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Sunday, May 02, 2021

"Since My Youth" Psalm 71 [Matt's Messages]

“Since My Youth”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
May 2, 2021 :: Psalm 71

I’ll be honest with you. I prayerfully picked Psalm 71 for this weekend because recently I’ve been feeling my age.

This Tuesday will mark my 48th birthday. If I make it to Tuesday, Lord-willing, I will be half way to 96 years old. 

Now, I know that for some of you that does not sound very old. You’re so old you hardly remember being 48 years old. I’m just a spring chicken. I understand, and this Psalm is definitely for you, as well!

But for others of you, you can’t imagine reaching the ripe old age of 48. That sounds like Rip Van Winkle. Theoretically, you know that you will be 48 some day, but that day seems very far off. Well, Psalm 71 is also for you.

Whether I seems old to you or not, I’ve been feeling older. I’m much more aware these days of my limitations. In the last year, I’ve begun using reading glasses. I bought 6 cheap pairs, and I have placed them on each stack of current books that I am reading in my home and my office.

And I just can’t seem to read like I used to. I keep buying books! But I don’t get them read at the pace I used to. I just can’t concentrate for that long, that sustained. 

Now, I actually feel really good. Better than I have in a long time because my health has improved in the last two years as I got really serious about my gluttony and got diligent and disciplined with my exercise.

But I’m also very aware of my limitations. How quickly I get tuckered out. What I can and can’t pull off any more.

And the other day, I hurt myself taking a nap! You know you’re getting older when your back hurts, and you realize it was because you slept the wrong way during your nap!

My beard is going grey. I’m getting older. And with my birthday arriving again (so soon after the last one!), I am reflecting on where I’m at, and on my relationship with the Lord.

We don’t know who wrote Psalm 71, but we do know that he was also feeling his age.

He had gotten older and could look back over his lifetime. His age informs his song.

This psalmist has written a prayer song to God from the perspective of one who has  lived some life, has some experience under his belt, and is now feeling his strength wane. He’s old and gray. He’s in decline.

But, being older, he is also able to look back and see what God has done over the course of his life. He can trace the hand of God on his life since his youth.

This songwriter has a long history with God, and he can lean on that history, lean on the lessons of that history, lean on the God of that history to face his current and future problems.

Which is important because, as we shall soon see, this man is not just older. He’s also in trouble. And he needs help.

Look with me at Psalm 71, verses 1 through 4.

As I read this psalm, I want you to tune your ear to hear the “always words.” Words like “always” and “ever” and “all day long.” As I was studying it this week, those words popped out at me over and over again. Listen for “always.” Psalm 71, verse 1.

“In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Deliver me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of evil and cruel men.”


Are you tired yet of psalms like this one? The psalmist is in trouble once again and is asking God for help?

We don’t know what precipitated this particular crisis, but he’s obviously under attack from some mean hombres. Verse 4 again, “Deliver me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of evil and cruel men.” This is no walk in the park. 

So many of the psalms have prayers like this. “Help! Lord, help!”

And what I love about that is that it’s so true to life, right?

Because there is always something, right? There’s always trouble in our lives. If nothing bad is happening to you, if there is no threat on the threat board, you just aren’t paying attention.

Sure, some days are better than others. Some days are awesome. My birthday is this Tuesday! We’re going to celebrate with some good food and maybe some more books?

But there’s always something, right?

We have always enemies. The world, the flesh, and the devil don’t just disappear.

And the psalmist is feeling it. So he asks God for an “always refuge.” Did you catch that “always” word in verse 3?

He keeps using these strong images of safety and security and protection. V. 1 “refuge.” Verse 3, “rock of refuge.” Then the end of verse 3, “my rock and my fortress.”

That’s what you need when you’re under attack! You need a solid rock fortress that is impregnable and unassailable. If you are in this rock fortress, you are perfectly safe.

And what does he say it needs to be? Verse 3, “Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go...”

Today, I have 4 summary statements to try to capture the force of this prayer song. Here’s the first one:

#1. I ALWAYS NEED AN ALWAYS REFUGE.

This isn’t something that I grow out of. I always need a safe place to run to when the attacks come. “Help!” Because there’s always something. If I’ve learned anything over the last several years, there is always something.

So I always need somewhere safe to run.

The question is where. Where do we run when the attacks come?

Where do you run? 

This songwriter has learned to run to the LORD, and he has found the LORD to always be there. Look at verse 5.

“For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth.”

There’s our sermon title. “Since my youth.”

The psalmist looks back over the full stretch of his life and says that he has been able to put his confidence in Yahweh, in the LORD, in since he was very very young.

The LORD has always been his rock and his fortress. 

#2. YOU HAVE ALWAYS BEEN MY ALWAYS REFUGE.

Verse 5 again. 

“For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth. [We go way back!] From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother's womb. I will ever praise you.”

The psalmist goes back before he can even remember to say that the LORD has always been there for him.

And he has been trusting Him for as long as he can remember. 

Now, not everybody can say that. Some of you [in this room] have a testimony like this songwriter. Some of you do not.

Some of you became Christians later in life, as adults, and we praise God for you! What a glorious thing to be saved as an adult! Like the Apostle Paul coming to trust Christ later in life. Perhaps from a notorious background. 

But those are not the only awesome testimonies out there.

Let me tell you about another kind of awesome testimony:

Somebody who was born into a Christian family and nurtured in the gospel from before they knew words. A child whose family was a part of Bible-teaching church and whose parents prayed for them and did family devotions together. And who prayed to receive Christ so long ago that they don’t even remember it they were so little. Their parents had to tell them about it later.

And they just grew up with Him. Just grew up trusting Him. Growing up in Him. God has always been their always refuge.

That’s an awesome testimony, too.

That’s what this fellow could say. He looks back over the decades and says, “For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth.”

And people could see it. Verse 7.

“I have become like a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge.”

Now, a “portent” is like a sign, and this one could be negative or positive. Like people can see the trouble that is coming towards him, and they are like, “Whoa! Here it comes. I wonder what’s going to happen.” And he’s like, “Doesn’t matter what. I’m going to trust the LORD.”

Or it could be a positive sign. As in a wonder or a marvel. Like people who have watched this psalmist get into trouble and then trust God and get out of trouble again and again and again. And they’re like, “Wow! I see what God can do in a life that is committed to Him.”

Either way, people are watching, and they are watching not just what comes at us but what comes out of us when stuff comes at us.

And this old psalmist says, “Just watch. The LORD is my strong refuge, and I’m going to say so all day long.” Verse 8.

“My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long. [There’s some more “always words.”]

The psalmist is saying something like this:

#3. I WILL ALWAYS TRUST YOU AS MY ALWAYS REFUGE.

That sounds good, but let me ask you a question that I was asking myself as I studied Psalm 71 this week: 

"Matthew, how would you respond if you were old, losing strength, and under evil attack? Could you write this psalm yourself?"

I think I would be very tempted to give in. To throw in the towel. To look around for an alternative refuge.

Money, popularity, relationships, addictions, pleasure, government, escapes, friends, family, maybe try out some other gods.

How about you?

How would you respond if you were old, losing strength, and under evil attack? Could you write this psalm yourself?

This is why I’m glad that Jesus could sing Psalm 71 so perfectly. He never faltered. He trusted God from before His birth and never wavered all the way to the Cross and the Empty Tomb.

Jesus always trusted His Father as His always refuge.

“Into Your hands I commit my spirit.”

And on this day, this psalmist trusted God fully, too.

He looked back on his many yesterdays with the Lord, and decided to build his today on the Lord, as well.

Which is good because he was still under attack. Verse 9.

“Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone. For my enemies speak against me; those who wait to kill me conspire together. They say, ‘God has forsaken him; pursue him and seize him, for no one will rescue him.’ Be not far from me, O God; come quickly, O my God, to help me. May my accusers perish in shame; may those who want to harm me be covered with scorn and disgrace.”

You feel it? Do you feel his desperation?

It’s one thing to be young and under attack.

It’s another to be old and under the same level of attack.

But this songwriter is undaunted. He keeps coming back to the LORD. He keeps asking God to not cast him away or discard him like so many people discard the elderly.

He says, “Don’t forsake me.” 

And we know that God has promised to never leave us nor forsake us, so that’s praying that God would keep His promises–a very biblical thing to do.

And he prays that God would not only rescue him but flip the situation upside down so that those who want him to come to shame would be shamed themselves. He prays for justice to be done. Again, (like we saw in Psalm 69, 55, and 22) he doesn’t take vigilante justice into his own hands, he prays that God’s divinely perfect justice would be done.

And he puts his stake in the ground. Verse 14.

This is the exact middle point, the center, of the whole psalm. Verse 14.

“But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.”

Can you say that?

Are you saying that today?

That’s what I want to mark my life in my 49th year starting on Tuesday.

“But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.”

I will always trust You as my always refuge.

I will always run to You.

I’ve seen your faithfulness in all of my yesterdays, so I will trust you will all of my today and all of tomorrows.

#4. I WILL ALWAYS PRAISE YOU AS MY ALWAYS REFUGE. V.15

“My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure.”

I love that! He says, “I don’t even know how good You are. I can’t get to the bottom of it. I have more blessings than I can count. My salvation extends to a depth I cannot fathom. So I will not ever quit saying how awesome you are.”

“All day long.” There’s another “always word.”

Like we said last week, “GOD IS TOV all the time. ALL THE TIME God is tov.”

The psalmist is determined to praise God for His mighty deeds.

That includes the big things like rescuing Israel from Egypt. But it also includes all of the personal things that God has done just for the psalmist. V.16

“I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign LORD; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone. Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.”

There’s our title again. “Since my youth.” I’m not young any more, but I’m still learning. And I’m still praising.

“Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. [V.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.”

This psalmist asks for another day to pass on what he’s learned about God to the next generation, to the kids.

He asks for more grace so he give God more praise.

He still needs God!

We don’t get to a point where we say, “I’ve got all of the God I need. Thanks.”

No, we needed Him yesterday, and we need Him today, and we’ll need Him tomorrow.

Especially so that we can tell the young ‘uns that they need Him today and tomorrow.

“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.”
Is that your prayer?

Are you committed to declaring God’s power and might to the next generation?

One of the reasons why God has let you and I live this long is to tell the young people how awesome He is.

My friend Blair Murray was 84 when he died. And I loved to do baptism interviews with him. He was an elder in our church for many years. Many of you knew him. Some of you did not. 

He loved to talk to young people about how trustworthy our Savior was.

When we did a baptism interview, he would always say, “You will never regret it. You will never regret following Jesus. He is worth it.”

“Even when I am old and gray [or bald!], do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”

And then that’s what he does with whole rest of the song. He just praises God and promises to praise God to the next generation and in joyful worship. Verse 19.

“Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you? [To the skies. Beyond our comprehension is your righteousness. Your holiness. Your rightness. Your justice. O God, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you? NOBODY! Nobody is like this God! V.20]

“Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.”

Don’t you just love the honesty and the realism here? He’s says, “Life has been hard, and you’re sovereign over the hardships. But God is good all the time. And all the time God is good. And You’re going to come through again and again and again.”

Someday, the psalmist would actually die as will we.  But we know that one day from the depths of the earth we will be brought up again!

So that we never stop praising Him! V.22

“You will increase my honor and comfort me once again. 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. [Fire up the worship band!] My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you–I, whom you have redeemed. 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.”

I always need an always refuge.

But, praise God, You have always been my always refuge.

So I will always trust You as my always refuge. Even when the times are hard, and I’m under attack. Especially when the times are hard and I’m under attack.

I will always praise You as my always refuge.

Since my youth and forever.

“But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.”

***

Fortifying Truth - Psalms - Fall 2020 / Winter 2021 / Spring 2021

01. Majestic and Mindful - Psalm 8
02. All Our Days - Psalm 90
03. "The LORD on High Is Mighty!" - Psalm 93
04. "The LORD Is My Shepherd" - Psalm 23
05. "Praise the LORD, O My Soul!" - Psalm 103
06. "The Blessing of Aaron's Oily Beard" - Psalm 133
07. "A Dying Thirst for the Living God" - Psalm 42
08. "Our Fortress" - Psalm 46
09. Unrestless - Psalm 131
10. "Sun and Shield" - Psalm 84
11. "With Songs of Joy" - Psalm 126
12. "His Love Endures Forever" - Psalm 136
13. "How Many Are Your Works, O LORD!" - Psalm 104
14. "My Soul Waits for the Lord" - Psalm 130
15. "Remember David" - Psalm 132
16. "My Son" - Psalm 2
17. "Search Me" - Psalm 139
18. "Cleanse Me" - Psalm 51
19. "A New Song" - Psalm 96
20. "Hear My Prayer, O LORD." - Psalm 86
21. "May All the Peoples Praise" - Psalm 67
22. "A Wedding Song" - Psalm 45
23. "My Feet Had Almost Slipped" - Psalm 73
24. “Rejoicing Comes in the Morning" - Psalm 30
25. 'The Waters Have Come Up To My Neck" - Psalm 69
26. "Cast Your Cares on the LORD" - Psalm 55
27. "“My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?" - Psalm 22
28. "You Will Not Abandon Me To the Grave" - Psalm 16
29. "He Will Rule" - Psalm 72
30. "Taste and See That the LORD is Good"

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