According to the NIV Application Commentary, “Psalms 70 and 71 are combined in many ancient manuscripts, indicating there were (in some traditions at least) read as a single psalm” (965). The other interesting aspect of these psalms is that Psalm 70 appears nearly verbatim in Psalm 40:13-17. Rather than teach these verses again, I would encourage our audience to study Psalm 40 which contains the words of Psalm 70. But we will read Psalm 70 along with Psalm 71 since these psalms were connected in Hebrew history. There are also some significant links between these two psalms. Both psalms also pray for the enemies to be ashamed: “Let those be ashamed and humiliated who seek my life” (70:2). “Let those who are adversaries of my soul be ashamed and consumed” (71:13). We also see similar wording in the pleas to God in these psalms. “O God, hasten to deliver me; O Lord, hasten to my help! (70:1). “O God, do not be far from me; O my God, hasten to my help! (71:12). Psalm 71 also lacks a heading in the superscription, while Psalm 70 contains a heading. So I think we have good reason to look at these psalms as a unit.
Psalm 70 is a call to God for deliverance and help to come quickly. Verse 5 says, “But I am afflicted and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay.” In the composition, Psalm 70 ought to be looked at as the opening petition for God’s help. Psalm 71 continues David’s petition.
God, My Strong Refuge (71:1-8)
David begins this psalm by openly declaring that he has put his hope and trust in the Lord. David is asking God to not let him down and not let him be put to shame by the outsiders because of his trust in the Lord. He uses three words to describe what he is looking for from God: deliver, rescue, and save. David wants the Lord to continue to be his rock that he can come to for deliverance, rescue, and salvation. His confession of the relationship with the Lord is: “For You are my rock and my fortress” (71:3). This call and confidence is based upon God’s righteousness. We can infer from these words that David is being unjustly treated and he wants God to bring justice through judgment upon his enemies. We see this point more clearly in verse 4 where David asks God to rescue him from the hand of the wicked and ruthless. God’s righteousness is the basis for David’s confidence, a confidence he has had from his youth (71:5). David uses the picture that God has been there watching over him and protecting him from the very beginning of life.
“I have become a marvel to many, for You are my strong refuge” (71:7). The word for “marvel” literally is “a wonder, a sign.” David’s life was a sign and a marvel to many people due to his ability to praise God continually and trust in God as a refuge even though he is in the hand of the wicked. Personally, I have found this to be an important way to deal with trials. You and I have the ability to become a wonder and a sign to many through our trust in God when suffering. We ought to be able to amaze people in our faith through life’s difficulties. We are a sign to our children and our family. We are a sign to our friends, neighbors, and co-workers. We are a sign to other Christians in our local church and sometimes throughout the state or country.
God, My Hope (71:9-16)
Verse 9 informs us that we are late in David’s life. “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength fails.” We would like to think that David was able to come to the end of his life in peace. But that was not the case. Even in his old age times of suffering still came and enemies still pressed against him. The attack of the enemies is with their tongues. The enemies gather together saying, “God has forsaken him; pursue and seize him, for there is no one to deliver.” Notice how David’s suffering is viewed in two different ways. The enemies see David’s problems as a sign that God had forsaken him. David saw himself as a sign of his faith in God despite the trials. Even with the disparaging view of the people, David puts his hope in God continually (71:14). We cannot help but be impressed with the determination of David, even in his old age, to not give up on God. He continues to place his hope in God. David declares that he will praise God more and more and his mouth will continue to tell of God’s righteousness. How often does our suffering cause us to doubt God’s righteousness!!! We start think that God is not dealing with us in a fair manner. But notice that David all the more relies upon God’s righteousness despite the suffering he is enduring. In fact, David declares that we do not know or comprehend the sum of God’s righteousness (vs. 16). Who are we to think that we understand the plan of God? Who are we to think that we know what is fair and just and what is not in our lives when we do not have the full knowledge that God has?
God, My Praise (71:17-24)
In the final section of this psalm, David continues to describe the righteousness of God, and praise him for this attribute. “For Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens, You who have done great things” (71:19). David’s trust is great in the Lord. “You who have shown me many troubles and distresses will revive me again, and will bring me up again from the depths of the earth” (71:20). David simply will not let go of God. How could David have this kind of strength all of his life through all the tragedies and sufferings he endured? I think there is one short sentence that David kept in his mind that we often forget: “O God, who is like You?” Who is like God? Where else will we turn in times of trouble? Where else will we place our confidence if we will not trust in God? David seems to be saying that the Lord has brought him to this point, through many trials, and God will continue to bring him through. There is no reason to give up on God now, when God has shown himself to be faithful throughout David’s life. God’s righteousness is where we can place our confidence.
The faithfulness of God is also praised in this psalm (71:22). I believe these words of confidence fit well with our study this morning about Jesus’ words from the cross, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” There will be many situations and times in our lives when it will look like we have been forsaken by God. Bad things will happen life. You and I have to be ready for those times and realize that God has not left us. The final two verses of this psalm seem to indicate that all of David’s confidence has not been misplaced. God has redeemed David’s life and those who caused David pain have been put to shame.
- Early in his life and even in his old age, David triumphantly handled the trials of life. We see this turmoil that had come to David in his old age as he describes himself as nearing death (71:20), losing strength (71:9), and losing respect as the people believe God has forsaken him (71:11). David endures by trusting in God to take care of all these matters. It simply will not do us any good to live our lives trusting God for the first three-fourths and then let go of God toward the end. David encourages us to remember the victories of the past and how God has been a deliverer even from the time of birth.
- We cannot help but see this psalm in a moving context toward the Messiah. Under the Old Testament the Lord declared, “If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). When the Jewish people saw Jesus on the cross, this is what they would have thought: he is cursed by God. This is the essence of the mockery of the people: “He has put His trust in God; let God rescue Him now—if He wants Him!” (Matthew 27:43). The Messiah would appear forsaken, but God would remain with Him. In fact, God would raise him from the dead. Look again at Psalm 71:20 with a view to the Messiah. “You who have shown me many troubles and distresses will revive me again, and will bring me up again from the depths of the earth.” While David was speaking about the prolonging of his life against his enemies, when set in the context of the Messiah we the picture of the resurrection, performed by God to show that he had not been forsaken.