Theme: Bearing Witness to God in the Present
In this week’s lessons we are reminded that God has demonstrated his faithfulness in the past, and can be counted on in the future.
Scripture: Psalm 71:1-24
Looking first back and then ahead, brings us to the present, the third way in which David deals with the limitations of old age. He looks to the past to remind himself of God’s faithfulness and power. He looks to the future to remind himself of the work yet to be done. Then, having done both of those things, he turns to the present and begins to do exactly what he has been talking about. He bears witness to God now. What he praises God for chiefly is his righteousness (vv. 19-21) and faithfulness (vv. 22-24).
God’s righteousness. The word “righteousness” is used in different ways in the Bible, most notably of that divine righteousness that is imparted to us in justification. That is not the way the word is used here, nor characteristically in the psalms. Here it refers to God’s right dealings, to the fact that everything he does is just, that no one can fault him. The word appears in this sense throughout the psalms ascribed to David. Again and again he calls God a “righteous God” and speaks of “your righteousness.” There are not many psalms from which the word or the idea represented by the word is missing. That is a great testimony, that a person has lived a long time and has found by his or her own experience that God does all things rightly or justly. Therefore, 1) God can be trusted; and 2) it is the part of wisdom to conform one’s life to God’s will and standards. That is a great and important testimony to pass on to the next generation.
God’s faithfulness. In one sense the entire psalm has been about God’s faithfulness: his faithfulness in the past, and the prayer of the psalmist that God will remain faithful to him in his old age. Here at the end the theme is the same, for it is the last and chief thing David wants to declare to those who are to come. He wants them to know that God is an utterly faithful God and can be trusted to remain so. As one of our great hymns expresses it:
“Great is thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with thee;
Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
As thou hast been thou forever wilt be.
“Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
All I have needed thy hand hath provided–
“Great is thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
If you have known God at all, you have found that he is indeed a God of great faithfulness and know that this must be your testimony.
What two things does David praise God for in verses 19-21 and 22-24?
How is the word righteousness used in verses 19-21?
How were David’s actions an important part of his testimony?
Review: How did David look to God in his past? In his future? In his present? Explain how the whole psalm has been, in a sense, about the righteousness of God.
For Further Study: To see how the aging Paul encouraged Timothy to pass on to others what he had learned from Paul, download and listen for free to James Boice’s message, “Faithful When It Hurts.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)