The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 71

Psa 71:1

The LXX has: "By David, a Psa sung by the sons of Jonadab and the first who were taken into captivity." The ref here to the Rechabites (Jer 35) -- who come in the OT record 500 years after David; perhaps it should be assumed that when the Rechabites were taken captive to Babylon, they esp sang this psalm of David as they went or when they settled there.

LINKS WI OTHER PSS: These are numerous (Psa 22, 31, 35, 40 esp). It is as though David in old age (vv 9,18) is gathering together some outstanding reminiscences of the grace of God shown to him over his 70 years, before going on to the composition of his last psalm of all (note Psa 72:18-20).

HISTORICAL SETTING: The few allusions of this kind point, like the other psalms mentioned, to memories of Absalom's rebellion, when David was a sick man and already aging.

Psa 71:2

DELIVER ME: His flight from Jerusalem (2Sa 15:14). Trapped inside the city, David's case would have been hopeless.

(NT) Equivalent to "Let this cup pass from me" (Mat 26:39; Mar 14:36; Luk 22:42; cp v 4 here).

TURN YOUR EAR TO ME: (NT) "Incline thine ear unto me" (AV). As one might bow down to hear the low and feeble words of an ill or dying man (cp Psa 17:6; 31:2; 116:2).

Psa 71:3

ROCK OF REFUGE... ROCK... FORTRESS: Mahanaim, to which David fled, was a defensed city (2Sa 17:24,27).

GIVE THE COMMAND TO SAVE ME: Commandment to the angels? See Psa 91:11; 44:4; this is the true meaning of Deu 8:3.

FORTRESS: "Metsudah" is a mighty fortress from which military campaigns might be launched. In Psalms, the word occurs in Psa 18:2; 31:3; 66:11; 91:2; 144:2.

Psa 71:5

MY HOPE: In Heb, "ha-tikvah" -- the name of the national anthem of modern Israel. How little they know now of the true "hope of Israel" -- of which Paul spoke (Act 28:20), and upon which in our own times JT wrote in "Elpis (the hope of) Israel". For further related refs, see Col 1:27; 3:4; 1Ti 1:1; Tit 2:13.

MY CONFIDENCE SINCE MY YOUTH: The days of Goliath and the Philistine wars.

(NT) Cp v 17. Surely he was first aware of the shadow of the cross falling across his path when he visited the Temple during Passover at the age of twelve (Luk 2:42-52).

Psa 71:6

Roughly translated: 'You cut my umbilical cord... and delivered me from the womb!' This is how intimately God is concerned with all His children! It is a tender mercy of the Almighty that we are even born. If we should soon die without hope, we would still have had the best part of the "bargain". This phrase corresponds to "from the belly" in Isa 46:3. Surprisingly, there are a number of other //s between Psa 71 and Isa 46: ie Psa 71:18 = Isa 46:4; Psa 71:15 = Isa 46:13; Psa 71:19 = Isa 46:9; and Psa 71:2 = Isa 46:4.

(NT) The virgin birth, surely: cp Psa 22:9,10; 69:8n; Psa 89:26,27; 132:11. See also, in the OT, Gen 3:15; Pro 30:19; Isa 7:14; Jer 31:22; Mic 5:2 -- and in the NT Mat 1:23 and Luk 1:35.

Psa 71:7

A PORTENT TO MANY: Or "a wonder" (AV). "Mophet" = a sign, wonder, portent, or miracle. It was a thing for men to marvel at, that one so strongly established in his people's affections could be overthrown -- and then be restored to greatness again!

(NT) The sw in Deu 28:46. Is this Christ bearing Israel's curse? Surely that was a wonder. But the bearing away of that same curse was the greater wonder!

YOU BROUGHT ME FORTH FROM MY MOTHER'S WOMB: The Virgin Birth in the OT: Psa 71:6; 89:26,27; 110:3, LXX; Gen 3:15; 49:1,25; Isa 7:14; 49:1; Jer 31:22; Mic 5:1,2; 2Sa 7:14.

Psa 71:9

It needed considerable faith, when all his affairs seemed to be in ruin, to believe that God was yet on his side. See Psa 37:25. The same man who was once -- only a few short years before -- "with a fine appearance and handsome features" (1Sa 16:12) has now grown old and gray (v 18), yet still his God is with him. From each reader of the Psalms this must evoke real praise of God, and more so with each passing year!

DO NOT CAST ME AWAY WHEN I AM OLD: Employers do this to employees who have lost some of their usefulness; husbands to wives who are no longer young; friends to other friends when they can no longer be of help to them. But God never casts off those who trust in him. Cp the sw in Psa 51:11 and Deu 29:28.

(NT) Not inappropriate to Christ's physical condition at the end of his ministry -- when the hard years and dangerous situations and cares of others and lack of rest had taken their toll, and he appeared to be a man nearer 50 than 30 (Joh 8:57).

DO NOT FORSAKE ME WHEN MY STRENGTH FAILS: (NT) The name of Gabriel, who sustained him in the garden (Luk 22:43), sig "the Strong One of God".

Psa 71:10

MY ENEMIES SPEAK AGAINST ME: Plots, and a campaign of denigration.


(NT) The numerous plots against his life (Joh 5:16,18; Mar 3:6; Luk 11:54; Joh 7:19-21,25; 8:59; Luk 13:31; Joh 10:31,39; 11:8,16,44-54; Luk 20:14-26; Mat 26:3-5,16). Esp the intrigue and hostility of the last week of his ministry, when it was unsafe for him even to sleep in Jerusalem.

Psa 71:11

GOD HAS FORSAKEN HIM: (NT) Jesus spoke often of rejection and suffering at Jerusalem (Mat 16:21; 20:17-19; Mar 10:32-34; Luk 9:51; 13:33; 18:31-34). It was prob this, more clearly discerned by Judas than by the rest, which led to his betrayal. But, in the absolute sense, it was not true that God ever forsook His Son (Psa 22:1; this is answered by v 9 above).

NO ONE WILL RESCUE HIM: The gist of Ahithophel's counsel to Absalom in 2Sa 17:1,2. Humanly speaking, it was near to the truth -- but how sadly wrong it really was, because God was not taken into account!

Psa 71:13

David could justifiably pray thus, for the rebellion was not just against him but also against the authority of God.

Psa 71:14

Considering the circumstances, an astonishing expression of faith!

Psa 71:15

THOUGH I KNOW NOT ITS MEASURE: Interpreted by Psa 40:5. 'Count your blessings -- name them one by one'? The psalmist says: 'I can't. There are simply too many of them.' With this, too, we may cp Paul's stunning paradox in Eph 3:19: "to know the love of God... a love which surpasses our knowledge!" (More generally, see also Psa 36:6; 139:17,18.)

Psa 71:16

Just as David returning to his capital, so Christ in his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. In the midst of suffering, the vision of the glory steadies him.

YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, YOURS ALONE: No man can be saved through his own righteousness, but only through the righteousness of God -- activated by faith in Christ and God's promises (Phi 3:9; Rom 1:16,17; 3:23-25; 10:3; etc).

Psa 71:18

What a wonderful aspiration! David's own affairs and well-being are in the background. What is important, is the restoration of the kingdom as God's kingdom.

WHEN I AM OLD AND GRAY: "The demeanour of the 'old and greyheaded' may be expected to reflect to some degree the accumulated results of years of spiritual growth and thereby to witness to the working of God and His Truth in their lives. No greater witness to the preciousness and eternal value of the Truth can be made than that of older brethren and sisters who in physical weakness, and sometimes great infirmity, manifest, even without expressing them, a mature love for the Truth and a cheerfulness engendered by an ever-increasing faith and trust in God. The Psalmist's prayer for his old age reminds us of the considerable responsibility resting on us as we grow old and greyheaded and, incidentally, it also points out to the younger among us what the truth should be doing for them. 'They took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus' " (BS Snelling).

TILL I DECLARE YOUR POWER TO THE NEXT GENERATION: (NT) This part of the v sums up the immense climactic preaching effort made by Jesus in the last weeks of his ministry.

Psa 71:19

YOU WHO HAVE DONE GREAT THINGS: Quoted by Mary, anticipating the redeeming work of Jesus (Luk 1:49; "and holy is his name" alludes to v 22 here).

WHO, O GOD, IS LIKE YOU?: "Michael" (cp Psa 35:10).

Psa 71:20

TROUBLES, MANY AND BITTER: In both family and kingdom.

FROM THE DEPTHS OF THE EARTH YOU WILL AGAIN BRING ME UP: An allusion to David's flight to the Jordan valley (2Sa 17:22). But this seems quite trivial cpd with his firm belief in personal resurrection: the new life when all problems will be set right (Psa 16:8-11; 17:15; 2Sa 7:16: "before thee").

(NT) Christ's resurrection. The "depths of the earth" = the grave (Gen 49:25; Isa 63:13; Rom 10:7; Rev 9:1,2,11; 20:1,3).

Psa 71:21

YOU WILL INCREASE MY HONOR: In the situation, an amazing thing to say. But David knew that his honor meant God's greater honor.

AND COMFORT ME ONCE AGAIN: (NT) The work of the "Comforter" (Joh 14:26; 16:7-11) in bringing Gentiles from all parts to swear loyalty to Christ.

Psa 71:23

I, WHOM YOU HAVE REDEEMED: David's words in 1Ki 1:29 ref back to Absalom's rebellion particularly: "The Lord liveth, that hath redeemed my soul out of all distress."

Psa 71:24

MY TONGUE WILL TELL OF YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS ALL DAY LONG: (NT) The 40 days between resurrection and ascension.

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