Ever wonder if God has forsaken you? Ever feel like God has forgotten you? In Psalm 71 David shows us how to hold on when God seems distant.
The beginning 3 verses are almost identical to Psalm 31:1-3 with only a few small changes. Both psalms also have a similar focus on feeling forsaken, yet continuing to praise God.
Psalm 71 divides into 3 sections of 8 verses each:
- I have taken refuge in You for my whole life (Psalm 71:1-8)
- So, don't forsake me now that I am old (Psalm 71:9-16)
- I will never stop praising You (Psalm 71:17-24)
Even though the central theme (Psalm 71:13-14) is a cry for help, each of these sections ends with praise and the last section is praise from beginning to end.
We can learn a lot about praise just by looking at the words used in this psalm. There are seven words used to describe the deeds of the Lord and 10 words used to describe ways to praise God.
7 Descriptors of the Deeds of the Lord
- Righteous (vs. 2, 15, 16, 19, 24)
- Saving (v. 15)
- Mighty (vs. 16, 18)
- Wondrous (v. 17)
- Powerful (v. 18)
- Great (v. 19)
- Faithful (v. 22)
10 Ways to Rejoice in God
I have taken refuge in You for my whole life
The psalmist begins in Psalm 71:1-3 by declaring that God is his place of refuge. Although in Psalm 71:2 he cries out for God to rescue him, in Psalm 71:3 he confidently proclaims that God has already given the command to save.
In the next 3 verses he declares that he has always trusted in God, using hyperbole to declare that he has trusted in God from before his birth. Central to this section is his declaration of hope in verse 5. This declaration is emphasized by the combination of two of God's names: Adonai and Yahweh.
For You are my hope,
Lord (Adonai) God (Yahweh), my trust from my youth. Psalm 71:5
This first section ends with a declaration of praise.
My mouth is filled with your praise,
and with your glory all the day. Psalm 71:8
Even though life is currently a struggle, the psalmist continues to praise God.
In this section we see the first of the 10 ways to praise God. The word "praise" in this section is the Hebrew word tehillah which literally means "to sing." One way to to praise God is to lift our voices and sing. It is hard to remain depressed when we sing to God.
So, don't forsake me now that I am old
In this section the psalmist explains his struggle. He is getting older and for some unnamed reason his enemies think God has forsaken him.
I think the psalmist has intentionally left the cause of his feeling forsaken unexplained. By not telling us the specifics of his struggle, we can apply this psalm to any struggle we may have.
Do you ever feel forsaken by God? I know I have. The psalmist lets us know that this is a normal feeling. It is not a sin to feel like God has forgotten you.
In verse 12 he cries out to God to hurry. This reminds me of the previous psalm, Psalm 70, where the psalm begins and ends with a cry for God to hurry. God's timing is not our timing and we often join with the psalmist in pleading for God to hurry.
But once again the psalmist turns back to praise.
Verses 14-16 conclude the second section with another declaration of praise. In this section we see three more ways to praise God:
- Continue to hope in God (Psalm 71:14)
- Tell others about God's great deeds (Psalm 71:15)
- Remind people about God's righteousness (Psalm 71:16)
We also see three of the seven descriptions of God's deeds. God's actions are:
- Righteous (Psalm 71:15)
- Saving (Psalm 71:15)
- Mighty (Psalm 71:16)
I will never stop praising You
The final section begins with a wonderful progression:
From youth You have taught me (Psalm 71:17) => now I praise you (Psalm 71:18) => in old age let me pass on my faith to others (Psalm 71:18).
The psalmist is talking about a life of worship that does not end until he has taught other to praise God! And then the cycle will continue as each generation does the same.
Why is he living this life of worship? Because there is no one like God (Psalm 71:19). God is the preeminent object of worship.
Even though he is seeing troubles right now he is confident that God will lift him out of them all. Verse 21 reminds us that God is out for our best. God isn't like a self-focused, insecure boss, so concerned about His own glory that he tries to keep you down. God is glorious precisely because He cares about you and works to lift you up.
You will increase my greatness and comfort me again. Psalm 71:21
Wow! God is for me! God is with me! No matter how I feel.
The final three verses continue this theme of praise, closing with a promise to never stop talking about God's righteous help.
In this third section we find 5 more types of praise and 4 more descriptions of God's deeds.
You can praise God by:
- Proclaiming His deeds (Psalm 71:17-18).
- Thanksgiving (Psalm 71:22). The Hebrew word for praise in this verse is yadah which means to "lift the hands" in praise.
- Play instruments (Psalm 71:22-23). In the second line of verse 22 the word translated praise is actually the Hebrew word zamar which means to play a musical instrument.
- Shout for joy (Psalm 71:23)
- Talk about God's help all day long (Psalm 71:24)
God's deeds are:
- Wondrous (Psalm 71:17)
- Powerful (Psalm 71:18)
- Great (Psalm 71:19)
- Faithful (Psalm 71:22)
Throughout this psalm (Psalm 71:2, 15, 16, 19, 24) we are reminded that God is righteous. Why? I think it is because the psalmist want us to know that God will always do what is right. If you remain faithful to God then He will remain faithful to you. No matter what trouble you are experiencing you must remember that God will do what is right in the end. It is because of this solid faith in the goodness of God that the psalmist can remain full of praise even as he cries out for help in his troubles.
So what should you do when you feel like God has forsaken you?
- Put all of your hope in God (Psalm 71:5).
- Cry out for His help (Psalm 71:12).
- Remember God's deeds (Psalm 71:19). He is always righteous and will always do what is right. Meditate on the seven descriptions of His deeds.
- Don't stop praising God (Psalm 71:24).
God will hear your cry and He will do whatever is best for you and His purposes. Trust Him and continue to praise Him.