. What did this aged man remember in the past?

1. His youthful confidence (Psalms 70:5). In the opening years of my life, I rested my soul on Thy love and Thy truth. My young heart went out to Thee, and on Thee it has settled. What a blessed memory is this! What a contrast to the memory of the old profligate who remembers his rebellions, his blasphemies, etc.

2. God’s goodness to him from his earliest days (verse 6). Thou didst take care of me in helpless infancy, and all through life. Thy very love has been marvellous. “I am as a wonder unto many.” “O God, Thou hast taught me from my youth.” Taught me the true theory both of duty and of happiness.

The exalted contemplations of a pious old man (verse 19).

The unfailing confidence of a pious old man (verses 20, 21). Though he had been subjected to great and sore troubles--and what aged man has not met with such troubles?--his trust was unabated, and he says, “Thou shalt quicken me again,” etc. However feeble I become, though I sink into the depths of the earth, Thou wilt revive me; nay, more, “Thou shalt increase my greatness,” etc. I infer from the character of Thy past conduct to me that I shall not be allowed to sink into extinction, dishonour, or misery. Thou wilt raise me, dignify me, and “comfort me on every side.” God grant us all this unfailing confidence in old age! “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”

A noble resolution of a pious old man (verses 22-24). (Homilist.)

The vow of faith

The life of faith is a constant realization of the presence of God. The mountain was as full of the chariots of fire when the prophet’s servant did not perceive them as when he did. Christ was just as much present with the disciples when their eyes were holden as when they were open. God speaks with men as truly to-day as in the time of Abraham. It is because our minds are preoccupied with other matters that we fail to perceive God.

The life of faith is entered upon by a definite vow. If such be the life of faith, how few of us have entered upon it! This may be due to some obstacle, such as an unfulfilled duty, or a disregarded command, or a permitted practice opposed to God’s will. But if it be none of these, then most likely it is because the attitude of faith has net been consciously and definitely assumed. We must take our all and lay it at the feet of Christ. This is the wicket-gate by which we enter upon the blessed life of faith. Brainerd Taylor, feeling that he needed something which he did not possess, lifted up his heart in prayer, and became conscious of giving up all to God, and then he cried, “Here, Lord, take me, take my whole soul, and seal me Thine now, and Thine for ever.”

Some considerations on the taxing of such a vow. Let it be taken with all seriousness, and let it be a very definite one. Doddridge gives this advice, “Set your hand and seal to it that on such a day and year, and at such a place, on full consideration and serious reflection, you come to this happy resolution, that whatever others might do, you would serve the Lord.” Doddridge’s own vow was a very elaborate and detailed one. It may not be necessary to draw up a document setting forth one’s vow, but in some definite way it should be taken. (R. C. Ford, M. A.)

Verse 5

Psalms 71:5

Thou art my hope, O Lord God: Thou art my trust from my youth.

God our hope in youth

It was a man well advanced in life who uttered these words. Aye, the snows of age are falling on his head; his back bends under the weight of years; but,--is the frail old man dejected and forlorn? No, nothing of the kind: the faith of his youth proves the comfort of his age; and, as he leans his hand upon his staff, he lifts up his eyes to, heaven, and says, “Thou art my hope,” etc. What I wish to bring out and illustrate is this, that a pious trust in God at the outset of life guarantees a blessed hope in God at the end of it. Archbishop Leighton beautifully observes: “The world dare say no more for its device, than Dum spire, spore, ‘While I breathe, I hope’; but the children of God can go further and say, Dum exspiro, spero, ‘Even when I die, I hope’; for that very event which drowns all the worldling’s prospects throws open to the Christian the gates of a glorious eternity!”

It is well for you in your youth to contemplate and prepare for age. As I was wandering one day through the old cathedral at Elgin, my eye lighted upon a quaint epitaph, carved on a slab in the wall:--

“This world is a city full of streets;

And death is the market that all men meets;

If life were a thing that money could buy,

The poor could not live and the rich would not die.”

The grammar may be at fault, but the sentiment is true. Oh, how many squander in early life those energies they would afterwards give a fortune to recall! How many are practically saying, Let youth have its carnival of pleasure, and let ago look out for itself! It is your duty to contemplate living long and growing old. But will you? Where do you spend your evenings? Answer me that, and I shall have some notion where you will spend eternity. Are you in the habit of taking stimulants? If you are, that lessens your chance of seeing old age by some fifty per cent. Oh, do not tamper with the drink-fiend that every year digs a grave for hundreds of the flower of London. If some of you will act upon the advice I am now to give you, you will thank me for it some day. It is meanly selfish for a man, dying in the prime of life and professing a Christian hope, to be perfectly happy whilst he knows that as he steps into heaven his wife and children will step into the workhouse. I say it is abominable! If you have the faintest prospect of having any dependent upon you, you have no business to spend on gratification all your weekly wage or your yearly salary. It is not yours to spend. The first few shillings, or the first few pounds, belong to them, and should go to pay the premium on a policy that at least will keep them from beggary.

The only guarantee of a blessed hope in age is a pious trust in youth. I was once summoned to the military barracks, to visit a soldier who was lying in the sick ward. I saw at once the stamp of death upon his countenance. It was evident he had but a few moment to live. I stooped over him, held his hand and softly asked him, “Have you a hope in Christ?” His answer made me tremble, and though twenty years have gone, it rings in my ear to-day--the last words of a dying unbeliever, “I have no hope!” Will any of you, dear lads, risk such an exit from the world? Can your life be genuinely happy, with a drawn sword hanging daily over you? Would you not wish, then, to be prepared? Would it not be a glorious thing if everybody could say with Dr. Watts: “I lay my head upon my pillow to-night, not caring whether I awake in this world or the next”? Oh, won’t you all take the decisive step at once, the step that will make your whole life luminous, your death triumphant, and your eternity infinitely happy? (J. Thain Davidson, D.D.)

Verse 6

Psalms 71:6

By Thee have I been holden up from the womb.

God the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of the world

Our birth and being are owing to God, as the original cause of them.

It is His providence which sustains, preserves, and holds up our goings in life. Even if the materials of our being had, in themselves, a self-subsisting power, yet the form of them by which we are men, by which we are creatures of such a species, this, we know, is liable to various contingencies, and obnoxious to many fatal alterations. Wherefore, as we derive our birth and being from the wisdom and power of our great Creator, so, if we were not nursed up by the care and goodness of His paternal providence, the brittle and tender threads of life had probably long since been broken in us, and we had consequently returned to the dust from whence we were taken.

There is a providential direction and disposal of such events as concern us. If we would attend to God’s dealings with us, every man, I doubt not, might find his own experience attesting the truth and fact of this directing, overruling, superintending providence. Conclusion.

1. If God be our Creator, Preserver, and Governor, then we can nowhere fix our dependence so properly, nowhere with such security and safety, as upon His infinite goodness, wisdom, and power.

2. To render this persuasion of our dependence on God more practical, we are not only to recognize His majesty and power in thought and in word, but in deed and in truth.

3. If we owe our life and being to God, as the original cause and donor of them, let His demands upon us to resign them find us in the posture of a ready obedience. (N. Marshall, D. D.)

Verse 7

Psalms 71:7

I am as a wonder unto many; but Thou art my strong refuge.

A wonder unto many

Consider the text, with reference to David, to Christ, and to the Christian. (John Cawood, M. A.)

Verse 8

Psalms 71:8

Be Thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort.

God, our continual resort

David knew what it was to hide himself away in the great caverns and rocks of his native land. He had done so in the cave of Adullam. And such residences are never forgotten. You may live for an age in such a town as this, and forget it all. What is there to remember in this labyrinth of bricks and mortar? But when you get into the clear bracing atmosphere of the hills, amid these crags and glens, and you spend a night in some mountain cave, you will never forget that. And David never did. And in his loftiest songs he speaks of God in language culled from the cave. And what a gracious heart he must have had to be able to speak like this. He desired not merely to dwell with, but in, God. He would have the Lord to be his house, his home, whereunto he might continually resort. The text suggests--

The delightful repose that David found in God. Be Thou my strong habitation: that is, be my house and home.

1. What wonderful condescension he had experienced from God. That he should be allowed to think of the great and glorious God as his home. And he did so, for--

2. He had realized in God peculiar love. In a man’s own home he expects to find love. Pity the poor wretch who is disappointed therein. In the world we do not expect it, we reckon on rough treatment; but within our own doors we enter the sanctuary of love. And David had dwelt in God as in the abode of love.

3. And home is the place of special rest. We lay aside our working dress. The advocate takes off his gown, and says, “Lie there, Mr. Barrister, and let the father come to the front.” The tradesman takes off his apron, the warrior his harness, the bearer his yoke, for he is at home. And so we have rest in God.

4. And of joyful freedom. Religious people sometimes start back from the prayers of a true saint, and say, “He is too familiar.” Of course a child is too familiar for the imitation of a stranger; but have you ever blamed a child for clambering on his father’s knee? And yet you would not think of copying him. “Boy, dost thou know what thou art at? Thou art playing with a learned judge, before whom prisoners tremble, and courts are hushed. Even wise counsellors speak to him as “my lord.” But that urchin does not say, “My lord.” Look, he is plucking him by the beard; he is kissing his cheek. What presumption! No! he is the judge’s child; he who is to judge others is “father” to him. So the saints of God say, “Our Father, which art in heaven,” ever reverentially, but yet with sweet familiarity. They are at home with Him.

5. And of intimate knowledge. David knew the Lord even as he knew the eaves in which he had sheltered. David could have served as a guide to the great hollow of Adullam.

6. Of tender care. We may get more skill elsewhere, perhaps, but what can make up for the tenderness of home? One would like to die there when our time comes.

David had realized in God powerful security. He felt then, and so does the child of God, perfectly safe.

God was to him a place of continual resort. The gate of communion with God is never locked. There is joy in such resort itself, and as an outlook for the unknown future; and it is a joy which answers so many blessed purposes. Let us continually resort unto God as we ever may. Let us come now. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

God the habitation of souls

A sense of the soul’s need. The soul needs a “habitation.” It is a homeless wanderer.

1. It wants a home for protection. How exposed is a guilty soul?

2. It wants a home for comfort. Home is the scene of comfort. But the guilty soul is comfortless.

3. It wants a home for settledness. It is a restless wanderer.

A faith in God’s sufficiency. God is just the “habitation” which the soul wants, affording security, comfort, and permanent residence.

1. God is an accessible habitation. The doors of infinite love are ever open to welcome all who come. This habitation is ever near to us.

2. God is a secure habitation. Those who are in Him are safe from all dangers and all foes. “God is our refuge and strength.”

3. God is a blessed habitation. In Him is found infinitely more than all we want to perfect us in everlasting bliss.

4. God is an enduring habitation. “The eternal God is our refuge,” etc. Return, O prodigal, to thy Father’s house. (Homilist.)

The best home

(to children):--I am going to talk to you about the best home you could ever think of. God is a home; that’s what our text says.

Home is a place of shelter and security. Every boy and girl feels safe at home. Now, there are a great many dangers and troubles in the world that grasp us, and threaten us, and frighten us; but if we only get into this home of which I am speaking, they can’t harm us. God is a sure refuge for His children. Long ago, rich people lived in castles built of strong stone walls, and frequently surrounded by a deep broad ditch, so that robbers and enemies would not be able to enter and despoil them of their property. They used to fight with each other, and when the battle began to turn against them, they would flee into their castles, and there they were safe. New, God is a great castle; He is a “strong habitation.” If you once get inside of it, no enemy can harm you.

Home is a place of supply. I know that there are homes where children do not have many nice things, where they have at times to suffer hunger. But such is not the case with this home of which I am speaking. This home has everything to make those who live in it satisfied and happy.

Home is a place of love. Mother, father, wife, children, are but faint, faint images of God. He is the fountain of all their affection. There is no place in the universe so safe and so delightful. (B. D. Thomas.)

Verse 9

Psalms 71:9

Cast me not off in the time of old age: forsake me not when my strength faileth.

The cry of the aged

This is the cry of trembling, tottering age to man as well as God. Among the very saddest of human experiences is the decay which is the harbinger of death. If death were always a swift, sudden translation, like that of Enoch or Elijah, we could understand it better. The long act of dying is the darkest part of death.

The phenomenon of human decay. At both ends of life man is the weakest and most helpless of creatures. The noblest of created beings and the most Godlike is cast more utterly, in birth and death, on the care of his fellows, than the weakest of the creatures which God made to be his satellites. Alas for the old and weary among the great mass of mankind; how utterly sad their lot, not only the body but the mind failing also.

Why is this? Partly--

1. To drive home the lessons God is ever teaching us about sin.

2. To develop the noblest qualities of the human spirit by the ministries which sickness, suffering and decay call forth.

3. That He may strengthen faith and hope in immortality. Death is terrible that life may be beautiful. By faith and hope in Christ we can transmute death into blessing and the germ of everlasting joy.

The duties which spring out of these facts.

1. The tender care of the aged.

2. The pressing on them with double earnestness the Gospel which brings to light life and immortality. (J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)

To the aged

Old men do not always put up this petition. If the desires of many were put into words, they would be for money, power, and many other things. Covetousness is peculiarly the sin of old age. But the favour and presence of God should be our supreme desire. For--

There are some peculiar circumstances of old age which render this blessing necessary.

1. There is little natural enjoyment (2 Samuel 19:35).

2. The troubles of life often increase. Poverty. Misery of our children, or their evil courses. Loss of friends. Results of the evil training of our children. See David’s sorrow.

3. And as troubles increase we are less able to bear them. Jacob could bear the Padan-Aram hardships--he was young; but not the loss of Rachel when he was old.

4. Old age is not always treated with due respect, but often with neglect.

5. Death and eternity are near.

When may we hope for this blessing? Not all old men enjoy it. Oh, the misery of a wicked old age! But if we have been God’s servants from our youth, or have become so since we were old, or if now we cast ourselves upon the Lord, then this prayer shall be fulfilled. (Andrew Fuller.)

The time of old age

The time of old age is--

Specially the time for prayer.

1. On account of personal need. The text is an appeal to the Divine compassion. This the heavenly Father always welcomes and honours. It is in the supreme distinction of His nature. How He proclaims it! “The Lord God merciful and gracious.” It is a frequent title in the Psalms, “full of compassion.” To what else can weakness turn so hopefully, so trustfully, so joyfully? Human life is compared to a journey. Men grow tired after long walking. All pilgrims find it so. But to come in then with timely help is altogether Divine. “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.”

2. By reason of past memories. The psalmist calls to mind what God had done for him: “Thou hast taught me from my youth.” Well, he makes that a ground of expectation that God would carry on and complete what He had begun. That is the logic of the heart. A child can understand it.

The time of harvest. If youth is passed in listless frivolity, old age will be childish or idiotic; but if it be passed in careful research and thoughtful study, it will be ripe in knowledge and understanding. If youth is passed in storing the false, the foul, the malicious, old age will be like the land of Egypt, hideous and loathsome, with its frogs and gadfly; but if it be passed in fellowship with the true, the pure, the loving, old age will be like Eden, with warbling songs and fragrant flowers, and ruddy and pulpy fruits. If in youth the passions are unbridled and burning, they will grow into tormenting fiends. If ruled and hallowed by the life of Christ, they will grow into bright angels with heavenly music.

The time of fixedness. In earlier days men prepare the facilities and the forces of later days. How absurd it would be to send people to apprenticeship at seventy years of age! They could not learn. So in every event of life the same rule will be found to apply. When men get old their passions cool; but their affections grow firmer, and their will grows stubborn. That sapling may be easily trained. That grown tree must be cut down. The old man will often see a better way, and sigh to enter it; but Nature cries: “Too late! too late!” In everything the law is imperative and irrevocable. If Wisdom speak, it is by this rule: “They that seek me early shall find me.” In Grace, as in Nature, “now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation.” The Lord meets every one at the threshold and says: “My son, my daughter, give Me thy heart.”

The time of testimony. Those to whom we refer have had discipline and experience. They ought to have knowledge and conviction, and they ought to bear testimony of this for the honour of the Most High, and for the advantage of those with whom they have to do. It was so with the psalmist. He acted on this rule as every one ought to act. In his day the trial of faith was this--it was a dispensation of temporal rewards and punishments; yet they saw sometimes the wicked man prospering and the godly man seeming to suffer. Still he bore his testimony and said: “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” The trial of faith in these days would rather seem to be in the pride and prevalence of unbelief. I own that it does not move me. You ask me why. Well, the work of the Good Spirit in every man’s own heart must for that man be the most personal and perfect and abiding ground of confidence. Yet, apart from that, this fixes and satisfies me--that the Gospel in itself, in its teaching, and in its effects is only goodness. “There is none good but one, that is God;” and goodness can come from Him and from Him alone.

The time of farewell and welcome, giving up and getting. I say it is the time of farewell. There is one expression used by the Apostle Paul: “Though our outward man perish.” Then it does perish: all biography tells us that. “The inward man is renewed day by day.” Yes--the flesh decays; the spirit lives. The senses grow dull; but thought grows clearer and convictions grow stronger. Dreary memories lose their bitterness; holy ones get lighted up with a heavenly gladness. The simplest things in Nature shine with a heavenly light. The bloom and freshness and vigour seem an image of the untainted land. Earth Ceases to distract and to dazzle. Strength declines but ambitions die, and the soul is even as a weaned child. The hectic has gone from the cheek, but the fever has gone from the heart. The day’s work is well nigh done, but then home is near, and home’s rest and safety and gladness and love. (J. Aldis.)

Remorseful reflection on growing old

John Foster, he who sprang into celebrity from one essay, “Popular Ignorance,” had a diseased feeling against growing old, which seems to us to be very prevalent. He was sorry to lose every parting hour. “I have seen a fearful sight to-day,” he would say--“I have seen a buttercup.” To others the sight would only give visions of the coming spring and future summer; to him it told of the past year, the last Christmas, the days which would never come again--the so many days nearer the grave. Thackeray continually expressed the same feeling. He reverts to the merry old time when George III. was king. He looks back with a regretful mind to his own youth. The black care constantly rides behind his chariot. “Ah, my friends,” he says, “how beautiful was youth! We are growing old. Springtime and summer are past. We near the winter of our days. We shall never feel as we have felt. We approach the inevitable grave.” Few men, indeed, know how to grow old gracefully, as Mme. de Stael very truly observed.

Verse 12

Psalms 71:12

O God, be not far from me.

God always near

A busy woman entered her room hastily as twilight shades were falling--went directly to her desk, turned on the gas, and began to write. Page after page she wrote. The solitude became oppressive: She wheeled her chair around, and with a shock of joyful surprise looked squarely into the face of her dearest friend, lying on the lounge at her side. “Why, I didn’t know you were here!” she cried. “Why didn’t you speak to me?” “Because you were so busy. You didn’t speak to me.” So with Jesus--here all the time. The room is full of Him, always ready to greet us with a smile--but we are so busy. But when the solitude grows oppressive we suddenly turn, and lo, He is at our side. We speak to Him and He speaks to us, and the soul’s deepest yearnings are satisfied. (Christian Age.)

Verse 14

Psalms 71:14

But I. . . will yet praise Thee more and more.

More and more

When sin conquered the realm of manhood, it slew all the minstrels except those of the race of Hope. For humanity, amid all its sorrows and sins, hope sings on. To believers in Jesus there remains a royal race of bards, for we have a hope of glory, a lively hope, a hope eternal and divine.

Our first business shall be, to urge ourselves to this resolution.

1. It is humbling to remember that we may very well praise God more than we have done, for we have praised Him very little as yet. What we have done, as believers, in glorifying God falls far, far short of His due.

2. Another argument which presses upon my mind is this: that wherein we have praised God up till now, we have not found the service to be a weariness to ourselves, but it has ever been to us both a profit and a delight. I would not speak falsely even for God, but I bear my testimony that the happiest moments I have ever spent have been occupied with the worship of God. I have never been so near heaven as when adoring before the eternal throne. I think every Christian will bear like witness.

3. We ought surely to praise God more to-day than at any other previous day, because we have received more mercies. Even of temporal favours we have been large partakers. Begin with these, and then rise higher.

4. We have been proving through a series of years the faithfulness, immutability, and veracity of our God--proving these attributes by our sinning against God, and their bearing the strain of our misbehaviour--proving them by the innumerable benefits which the Lord has bestowed upon us. Shall all this experience end in no result? Shall there be no advance in gratitude where there is such an increase of obligation? God is so good that every moment of His love demands a life of praise.

5. It should never be forgotten that every Christian as he grows in grace should have a loftier idea of God. Our highest conception of God falls infinitely short of His glory, but an advanced Christian enjoys a far clearer view of what God is than he had at the first, Now, the greatness of God is ever a claim for praise. “Great is the Lord, and”--what follows?--“greatly to be praised.” If, then, God is greater to me than He was, let my praise be greater.

6. It is a good reason for praising God more that we are getting nearer to the place where we hope to praise Him, world without end, after a perfect sort.

Let us in the Spirit’s strength drive away that which hinders us from praising God more and more.

1. One of the deadliest things is dreaminess, sleepiness. A Christian readily falls into this state. I notice it even in the public congregation. Very often the whole service is gone through mechanically. A sleepy seraph before the throne of Jehovah, or a cherub nodding during sacred song, it were ridiculous to imagine. And shall such an insult to the majesty of heaven be seen on earthy No! Let us say to all that is within us, “Awake! awake!”

2. The next hindrance would be divided objects. We cannot, however we may resolve, praise God more and more, if, as we grow older, we allow this world to take up our thoughts. If I say, “I will praise God more and more,” and yet I am striking out right and left with projects of amassing wealth, or I am plunging myself into greater business cares unnecessarily, my actions belie my resolutions.

3. To rest on the past is another danger as to this matter.

Let us apply ourselves to the practical carrying out of this resolution. How shall I begin to praise God more and mercy Earnestness says: “I shall undertake some fresh duty this afternoon.” Stop just a minute. If you want to praise God, would not it be as well first to begin with yourself? The musician said: “I will praise God better”; but the pipes of his instrument were foul; he had better look to them first. If the strings have slipped from their proper tension, it will be well to correct them before beginning the tune. No; prepare yourself; make your heart ready. Thou needest the Spirit’s aid to make thy soul fit for praising God. Go then to thy chamber, confess the sins of the past, and ask the Lord to give thee much more grace that thou mayest begin to praise Him. These inner matters being considered, let us go on to increase our actual and direct service of God. Let us quicken our speed. Or suppose we are already doing so much that all the time we can possibly spare is fully occupied, let us do what we do better. We should praise God much more if we threw more of His praise into our common conversation--if we spoke more of Him when we are by the way or when we sit in the house. We should praise Him more and more if we fulfilled our consecration, and obeyed the precept, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 15

Psalms 71:15

My mouth shall show forth Thy righteousness and Thy salvation all the day; for I know not the numbers thereof.

An inexhaustible subject

This psalmist’s words may well be a pattern for old men, who need fear no failure of buoyancy, nor any collapse of gladness, if they will fix their thoughts where this singer did his. Other subjects of thought and speech will pall and run dry; but he whose theme is God’s righteousness and the salvation that flows from it will never lack materials for animating meditation and grateful praise. “I know not the numbers thereof.” It is something to have fast hold of an inexhaustible subject. It will keep an old man young. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Witnessing of God’s grace and salvation

We may wrongly hide our religion so that it evaporates. Too many professing Christians put away their religion as careless housewives might do some precious perfume, Had when they go to take it out, they find nothing but a rotten cork, a faint odour and an empty flask. Take care of burying your religion so deep as dogs do bones, that you cannot find it again, or, if you do, discover when you open the coffin that it holds only a handful of dry dust. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Verse 16

Psalms 71:16

I will go in the strength of the Lord God: I will make mention of Thy righteousness, even of Thine only.

God the source of the minister’s strength

What is the help the minister requires?--“the strength of the Lord God.”

1. Not human strength, that is but weakness. What was Isaiah’s comfort but this, “Surely shall we say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength”? And so with Paul. And he bids Timothy, “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

2. What is this strength? Not mere physical ability, nor mental might. For many who have no splendour of intellect are greatly used of God. When some one complained to his bishop of good and holy Mr. Rogers of Frome that his style of preaching was so at random, the bishop replied, “Ah, complain not about his style; Mr. Rogers charms more souls to Christ with his wild notes, than we do with all our set music.” No; the strength which ministers require is that of the Spirit of God (John 15:26-27). And though we may not have His miraculous influence, yet we may and must have His instructing, His Christ-glorifying, His witnessing, His comforting, His holy, influence. This is the minister’s strength, and none can withstand it.

3. But how do ministers go in this strength? By realizing it as secured to them by the covenant of grace, the blood of Christ and His intercession. And by depending upon it. The minister must not depend upon any one else, whether upon great men or small, and least of all upon himself.

4. Where will he go? In the path of communion with God. In the fields of conflict with spiritual wickedness. In the privacy of domestic life. “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.” In the path of active duty.

The subject of the minister’s boasting. “I will make mention of,” etc. It is the righteousness of Christ that he is to make mention of--

1. To God as the ground of his confidence.

2. To himself as the spring of his comforts. This supplies all his needs. As guilty, lost, empty, condemned, weak, dying.

3. To others as the hope of salvation. “I am determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

4. With the multitude of the redeemed, as the matter of his joy.


1. Aim to adopt this resolution as your own.

2. Assist your minister in his endeavour to carry it out. Come and pray unitedly and help me in all works of mercy. Lot there be no drones here, but all at work for Christ. (James Sherman.)

Faith’s firm resolve

His resolve. “I will go.”

1. He will not sit still.

2. He will go to warfare.

3. He will go forward and make progress in Divine things.

4. He will go to suffering with holy resignation.

His reliance. “In the strength of the Lord God.”--

1. He will go glorying in strength already received.

2. Relying upon a strength which did not alter.

3. In a power which sanctified his going.

4. He is confident as to the sufficiency and adaptation of God’s strength to every trial or work to which he may be called; for the Hebrew, being plural, hints at this.

“I will go in the strengths of the Lord God.” If I shall require mental vigour, God can give it me. If I shall want physical strength, He can give it me. If I shall need spiritual power, He can give it me. If the particular demand is a clear sight, that I may detect and baffle the cunning of the enemy, He can give it me. If I require courage and quick resolve, He can give them me. If my special need be firmness of mind in the day of temptation, He can give it me. If it be a patient temper, He can give it me. Nothing is wanted by a believer, but that which the strength of God supplies when it is needed. As our days our strength shall be. We shall find the supply always equal to the demand.

His message. “I will make mention,” etc. Bear your testimony to the righteousness of God in providence. Stand to it that the Lord never does wrong. He is never mistaken; but whatever He ordains is, and must be, unquestionably right. Bear witness, next, to His righteousness in salvation; that He does not save without an atonement; that He does not put away sin without being strictly just; that He does by no means spare the guilty, but has laid on Christ that which was due to human sin, that He might be “just and the justifier of him that believeth.” Declare the righteousness of God as to a future state. Declare that whatever Scripture speaks of the ungodly is true, and that God is righteous in it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Christian’s duty and dependence

His purpose of holy walking, of going forward, and persevering in the way of his duty.

1. A serious and deliberate choice of the ways of God.

2. A constant jealousy over his heart.

3. “I will go,” though a cloud should hang over my head the whole way.

4. “I will go,” let the duties I am called to perform be ever so arduous, or the difficulties ever so discouraging that lie in my way; I must look for them from without and from within, that will put all my resolution to the trial.

5. “I will go,” if I should go singly and alone. There is no co-partnership here; every man must trade upon his own bottom.

6. “I will go,” therefore, directed in every step by the infallible standard--“The scriptures of the inspiration of God.”

7. “I will go”--I will go instantly, without admit-ring one excuse, were it but for a moment, for postponing my present purpose to a “more convenient season.”

8. “I will go”--endeavouring to make daily progress. “Counting not myself to have attained,” etc.

His ground and dependence.

1. Almighty strength was the psalmist’s sole reliance; and it must be mine, or in vain are all my best efforts. Amidst all my attainments, no less than all my weaknesses, and all my fears, I will eye a superior power. In the one ease, I will review and acknowledge the Divine bounty with the warmest sentiments of gratitude and dependence; in the other, I will pour forth my plaint, and offer my humble but fervent suit, expecting no relief nor aid from any other quarter.

2. I will make mention of Thy righteousness, as including in it the holiness and purity of Thy nature, It is the invariable measure of Thy moral administration; it is the centre of union, and gives, as it were, stability to all Thy other perfections. (Thomas Gordon.)

Verses 17-18

Psalms 71:17-18

O God, Thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared Thy wondrous works.

The old man’s sermon

His scholarship. “O God, Thou hast taught me from my youth.”

1. The psalmist was an instructed believer. He had not merely been saved, but taught: conversion had led to instruction. I call the attention of all young Christians to this. How desirable it is not merely that you should be forgiven your sins, and that your hearts should be renewed by the operations of the Holy Ghost, but that you should go to school to Jesus, and take His yoke upon you, and learn of Him.

2. All his instruction the psalmist traced to his God. “O God, Thou hast taught me.” He had entered Christ’s college as a scholar. Most wisely had he chosen to learn of Him who was infinite wisdom to impart, and divine skill in communicating it. What a school have some of us passed through, a school of trial and a school of love. We have sat on the hard form of discipline.

3. David also had the privilege of beginning early. “O God, Thou hast taught me from my youth.” If you would be a good scholar you must be a young scholar.

4. Further, notice David tells us he kept to his studies. He says, “O God, Thou hast taught me from my youth,” which implies that God had continued to teach him: and so, indeed, He had. The learner had not sought another school, nor had the Master turned off His pupil. Some make slight progress because they seem to begin well, but afterwards turn aside to folly.

His occupation. “Hitherto have I declared Thy wondrous works.”

1. A Divine subject. Did you notice the fifteenth verse, “My mouth shall show forth Thy righteousness and Thy salvation all the day”? That is the great Christian doctrine--the very pith and marrow of theology--the atonement in which grace and justice unite in the sacrifice of Jesus.

2. The style which David used was very commendable. “Declared.” David’s teaching about his God had not been with an “if,” and a “but,” and a “may be,” but it had been, “Thus and thus, saith the Lord.”

His prayer.

1. He was not ashamed of his former reliance. He knew the secret springs from which all his blessings had flowed, and he pleads with the Lord never to stop the Divine fountain of self-sufficiency, or he must faint and die.

2. This proves that David did not imagine that past grace could suffice for the present. David acknowledged his present dependence, and it was wise to do so, Men always stumble when they try to walk with their eyes turned behind them.

3. He confessed his undeservingness. He felt that for his sins God might well leave him. But he humbly resolved not to be deserted, he could not bear it, he held his God with eagerness, and cried in agony, “O God, forsake me not.” His heart was desperately set upon holding to his one hope and consolation, and so he pleaded as one who pleads for life itself.

His wish (Psalms 71:18). He had spent a lifetime in declaring God’s Gospel, but he wanted to do it once more. Aged saints are loth to cease from active service. Many of them are like old John Newton, who, when he was too feeble to walk up the pulpit stairs of St. Mary Woolnoth parish church, was carried up to his place and preached on still. His friends said, “Really, Mr, Newton, you are so feeble, you ought to give over,” and he said, “What? Shall the old African blasphemer ever leave off preaching the grace of his Master as long as there is breath in his body? No, never.” It is harder work to leave off than to go on, for the love o! Christ constrains us still, and burns with young flame in an aged heart. So here the good man pines to show forth once more God’s strength. And, do you notice the congregation he wished to address? He would testify to the generation that was growing up around him. He wished to make known God’s power to his immediate neighbours, and to their children, so that the light might be handed on to other generations. This should be on the mind of all who are going off the stage of action: they should think of those who are to come after them, and pray for them, and help them. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The training of a nation

This psalm tells the experience of an old man, some grey-haired saint of the Old Testament. He speaks in accents now sad, now joyful, but always trustful. He invokes God’s judgment against his enemies, in the spirit of the Old Testament rather than of the New. But the chief truth and the eternal teaching is, that behind all life’s disciplines and trials he recognizes God as the Guido, the Friend, the Teacher, from whom they have come. And he is sure that God will be with him still, and he will be yet a witness of His righteousness. Jeremiah may have been the writer, or some other saint of his age. For it is said that the exiles were familiar with it. And some say the unknown author is tolling not of himself but of his nation; if so, the true meaning of the text would be, “Thou, Lord, hast taught, trained and disciplined this nation from its birth,” and, if we follow a more correct rendering of the rest of the verses, “and up to this day it has proclaimed and acknowledged, without reserve, the wondrous doings which have marked that history.” Such application of the language gives new force and colour to it, whether right or wrong.

Hear the voice of our own nation in these words. Trace her history from pro-Roman times, on through the beginnings of Christianity in her midst, by the days of our rude Saxon forefathers who had entered into the fair heritage which Rome had abandoned; how they in their turn bowed before the cross of Christ, and in their turn strove against ruthless Dane and Norseman. And once again foreign rule forced itself on the nation, how on this very spot the Conqueror, first of a long line of kings, was crowned by the tomb of the gentle, unwarlike monarch whose bones still rest amongst us, And we see the gradual fusing of the varied elements into that one hardy race, toiling, fighting, conquering, and being conquered, the memorials of all which are around us. But in and through all these vicissitudes has not God been training this land; might it not take our text for itself?

And we may do so, again, in regard to the reign of our sovereign, whose jubilee we have so recently and joyfully celebrated. During these fifty years God has still been teaching this nation by ways and agencies manifold. What material prosperity has been given; for the amelioration of the lot of the poor, what were once the privileges of the few being now the common patrimony of the many; for all just and wise legislation; for the strides with which human knowledge has advanced, for fresh light thrown on history; for the good men and great whom God has raised up for us; for those who are gone and those who are left. And let us, above all, thank Him for those who have died in His faith and fear; and for all who have striven to extend the knowledge of our Father-God and of our Lord Jesus Christ. And let us ask Him not to forsake us now that He has led us so far on in our career. We may not shut our eyes to the perils of the future--the weakness as well as the strength of a world-wide empire; the decay of faith and the turning away from Christ. All the more, therefore, let us pray this prayer, “O God, forsake me not.” (Dean Bradley.)

The discipline of life

Trace this in the life of David.

It begins early.

Is conducted through various agencies.

1. Prosperity is one of them. Darwin says in one of his books, speaking of change of instinct in the lower creation, that when bees were carried to Barbadoes and the Western Islands, they ceased to lay up honey after the first year. They found the weather so fine, and the material for honey so plentiful, that they ate up their store, and neglected to provide for the future any longer. Their character degenerated under the influence of their prosperity. Too often it is so among men; and the greater their prosperity, the greater is their deterioration of character. It is said of one of the popes that when he was a poor priest he was regarded as a good man; when promoted to be a cardinal he doubted of his salvation; and when he was raised to the papal chair he despaired of it. Now, that ought not to be the result’ of prosperity. But it too often is so.

2. Adversity is another. Adversity, says one, is of use to kill those sinners which the summer of prosperity is apt to produce and nourish. I have seen a Christian man accumulate money, and in the process of accumulation begin to love it; and I have observed the wisdom and fatherly kindness of God, in making all his investments profitless, and scattering his little board to the winds like dust, and in the end drawing out his soul in deeper love and desire for the true riches. Affliction is beneficial in perfecting patience, fortitude, and acquiescence in the Divine will. No other form of discipline can so promote growth.

Is often very mysterious. See this in history of Joseph. And observation and experience teach the same.

Is perpetual. And--

Is regulated by infinite wisdom and love. (William Walters.)

God’s pupil, God’s preacher; an autobiography

Think of David as a pupil, God was his Teacher. “O God, Thou hast taught me from my youth.” This shows that David had a teachable spirit; and if you had asked him where it came from, he would have said that God gave him a teachable spirit. God is not only the Teacher of our spirit, but He gives us a teachable spirit, Have we all received that precious gift? A teachable spirit, although it is despised by many, is a happy spirit; it is a growing spirit; it is a restful spirit; it is a heavenly spirit; and whoever has it, must ascribe the possession of it to the Spirit of God, who leads us into all truth, and makes us willing to be led therein. Oh, that we may have such a spirit, that we shall count it an honour to say, “O God, Thou hast taught me”! In David’s acknowledgment we learn that God took him very early into His school. “Thou hast taught me from my youth.” What a mercy it is to begin to know God before we begin to know anything else! Happy shalt thou be if thy first intelligible thoughts shall be of thy Maker, thy Benefactor, thy Friend. There are many aged men who can say with David, “O God, Thou hast taught me from my youth.” They find themselves learners yet, for they are “Unstable, weak, and apt to slide.”

But now I want you to notice David as a pupil-teacher. While he was a pupil, he was also teaching. He says, “Hitherto have I declared Thy wondrous works.” Observe, then, that David taught people what he saw. He saw God’s works all around him. Ah! me, that is a great sight. We do not see God as we should, and we shall never teach aright for God, until we have a kind of instinctive feeling of the presence of God, till we are conscious that God is in us, and round about us, and at work for us. God’s work that David saw was very much work in himself, and work for himself, and work in other men’s hearts. Being taken into the school of God, he was made to observe things; he had object lessons put before him, and he learned to read God’s work; and as he saw it, he wondered. “Hitherto,” said he, “have I declared Thy wondrous works.” He who is a stranger to wonder is a stranger to God, for God is wonderful everyway, and everywhere, and everyhow. We find that David took opportunity to declare God’s wondrous work; sometimes with his pen, writing his psalms; sometimes with his voice, singing those psalms; sometimes talking to a few, sometimes speaking to many. Now, dear friends, what I want you all to do is, if you have seen God’s work, and have been struck with it, you should declare it, tell it to others. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Verse 20

Psalms 71:20

Thou who hast showed me great and sore troubles shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth.

Divine help in times of trouble

This is a psalm of experience: it begins with trusting and ends with praise, which is the usual ending for such beginning.

The fact recognized, that troubles are often sent by God. If David were the author, then he might have remembered the troubles which arose--

1. From Saul’s jealousy. See the history, and learn, that advancement in social life is no security against trouble; and that the more we may do for another’s good, the greater, oftentimes, shall be the ingratitude we shall receive.

2. From the accusings of conscience. The conscience of a man who is not an habitual sinner! a great source of trouble.

3. From the rebellion of his son.

4. The being forsaken by his friend.

5. The jeers of the ungodly (Psalms 71:10-11).

6. But the greatest trouble of all was when he thought God had left him.

7. We, today, may know some of all those things.

These troubles are always sent for a good purpose. To admonish, to purify, etc.

Rightly received they shall issue in joy. (A. F. Barfield.)

From winter to spring

“What a lamentable change has taken place in my condition,” said the frozen brook. “Only a short time ago I ran along, a lively stream, glistening in the sunshine, dancing in the shade, and doing my work with joyous pleasure; but now, alas! I am cold and motionless--what a melancholy change has come over me, and oh, what if I should never recover from this torpor--never flow again.” A sturdy oak that had outlived a hundred winters, and now also stood bare and comparatively leafless, overhearing, tried to comfort it. “Don’t despair,” said the oak; “these changes are common, and affect you now so powerfully because you are so shallow. As long as streams have been exposed to climates of this nature, they have endured what you now suffer. But the glorious sun retains his power in the heavens; and depend upon it that by and by we shall both again feel his quickening influence--myself to put on a new dress of foliage, and you to flow with freedom and freshness.” The old oak was not mistaken. In due time the sun poured forth bright beams from the sky, the air became soft and balmy, and the little rivulet burst its icy bonds and coursed again through the meadows. The Christian has his wintry season, when cold and lifeless, as it were, and lamenting the absence of former spiritual enjoyments, he cries, “Quicken me in Thy way. Thou who hast showed me great and sore troubles shalt quicken me again.” (W. Bowden.)

Verse 21

Psalms 71:21

Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.

Christian dignity

The world has its great men; so has the Bible. Alongside the monarch, the Bible puts the man who rules his own spirit well; the warrior, one who fights the fight of faith; the artist, one who by loving deeds paints his own portrait on the canvas of the soul of the suffering.

This greatness is Real. Consider what God calls the good man--a saint, a son, a joint heir with Christ.

This greatness is conscious. God has spoken; I have heard. He has given; I have received. He visited the land I lived in, and did not pass my door. In His mighty lifeboat He touched at the shore where I stood, gave me a hail, and welcomed me on board!

This greatness is Derived. Once I had it not. The remembrance of this shall ever keep me humble. “Not unto us,” etc. But though I once possessed them not, now I do.

This greatness is Increasing, David was an old man, yet he could say soberly and acceptably, “Thou shalt increase my greatness.”

1. In my personal enjoyment. Religion is not a surface thing. Infirmities shall lessen, virtues shall increase, Thy love shall be more precious, Thy presence more valued. “Thou wilt not forsake the work of Thine own hands.”

2. In the experience of the saints. David’s name is great to-day! And in every well-worn Bible may be seen the signs of his sympathy and power.

3. In the admiration of angels. What sympathizing, appreciating, ministering spectators are these! (Homilist.)

Verses 22-24

Psalms 71:22-24

I will also praise Thee with the psaltery, even Thy truth, O my God: unto Thee will I sing with the harp, O Thou Holy One of Israel.

The praises of a Hebrew saint

Dr. Sanday has remarked that, “on the great world-stage different races have different functions,” and that “for the Hebrew it was reserved beyond all other peoples to teach the world what it knew of religion.”

Three features of the Divine character.

1. Holiness. “O Thou Holy One of Israel.” The root idea is separation. The Most High forbids the people to follow certain practices then in vogue among the surrounding heathen, and the reason given is because He is holy, and they, His people, are to be like Him (Leviticus 19:2). In every case where such prohibitions occur, we find that the practices condemned are morally alike, that they are mischievous and vile; and therefore by such teaching the Hebrew rose to the conception of a God altogether different from the gods of the heathen--of a Being who had no pleasure in selfishness or cruelty or hatred. Further, it is clear that such a doctrine put honour upon men as well as upon God. When the command was understood, “Ye shall be holy: for I am holy,” the Jews must have seen that they were created for better things than hatred, malice, or lust. They were fulfilling the end of their creation when they conquered such passions, when they were ruled by kindness, honour, and purity.

2. Truth. “I will praise Thee with the psaltery, even Thy truth, O my God.” The want of this virtue has often made the world a pandemonium. We can scarcely conceive a worse condition of things than when men are unable to trust their fellows--when men’s word is not their bond, and their most solemn pledges are no guarantee whatever that they will act accordingly. Sir Richard Burton once said that “to the Oriental lying was meat and drink and the roof that covered him.” Strong words, and yet a statement confirmed by multitudes of others who have lived in the midst of them. Such a condition of things undoubtedly existed among the neighbours of the Jews; they were false in word and deed, cunning, deceitful, treacherous. Here again the Hebrew stood alone in splendid isolation from his neighbours. His God was the “Strength of Israel, who will not lie,” the “God of truth, and without iniquity.” His promises held good; His threats were fulfilled. No wonder, then, when men believed thus, that their conduct should differ from that of others; and hence we find, among the characteristics of the perfect man of the Scriptures, truthfulness both without and within: “he that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not”; “he that speaketh the truth in his heart.”

3. Love. Notice the boldness of the psalmist’s claim--“my God”; and his grateful acknowledgment of the redemption of his soul--“my soul, which Thou hast redeemed.” To the writer of this psalm, God was the Father of His creatures, One who had lovingly watched over the psalmist himself from his birth, and to whom in distress he could turn with the certain assurance of help.

The characteristics of the praise which the psalmist resolved to offer.

1. Sincere. “My lips shall greatly rejoice,” etc. Let us see that we do not grieve our heavenly Father by insincere praise; however successful song may be as an artistic performance, it is abhorrent to God if words which mean so much are uttered with lips which do not greatly rejoice--lips which would be as readily used in the service of him who is the great Father’s adversary and ours.

2. Hearty. Not merely should the psalmist’s lips be made to rejoice, but all the powers of his redeemed soul; and, that he might present a worthy offering to God, both psaltery and harp should be called into service Evidently he believed that music might be the handmaid of worship, and that the skill of man in the production of sweet sounds ought to be consecrated to the service of God. (W. Scott Page.)


Psalms 72:1-20

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 71". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/psalms-71.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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