PSALM 71 OVERVIEW
There is no title to this Psalm, and hence some conjecture that Psalm 70 is intended to be a prelude to it, and has been broken off from it. Such imaginings have no value with us. We have already met with five Psalms without title, which are, nevertheless, as complete as those which bear them.
We have here THE PRAYER OF THE AGED BELIEVER, who, in holy confidence of faith, strengthened by a long and remarkable experience, pleads against his enemies, and asks further blessings for himself. Anticipating a gracious reply, he promises to magnify the Lord exceedingly.
Division. The first four verses are faith's cry for help; the next four are a testimony of experience. From Psalms 71:9-13 , the aged saint pleads against his foes, and then rejoices in hope, Psalms 71:14-16 . He returns to prayer again in Psalms 71:17-18 , repeats the confident hopes which cheered his soul, Psalms 71:19-21 ; and then he closes with the promise of abounding in thanksgiving. Throughout, this Psalm may be regarded as the utterance of struggling, but unstaggering, faith.
Verse 1. In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust. Jehovah deserves our confidence; let him have it all. Every day must we guard against every form of reliance upon an arm of flesh, and hourly hang our faith upon the ever faithful God. Not only on God must we rest, as a man stands on a rock, but in him must we trust, as a man hides in a cave. The more intimate we are with the Lord, the firmer will our trust be. God knows our faith, and yet he loves to hear us avow it; hence, the psalmist not only trusts in the Lord, but tells him that he is so trusting.
Let me never be put to confusion. So long as the world stands, stand thou by me; yea, for ever and ever be faithful to thy servant. If thou forsake me, men will ridicule my religion, and how shall I be able to answer them? Confusion will silence me, and thy cause will be put to shame. This verse is a good beginning for prayer; those who commence with trust shall conclude with joy.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. This Psalm, which has no title in the Hebrew, in the LXX has the title, By David, of the sons of Jonadab, and of those who were first made prisoners. If any authority be allowed to this title, we must suppose that this was a Psalm written by David, which was used, as particularly adapted to the circumstances of their condition, by the Rechabites, who were descended from Jonadab (Jeremiah 35), and the Jews, who were taken by the Chaldeans as captives to Babylon. However this may be, it seems probable that David was the author of this Psalm, and that he wrote it in his extreme age, and but a little while before he died. The line which follows the next Psalm, and closes the second book, perhaps has a reference to this fact. Some of the Fathers interpret the Psalm mystically of the church in her old age, and her trials at the end of the world. "Plain Commentary."
Whole Psalm. The Psalm, I am aware, is anonymous, and is, therefore, by many recent critics referred to some later writer; but I am satisfied that Venema and Hengstenberg have adduced sufficient reasons for retaining the opinion of Calvin and the older expositors, that it is from David's pen, and is the plaintive song of his old age. It shows us the soul of the aged saint, darkened by the remembrance of his great transgression, and by the swarms of sorrows with which that sin filled all his later years. But he finds comfort in reverting to the happy days of his childhood, and especially to the irrevocable trust which he was then enabled to repose in God. The thoughts and feelings expressed remind one of those which invest with such a solemn, tender interest the Second Epistle to Timothy, which embalms the dying thoughts of the great apostle. Like Paul, David takes a retrospect of the Lord's dealings with him from the beginning; and, in effect, declares, with the dying apostle: "I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." 2 Timothy 1:12 . Only, there is this notable difference between the two, that while Paul gathered confirmation of his faith from the experience of a thirty years' walk with his Lord, David's experience stretched over more than twice so many years; for it began with his childhood. William Binnie.
Whole Psalm. It will be asked how Christ could use such verses as Ps 71:9,18, since these look forward apparently to the frailty of age. The reply to this felt difficulty is, these expressions are used by him in sympathy with his members, and in his own case denote the state equivalent to age. His old age was, ere he reached three and thirty years, as John 8:57 is supposed to imply: for "Worn out men live fast." Barclay seems to give the right sense in the following lines: --
"Grown old and weak, with pain and grief,
Before his years were half complete."
Besides, the words signify, "Forsake me not from this time onward, even were I to live to grey hairs." This is a view that conveys precious consolation to aged ones, who might be ready to say that Christ could not altogether enter into their feelings, having never experienced the failing weakness of age, the debility, the decay, the bodily infirmities so trying to the spirit. But this Psalm shows us, that in effect he did pass through that stage of our sojourning, worn out and wasted in bodily frame and feeling, by living so much in so short a time. The aged members of his church may find his sweet sympathy breathed out in Isaiah 46:3-4 ; and, here they may almost see him learning the lesson in a human way, as he bends under the weight of our frailties. For this reason, among others, this Psalm was specially prized by Robert Blair, one of our godly forefathers. He used to call it "His Psalm." Andrew A. Bonar.
Verse 1. In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust. As if he should say: O Lord, permit not those who put their trust in thee to be confounded, and to be held up as a laughing stock. I have placed all my hope in thee, and thou art that God who, for the sake of thy goodness and truth, hast never deserted those who hope in thee. If thou shalt suffer me to be confounded, the enemies to triumph, and my hope to be placed in thee in vain, certainly this shame shall fall upon thine own name... Let us, therefore, learn from this place to be more anxious about what may happen to the name of God through us, than to our own; whether it be through us in doing, or in us in suffering. The prophet is fearful lest he should be confounded on account of his hope placed in God, although it was not in his own power, nor could he prevent it... It is necessary, first, that we should be of those who place their hope in God, then it is necessary that this piety of our hearts should not be confined to ourselves only, but should be known to all those who come in contact with us, even our opponents and enemies; else it is not possible for us to dread this kind of confusion feared by the prophet, when nobody knows that our hope is placed in God. No artist suffers confusion, if he has never shared the good opinion of his fellow men. To no sick man can it be said, Physician, heal thyself, if his reputation for medical skill has never stood high. So of those, it cannot be said, They hoped in God, let him save them if he will have them, of whom it was never remarked that they placed any hope in God. His solicitude, therefore, belongs only to those whose hope is in the Lord; upon others it cannot fall. Musculus.
Verse 1. In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust. It is a good beginning, and a recommendation to our prayers, when we can declare our faith and trust to be in God alone. Edward Walter, in "A Help to the profitable reading of the Psalms." 1854.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Arguments used to induce to Lord to hear, drawn,
- From his justice and equity: Deliver me in
- From his word and promise: Thou hast given
- From his power: Thou art my rock. etc.
- From his relation to him: My God, my hope.
- From the qualities of his adversaries: They
were wicked, unrighteous, and cruel.
- From his confidence: Thou art my hope.
- From his gracious providence: By thee have I
been holden up, etc.
- From his thankful heart: My praise shall be
- He had none to trust to but God: Thou art my
refuge. Adam Clarke.
Verse 1. Faith is a present act; faith is a personal act, faith deals only with God, faith knows what she is about, faith kills her fears by prayer.
WORKS WRITTEN ABOUT THE SEVENTY-FIRST PSALM IN SPURGEON'S DAY
Hieronymi Savonarolae Ferrariensis Meditationes in Psalmos -- Miserere - - In Te Domine Speravi, et Qui Regis Israel (12mo. Leyden: 1633).