Psalm 71:17

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 17. O God, thou hast taught me from my youth. It was comfortable to the psalmist to remember that from his earliest days he had been the Lord's disciple. None are too young to be taught of God, and they make the most proficient scholars who begin betimes.

And hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. He had learned to tell what he knew, he was a pupil teacher; he continued still learning and declaring, and did not renounce his first master; this, also, was his comfort, but it is one which those who have been seduced from the school of the gospel, into the various colleges of philosophy and scepticism, will not be able to enjoy. A sacred conservatism is much needed in these days, when men are giving up old lights for new. We mean both to learn and to teach the wonders of redeeming love, till we can discover something nobler or more soul satisfying; for this reason we hope that our gray heads will be found in the same road as we have trodden, even from our beardless youth.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 17. O God, thou hast taught me from my youth. Whence was it that David understood "more than the ancients"? ( Psalms 119:100 .) He had a Father to teach him; God was his instructor. Many a child of God complains of ignorance and dulness; remember this, thy Father will be thy tutor; he hath promised to give "his Spirit to lead thee into all truth" ( John 6:13 ); and God doth not only inform the understanding, but inclines the will; he doth not only teach us what we should do, but enables us to do it. ( Ezekiel 36:27 ); "I will cause you to walk in my statutes." What a glorious privilege is this, to have the star of the word pointing us to Christ, and the loadstone of the Spirit drawing! Thomas Watson.

Verse 17. Thou hast taught me from my youth. If you ask me what were the ways by which David was taught, I might ask you what they were not... God taught him by his shepherd's crook; and by the rod and sceptre of a king he taught him. He taught him by the shouts of the multitude -- "Saul hath slain his thousands and David his ten thousands;" and he taught him just as much, if not more, by the contempt he met in the court of the Philistines. He taught him by the arrows of Jonathan, levelled in friendship; and he taught him by the javelin of Saul levelled at his life. He taught him by the faithlessness of Abiathar, and the faithlessness of even his faithful Joab; and he taught him by the faithfulness of Abishai, and the faithfulness of Mephibosheth; and, let me add too, by the rebellion of Absalom, and the selfishness of Adonijah; they were all means, by which the Lord taught this his servant. And be assured, you that are under his teaching, there is nothing in your lives, but he can teach you by it: by comforts and crosses, by your wounds and your healings, by that which he gives and by what he takes away. He unteaches his child, that he may teach him; shows him his folly, that he may make him wise; strips him of his vain confidence, that he may give him strength; makes him know that he is nothing, that he may show him that he has all in the Lord -- in Jesus his Beloved one. James Harrington Evans.

Verse 17. Thou hast taught me from my youth. Youth needs a teacher that it may embrace virtue. Seneca says, Virtue is a hard thing to youth, it needs a ruler and guide; vices are acquired without a master. How prone he was in his boyhood and youth to vices, we may see in Psalm 25. "Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions." Jerome, in his Epistle to Nepotianus, says: "As fire in green wood is stifled, so wisdom in youth, impeded by temptations and concupiscence, does not unfold its brightness, unless by hard work, and steady application and prayer, the incentives of youth are inwardly repelled." Hence it is that almost all nations have provided good and wise teachers of the young. Among the Spartans, one was chosen from the Magistrates and Senators to be paidonomos, rector of the boys... At Athens there were twelve men named Sophronistae, elected by the suffrages of all the tribes, to moderate the manners of youth... God is the teacher of his servants. Plato says, oiden einai yeioteron, that there is nothing more divine than the education of children. Of God the Father, or of the whole Trinity, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, says, 1 Samuel 2:3 : "The Lord is a God of knowledge;" (Scientiarum, Vulg.) that is, as the Chaldee has it, he knows all things... Socrates says, that he is the mind of the universe. Without him, therefore, all are demented; but with him, and through him, in a single moment they become wise. Philo, in his treatise of the sacrifice of Cain and Abel, says, Masters cannot fill the mind of their pupils as if they were pouring water into a vessel; but when God, the fountain of wisdom, communicates knowledge to the human race, he does it without delay, in the twinkling of an eye... His anointing shall teach you of all things. 1 John 2:27 . Thomas Le Blanc.

Verse 17. From my youth. Is it such "a crown of glory" to be found old in the ways of righteousness? Do you then begin to be godly betimes; that, if you live in this world you may have this crown set upon your heads when you are ancient; for is it not better for you to be plants of God's house, than weeds upon the dunghill? Those that are wicked are but as weeds upon a dunghill, but you that are godly are as plants in God's own orchard. In Romans 16:7 , we find that Andronicus and Junia are commended because they were in Christ before Paul: "They were in Christ before me." It is an honourable thing to be in Christ before others; this is honourable when you are young; and then going on in the ways of godliness all your young time, and so in your middle age, and till you come to be old. Jeremiah Burroughs.

Verse 17. Wondrous works. Observe that he calls the blessing of divine aid so often received in affliction, wondrous works. By this expression, he shows us, with what grievous perils he was tossed; then how he had been snatched from them by the hand of God, contrary to the expectation of all men. Therefore, God is wonderful among his saints. To this end the adversities of the saints tend, that they may show forth in them the wonderful works of God. Musculus.

Verse 17-18. The integrity of our hearts and ways, in former walkings after God, and service for God, may by faith in Christ, as in all our justification, be pleaded. See also Isa 38:3 and Psalms 119:10 . The Lord himself maketh it to himself a motive to show mercy to his people ( Isaiah 63:8 Jeremiah 2:2 ); only we must use this plea more rarely and sparingly, in a self denying way, in faith in Christ's righteousness, as made ours. Thomas Cobbet.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 17. O God, thou hast taught me. None but God can teach us experimentally; and the lessons he teaches are always useful and important. He teaches all his scholars to know themselves -- their depravity, poverty, and slavery. He teaches them his law -- its purity, claims, and penalty. He teaches them his gospel -- its fulness, freeness, and sensibility. He teaches them to know himself; as a reconciled God, as their Father and faithful friend. His teaching is accompanied with power and authority. We may know divine teaching by its effects: it always produces humility -- they sit as his feet; dependence upon him; abhorrence of sin; love to God as a teacher; obedience to the lessons taught; thirst for further attainments; and it brings us daily to Jesus. James Smith.