For the director of music. Of David. A petition.
Hasten, O God, to save me;
come quickly, Lord, to help me.
May those who want to take my life
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
be turned back in disgrace.
May those who say to me, ‘Aha! Aha!’
turn back because of their shame.
But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
‘The Lord is great!’
But as for me, I am poor and needy;
come quickly to me, O God.
You are my help and my deliverer;
Lord, do not delay.
In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me;
turn your ear to me and save me.
Be my rock of refuge,
to which I can always go;
give the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.
For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
my confidence since my youth.
From my birth I have relied on you;
you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you.
I have become a sign to many;
you are my strong refuge.
My mouth is filled with your praise,
declaring your splendour all day long.
Do not cast me away when I am old;(Ps. 70:1-71:11 NIV)
do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
For my enemies speak against me;
those who wait to kill me conspire together.
They say, ‘God has forsaken him;
pursue him and seize him,
for no one will rescue him.’
Psalm 70 and 71 are often taken together as one Psalm. Psalm 70 is also a repeat of Psalm 40:13-17 with a few minor differences. Both Psalms 70 and 71 are laments or petitions for deliverance. The request for God to hasten or come quickly appears (same word in Hebrew) in both Psalms, twice in Psalm 70 and once in Psalm 71. The Psalmist, in both Psalms, desires that shame and confusion should be experienced by the enemy. There are a number of other common phrases, enough to establish the link between these two Psalms.
Psalm 70 begins and ends with the plea for immediate deliverance. There is a sense of urgency with the Psalmist. Emergencies and urgencies are experiences that people can have. It happens to us because we are not able to always predict what might happen and we don’t know what the outcome will be. But God knows the end from the beginning, so no emergency response contingency plans are needed by God. For us life so quickly gets out of control, hence our great need to come into the presence of the One who is in control.
There are those wagging their heads in disapproval of the Psalmist. Without Psalm 71 we wouldn’t know exactly what the circumstances are. It is the Psalmist’s advancing years that concerns the Psalmist (see Ps 71:9, 18).
The first eight verses of Psalm 71 are concerned with the idea of refuge. The Psalmist has taken up refuge in the covenant LORD. The Psalmist is able to open up his heart to the Lord in a way that he could not to other people. He doesn’t want to fail the Lord or be put to shame. There are some people who have many contacts, and they feel that one phonecall to the right person is all that is needed to help them jump the queue, bend the rules, or receive preferential treatment. The Psalmist calls upon God to act in righteousness to rescue and deliver him. The Psalmist often uses terms like, turn Your face, turn Your eye, or turn Your ear to me and save me. The Lord’s eye and ear are always upon His people, it is just that with us it doesn’t always seem like that. If God is watching over me, how could this happen to me? It is because God is watching over you that it is happening. When something dreadful happens it is often said, I can’t believe that God allowed this or did this. I’ll admit that it can be hard to understand why some things happen. It is better to know that God is behind an experience or permits an experience, because the alternative is more dreadful, that an experience is just random, not permitted, not controlled. No demon, no person is able to sneak behind God’s back to accomplish anything. God is always in control. The reason we can’t always reconcile events is because we have only a small part of the information. Without the information, without knowing why the experience is happening, God calls upon us to trust Him.
The Psalmist wants the Lord to be his rock of refuge, a place where he can always go. Why would he ever want to leave the rock of refuge. Sadly we are so prone to leave the rock of refuge. We get fixed and strengthened and then feel we strong enough to venture out, and it doesn’t take us long to realise that we are no match for the enemy. The Psalmist has great confidence in God, just give the command, just speak the word, and he knows that it will be done. He feels like he is in the hand and grasp of the wicked. They are cruel in what they say and what they do. People can be so cruel and wicked in the hurt they inflict on others. Prolonged torture, methods of inflicting psychological and physical pain on people, at times it seems demonic what people will do to others.
The Psalmist reflects upon how God has been with him through the various stages in life. In his youth he had depended upon the Lord. The Sovereign covenant LORD had been a cause of hope and confidence. Youth is a challenging stage in life. You are on the brink of adulthood, thinking about future relationships, education and employment. It is good to have the Lord in your life as a youth. The Psalmist goes back further in his life. All his life he had depended upon the Lord. From birth he had relied upon God. It was God who brought him safely from his mother’s womb. Infant mortality was much greater back then than now. Looking back over life, the Psalmist praises the Lord. His walk with God has been an encouragement to many. Each moment of the day he has an awareness of God, singing God’s praise, thinking of the splendour each hour of the day. Now the Psalmist comes to his concern. His immediate future is his old age. My grandfather lived into his nineties. When my grandmother died, I stayed with him during the weak and then my uncle and aunt came to stay with him at the weekend. As he was getting near the end of his life, he said that in his life he was once a man but twice a child. As his body declined in strength, he needed to accept more help from others. The Psalmist is beginning to lose his strength, gets tired sooner, takes longer getting things done, and he lifts his heart to God as asks that he will not be castaway when he is old. It is precious to see that God has included this reflection upon the emotions of the Psalmist in his old age. God understands that frailty. The enemies see that he is more vulnerable now, they conspire against him to find opportunity to take his life. The enemies make the false conclusion that the Psalmist’s declining health and weakness is an indication that God has forsaken him. The Psalmist has lived a long life and has a great deal of experience of the Lord being with him. He has learned to bring his fears and concerns into the Lord’s presence. There are new fears now with declining strength and failing health. He is no longer able to do all that he used to do. God does not discard His people. The concerns that the Psalmist has had have differed throughout his life. He may have retired from certain duties, but he still has a daily audience with the Lord. The concerns that he has are of interest to God.
Almighty God we thank You that You are with the children in our church, that You care for the youth, that You care for every adult, and that You care for the elderly. We thank You that we have been encouraged by the vast range of emotions that we see the Psalmist bring into Your presence. It helps us to know that, when we feel like that, we can come into Your presence and share that emotion. We thank You that You show us the Psalmist coming before You with the issues associated with every stage in life. Lord we thank You that You are always with us from birth right through to death, that we are never alone. Helps us Lord in the stage we find ourselves just now, thank You for caring about the needs of every age group. Be pleased to receive our thanksgiving in Jesus’ name. Amen.