The first three verses of Psalm 71 are almost the same as the first verses of Psalm 31. The author of Psalm 71 is not identified but the common themes and style point to the probability that David was the author. There are numerous phrases in Psalm 71 that clearly came from other psalms written by David. Whoever the author may have been, the message reflects the attitudes that any faithful lover of the Lord should have.
All of the thoughts in the first three verses describe the dependence that a Christian must have to survive in this life and be assured of eternal life. The psalmist wrote, “In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; 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.”
Time and again in the Psalms, the Lord is described as a refuge and fortress. The Lord is seen as the anchor, the rock, for the writer’s life. The plea is often made for the Lord to rescue the writer. All of these are valid pleas for the faithful today to make before the Lord.
Today, the words of the psalmist have been answered. Where the writer of the Old Testament period prayed to be rescued, the Christian knows that he, or she, HAS been rescued, or redeemed, through the blood of Jesus Christ. Where the Old Testament writer prayed for God to hear his prayers, the Christian KNOWS that he can approach the throne of grace with boldness. Where the psalmist places his trust in the Lords’ goodness, the Christian can do it even more so because of the clear message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christians can approach the throne of grace with confidence crying “Abba”, Father. Yes, the themes of the psalms are a reminder of how blessed Christians are today!
In reading Psalm 71, it becomes clear that the writer was an old man. He knew that he did not have many years left to him, but his words reflected the dependence that he still felt in the Lord throughout his entire life. One thing becomes very evident from his words. Although the psalmist had apparently been faithful to the Lord all of his life, that did not exempt him from the problems that he faced.
The psalmist wrote, “Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again.” He had faced many troubles, and some of them must have been very painful and bitter. Yet, he still placed his trust in the Lord. He knew that his only hope rested in God.
This is a lesson that must be relearned with each generation. The “no troubles, pie-in-the-sky” type of faith in the Lord has always been false, and the scriptures has never supported it. Today, too many people are fine as long as life is fine. When a person accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and is buried in baptism, then the LORD is in charge. A Christian cannot pick and choose what he, or she, wants to do. Trials in this life are merely a tool that is used by the Lord to strengthen a Christian, and discipline when necessary. Faith grows from knowledge and adversity.
Verse 18 points to an important responsibility that each generation of Christians has, “And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come.” Each person is responsible for his, or her, own salvation, and ones’ faith cannot be transferred to another; but each generation must share its’ faith and experience with the generations coming up. The history of the Old Testament describes a sad cycle of faithfulness and unfaithfulness. The same danger holds true today.
Older Christians can give a continuity of faith and roots to those that are yet to be born. In this country and this culture, there is often an attitude of impatience with “older” members; and at times tradition may interfere with new ways of spreading the Gospel to a lost world. However, caution does not cancel out the knowledge and maturity that older brothers and sisters in Christ should have. As his life approached the end, the psalmist wanted to share his faith with others. Christians today need to have a free flow of information and wisdom. Christians must always join new enthusiasm with mature wisdom. That joining will be a powerful weapon for the Lord.