Have you ever been afraid?
It doesn’t have to be an occasion when you were physically scared. It can be an occasion where you were afraid for your health or your finances or even for a loved one. How did you feel? How did you react?
There are different ways to react. Some say God is dead. Some say God is in control. Some can withstand the grasp of their situation because they pray to God like the writer of Psalm 71 did. They pray to be delivered from their situation, and if we are Christians that is the proper way to respond.
Psalm 71 is an individual lament. It’s suitable for a faithful person who is in danger. The psalm seems to be an elderly person’s plea. One of our greatest challenges as we get older is the decline of our physical strength. For example, people who lead worship services in nursing homes, care facilities and hospitals know the staying power of the psalms and familiar hymns. People who struggle with Alzheimer’s or dementia may have forgotten almost everything, but some of them still remember the psalms and hymns they learned as children.
The psalmist’s enemies plan to hurt him by taking advantage of his weaknesses. The Hebrew word for cruel suggests leaven or yeast, and just like yeast ferments, the wickedness of the psalmist enemies was fermenting. One of the reasons for life’s trials is ungodly foes. Our wise response is to fully rely on the character and compassion of God. James reminds us in James 1:2 and 12 that God uses trials to refine our faith. God can take someone who is overcome by stress and build into his/her life insights which will enable them to live above and beyond its paralyzing grip. The faithful person receives assurance from God’s covenant promises. God is faithful. He keeps his promises, and these promises give us hope.
If we have faith in God and believe in his kingdom, we will face hardships, including hatred and persecution. God will deal with those who attack and persecute him and his followers. These hardships won’t last, but God’s strength will last. The psalmist’s cry for deliverance is based on God’s character. When he delivers his people, the results will be praise and worship. God has been faithful, he is faithful, and he will be faithful.
The psalm is a declaration of our trust and the hope we have in God throughout our lives. Psalm 71 is a sturdy statement of hope and trust. It will only happen when we depend on God and his righteousness.
It’s in God’s nature to provide refuge, deliverance and rescue to those who believe in him. In return, we are to depend on him. He is our one true source of hope and support. The only possible response to God’s steadfastness and grace is to make praising God the most important part of our lives.
Psalm 71 brings forth the theme of childlike trust. We have to trust God just like a child trusts a parent. Trust is not easy. We have to confront our reluctance to trust God. That reluctance is a barrier and an enemy to our faith. We have to confront all of our enemies constantly. When we fail to praise God, frustration builds. God is saddened. We miss a great opportunity to be blessed. God has been with us forever. He never forgets his promises. He never abandons us when we need him, and that gives us confidence.
Children build their child-like trust in God by coming to God, and that is how we as Christians are to build our trust in God. Some people argue against leading children to Christ at an early age, and some denominations will not baptize children or infants. If we don’t teach our children to have faith in Jesus, someone else or something else will convince them to trust something else or someone else.
When we take time to praise God, fear, doubt and frustration fade. Praising God doesn’t mean that our problems aren’t serious or that our problems won’t go away, but praising God forces us to lift our eyes to God. He has the power to lift our hearts and offer us eternal hope. He is our refuge and our strength, especially in times of trouble.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 751-752)
- ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
- Williams, D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 13: Psalms 1-72 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1986; pp. 511-514)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publisher; 2006)
- Eric Mathus, “Commentary on Psalm 71:1-6.” Retrieved from http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2753
- Bobby Morris, “Commentary on Psalm 71:1-6.” Retrieved from http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1532
- David Jeremiah, “Digging Deep.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “Life Gets Better with Praise.” Retrieved from leadingtheway.org
- Selwyn Hughes, “When Broken by Stress.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Mark Ellingson, “Lectionary Scripture Notes, Proper 16, Ordinary Time 21, Pentecost 13, Cycle C (2016).” Retrieved from http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com
- Johnson, “Bible Study, Proper 16(C)-August 21, 2016.” Retrieved from http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2016/08/01/bible-study-proper-16c-august-21-2016
- JoAnn Haynes, “Commentary on Psalm 71:1-6.” Retrieved from http://www.aplainaccount.org