Psalm 71 is a psalm of praise for everything God has done for the psalmist while also being a request for His continued support. It swings between the idea that God has always been there for him and that he needs the continued supports a few times and is almost pleading in the feel. Also, it reads like it was written by an older person who is feeling attacked by the younger generation.
It got me thinking about the difference between having an enemy and an antagonist. In a story, the antagonist doesn’t have to be bad or cruel, just in opposition to the main character. Is it the same for the psalmist’s “enemies”?
Forsake Me Not When My Strength Is Spent
1In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame!
2In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me, and save me!
3Be to me a rock of refuge,
to which I may continually come;
you have given the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
4Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.
5For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
6Upon you I have leaned from before my birth;
you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.
7I have been as a portent to many,
but you are my strong refuge.
8My mouth is filled with your praise,
and with your glory all the day.
9Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
forsake me not when my strength is spent.
10For my enemies speak concerning me;
those who watch for my life consult together
11and say, “God has forsaken him;
pursue and seize him,
for there is none to deliver him.”
12O God, be not far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!
13May my accusers be put to shame and consumed;
with scorn and disgrace may they be covered
who seek my hurt.
14But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
15My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
16With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.
17O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.
19Your righteousness, O God,
reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
O God, who is like you?
20You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
you will bring me up again.
21You will increase my greatness
and comfort me again.
22I will also praise you with the harpPsalm 71, ESV
for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praises to you with the lyre,
O Holy One of Israel.
23My lips will shout for joy,
when I sing praises to you;
my soul also, which you have redeemed.
24And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long,
for they have been put to shame and disappointed
who sought to do me hurt.
See what I mean? It reads like this is an older person who is no longer appreciated by the younger generation and feels like they are plotting against them. But that isn’t always true and sometimes when it is true, it’s necessary. It brings to mind the image of an old man who can’t see well enough to drive but feels like his kids are trying to shame him or somehow diminish him when they take measures to ensure he no longer drives. As a danger to others on the road, this is the right thing to do in a community, but it probably doesn’t feel like it to the parent or the kids. Still, we can’t do all the things we could as we get older and not everyone appreciates that.
The psalmist is asking God to not let his usefulness lessen despite his age and despite those who are acting against him. He asks that he be allowed to share God with another generation. Honestly, I feel like this psalm is so relevant it’s crazy. I’ve known grandparents too with children who don’t have as good a relationship with God or participation in the church and are trying to get their grandchildren involved too.
In that thread of real life application to this issue, I have to say that we should acknowledge that what we are “useful” for changes over time and with circumstance we should all be open to that. I know it’s hard. I’ve been through some things in my own work and at home that have made me feel like I wasn’t useful at things I wanted to be useful for. Sometimes the thing we are most useful for to others isn’t very important to us. Sometimes we don’t see the value in applications and teaching of things we’ve long mastered. But that doesn’t mean that this information and practice and the wisdom that comes from the breadth of experience we have isn’t actually useful to those around us.
This has been an interesing psalm to come across in a time when I’m also feeling challenged by my usefulness to others.