Psalm 71
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Solomon has said, "The beauty of old men is the grey head" (Proverbs 20:29). But he tells also of a nobler beauty, "The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness" (Proverbs 16:31). Old men are few, but godly old men are fewer still. Rarity signalizes the "beauty," and enhances the "glory." This psalm may well be called, "The Old Man's Psalm." Would that the portrait were more common! It is pleasant to look at in poetry; it is far more delightful to behold in fact. In this portrait of a godly old man, we may mark -

I. HIS SUBLIME FAITH." In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust" (ver. 1). Here is the secret of his character. "Trust" gave strength to his heart, and unity and completeness to his life. In this he was in sympathy with others who had gone before (cf. Psalm 31:1-3).

II. HIS EARNEST PRAYERS. The godly are ever given to prayer. It is their great resource. It is the never failing means of obtaining mercy and grace. They learnt to call upon God at their mother's knee (cf. Psalm 116:16; 2 Timothy 1:5), and all through life they have found the virtue and the blessedness of prayer. In old age the cry of the godly is, "I must pray more."

III. HIS VARIED EXPERIENCES. Often, when looking back, there is dimness, or many things have fallen out of sight, or there is a confusion in the perspective; but events that have made a deep impression stand out clearly. Memory goes back to the time of youth, and traces life onward, with all the great changes, the dangers and adventures, the attempts and the achievements, the joys and sorrows. There are grateful recollections of kindness and help from many; but above all, there is praise to God for his goodness and wonderful works (vers. 5, 6; cf. Isaiah 44:4).

IV. HIS SETTLED CONVICTIONS. Experience is a great teacher. The man who has seen many days has learned much, and is able to bear witness as one that speaketh with authority (Job 32:7; Leviticus 19:32; 2 Peter 1:13). One thing that the godly old man testifies is that God is worthy of trust; another thing is that the Word of God is not a cunningly devised fable, but truth; another thing is that religion is not a delusion, but a reality - the power of God unto salvation; another thing is that the most pleasant memories are of loyalty to God, and of good done to men, even to enemies, and that the saddest thoughts are of times when self prevailed over love and duty, and opportunities were lost from neglect and sloth.

V. HIS UNFALTERING RESOLUTION. The old have their regrets. They have also their times of trial and weakness. In another place the psalmist says, "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken" (Psalm 37:25), and yet here he seems just for a moment to falter; but if he trembles at the thought of being a "castaway," as Paul also did (1 Corinthians 9:27), he renews his strength by prayer (vers. 17, 20). Then having gained courage, he pledges himself with fresh ardour to be true to God. Instead of wavering, he will press on. Instead of keeping silence, he will testify, by word and deed, to the strength and power of God. This was beautifully seen in Polycarp, "Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never wronged me; and shall I forsake my God and my Saviour?"

VI. HIS GLORIOUS PROSPECTS. For the old the end is near. They know that soon they must die, and have no more to do with anything under the sun. This seems a dismal condition. But for the godly there is not only hope in death, but the bright prospect of a blessed immortality. "The end of that man is peace," yea, more, far more, the future is glorious. - W.F.

An introduction (vers. 1-3) borrowed from Psalm 31. The prayer is shortly expressed in the fourth verse, and is succeeded in vers. 5-8 by the basis on which it rests, and after that the prayer is expanded in vers. 9-13. The second half of the psalm contains the hope and the thanks of the writer.


1. For deliverance from the power of evil doers. (Ver. 4.) We have need to pray for deliverance from the dangers that imperil the safety of the soul.

2. For special protection in his old age. (Ver. 9.) When his natural strength had begun to fail. This was the prayer for spiritual strength - that he might not be abandoned to physical infirmity, and so be unable to contend with his foes.

3. For immediate help and rescue. (Ver. 12.) "Make haste to help me." He was in a pressing emergency, and needed instant deliverance. "Be not far from me." He prayed for the signs of God's presence with him.


1. God had been his Hope and Confidence from infancy. (Vers. 5, 6.) And he had confidence that he might still lean upon God for help, and still have cause to praise him.

2. The greatness of his sufferings. (Ver. 7, "I by the greatness of my sufferings drew upon myself the astonishment and wonder of many.") Great suffering leads us to God with a cry to which he will always listen; for "Like as a father pitieth his children," etc.

3. He is a constant and devoted worshipper of God. (Ver. 8, "My mouth is full of thy praise," etc.) God will not refuse help to those who serve him; if he gives help to any, he must help those who honour him.

4. He wants it to be proved to his enemies that God has not forsaken him. (Vers. 10, 11.) He is jealous of God's honour, and wants it to be seen that God is unchangeable in his goodness as his Deliverer. Good men have always been concerned that God's righteousness should be manifest and invincible. - S.

Upon these the psalmist resolves in this second half of the psalm. Let us distinguish the topics of his hope and praise.

I. GOD'S WORKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS ARE INNUMERABLE. (Ver. 15.) They cannot be reckoned up. All his works are right, both in nature and towards man.

II. GOD'S WORKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS ARE MIGHTY WORKS. (Ver. 16.) "I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord" - "unto the temple, with all the great and mighty deeds which God has done on my behalf, as my subject of grateful praise." What a tale each life history could tell!

III. GOD'S WONDROUS WORKS HAVE BEEN THE THEME OF HIS YOUTH, AND SHALL BE OF HIS OLD AGE. (Vers. 17, 18.) He has been taught them from his youth, and now that he is old he will tell them to the coming generation. We should he wise teachers in old age, having the experiences of a whole life to draw from.

IV. GOD IN HIS WORKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS IS AN INCOMPARABLE BEING. (Ver. 19.) None like unto the infinite and eternal Bring. His righteousness is perfect and exalted.

V. THE AFFLICTIONS WHICH GOD SENDS ARE TO HAVE A QUICKENING AND EXALTING EFFECT. (Vers. 20, 21.) By such means God increases our greatness, and manifests himself to us as the comforting God.

VI. UPON THESE GROUNDS HE WILL PRAISE GOD BY ALL THE MEANS HE CAN COMMAND. (Vers. 22-24.) With the lute and the harp; his lips shall shout for joy, and his soul and his tongue shall talk all day of his righteousness which has caused him to triumph over his foes. "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever." This will be the eternal song of the redeemed creation of God. - S.

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