The Righteous One’s Confident Hope To The End

A brief study of Psalm 71, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 10 October 2008

Psalm 71 is a song for old age. The psalmist, probably David, must have penned it in his old age. We can see this from verse 9—“Cast me not off in the time of old age…” and verse 18—“Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not…” (Ps 71:18).

Andrew Bonar calls this psalm: “The Righteous One’s confidence of hope to the end.” He suggests that though our Lord never reached old age, He experienced the sorrows, pains and anxieties of old age. The prophet Isaiah spoke of how our Lord’s “visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men” (Isa 52:14). He must have looked older and suffered more than one would expect of His 33 years of age. So we read in verse 7—“I am as a wonder unto many…”

We may say that David’s experience at old age foreshadowed our Lord’s experience as he drew near to the grave. Therefore, this psalm, which David wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit of Christ, expresses the feelings and experiences of our Lord in His final days on earth.

In any case, our Lord can sing this Psalm with us in sympathy with us when we sing it in our old age; and we can sing it in our youth in sympathy with Him and with our elderly members.

This psalm has an interesting structure:

a. Verses 1-4—First Petition.

b. Verses 5-8—First Expression of Confidence: upon what God has done.

c. Verses 9-13—Second Petition.

d. Verses 14-17—Second Expression of Confidence: upon what God is doing.

e. Verses 18—Third Petition.

f. Verses 19-24—Third Expression of Confidence: upon what God will do.

Let’s look at the parts briefly.

1. First Petition
(vv. 1-4)

1 In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion. 2 Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape: incline thine ear unto me, and save me.

The word rendered ‘confusion’ (בּוּשׁ) is usually rendered ‘ashamed’ or ‘shame’ in the Old Testament. The experience of old age is usually underlined by a fear of indignity and confusion.

Though most of us will not experience the assaults of the Wicked One in the way that David, and particularly our Lord, experienced (see v. 4), we will in our old age face many enemies.

Not only will we be suffering the ravages and illnesses of old age, we will also have many fears, not the least because of increasing disability and the anticipation of death round the corner. At such times, the Wicked One will also play on our fears to make us confused and doubt the Lord.

But thank God we can always resort to Him as our ‘strong habitation’, our rock and our fortress. Thank God that He is never hard of hearing as some of us will be. He will always hear our prayers as He heard our Lord in the day when He experienced our fears and was tempted at all points like as we are.

But what is the basis of our confidence? Consider…

2. First Expression of Confidence
(vv. 5-8)

This is an expression of confidence based on what God has done.

5 For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth. 6 By thee have I been holden up from the womb: thou art he that took me out of my mother’s bowels: my praise shall be continually of thee.

Andrew Bonar speaks of these verses together with verse 17 as being “precious glimpses given to us of Messiah’s childhood.” And we can see how this must be the case if this psalm contains the sentiments of our Lord.

Our Lord could rest in His Father for He had experienced His loving protection and care from the day He was born. He knows that His Father would not forsake Him. Even as the shadow of the Cross lengthened, and the moment when He would bear the brunt of God’s wrath for us approached, our Lord had the confidence that His mouth will be filled with praise and honour for His Father (v. 8).

And so let us rest in the same confidence. When we are old and fearful, let us remember how the Lord has kept us and trust Him to continue to keep us.

But consider now the…

3. Second Petition
(vv. 9-13)

9 Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth. 10 For mine enemies speak against me; and they that lay wait for my soul take counsel together…

Our Lord did not experience old age physically as David did, but did He not experience the burdens of old age as His enemies plotted to get rid of Him?

God hath forsaken him” they say (v. 11). “He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God” they cried (Lk 23:34).

What was our Lord’s response? “Cast me not off… forsake me not…O God, be not far from me: O my God, make haste for my help.

And so when we are confronted with old age, when we are feeling lonely and forsaken, when everything seems to be falling apart, let us learn to go to the Father in prayer. Let us implore Him to stay close to us (v. 11-12), let us plead with Him to deal with the enemies of our soul (c.f. v. 13) that we may find comfort in Him.

Let us hope in God continually as our Lord expressed in His…

4. Second Expression of Confidence
(vv. 14-17)

14 But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more. 15 My mouth shall shew forth thy righteousness and thy salvation all the day; for I know not the numbers thereof.…

This is an expression of confidence by way of a resolution. And what a beautiful resolution worthy of our imitation:

I will hope continually. I will praise you more and more. I will talk about your righteousness and salvation all the day because I don’t know how much more time I have!

The apostle Paul instructs us to “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time” (Col 4:5).

This was what our Lord was doing. This is what we must do more and more even as we realise more and more that time is short.

We must speak to others of God’s grace and mercy to us all the days of our life. We must go and do so in His strength (v. 16). What does it mean to go in His strength? It is to depend upon Him to give us the courage and energy to do what we resolve to do.

Beloved brethren and children, if you would resolve to be a witness from the Lord, ask Him for strength and He will give it to you.

This is what we are directed to ask for in the…

5. Third Petition
(vv. 18)

18 Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.

Again, our Lord did not grow old and grey-headed outwardly, as David did, probably not. But He was surely, in a sense, growing old and grey-headed in his soul as He faced persecution and a looming Cross.

What was His prayer under such a circumstance? It is the same as before, only expressed in a different way. In His first petition He asks for deliverance. In the second He asks not to be cast away in old age. In this third petition, He asks to be given the opportunity to testify of God’s strength and power in the remaining time that He has.

What a prayer! How many of us will make such a petition?

But why? Well, consider the final expression of confidence.

6. Third Expression of Confidence
(vv. 19-24)

This is an expression of confidence based upon what God will do.

19 Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto thee! 20 Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth. 21 Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.

Can you see how verse 20-21 is about the resurrection and exaltation of our Lord? Everyone united to Christ will also be raised unto glory at the Last Day.

And therefore, we can sing these same words with confidence. Whether we are young or old, death is but a portal into glory. In glory, we shall be able to worship God and enjoy him in praise for ever and ever, without ever being hindered by sin and sinners or by human frailties.

Our Lord was looking forward to the end of His sufferings and the beginning of His exaltation, and an eternity of praising the Father.

After three days in the tomb, He rose from the dead. Forty days later, He ascended to heaven in the sight of His disciples.

But our Lord is still with us by His Spirit who is given as an earnest of our eternal inheritance. By His Spirit, our Lord, as our covenant head, worships with us whenever we sing His words.

Our Lord, in other words, has begun to do what He expected to do in verse 22 to the end of the Psalm—

22 I will also praise thee with the psaltery, even thy truth, O my God: unto thee will I sing with the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel.  23 My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed. 24 My tongue also shall talk of thy righteousness all the day long…

We will all one day rest from all our troubles. But beloved brethren, we must not wait for that day to rejoice. We must greatly rejoice today for Christ our Lord has already conquered death.


Death has lost its sting. We need not fear what death, which is our most fearsome enemy today will do to us. Therefore, we need not fear old age or the approach of death. Let us, rather, learn to live joyfully before the Lord even before the days we arrive at our old age.

Let us, beloved brethren and children, learn to “go on the strength of the LORD GOD” our Sovereign King. Let us ask for the Lord’s grace that we cease to saunter and begin to run as we head towards the Celestial City. Let us give Him the glory by living a joyful Christian life that is characterised by holiness, hope and assurance of His love. Amen.

—JJ Lim