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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Psalms 71

Verses 1-24

Psalms 71:16

This is one of the longest texts in the Bible. In its application it covers an indefinite period of time. The way to write this text is to put a few asterisks after the first three words, 'I will go'. Asterisks, as you know, are used in books to signify a lapse of time. They denote that there is a space of time days, or it may be years between the story that comes before them and the story that follows them. So, I say, we need asterisks in this text. There is sometimes a long stretch of years between 'I will go' and 'in the strength of the Lord'. There is often a lapse of time ere the first and last of this verse meet, 'I' and 'the Lord'. Divinity is not always the first resource of humanity. Often it is its last resource. Men do not learn all at once to take God into their reckonings when they make their plans and forecast their endeavours. Some never learn that. And however the world may judge them, however it may congratulate them and envy them, whatever the fashion of their earthly fortunes, they are the failures the real and final failures; and the day comes when they know that this is so.

I. 'I will go.' That is often the whole text in lips of inexperience. Oh the wild strong will of youth! Oh the omnipotence of those early determinations! Oh the finality of those early decisions! 'I will go in mine own strength. It is enough, and it will never fail me.' But oh, how tired the feet grow! and how far away the blue mountains ever are; and the journey grows greater and the pilgrim's strength less every day. And it may be there comes a day when the traveller can go no farther, all the strength of love and hope and enthusiasm expended. And there is nothing for it but despair or divinity. The soul finds God or it finds nothing. Life becomes a tragic failure or a triumph of faith.

II. But supposing that instead of thinking about the way itself, we begin to think about the end of the way. Instead of thinking about the difficulty of life, let us think about the destiny of life. 'I will go in mine own strength.' Yes, but where will you go? What is to be your destination? You may have health and skill to work, and the brain to think, and the heart to make many friends; and if the end of life were just to become a skilled workman, a clever student, or a social success why you might do that 'on your own'.

But when you come to understand that you are here in the world to make a saint, to find some of the meaning of the immortal ideas of beauty, truth, goodness, sacrifice, and to develop and cherish in your heart that love that loves for love's sake, unrepelled by ugliness, unchilled by indifference, undaunted by malice why, then, I say, you are face to face with something that strikes through your self-confidence and drives home into your soul a sense of your insufficiency for life as it was meant to be lived. 'I will go.' Say no more than that if you are only going to the market to make the best of a few bargains, and to the social circle to get the good word of a few friends. But that is not life. That is not finding your destination; that is missing the way, and any one with neither genius nor industry can do that.

III. Look at the things that give meaning and value and immortality to life. People sometimes say to youth, 'The world is at your feet'. But that is not true unless heaven is in your heart. Look out beyond the brief ambitions, the trivial honours, the cheap victories, and the spurious gains of earth, and behold oh, so far beyond them all! the stainless light shining from the towers and pinnacles of the city of God. And know that if ever you are to come to the gates of that city, it must be by winning a victory compared with which every temporal achievement is but child's play.

P. Ainsworth, The Pilgrim Church, p. 210.

References. LXXI. International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 124. LXXII. 2. Archbishop Alexander, Royalty and Loyalty, No. iv. LXXII. 3. W. L. Watkinson, The Ashes of Roses, p. 118. C. D. Bell, Hills that Bring Peace, p. 3. LXXII. 6. H. J. Bevis, Sermons, p. 243. J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, p. 268. LXXII. 10, 11. G. Huntington, Sermons for Holy Seasons, p. 43. LXXII. 12-14. J. Monro-Gibson, A Strong City, p. 213. LXXII. 16. M. G. Pearse, Sermons to Children, p. 67. LXXII. 17. A. Miller, American Pulpit of Today, p. 65. J. Bannerman, Sermons, p. 236. LXXII. 19. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii. No. 129. LXXII. International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 131.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Psalms 71". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/psalms-71.html. 1910.