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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Psalm 71 - An Old Man's Prayer

This psalm was written by a believer in his old age (vv. 9, 18). He has trusted in God since childhood (v. 5), indeed he suggests that he was depending on God from before he was born (v. 6). As he looked back, he realised that it was God who had taken him safely from his mother’s womb, and he prayed that the Lord would continue to look after him now that life was drawing to a close.

It is clear that the psalmist felt insecure. His sense of insecurity came from human enemies who were too powerful for him (v. 4). Yet he knew that the Lord could help and he imagined the Lord as his rescuer, safe place (rock), and impregnable fortress. The fears of the aged in our day may not be human opponents; nevertheless the remedy is the same as the psalmist’s – trust in God.

The psalmist recalls how long he has known the Lord (vv. 5-8). In fact, he cannot recall a time when the Lord was not his helper. Whenever he had needed the Lord, even in the times before he could assess his circumstances (such as when he was in his mother’s womb), God had helped him. Therefore he praised the Lord for his constant care of him.

The writer also used his memory of God’s goodness as a stimulus for prayer in the present (vv. 9-13). He was now old and weak, and his opponents imagined that even God had abandoned him. The only one to whom the psalmist could turn to for help was the Lord, and he did by asking for complete deliverance and vindication. What seemed impossible to the eyes of nature was very visible to the eyes of faith.

The effect of realising anew the power of God created in the psalmist’s heart a sense of mission. Instead of having no role to play, he realised that he had a very important one, which was to make known to the next generation the great things that the Lord had done in history and for him personally. The challenge for aged believers, as it is for others, is to talk about the Lord’s actions instead of their own dilemmas. Therefore, the psalmist asked for divine favour to continue speaking about God’s righteous activities (vv. 14-18). The psalmist could speak about what God did for Israel; we can speak about what he has done in Christ for his church. But the author also knows that words without prayer, even from the mouth of an aged believer, will be ineffective. So he prays for God’s divine presence and help.

His meditation on what he should do in his old age has led to the psalmist having renewed confidence in God. His God can work on the big scale or on the small scale. Neither can the psalmist get into a situation, even his old age, which is beyond the Lord’s interest and grace. Instead the psalmist realises that he should be looking forward to experiencing God’s restoration and comfort in the future (vv. 19-21). The proper response to this future blessing is present praise.

In verses 23 and 24, the psalmist indicates that what he had feared – the opposition of his enemies – had been dealt with comprehensively by the Lord. Therefore he had every reason to continue speaking to others about his God. We also have our reasons for speaking about him today.

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