In Eat this Book, Eugene Peterson teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it and put it to use in practical ways. Our Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. In this passage, the Psalmist encourages us to recounts our lives with God and make the commitment to share God’s faithfulness and power.
PSALM 71: 17 – 22 (MSG); LOOKING LIFE IN THE FACE
You got me when I was an unformed youth,
God, and taught me everything I know.
Now I’m telling the world your wonders;
I’ll keep at it until I’m old and gray.
God, don’t walk off and leave me
until I get out the news
Of your strong right arm to this world,
news of your power to the world yet to come,
Your famous and righteous
ways, O God.
God, you’ve done it all!
Who is quite like you?
You, who made me stare trouble in the face,
Turn me around;
Now let me look life in the face.
I’ve been to the bottom;
Bring me up, streaming with honors;
turn to me, be tender to me,
And I’ll take up the lute and thank you
to the tune of your faithfulness, God.
I’ll make music for you on a harp
Psalm 71 is a psalm of trust. James Limburg uses it as part of a trio of trust psalms: Psalm 131 provides a picture of trust from the beginning of life. Psalm 23 comes out of the stresses and strains of mid-life. Psalm 71 is the reflection of a senior citizen. Limburg goes on to say that the psalm suggests that “we [stay] on course, living a lifetime of prayer and praise that includes telling of God’s mighty deeds and wondrous gifts” (James Limburg, Working Preacher, January 31, 2010).
This psalm is appropriate at any stage of life. It describes a God who is never exhausted and who is as faithful to his people in their old age as he was in their childhood or middle years. In return, the psalmist’s response, even when he is “old and gray,”is to “get out the news” of God’s present power and his continued reign in the “world yet to come.”
He notes that life has not always been a smooth ride. God made him “stare trouble in the face.” He has been “to the bottom.” But God has always been faithful! He asks that God continue to “bring him up” and be “tender” to him. We all can ask for God’s care and tenderness at any moment in our journey – and trust that God will be faithful.
♥ Read Psalm 131, Psalm 23, and Psalm 71 during your devotional time. Pick out a few verses to memorize. They will be encouragement through your entire life.
♥ Think about times when you have stared trouble in the face or have been at the bottom. Mull over those times. How did God respond to you then? How did you respond to God during the hard times? Have you ever felt that God has brought you up “streaming with honors?” How can these reflections carry you through other hard times now?
♥ The last two sentences of this section of the Psalm speak about using the lute and the harp to show God praise and gratitude. Choose some music that will help you do the same. Or choose another way to express your feelings: dance before God, paint or draw, write a psalm or a prayer or an essay, take a photograph, or cook a celebratory meal.
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“Faith lives amidst adversity, [but] praise is not the celebration of the powerful and the prosperous; rather, it is the language and the life-style of those who know at all times and in every circumstance that their lives belong to God and that their futures depend on God” (John Goldingay, “Psalm 71,” in Psalms, Volume 2: 42-89).