Psalm 71 – Trust and Confidence in Old Age
Two points are apparent from an initial consideration of Psalm 71: first, it does not have the customary superscript; and second, v. 12b repeats v. 2b of the previous Psalm 70. The two psalms are closely connected. Worth note also are the number of repeated terms: save (vv. 2b, 11b, 15b); praise (vv. 6c, 8a, 14b, 16a); shame (vv. 1b, 13a, 13c, 24c). Like many other psalms, this hymn contrasts the shame of being overcome by enemies to the great exaltation of experiencing God’s saving intervention in one’s life. From a unique perspective the Psalmist looks back on his life and reflects on how intimately God has been involved in it. Twice he speaks of his youth (vv. 6-7, 17), and twice of his old age (vv.9, 18-20). His reflection moves him to effusive expressions of praise and thanksgiving. Even in the midst of threats on his life, he maintains great confidence that God, who has been with him in the past, will continue to be with him in times of trouble. The Psalmist repeatedly asserts God’s justice (vv. 2a, 15a, 19a, 24b) as a source of hope and comfort. In its biblical sense, “justice” is about right relationship. With God as Creator, even of the Psalmist himself, justice is manifest as divine protection, care, and support, along with the encouragement that accompanies life’s blessings. Who but God could be the source of such goodness? Any one of us, looking back on moments of uncertainty, fear or dread, can also recall those moments when prayer brought calm to our spirit, and even more importantly, the conviction that God would always hear our appeal—not, perhaps, in the manner we choose, but in his own way and time. Jesus expressed this kind of trust and confidence in a moment of thanksgiving: “Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will’” (Matt 11:25-26). May the examples of both Jesus and the Psalmist inspire us to confident prayer as we consider God’s blessings in our lives.
Psalm 71 (70)
1In yóu, O Lórd, I take réfuge;
let me néver be pút to sháme.
2In your jústice, réscue me, frée me;
inclíne your éar to me and sáve me.
3Be my róck, my cónstant réfuge,
a míghty strónghold to sáve me,
for yóu are my róck, my strónghold.
4My God, frée me from the hánd of the wícked,
from the gríp of the unjúst, of the oppréssor.
5It is yóu, O Lórd, who are my hópe,
my trúst, O Lórd, from my yóuth.
6On yóu I have léaned from my bírth;
from my mother’s wómb, you have béen my hélp.
At all tímes I gíve you práise.
7My fáte has filled mány with áwe,
but yóu are my míghty réfuge.
8My móuth is fílled with your práise,
with your glóry, áll the day lóng.
9Do not rejéct me nów that I am óld;
when my stréngth fails dó not forsáke me.
10For my énemies are spéaking abóut me;
those who wátch me take cóunsel togéther,
11saying: “Gód has forsáken him; fóllow him.
Séize him; there is nó one to sáve him.”
12O Gód, do not stáy afar óff;
O my Gód, make háste to hélp me!
13Let them be pút to sháme and destróyed,
thóse who séek my lífe.
Let them be cóvered with sháme and confúsion,
thóse who séek to hárm me.
14But as for mé, I will álways hópe,
and práise you móre and móre.
15My móuth will téll of your jústice,
and áll the day lóng of your salvátion,
though I can néver téll it áll.
16I will cóme with práise of your míght, O Lórd;
I will cáll to mínd your jústice,
yóurs, O Lórd, alóne.
17O Gód, you have táught me from my yóuth,
and I procláim your wónders stíll.
18Even tíll I am óld and gray-héaded,
dó not forsáke me, O Gód.
Let me téll of your míghty árm
to évery cóming generátion;
19your stréngth and your justice, O Gód,
réach to the híghest héavens.
It is yóu who have wórked such wónders.
O Gód, whó is like yóu?
20You have made me wítness many tróubles and évils,
but you will gíve me báck my lífe.
You will ráise me from the dépths of the éarth;
21you will exált me and consóle me agáin.
22So I will gíve you thánks on the lýre
for your fáithfulness, Ó my Gód.
To yóu will I síng with the hárp,
to yóu, the Hóly One of Ísrael.
23When I síng to you, my líps shall shout for jóy,
and my sóul, which yóu have redéemed.
24And áll the day lóng my tóngue
shall téll the tále of your jústice,
for they are pút to sháme and disgráced,
thóse who séek to hárm me.
Prayer for Psalm 71
O Lord our God, Source of all blessing, we thank you for the wondrous ways in which you manifest your goodness to your Church, to the world, and to all in need of your mercy. May we see ever more clearly the many mysterious ways in which you bring life and blessing to us. To you be glory forever through Christ our Lord. Amen.