Finishing Well

Psalm 71

Cut to the chase. Just gimme the bottom line. Don’t bore me with the details. Gotta run, can’t talk now.

Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic diseases of the twentieth century.” ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Too many people focus on finishing, or at least doing the next thing, not necessarily being attentive to quality; priority is often “how quickly” rather than simply “how”. This psalm a reflection by one who is approaching old age (if not the end of life) v.17-18, with confidence – how did he get there? How can we do similarly, arrive at the end of life with confidence, finishing well?

Psalm suitable for instruction and imitation – what are habits and attitudes we should cultivate before old age, how can we pray & praise when we get there. Can’t rightly do it with all scripture but much of psalter is different; it is intended to be personalized – make the I / me / my / mine our very own. Same thing we should be doing with hymn-singing – using someone else’s words as our own.

general character of psalm:

strongly personal

addresses God in very personal and intimate way, also includes personal information – past history, emotions, inner convictions

O my Elohim – v. 4, 12, 22; free address to God using various names in familiar way; also Adonai, Yahweh – he is the God of relationship, not God of theory or theology

my sustainer from birth – v.6; my trust from my youth – v.5; my God when old and grayheaded – v.18; expressing lifelong dependence, no hint of “wait till I’m old and gray to think seriously about religion”, quite the opposite – v.17, taught me from my youth

expressive of great confidence

several options open to us: can trust in man’s resources (political, military, economic, technological), own personal “bag of tricks”, or true God; usually pick the one that inspires greatest confidence; inspired poet chose God

in you I put my trust – v.1; you are my trust – v.5b => conscious purposeful action to fix on object of trust, then follow through

be my strong refuge – v.3; you are my strong refuge – v.7 => personal history confirms wisdom of seeking refuge in God – God has done so in the past, will again in future

you are my hope – v.5a; I will hope – v.14a => confidence in past has been rewarded; no reason to change now, just keep on trusting in same faithful God

praise you yet more and more – v.14b; expectation there will be ongoing cause for praise

Psalmist has woven a tapestry of several interlocking themes – God’s righteousness and faithful providence; psalmist’s confidence in God and his commitment to praise God. We will work our way through psalm by theme or topic rather than by verse.

A. God’s righteousness v.2, 15, 16, 19, 24

because God is righteous he must deliver: if Lord Jesus satisfied God’s demands on our behalf, his justice and righteousness require our ultimate deliverance (2)

asking God to keep his promises – not necessarily from every ache and pain, every hard situation; talking big picture – more about evil and evildoers, those things that would cause spiritual harm

NOTE: physical well-being is important, spiritual well-being is more important – take an extreme, Paul or Pastor Youcef: more important they keep the faith than their health or even liberty

his righteousness is infinite, limitless, beyond our ability to grasp – for real, not just in theory (15)

too many examples to count – go ahead, try, I challenge you to count up all your blessings, not anyone else’s, just your own, especially if you’ve been walking with God since youth

his righteousness is powerful, like no other’s: can be seen in his mighty acts, what he accomplishes/performs (16)

God’s strong right doing inspires action on the part of one who trusts in him: “I will go”, but not alone

“Because in troubles a man’s own strength will fail him, and fail him also in commanded duties, therefore the believer must renounce confidence in his own ability in both cases, and lean to the furniture of God. Dickson

his righteousness is surpassingly excellent (19)

God is incomparable, so are his attributes, even his communicable ones: knowledge, goodness, holiness, truthfulness, righteousness. Share some aspects in small measure, but not on same scale as God.

his righteousness is a terror to his enemies (24)

those who do evil figuratively run from the daylight – can’t stand to be around the light of God’s righteousness; God’s justice and righteousness show up evil for what it really is, besides God bringing their schemes to a bad end

B. God’s providence v.1, 3, 5, 7

trustworthy – can be counted on to provide (1)

if God is God, he can be trusted by one who sincerely depends on him; may not receive what we asked for or expect, but…. will not be disappointed or ashamed ’cause God always does what is best and right

place of protection – rock, fortress, strong refuge (3,7)

Be to me a rock of refuge” “my high ridge and my stronghold” “my secure shelter” – keep me secure from what would overwhelm me

others look at us, our circumstances, wonder “how can you possibly endure that?”; this is the answer

inspires confidence in future based on “performance” in the past (5)

‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus – how I’ve proved him o’er and o’er since youth, now in old age no reason to mistrust; nothing has shaken confidence so far, will just keep trusting my Lord

C. plea for continued faithfulness v.9, 10-12, 18

and for continued usefulness – God be faithful and treat me as useful (9)

Verse 9 is shocking. Certainly age has always been accompanied by fears of uselessness, bodily failure, and the inability to survive, or to survive well. Here the address is to God and the wretchedness comes not only from a lack security vis-à-vis one’s place in this world, but also the feeling of no longer being of concern to God! This speaker is as much as asking whether God cares at all about anyone whose “time is past.” Segal

especially poignant tone to question when asked today: euthanasia, assisted suicide, etc. – does the time ever come when individual is no longer important to God? If worth is related to “usefulness”, then maybe. Praise God he doesn’t think that way!

I think I still have work to do, but I can’t do it alone (18)

shares a common burden with Asaph, author of 78th Psalm – see Psa. 78:4-6

good reason to plead with God for more days, more strength – so as to do our part to communicate spiritual / Biblical heritage to children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, all those we’ve “adopted” along the way

need both the days and the enabling that God provides – it is God’s part to make our efforts for him effective

just because I’m old, enemies haven’t gone away (10-12)

God’s people will not be free of enemies in this life regardless of how long they live; real adversary is Satan, will have constant supply of new recruits until Jesus returns

D. confidence in the future v.14, 16, 22

I will hope (14)

confident active waiting kind of hope, not wishful thinking

“When I cannot rejoice in what I have, I will look forward to what shall be mine, and will still rejoice.” Spurgeon

“The hope of a Christian enableth him to be thankful, even in the dark season of affliction.” Mrs. Thomson.

I will go (16a)

commitment to action: I will go, I will speak; expectation is there will be opportunity, strength to do it, an audience to listen

not the mindset of someone content to hide in the fort; rather, determined to carry on with duties of life as God enables

I will remind others (16b, 22)

conversation will be about God and his works, not individual accomplishments – it’s God’s righteous deeds, God’s faithfulness that others need to be reminded about; after all, it is God not the psalmist who is source of hope

E. commitment to praise v.8, 15, 23, 24

my mouth (8, 15)

“What a blessed mouthful! A man never grows nauseated though the flavour of it be all day in his mouth. God’s bread is always in our mouths, so should his praise be. He fills us with good; let us be also filled with gratitude. This would leave no room for murmuring or backbiting; therefore, may we well join with David in this sacred wish.” Spurgeon

my lips (23)

not superficial praise for the sake of saying something pleasant; heart and emotions accompany thoughts as lips give expression to praise

another principle that goes along with this: even when not experiencing much joy, expressing praise to God, thanking him for his benefits brings joy

my tongue (24)

again, this is continuous occupation: “all the day” v.15, 24; should be quick to give thanks to God at all times, in all circumstances

God’s righteousness and salvation provide plenty of material for praise

Confidence in God is built when we trust in him, he proves he is trustworthy. Relationship with God is built when we converse with him, when we express our praise and thanksgiving to him. To finish well, then: must do our best to be faithful as He is faithful, working our hardest in humble dependence until we hear that upward call, praising him all the way.


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