Summary: In this Psalm I examine the Psalm writer’s attitude to the future as he faces old age and how he deals with his enemies. This is during Advent and has a little reflective flavor of the season in it.
December 11, 2005 Psalm 71
What do you think about your future? Maybe you’re one of those people who’s done an overall road map of your life. Maybe in ten years you want to retire, or have your house paid off, or have enough money saved up to buy a car, or get married and have children. I’ve got news for you - especially you younger folk. It’s not gonna happen the way you planned. It almost never does. Ask any older person, and they’ll tell you the same. It doesn’t mean you can’t dream or plan. But don’t expect it to go the way you plan, because it usually doesn’t.
So how do we respond? The more we live with these disappointment and the more we experience what we consider “real life”, the more pessimistic we become. It isn’t uncommon to see elderly people especially become angry and grumpy as they realize that their lives are nearing the end and they haven’t gotten to do half of what they wanted to. Along with that, they have to face the scorn and disrespect of people three times younger than they, just because they don’t move as fast or think as quickly on their feet as they used to. They come to realize they’re on their way down, and there isn’t anything they can do about it.
Psalm 71 seems to be written by someone who is well beyond the years of his youth and is facing those older years. He talks to God about when he is “old and grey.” Old age is setting in on him. For those of you who can’t remember where you put your glasses, who can’t roll over in bed without a huge strain, who can’t sit down in a rocking chair without falling asleep, this Psalm is for you. It’s most likely written by David in the later years of his life. He’s facing danger and disaster. He’s getting old. Yet, instead of going through a mid-life crisis or writing a pessimistic and disheartened letter to the Lord because of his disappointments, he expresses and ongoing hope and optimism. What is it that gives David hope in old age? We’ll look at that as we hear -
A Middle Aged Reason for Hope
I. Pray with hope as you face the older years
Little Orphan Annie once sang, “it’s a hard knock life.” She was abandoned to an orphanage and had to scrap for her food throughout her childhood. Yet she was only about seven or eight years old, so in reality, who was she to sing? She didn’t know the half of it. David did. If anyone could have sang this song, he could have. The story of David is really quite fascinating when you read about it. It certainly won’t put you to sleep. He grew up as a shepherd boy - having to fend off bears and lions from a bunch of sheep in his younger teenage years. He wasn’t out chasing women and playing basketball. He was spending cold nights out on his own and risking his life to take care of a bunch of sheep.
Things got better for him when he went and fought a huge Philistine enemy soldier named Goliath and toppled him with the throw of one stone. He went on to become a great warrior and fighter for King Saul’s army. Nathan even anointed him to be the next king of Israel. Yet just when you would think he was in the prime of his life, in the midst of all this success David went through all kinds of hard knocks. The Israelites made a song up about David, that he killed tens of thousands, while Saul only killed thousands. That really irritated king Saul, so much to the point that he constantly was trying to kill David. Even though David had been anointed to be the next king and he was loyal to Saul, he had to spend a majority of his early years of “kingship” on the run from King Saul.
Not too long after Saul died David ended up with a reunited kingdom of Israel. Things were again going great. It was then that he committed a terrible sin - by committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband Uriah murdered. Nathan said to David, 2 Samuel 12:10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’ The sword didn’t depart from his house. Soon afterward his infant son died. One of his daughters was raped by her half brother - David’s son - Amnon. This enraged David’s son Absalom, who had Amnon put to death. Then Absalom was banished for the kingdom for quite some time. When Absalom was finally allowed back, he ended up trying to usurp David’s kingdom. Absalom was really a handsome kid and David loved him dearly. But when he was riding through the forest hunting after his father David, his hair got stuck in a tree, so David’s general stabbed Absalom to death while he was hanging there from the tree. It broke David’s heart. This is just a microcosm of the problems that David faced in his life. Rape, murder, high treason - it was an all in the family affair for King David. Little orphan Annie doesn’t hold a candle to his life. If this Psalm is indeed written by David he wrote, “you have made me see troubles, many and bitter.”