Psalm 71: Old and Attacked
March 25, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Deuteronomy 33-34, Psalm 71, Matthew 28:11-20, Romans 16
When you are attacked as a young man or woman, you have certain advantages. To begin with, you are strong. You fear less the actual physical attack, or the hidden insinuated physical attack, that lies behind the words of slander or accusation. Plus, as a young person you have more emotional reserves. True, you do not have the experience to know that a particular way of acting is likely to lead to a particular kind of result; you have less experience because you have lived less long. But you do have a greater ability to bounce back. You are less plagued by sleeplessness. You can work out you anger with physical exercise, going for a run or playing some anaerobic sport or other. Yet most of all, a young person when under attack has the advantage of time. If this battle is lost, there is still time to recover and rebuild. But as you get older, the fear is that the final attack will be the final word and what they say of you now is what they will say about you forever. David appears to be an older man as he writes this psalm about his latest storm.
“Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent” (71:9)
“O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come” (71:17-18).
David is focused on passing on the truth about God to the next generation. And yet, at this stage of life, with grey hairs and a bad back, tired and sleepless, he now finds that there is a fresh attack on his reputation.
“For my enemies speak concerning me; those who watch for my life consult together and say ‘God has forsaken him; pursue and seize him, for there is none to deliver him” (71:10)
“May my accusers be put to shame and consumed; with scorn and disgrace may they be covered who seek my hurt” (71:13).
How does David act and think in this situation of personal attack coming to him as an older man?
- He takes refuge in God. “In you, O LORD, do I take refuge” (71:1); “Be to me a rock of refuge” (71:3); “you are my strong refuge” (71:7). What does it mean to take refuge in God? It means to trust God to defend you. It means to take time to still your emotions before the awesome power of God—devotions and prayer. It means to arm yourself with the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20).
- He asks God for help. “Rescue me, O God, from the hand of the wicked” (71:4); “O God make haste to help me!” (71:12). We have not because we ask not. When your life is under threat, pray as if your life depended on it, for the truth is that your life does depend upon God—and our God is a prayer hearing God.
- He looks forward with hope. “For you, O LORD, are my hope” (71:5); “But I will hope continually” (71:14); “you will increase my greatness and comfort me again” (71:21). When you are under attack, it is easy to think that this will never end. But this too will pass. And with God there is always hope. The future is always bright with God. His hope is sure, and his kingdom is eternal!
- He praises God. “My praise is continually of you” (71:6); “I…will praise you yet more and more” (71:14); “I will also praise you with the harp…I will sing praises with the lyre” (71:22); “my lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to you” (71:23). Was this the secret of David’s resilience? He was a man of praise!
- He preached the gospel. “My mouth will tell of your righteous acts” (71:15); “I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone” (71:16); “I proclaim your might to another generation” (71:18); “My tongue will tell of your righteous help all the day long” (71:24).
If you are under attack today, then (especially if you are older and feeling the weight of the end of your life on earth), remember the example of Psalm 71 and of David.
- Take refuge in God.
- Ask God for help.
- Look forward with hope.
- Praise God.
- Preach the gospel.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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