Daybreak: Psalms 71:1 through 72:20
“Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.” (Psalm 71:9)
We are blessed in our church family to have many elderly folks who daily are proving God’s nearness and provision in “the time of old age.” As I considered the words of our focus verse, my mind went to my aunt, Ruth Ashwell.
Auntie was saved when she was a girl of just seventeen years. At the age of twenty-three, God called her to full-time service for Him, and she began working at the Apostolic Faith headquarters office. In 1953, after the death of her cousin, George Hughes, she was asked to assume the responsibility of directing the Africa correspondence department, and faithfully labored in that position for more than forty years. Although she had no birth children, she was a spiritual “mother” to many in Africa, where her loving and encouraging letters played a vital role in the growth of the Apostolic Faith work there.
Since Auntie’s husband, Lloyd, predeceased her, her nieces and nephews watched out for her as her physical health and mental acuity began to decline. God opened a way for Auntie to be able to stay in her own home. When her condition necessitated live-in help, we were able to find a lovely lady who moved into a vacant bedroom there and gently cared for Aunt Ruth’s personal needs, made sure she had nourishing meals, and generally watched over her. When Auntie broke her hip, surgery and rehabilitation in a care facility was necessary. While she was there, a fire destroyed her home — but she was safe and sound! Her caregiver was able to exit the house when the fire was discovered, but it would have been a challenge to get Auntie out had she been there. Aunt Ruth’s physical condition deteriorated quickly as a result of her fall, and we never had to tell her that her home of many years had been consumed by a fire. She went home to Heaven before that was necessary.
Just a few short months before the fire, one nephew had felt led to encourage my aunt to update her homeowner’s insurance — so the house and its contents were fully covered. We simply made a list of contents as best we could remember. The insurance company even sent people to look through the rubble after the fire to try to inventory the items lost. Auntie had left her estate to the church, and we knew she would be thrilled that, because of the fire, the church received considerably more than it would have if we had disposed of her belongings in the normal way.
In the years since Aunt Ruth passed away, my cousins and I have often reminisced about how beautifully God took care of the details of her situation in the closing months of her earthly life. We had firsthand proof of the fact that God is good, and ever mindful of the needs and circumstances surrounding His children. When physical strength wanes, He is there to support. When needs arise, He provides. When problems arise, He always has a solution.
What a wonderful blessing when those who are well advanced in years can look back upon their past with an assurance that they have served God to the best of their ability and that, in spite of the challenges of aging, God has been with them each step of the way! If we hold fast to our purpose to serve Him, some day that can be our testimony as well.
These two psalms conclude Book II of Psalms, often referred to as the “Exodus Book.”
No inscription or author for Psalm 71 is recorded, but this psalm clearly expresses the recollections and prayers of an aged man who had experienced God’s sustaining help in years gone by, and who was entreating God for continuing help in the twilight of life. This psalm is classified as an individual lament.
In the first section of the psalm, verses 1-8, the psalmist combined a cry to God with an affirmation of trust and a recollection of how God had been a strong refuge in all of his life. The Hebrew word translated confusion in verse 1 has a literal meaning of “pale,” and implies “shame, disappointment, or delay.” The word “wonder” in verse 7 indicates a supernatural display of divine power that may inspire terror or worship, and is often associated with signs that reveal God’s purposes. The author acknowledged the perils of advancing years (verses 9-16), and related that his enemies claimed his failing physical strength proved God had forsaken him. He prayed that God would “let them be confounded [be ashamed when God refuted their suppositions] and consumed [destroyed].” He concluded by expressing his confidence in the One who has taught him from his youth and was now the hope of his old age (verses 17-24).
Psalm 72 is traditionally ascribed to Solomon, though not all scholars concur on its authorship. Some believe that David may have uttered this psalm on his deathbed as a prayer for Solomon’s reign. While it is set in the context of ceremonies surrounding a monarchy, and summarizes an ideal kingship, no earthly human could have realized all its aspirations. This substantiates a prophetic interpretation of the psalm, and coincides with the perspective that its implications are Messianic.
In the opening call for God to “give the king thy judgments,” the word translated judgments means “statutes” or “ordinances,” and refers to the Torah or law which the King (Jesus) was to uphold. The description of the extent of the King’s dominion is given in verses 7-11. The King’s redemptive power is described in verses 12-14 and the honor that will be given Him in verses 15-17.
“Amen, and Amen” (verse 19) could be translated as a heartfelt declaration of “So be it!” Many believe that verse 20 indicates that this was David’s final psalm, and that later psalms attributed to him were written at an earlier time. Since each of the books within the Book of Psalms closes with a doxology, others view these verses as a doxology (a short, concluding hymn of praise) for Book II.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. Book I (1:1 — 41:13)
II. Book II (42:1 — 72:20)
III. Book III (73:1 — 89:52)
IV. Book IV (90:1 — 106:48)
V. Book V (107:1 — 150:6)
A Closer Look
- What word picture did the psalmist use in Psalm 71:3 to portray the fact that God is a secure place of refuge?
- Since the author of Psalm 71 had trusted God from his youth, why do you think he cried unto God to be near him and “make haste” to help him?
- Why is it so important to maintain our purpose to show “thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come” (Psalm 71:18)? What are some ways we can do that?
Advancing years may curtail our ability to take as active a role in God’s service as we once did. However, reflecting upon God’s provision in the past will encourage us to keep trusting that He will be with us each step of our journey on earth.