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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 71

Scott's Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book PsalmsScott on the Psalms

Verses 1-24

Psalms 71:1-24.

V. 1. The name of David is not prefixed to this beautiful Psalm : yet there can be no doubt that he wrote it during Absalom’s rebellion ; and probably at the crisis when he heard of the sanguinary counsel, which Ahithophel had given respecting him. (Notes, 2 Samuel 17:14; 2 Samuel 17:17-21.)

V. 2. In thy righteousness.’] " It is a righteous thing ’’ with God to recompense tribulation to those that trouble ’ you, and to you who are troubled, rest " and deliverance. (Note, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10.) This kind of appeal to the justice of God, in David’s circumstances, seems by much the most natural interpretation. (Notes, Psalms 7:1-11. Psalms 17:1-3. Psalms 143:1-2.) But some suppose the faithfulness of God to his promises to be meant ; and others explain the words, as spoken of that " righteousness of God, " which is unto all and upon all that believe." (Notes, 16. Romans 3:21-26.)

V. 3. The idea of an impregnable fortress, in a country liable to be invaded by powerful enemies, with a ready admission on any emergency, and habitual residence in it, admirably illustrates the believer’s privilege of access to God at all times ; with the security and confidence which spring from a due improvement of it.

(Notes, Psalms 31:2-4. Psalms 91:1-2. 2 Samuel 22:2; 2 Samuel 3:1Proverbs 18:10-11. Is. 32: I, 2.) The promises, which God had made to David, and to his posterity by Solomon, were such express declarations of liis purposes, as amounted to " a commandment to save " him," which all the servants of God in heaven and earth ought to concur in performing. (Murg. Ref.}

V. 4. The unrighteous and cruel man..] That is, Ahithophel. (marg Ref.)

V. 5, 6. David was conscious that he had trusted God from his early youth : and the recollection of the numerous instances, in which the Lord had answered his expectations and prayers, through a long course of years, not only encouraged his confidence, but animated him to praise and gratitude amidst all difficulties. In this he was a feeble type of Christ, who, with infinite condescension, passed through the state of childhood and youth for our sakes, and without the least spot of sin. (Notes, Psalms 22:9-10. Isaiah 49:1-2. P. O. Luke 2:41-52.)

V. 7 Numbers no doubt wondered that David should meet with such uncommon afflictions, and perhaps suspected him of some prodigious wickedness, which he contrived to hide from men: (Note, Job 2:12-13:) many might wonder at his unabated confidence in God, and be anxious to know, whether he would be delivered, or not : and others might be surprised to see him protected and comforted under his afflictions, and astonished especially at the wonderful deliverances which he had experienced. ’ Christ, in his state of humiliation upon earth, was a ’ " sign " every where " spoken against." . . . The Christian, ’ who lives by faith, who quits possession for reversion, ’ and who chooses to suffer with his Saviour here, that he ’ may reign with him hereafter, appears to the men of the ’ world as a monster of folly and enthusiasm. But God ’ is the " strong Refuge" of" all such.’ Bp. Home. (Notes, 2 Kings 9:11. Zechariah 3:8.)

V. 8, 9. The Psalmist especially prayed, that he might be delivered and comforted, in order that his mouth might be opened, continually to celebrate the praises of God, and to recommend his salvation to all around him, and all that should come after him. He had long endeavoured, with all his influence, to promote the worship and service of God ; and he had been very useful to Israel : but he was not capable of such services as he had been formerly ; and his rebellious son, and ungrateful people, rejected and despised his authority. And he earnestly prayed, that his sins, in the matter of Uriah, might not be thus visited upon him. (Notes,Psalms 51:11-13.) He was, however, persuaded that God, who had favoured and helped him all his life long, would not cast him off in his old age.

(Notes, 17, 18. Isaiah 46:3-4.)

V. 10, 11. Absalom, Ahithophel, and the other conspirators, while they consulted together to destroy David, may be supposed to have excused their own detestable wickedness, by charging him with many real or supposed crimes ; and it is probable, they spoke most virulently of his conduct in respect of Bathsheba and Uriah. Persuading themselves, therefore, that David had, by that scandalous wickedness, forfeited the divine protection ; which they could not deny that he had formerly enjoyed, when he slew Goliath, was delivered from Saul, and made victorious over the surrounding nations; they concluded that God had forsaken him, and that they might proceed in persecuting him, with confidence of success ; for there was now no Deliverer.

(Notes, Psalms 4:2. Psalms 41:4-8. Psalms 42:9-10.) But David, while submissively enduring the correction of his heavenly Father, was conscious that he had deeply repented, and had obtained forgiveness. He was also aware, that profane contempt of God was united with enmity to himself, in the conduct of his foes : and thence he deduced arguments to strengthen his assurance, that God would for his own glory rescue his persecuted servant from his impious persecutors. Those who consulted to put our Lord to death, and tried to find accusations against him, could not but own that he had wrought many miracles; yet when they prevailed so far as to get him nailed to the cross, they insulted him, as if God had finally forsaken him.

(Notes, Matthew 27:39-44. John 11:47-48.)

V. 12. ’O my God, who hast hitherto so wonderfully ’ preserved me, let this their vain confidence and insulting ’ language incline thee to make the greater speed to relieve me." Bp. Patrick.

V. 13- 15. These verses throughout are in the futuretense ; the language of prediction, or confident expectation, and not necessarily of imprecation. It might not be so material to observe this, if rnany had not taken occasion from the latter interpretation, to charge " the man after God’s "own heart" with malevolence and a revengeful spirit; and to represent the Old Testament as sanctioning such a spirit, though unsuitable to the evangelical dispensation. Nay, some very pious and respectable persons have admitted charges of this kind, to a very great extent; but they are highly dishonourable to God. His perfections and commandments, his holiness, and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, are unchangeably the same. And there is no reason to think, that David had recorded one prayer in the Psalms, which St. Paul would in similar circumstances have scrupled. When he spoke as the type of Christ, or by the Spirit of prophecy, he might very properly either predict or denounce destruction on those, who persisted in opposing him ; as the apostle says, " If any man love " not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha." (Notes, 1 Corinthians 16:21-24.) And when he was engaged in devotion or meditation, he might, in assured faith, foresee the ruin of his own wicked persecutors, such as Saul and Ahithophel, and even pray for their confusion, as the apostle said of Alexander the coppersmith, " The " Lord reward him according to his works;" being fully persuaded that he was given over to a reprobate mind, and if not restrained would do a great deal of mischief to the church of God.

(Notes, Psalms 5:10-11. Psalms 35:4-9. Psalms 40:13-15; Psalms 69:22-28. Psalms 109:6-20. 2 Timothy 4:14-15.’ ’ Because ’ thy benefits toward me are innumerable. I cannot but ’ continually meditate on them, and rehearse them.’

V. 16. The Psalmist, in the sharp and perilous contest in which he was engaged, determined to trust in the power of God for deliverance, and to " mention his righteousness alone." He had not deserved, from his son and subjects, the ill usage which he received from them : he would not, however, attempt to justify himself before God ; but would submit, with adoring reverence, to his righteousness under this heavy trial; committing his cause to him as a righteous Judge, without the least reserve. The Christian also goes forth to conflict with his enemies, in the strength of the Lord ; and mentions the righteousness of Christ, the righteousness of God by faith, as the only meritorious cause of his acceptance : and many think David here spoke of that righteousness, as the ground of his confidence. Others interpret it of the Lord’s faithfulness to his promises : but the foregoing sense seems most to agree with the context. (Note, Psalms 51:14.)

V. 17, 18. David had early been taught by the Spirit of God the way of truth and holiness, and employed in many useful services during a long course of years; especially in declaring the wondrous works of God as the sweet Psalmist of Israel : (Note. 2 Samuel 23:1-2:) and he prayed, in the language of confident expectation, that he might be preservi-d in his old age, till he had completed this work, and shewn more fully the power of God, and his glorious perfections and kingdom, not only to that, but to all future generations. (Note, 5, 6. 8, 9.) The usefulness of his Psalms to the whole church, in all successive ages, is a most wonderful performance of this, whether considered as a prayer, or a prediction : for many of his Psalms, especially some of those which conclude the hook, seem to have been written, and the complete arrangement of the Psalmody at the tabernacle to have been made, after this time.

Strength. (18) "Arm." Marg. (Notes, Isaiah 51:9-11; Isaiah 53:1.) And as Christ is " the Arm of the Lord," so the gospel is " the power of God unto salvation :"

(Notes,110.2. Romans 1:13-16; Romans 5:16. 1 Corinthians 1:20-24. 2 Corinthians 10:1-6 and the psalms of David especially declare this Arm and power of God, to every generation.

V. 19. The methods, by which God governs and will judge the world in righteousness, are so high that man cannot comprehend them. This is peculiarly the case, in respect of the harmony of mercy and truth with perfect justice in the mediatorial government of Jesus Christ, and the way in which believers are " made the righteousness of " God in him."

(Marg. Ref. Notes, Psalms 36:5-9. Psalms 97:2. Romans 3:21-26; Romans 11:33-36. Ephesians 3:9-12. 1 Peter 1:10-12.)

V. 20, 21. David had already been carried through many and grievous troubles; and now in the depth of his present distress, he was like one who is dead and buried : but he expected that God would revive him ; and not only rt-store him to his former comforts, but abundantly increase them : nor was he disappointed. He likewise seems here to have spoken as the type of Christ, under his deepest humiliation, about to die and be buried, but expecting his resurrection, and exaltation to the throne of glory, and the enlargement of his kingdom to the ends of the earth.

(Marg. Ref.)

V. 22- 24. This exulting anticipation of the high praises, which, with heart-felt joy arid gratitude, the Psalmist expected to sing to his great Deliverer and Benefactor, using every method of making them more solemn and triumphant, when it is considered as his language in the depth of distress, is worthy of special consideration ; and shews the strength of his faith, the confidence of his hope, and the fervency of his piety. The " truth," or faithfulness of God is here mentioned distinctly, as well as his " righteousness." David had grounded his confidence on the divine promises, and referred the cause between him and his rebellious subjects to the decision of divine justice ; both of which he would celebrate continually, and " with joyful lips," when he had received that merciful deliverance and redemption which he was hourly expecting. (Marg. Ref. Note,Psalms 63:5-6.)


It is very honourable to the mercy of God, that his word encourages sinners to plead their confidence in him, as a reason why he should save and help them. He always inclines his ear to the prayer of faith : and those who trust in him, and seek all their happiness from him, shall never be put to shame. His power, truth, and love will be their residence and fortress, to which they may always resort ; and in which they will be secure and comfortable, even amidst troubles and alarms. He has " given commandment " to save them," not only from " unrighteous and cruel " men," but from the wicked and cruel enemies of their souls. Happy therefore are all they, who make the Lord their hope : but most happy those who have been taught by him, and so have trusted him from their youth ; and who, with advancing years, have acquired increasing experience of his faithfulness and mercy. As he formed each of us, and took us out of our mother’s womb, and as by him we have been holden up ever since ; our praise ought to be always of him : but alas ! how few grow up in his year, and spend their lives to his glory! It is indeed, a great mercy to young people to be early instructed in the things of God : parents have an important, obligation upon them in this respect ; and children who are thus favoured have additional reasons to love, honour, and requite their parents. Yet let none of us expect much quiet in this world : those, who from their earliest youth have loved the Lord, and declared his wondrous works, and walked before him in truth and equity, have often been shewed sore troubles, and have been exceedingly hated and persecuted; nay, they have been " men wondered at," for their principles, their conduct, and their trials. Their enemies have often thought that God had forsaken them, and that they could crush them with ease and impunity; but reproach and dishonour have at length come upon those who laid wait for their soul, while they have " hoped continually, and praised God more " and more." Indeed their leading desire is, that their " mouths may be filled with his praise and honour all the " day long:" in their best moments, they only wish to live on earth to shew forth the righteousness and salvation of God, for his glory and the encouragement of his people : and the subject is so copious, and the blessings and the instances of his love are so numerous, that they can never recount them all. They therefore, who would recommend this salvation to others, as well as ensure it to themselves, must "go forth in the strength of the Lord God, and make " mention of his righteousness only." Indeed, as old age approaches, our strength in many respects will fail us : but God will nuot cast off his grey headed servants, when they are no longer capable of labouring as they have done. And his people should imitate his example, in their kindness towards such as have spent their health and strength in their service. He indeed often favours his aged servants with peculiar vigour in their souls, when nature is sinking into decay ; that their faith, hope, love, and joy, may shew to all around them, what a faithful Friend he is to his people. The experienced believer, in such circumstances, ought to speak of the perfections and works of God, to his neighbours : and, if able, he will do well to leave some testimony of his happy experience and decided judgment, upon record for posterity ; to shew his " strength to the " present generation, and his power to all them who are " yet for to come." (Note, 2 Peter 1:12-15.) But God is so exalted, that it is far above our ability to praise him worthily: he has done great things, and there is none like unto him : yet " the everlasting righteousness," which was brought in, when the Redeemer had passed through his great and sore troubles, and was raised again from the depths of the earth, and exalted to the throne of glory, demands our most admiring gratitude and praise. Resting our hopes on that foundation, we may bear up under our lighter trials, and even go down with confidence into the grave : for the Lord will receive our " souls, which he hath " redeemed ;" and will quicken our bodies also and raise them from the dust of the earth again, and thus " increase "our greatness, and comfort us on every side." (Notes, 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. Philippians 3:20-21.) Anticipating this final

deliverance and victory, let us here spend our days, while waiting the approach of death, in praising the Holy One of Israel, with all our powers and attainments : and while we are speaking of his righteousness, and earnestly praising his name, we shall rise superior to our fears and infirmities ; and have sweet earnests of the joys of heaven.

Bibliographical Information
Scott, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 71". Scott's Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tsp/psalms-71.html. 1804.
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