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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 71

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Verses 1-4


The psalm does not mention a writer. It has been assumed, that David wrote it. This is supported by the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which mentions that this psalm is of David. It is said to have been written during his flee from his rebellious son Absalom. That the writer does not mention his name places all emphasis on the content of the psalm. The psalmist speaks of the faithful care of God throughout his life, from his mother’s womb to old age.

In this we see a clear prophetic description of God’s faithful care for Israel from the beginning of their history to the end. The psalm sounds an appeal to that faithful care that as they come to the end of their history – what is called old age here – He will not forsake them even now.

In Psalm 69 we have seen the suffering of Christ and in Psalm 70 the great need of the remnant. In Psalm 71 we see how the remnant draws new strength from expecting the LORD (cf. Isaiah 40:30-Obadiah :).

We also see the spirit of Christ in this psalm. Much of it applies to Him. In it we see His connection to the faithful remnant in the end times. The end of His life on earth bears witness to similar trials, though with Him they are deeper and perfect.

Prayer for Deliverance

Both Psalms 71:1 and Psalms 71:2 begin and thus place great emphasis on the basis of the psalmist’s supplication. Psalms 71:1 begins with “In You, O LORD” and Psalms 71:2 begins with “In Your righteousness”. The conviction that the LORD, the faithful God of the covenant, is mighty (Psalms 71:1) and always acts in righteousness and therefore in accordance with His covenant and His word, is the basis of the psalmist’s confidence that He will deliver him (Psalms 71:2; cf. Psalms 31:1-Leviticus :).

The mention of “You” (the Person of God) and His righteousness is also found in Psalms 71:14-Ezra :, in Psalms 71:16, and in Psalms 71:19. The psalmist has experienced the faithfulness of God from his youth (Psalms 71:5) and it will continue to be true in his old age (Psalms 71:18).

The psalmist turns directly to the LORD to tell Him that he has taken refuge in Him (Psalms 71:1). This is the only thing a person should do when he is in need. In doing so, he asks if the LORD will see to it that he will never be ashamed.

One of the worst disappointments that can happen to a person is that his trust in someone is ashamed. With people this happens regularly and even in the most intimate relationships. With God it is impossible. The fact that the psalmist asks for this, does not mean that he doubts God’s faithfulness. It is the expression of a mind that is aware of its inability to remain faithful itself in the circumstances of need in which it finds itself.

That he does not doubt the faithfulness of God is shown by his appeal to God’s “righteousness” (Psalms 71:2). The righteousness of God is His righteous action in accordance with His covenant and His promise and His word. This is the pleading ground for deliverance and rescue. This implies that the psalmist is unjustly persecuted. There is no cause in either his actions or words to hunt him down. He asks that God incline His ear to him, that is, that He listens to him with attention and save him.

Also, salvation is not the ultimate goal of God’s righteousness, but that God is a rock in which he can dwell (Psalms 71:3). To dwell with God as a rock means to be at home with Him and to be in safety. It is a place he wants to be in constantly because danger is constantly threatening. He longs to be with God, in His presence. The longing for God is felt most strongly when the world reveals itself in all its hostility.

At the same time, there is the certainty that salvation will come because the psalmist knows that God has given the command to do so. If God has commanded something, there is no power in the universe that can stop its execution. It is like Balaam who is hired to curse God’s people. However, God has commanded that Balaam should bless His people and so it is done (Numbers 24:12-1 Chronicles :). The psalmist counts on God’s salvation and protection, for he knows God as his “rock” and his “fortress”.

The psalmist has to deal with someone who is wicked, who is a wrongdoer and who is a ruthless man (Psalms 71:4). This is a description of the antichrist. He asks to be rescued from the hand of that person. He mentions this twice in this verse. It means that he feels in the grasp of the wicked one. At the same time he looks above him to God Who is able to rescue him from his grasp. The psalmist here is a type of the remnant. He needs deliverance because he is surrounded by enemies led by the antichrist (Psalms 71:4; Psalms 71:10-1 Kings :).

Verses 5-9

The Occasion for Prayer

The psalmist tells God why he appeals to Him (Psalms 71:5): God is his hope. His hope in affliction is not in people, but in God. He knows Him from his youth as the “Lord GOD”, Adonai Yahweh. From his youth God has been his confidence. We also know of others who put their trust in God from their youth, such as Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:3) and Timothy (2 Timothy 3:14-Ezra :).

When the psalmist says that he has been sustained by God from his birth, literally “upon You I have been supported” (Psalms 71:6), he is not speaking of himself, but the Spirit through him is speaking of the Lord Jesus. Only the Lord Jesus can say that He has been supported upon God from the mother’s womb. He leaned on God an act. It is something that only someone who knows that he needs that support can do. This is so with the Lord Jesus, from them moment He is born. It shows the wonder of His Person. He is God and Man at the same time.

He also knows that God took Him from His mother’s womb onward. This means that He has known God as His Helper from His earliest existence as Man, when He still was in His mother’s womb. This is also known by every human being who has come to faith. That is the moment he started counting on God’s help. Every God-fearing person will acknowledge that God has helped him in life from the womb. This is also the confession of restored Israel in the end times. God has been the Helper of the people from the very beginning of their existence. This awareness of God’s care from the beginning brings about great thankfulness. This thankfulness is constantly expressed in praise to God.

The remnant will have hope through and draw confidence from examples in Scripture, how in the very beginning of the nation they had put their trust in God and were not ashamed. They also know how Christ always put His trust in God. The birth of Isaac is a wonder sign, that is characterized by Abraham’s faith and trust in God. The birth of Israel as a people redeemed from the bondage of Egypt is also marked by wonder signs.

During the course of his life, the God-fearing has “become a marvel to many” (Psalms 71:7). The word “marvel” can also be translated ‘wonder’. It is a sign of God. Attacks have been made on his life time and again, but they have been unsuccessful. His enemies did not succeed in their intentions. Every salvation is a wonder. It is also a sign. This sign is that he is under the protection of God. God is his “strong refuge”. He owes his survival not to his own cleverness or strength, but to the protection of his God from Whom he seeks refuge.

In the same way, Israel is a wonder and a sign. The people still exist, despite all attempts to eradicate them. It owes this not to its military strength and intelligent defensive tactics, but to God’s providential protection. All attempts that are still being made to exterminate it will fail. The reason is that God has chosen this people to be His people. The whole world will see it when the Lord Jesus will reign there. Their existence means that God is there and is standing up for His people. In this way, our life can also be a sign, it can have meaning for those around us, because it is seen that we owe everything to God.

Now the psalmist has come to the end of his life. He tells God that his mouth will be filled with His praise and His glory all day long (Psalms 71:8). Earlier (Psalms 71:6) he has said that God’s care for him from his formation in the mother’s womb makes him praise God constantly. Now he tells God that he will do this all day long and that not only with respect to praising God, but also with making known His splendor, that is His honor and glory.

The reason for this is that he has become old and his strength is perishing (Psalms 71:9). When strength perishes, one becomes uncertain in his movements (Ecclesiastes 12:5). But even in old age God is the same (Isaiah 46:4). The old believer who continues to remember this will ask God to help him every day.

There is no better preparation for old age with its diminishing strength and its increasing weaknesses than to seek the Creator in youth and to think of Him in youthful years (Ecclesiastes 12:1). Old age is a new phase of life, but one in which the accumulated life with God is built upon. Experiences with God are gained that were not possible before.

Verses 10-13

Call For Urgent Help

As the years climb, strength declines, but not the enmity of the wicked. The God-fearing old one finds himself in the midst of enemies who talk about him and plot against him (Psalms 71:10). They want to kill him. There is no patience to wait for the day of his death which, given his age, will not be long in coming.

They see the waning strength as a sign that God has forsaken the God-fearing (Psalms 71:11). This makes them feel free and even strengthened to pursue and seize him. They see that he is on his own. There is no one, they believe, who will stand up for him and save him, not God and certainly not man.

Thus, in the end times, the unbelieving part of the people, led by the antichrist, their false king, will pursue the believing remnant without fear of God to seize and exterminate them. They will do so under the assumption that God has forsaken them. The circumstances will also be such that it will indeed appear that God has forsaken them.

The God-fearing feels the pressure his enemies are putting on him and cries out to God not to stay far from him (Psalms 71:12). He needs the close proximity of God now that the enemies are pressing so hard on him. God he knows as “my God”, the God with Whom he has a personal relationship, and asks Him to come to his aid soon.

For his adversaries, he asks that God cause them to be shamed and consumed (Psalms 71:13). They seek to injure him. Therefore, he asks that God let them be covered with reproach and dishonor. Their portion is in every way the opposite of what he expects for himself from his God. This is not selfishness, but a proper understanding of what is evil in the eyes of God.

Verses 14-18

Keep Hoping in God

“But as for me” is emphatic (Psalms 71:14). It means that the purpose of the psalmist’s heart is emphasized. With it, he says that no matter what happens, he will continue to hold fast to the faithfulness of God.

This is also the language of the believing remnant in the time of trial. It is the time when the faith of the remnant emerges. Trials have that purpose. They keep hoping. No matter how severe the trial, their confidence remains in God. Faith expresses itself powerfully. No matter what happens, they will continually remain hopeful that God will help (cf. Psalms 71:1-Exodus :) and that they will praise Him even more, literally “add upon all Your praise”. Faith sees salvation already before it is a fact.

Experiences with God are based on God’s “righteousness” (Psalms 71:15). God is not random and even less fickle in sending trials. He has a righteous basis for testing the faith of His own. He has that same righteous basis for the outcome of the trial. He always acts in accordance with His standard, that is, His word, His promises, and here His covenant.

Therefore, there need be no doubt about the nature and outcome of a trial. God ultimately gives salvation. The dimensions of it, the magnitude, all that salvation involves, is far beyond the comprehension of any human being.

What the psalmist can come to God with and with what God is pleased to see him come to praise are “the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD” (Psalms 71:16; cf. Deuteronomy 3:24; Psalms 106:2). Those mighty deeds are also connected to His righteousness. Every mighty deed is an affirmation of His righteousness. These the psalmist will “make mention of”. Only those deeds are worthy of mention and none of their own. Whatever a believer may have done also happened only by the power and grace God has given.

The psalmist’s whole life from his youth onward has been a succession of instruction and formation by God and of proclaiming His wondrous deeds (Psalms 71:17). He has trained him up “in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6). This also clearly applies to the history of the people of God. And can we not also say it with regard to our own lives? The older we get, the more material we have to proclaim God’s wondrous deeds. Our whole personal history bears witness to the teaching the Lord has patiently given us.

The request not to leave him, “even when [I am] old and gray”, shows the awareness that even in aging, God’s assistance and help are indispensable (Psalms 71:18; Isaiah 46:4). Therefore, he asks God not to forsake him. He does so also because he sees that his life’s task is not yet finished. He is not tired of life, but sees another challenge.

Life always has meaning, especially when we have grown older. Then we can proclaim to the new generation we see God’s power. To “all who are to come”, that is, all future generations, he wants to proclaim God’s power. This may be the desire of every elder. If we are elderly believers, do we have anything to pass on in terms of experiences we have had of the power and might of God?

Verses 19-24

The Certainty of the Hearing

The psalmist ends the psalm with an ode to the righteousness of God (Psalms 71:19). The righteousness of God is manifested in many ways, it is manifested when He is wrathful toward sinners (Romans 1:18), when He saves and declares righteous a sinner who believes (Romans 1:16), but also in His governmental ways with believers.

The righteousness at issue here is that which the people have come to know, both in judgment of sin and in the fulfillment of God’s promises to His people. God’s righteousness reaches to the heavens, where God dwells (cf. Psalms 36:5). Thus, the earth is joined to heaven. This is the result of the “great things” that He has done for His people in His righteousness. Of these they are deeply impressed. They express this by crying out in admiration to God: “O God, who is like You?” (cf. Exodus 15:11; 2 Samuel 7:22; Psalms 35:10; Isaiah 40:18; Micah 7:18).

They have gone through the great tribulation. In it they have seen “many troubles and distresses” (Psalms 71:20). But look, they do not attribute this to their opponents, but to God. He has brought it all upon them and made them see it. That also determines the outcome at the same time, because He has a purpose in doing so. He wants to give them the experience of the resurrection. They will not be delivered up to death, He will revive and bring them up from the depths, the deep waters of the earth. It is a poetic description of the resurrection from the death and the grave. The acceptance of Israel by God after the great tribulation is no different than “life from the dead” (Romans 11:15; Hosea 6:2).

After the revival of Israel, the people will enjoy great prestige in the world (Psalms 71:21). The reproach has turned to admiration. They have become the head instead of the tail (Deuteronomy 28:13). However, the people also need comfort after so much misery and the severe trials in which they have been. When they come out of the great tribulation, God Himself will wipe the tears from all their faces (Isaiah 25:8; cf. Revelation 7:17; Revelation 21:4). He will not only comfort them, but surround them with His comfort, He will comfort them on every side (Darby Translation). They are at the center of His fellowship. He walks around them, as it were, to assure them that His comfort is complete, without overlooking anything that needs comfort.

“The winter [of the great tribulation] is past. … The time [the realm of peace] has arrived for singing” (Psalms 71:22; Song of Solomon 2:11-2 Kings :). Musical instruments accompany the singing of praises. God’s truth – or faithfulness, it is the same word – is praised. It is the truth of “my God”, for that’s how they got through that hard time. It confirms the truth of His promise, which He has fulfilled in His faithfulness. Because of this, they also entered into the blessing of the realm of peace. The remnant will sing psalms about this to God with the harp.

The God whom they praise and Whose faithfulness and truth they praise, is the Holy One of Israel. This title occurs here for the first time in Psalms and twice more hereafter (Psalms 78:41; Psalms 89:18). It is a title that the prophet Isaiah liked to use. In his book he calls Him so twenty-five times. Thus here the restored Israel acknowledges Him. He is their God, the Holy One. He has proven this throughout their history, both in His judgment of their sins and in their redemption.

In addition to the musical instruments, the words used by the remnant to shout for joy when they sing praises to God are heard (Psalms 71:23). They not only sing of the outward redemption from the enemies, but also of the redemption of their souls. This applies to us to an even greater degree. With us it is not about enemies of flesh and blood, but about the salvation of the soul that we may already enjoy (1 Peter 1:9-2 Kings :).

What the praise is ultimately about is God’s righteousness (Psalms 71:24). The righteousness of God runs like a thread through this psalm. The psalmist uses the phrase five times (Psalms 71:2; Psalms 71:15Psalms 71:16; Psalms 71:19Psalms 71:24). The God-fearing will utter that righteousness with his tongue all day long. He can sing about that because those who seek his hurt have been righteously judged by God. They are ashamed.

They have been unable to carry out their evil intentions through God’s protection of His godly one. God’s intervention in favor of the God-fearing has humiliated them. God is Victorious, not they. Of this the God-fearer is certain. He speaks of it as if his opponents had already been made ashamed and had already have been humiliated.

Instead of him being ashamed, for which he prayed at the beginning of the psalm that it would not happen (Psalms 71:1), they are ashamed. This is characteristic of the faith that has grown during the psalm into an expression of certainty. Thus the psalm, which began with a prayer for salvation, ends with a victory call. Victory takes shape in the next psalm, the last of the second book of psalms. It is a royal psalm that describes the glory of the king to come.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 71". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/psalms-71.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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