Psalm 71

Dear brothers,

How often do you have a substantive and heartfelt conversation with someone? When you do, is it usually with someone your age? Is it sometimes with someone considerably younger or older?

The author of Psalm 71 indicates that he is old. The heading of the psalm does not name the author, but there are several reasons to think that it is King David.

David was near the end of of his life and he was in the grasp of cruel and evil people. And yet he could sing with confidence, “God is my strong salvation. What foe have I to fear?” (CW Psalm 71).

In each part of this psalm, we receive substantive and heartfelt encouragement from a godly old man…

Psalm 71 has been divided in various ways. In most outlines, there are six parts, with a chiastic structure that looks like this:

A – Introductory prayer

B – Expression of confidence

C – Plea for help

C’ – Prayer of hope

B’ – Expression of confidence

A’ – Concluding prayer

Read the introductory prayer in verses 1–4. The psalmist states the reason for his prayer. He needs to be delivered from evil and cruel men. Two phrases stand out in these verses: “in your righteousness” and “continually.” The LORD is a rock of refuge for his people continually. 24/7. In every season of my life. Every second of my life. The LORD does this for me, because of his righteousness. He keeps his promises to his people, even when they are poor and needy. The LORD will never let his people down. How could he send his Son for us and then not be there to answer our prayers?

Read the expression of confidence in verses 5–8. When the psalmist was younger (and presumably stronger) he entrusted himself into the Lord’s care, and the LORD provided for him and protected him. With the LORD, past providence is an indication of future providence. The LORD is faithful and consistent. He does not change. For this reason, our waiting on the LORD can be filled with praise of the LORD.

Read the plea for help in verses 9–13. Notice the sandwich structure of this section: a plea at the beginning (v. 9) and a plea at the end (vv. 12-13), with the situation described in the middle (vv. 10-11). Adonijah setting himself up as king in 1 Kings 1–2 would fit the situation described in this psalm. David was helpless and undeserving. His plea was for the LORD to be near and to act soon.

Read the prayer of hope in verses 14–18. As David cried out to God, he was not without hope. The LORD’s people always have hope. The LORD always provides. The LORD delivers again and again. That is why we proclaim his saving acts, his mighty deeds, and his righteous deeds to others. God provides for us, not just for our benefit, but so that we might proclaim his power and love to the next generation—in our families, in our congregations, and in all our callings.

Read the expression of confidence in verses 19–21. God’s righteousness reaches to the heights! He lifts his people out of the depths! God increases the honor of his people, again and again, more and more. That was the story of David’s life, and it is the story of all who put their hope in David’s greater Son. What a blessing it is when brothers in the faith share their stories with each other!

Read the concluding prayer in verses 22–24. With shouts and singing and musical instruments, David praises and thanks the LORD for delivering him (maybe in anticipation of that deliverance or maybe because it had already come). “My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long” (verse 24). As we celebrate the first advent of the Lord Jesus Christ and await his return in glory, Psalm 71 gives us—old and young—the language we need for prayer, praise, and proclamation.

May God fill our December with all three, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.