May 31, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Psalm 71)

Submitted by Cathy P. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Psalm 71

Key Verse

Psalm 71:17-18

Since my youth, O God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, O God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your might to all who are to come.

God is …

In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
Be my rock of refuge,
to which I can always go;

God is someone whom I can take refuge in (vs. 1, 3, & 7).  What is a refuge?  Refuge is a place of safety and protection.  What does this imply?  It means that we are prone to continual and relentless attack – attack from this world and from Satan.  What are some of the attacks that a Christian faces?  One big attack is the voice of those who say that you are a fool to put your trust and hope in God, and harping on the fear that God will not be faithful to you in the end when you are old and weak – when you most need him (vs. 9 &11).  There are enemies who also want to “accuse,” “harm” and show “scorn” and “disgrace” to those who trust in God (v. 13). What should I do when I encounter these flaming arrows of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16)?  I need to take refuge in God – to find a safe place to come to.  That for me, daily, is the Word of God.  When my thoughts feel harried and tormented, I come to the safe place of God’s word, and I feel a sense of peace and protection.  I see God’s word renewing and reaffirming the truths that I have known.  It overturns accusations of Satan that tells me God will not forgive me for falling into the same sin yet again; it silences the scornful voices that tell me that I am a fool for spending so much of my money/time/resources and emotional energy for ministry, and it calms the fear of disgrace from dealing with my sins and failures, as they are overcome by God’s grace reiterated in His words.

give the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress. (v. 3)

God is also described by the Psalmist as a fortress (v. 3).  What is a fortress?  Fortress is a strong military installation that is impossible to get into.  A fortress is fortified and strengthened so that no enemy can get in.  Another theme that is implied by a fortress is for its solid stability and dependability through time and circumstances.  Whenever we go on a historic tour of some city, we see many fortresses from hundreds even thousands of years ago still standing.  A fortress is so strong that it is made to withstand the test of time and of the most vicious attack.  God is this kind of strong fortress that not only can withstand the type of attack but also to withstand the test of time.  The Psalmist sees God as sufficient for strength during his most vulnerable time as he gets older and weaker.  This can be my confidence in God – that He is someone I can turn to under all circumstances of my life and even as I grow older and deal with life’s more complex and difficult challenges.

Lessons for me …

The really poignant theme in this Psalm is aging with faith and hope.  The Psalmist was a faithful follower of God ever since he was young, and now is an old man who asks God for His continual faithfulness as he faces difficulties and troubles in the later years of his life.  The Psalmist says that God was his confidence and hope ever since his youth.  However, it seems like He is going through some difficulties right now, which makes him continually ask God not to forsake him when he is “old and gray”(vs. 9 & 18).  The Psalmist is now old and weak, and he feels very vulnerable; his enemies taunt him by words that torment him and brings out his worst fears, that he may be forsaken by God when he is old and weak, after he had tried to faithfully serve God: “God has forsaken him; pursue him and seize him, for no one will rescue him” (v. 11).

That kind of fear is something I am familiar with, and that I understand more and more as I grow older.  As I am hitting my late 30s, although I am still relatively young in the eyes of this world, I am also facing the reality that I am growing older and hitting my middle age years. Also, as I serve in Elderly Care Ministry (ECM) where I see elderly residents day in and day out, there is no illusions about life and what faces me when I grow older – which is the reality that my body will become weak, death is inevitable, and many difficulties of life will happen.  As I get older, I also see my fears multiplying – fears regarding my children, financial security, and about my own frailty.  I often face the taunting voice of the world and Satan, “What are you doing, not saving up for yourself and building a wall of security around you?  God will forsake you, and people will forsake you when you are old and grey.”

However, how is the Psalmist able to overcome the feelings of fear and despair?  He recounts how he was able to have confidence in God since his youth.  He thinks of the times that he relied on God in the past, and how he experienced God’s righteousness and salvation, though he himself admits he doesn’t even know its full measure.  When he is able to recount this, then he can have hope in God – not some vague, wishful thinking, but a hope that comes from solid confidence based on past experience.  I can have confidence in God as I grow older as I think about how God has been my confidence since my youth.  Since the days of my youth, I experienced God’s hand over my life.  When I was struggling with different issues in junior high years, God sent a godly Christian couple who lovingly ministered to me, driving me around in their beat up van, allowing me to have wholesome fun experience and develop love for the people of God.  God protected me from many sins through my youth group.  When I came to college cynical about Christian life, He allowed me to meet people from our church and see how God’s word can be lived out in a community.  When I was going through different struggles related to life’s milestones – such as anxiety regarding not being married, my career, persisting health problems, fear of financial instability, joblessness, providing for my children, etc.—but each time God had brought me forth from those struggles.  Whenever I feel fear, I need to “come and proclaim [His] mighty acts” “proclaim [His] righteousness,” and “declare [His] marvelous deeds.”

Recently, the mothers at our church went on a getaway, and during a Bible Study with Kelly, we talked about our roles as mothers, which is to not succumb to our fears, but release our children so that they can be prophets for their generation.  My role and purpose in my life as a mother and minister is not to succumb to my fears.  My role and responsibility is to trust in God who has been faithful since my youth, and who will not forsake me when I am old and gray, but to declare His power to the next generation and His might to all who are to come (v. 18).  As I experience God more and more, as I have these past two decades personally as well as through this Body of Christ, I can always have hope and I can praise God more and more with increasing measure (v. 14).  I am struck with the Psalmist’s firm resolve to praise God:

22 I will praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
O Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy
when I sing praise to you
I, whom you have redeemed.
24 My tongue will tell of your righteous acts
all day long,
for those who wanted to harm me
have been put to shame and confusion.

Truly, one of the things that I have done a lot at our church these past 18 years is write testimonies when opportunity comes for us to share our stories of how God worked in particular areas of our lives.  Whenever I hit a spiritual roadblock and discouragement, sometimes feeling like nothing good is happening in my life, or that God is not really working in my life, one thing I periodically do is to read my own testimonies and reflections.  It instantly lifts my spirit as I am reminded of who God is and am filled with praise.  I need to be firmly resolved in praising God as I grow older, face my own frailties and fears grow.

Submitted by Jacob C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Psalm 71

Key Verse
1 In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame.

God is …
God is my rock of refuge, my hope, my confidence.  He will never fail  or disappoint those who trust in him.  He is able to restore my life and comfort me in the midst of trouble through the hope he has given me in the gospel.  He is the only one worth devoting my entire life to and in the end, that is the life I will not be ashamed of.

Lessons for me …
The psalmist’s prayer from verse 1 is that he will never be ashamed of having trusted in God as his refuge.  The psalm sounds like someone looking back on his life.  The psalmist is contemplating old age (vv. 9, 18) and he has experienced many troubles (verse 20), but his mouth is full of praise for God’s splendor, righteousness, and faithfulness (vv. 6, 14-17, 22-23).  This is what I want to be able to say when I am old: that God has been my refuge time and time again and I have never been put to shame.  I don’t have enemies speaking against me or conspiring to kill me, but the older I get, the more I realize how weak and helpless I am, and how much I need a refuge.  Everyone takes “refuge” in something, whether it’s wealth, career, relationships, or even entertainment, and our society laughs at those who take refuge in God.  No one says “wealth is my refuge,” but from the way they live their lives, you know that’s what they’re banking on.  And it’s understandable because investing in wealth, career, relationships, or entertainment seems to pay immediate dividends, which in turn seem to justify our investment.  I see people younger than me earning more money, furthering along in their careers, and seemingly enjoy life more, and it’s both discouraging and tempting.  But I’m getting to the point where I can appreciate how these things cannot be a source of refuge.

As a husband and a father, I know that more money, power, or distraction is not going to guarantee anything for my son.  The one thing I can give him that he can really depend on is the gospel, and I demonstrate the dependability of the gospel by living it out.  As the psalmist says, I need to declare God’s power to the next generation (v. 18), and this also includes the people I have been entrusted with in ministry.  As I serve in the International Grad Student Ministry (IGSM) at our church, I rub shoulders with some of the brightest minds in the world, I am more aware of the fact that I do not have much to impress them with in terms of worldly credentials.  I think many grad students expect much more from life by the time they are my age.  But what I do have is the gospel and the limited experience of being a few years older, which is enough for me to tell them that trusting in God has never put me to shame.  It is not easy and there are definitely troubles, but as with the psalmist, God never fails to restore me.  I’ve been to enough funerals to know that no one talks about your title or your salary, but they do talk about whether you loved God and others.  This is the reality that I want to live out in my life and to pass down to the people I’m ministering to.

Heavenly Father, thank you for being my refuge, my rock and my fortress.  Thank you for being trustworthy, such that those who take refuge in you will never be put to shame.  Please give me a deeper conviction regarding this truth so that I can live it out as an example to others.  I am often swayed when I see others getting ahead in life and when they seem so carefree.  In those times, please help me to turn back to the gospel I have received, to know that it is the only hope for us.  Help me to proclaim it boldly to the people you have entrusted to me, with confidence, because I have experienced it personally through my life.  Thank you for giving me this hope that will never disappoint or fail, so that I can have confidence that I can say I will never be put to shame when I trust in you.

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