Do not be far from me, my God;
come quickly, God, to help me.
May my accusers perish in shame;
may those who want to harm me
be covered with scorn and disgrace.
As for me, I shall always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
of your saving acts all day long –
though I know not how to relate them all.
I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvellous deeds.
Even when I am old and grey,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come.
Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
you who have done great things.
Who is like you, God?
Though you have made me see troubles,
many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.
You will increase my honour
and comfort me once more.
I will praise you with the harp(Ps. 71:12-24 NIV)
for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
Holy One of Israel.
My lips will shout for joy
when I sing praise to you –
I whom you have delivered.
My tongue will tell of your righteous acts
all day long,
for those who wanted to harm me
have been put to shame and confusion.
Remember that the Psalmist is struggling with issues that are associated with the problems of old age. The Psalmist feels that God is at a distance, but really God is always there. Just like us the Psalmist doesn’t always sense that God is there. Again, what is urgent for the Psalmist is not urgent with God. He wants his enemies to suffer shame for what they have done and are doing. The shame, scorn and disgrace that the Psalmist has experienced at their hands, he wants visited on them. Perhaps the Psalmist’s mind does not work as fast any longer, he possibly gets tired more easily and there are many things that he will no longer attempt. In v9 he asked God not to cast him away in his old age. Perhaps he feels not so useful any longer, and thinks God might no longer want to use him in the service of the Lord. The Lord invites us into His presence not because we are useful, but because we are loved. If it was just a matter of getting jobs done, God would be much better on His own, rather than using us whatever age we are. Yet God chooses to use us. The Psalmist need not have these worries about old age, but he is right to bring them before God in prayer.
V14 shows us the importance of bringing our concerns before God. The Psalmist is renewed in his hope in the Lord. We might get a little impatient with the Psalmist. Nearly every Psalm he has some lament or other to make. Is it not time for him to move on? Would you want every worry that you had printed in a book, every time you doubted, every time you were angry, every time you were scared? What we do is, rather than pray about our concerns, we turn them over in our minds. The book of Psalms is realistic because I suggest we are just like the Psalmist. God records this to help us, otherwise we would begin to feel that we were the only Christian who had this mix of emotions. The Lord knows how we feel. I was talking to someone yesterday about these next verses in Hebrews, and I think they are relevant to us as we think about this Psalm.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are– yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.(Heb. 4:14-16 NIV)
The Psalmist praises God for salvation and for God’s righteousness. He will proclaim this all day long and he admits that he does not know the full measure of God’s salvation. Here is an old man who has served the Lord all his life, and he is admitting that there is more to learn. Maybe we have heard so much preaching that we sometimes feel there is nothing more to know. That is never correct. Whatever age you are, there is more from God’s word to learn. One of the benefits of being retired is to be able to take a little bit more time to meditate upon God’s word.
Older Christians have a lot of experience, and the Psalmist wants to use his experience to teach the next generation. Don’t underestimate the impact that a ministry of encouragement can have. I was in church a few years ago and an older brother put something into my jacket pocket. He didn’t say anything, and I forgot that he had done that until a few days later I found it in my pocket. It was a verse that he had printed out, and it was just what I needed to read a few days later. I thanked him the next Sunday and he said it was just something he liked to do. He also writes little notes of appreciation, old style with a fountain pen. Our work for the Lord is never finished until God says so, and then He will take us home.
The Psalmist wants to find a way to describe the magnitude of God’s righteousness, and he gives us a picture that has no real limited measurement, it just reaches to the skies. Whatever fears he has had, he has been reassured by God’s presence. God has done great things – there is no one like God. V20 is very much like the experience of Naomi. Though the Lord has made the Psalmist experience many bitter troubles, he has confidence that God will restore his life again. The troubles took him down to the depths of the earth, but God will lift him and restore him to a place of honour and his soul will be comforted.
He will lead the singing in the congregation and praise God for His faithfulness. He will shout for joy because the Lord has redeemed him and has dealt with his enemies.
Lord at times we can feel so frail and lacking in usefulness. We thank You that it is Your delight to restore the soul, to forgive our sins and to comfort us. We thank You that there is always more to learn. Help us to develop a ministry of encouragement. Speak to us Lord through Your word, and especially as we meditate upon the Psalms, for we pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.