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Psalm 71

God of my whole life

Some people think we praise God to put him in a good mood before making our requests. This gets it all wrong. Praise helps open us up to more of God’s infinite power by enabling us to see him more clearly.

1 I’ve taken refuge in you, Yahveh.
Don’t ever let me be shamed.
Rescue me, deliver me
since you’re the God who sets things right.
Turn your ear my way and save me.
Be my rock of refuge
where I can always go
my stronghold offering me safety
for you’re my rock and fortress.
My God, rescue me
from the power of the wicked
from the grasp of ruthless evildoers.
You’re my hope, Yahveh
the God I’ve trusted from childhood on.
I’ve depended on you since birth
when you brought me out of my mother’s womb
so you’re the one I always praise.
I’ve become a warning[1] to many
but you’re my strong refuge.
I praise you and proclaim your glory
all day long.
Don’t cast me off in old age—
don’t abandon me when my strength fails me.
10 For my enemies talk about me
they watch my every move
and consult together.
11 They say, “God’s forsaken him!
Chase him and seize him—
no one will save him!”
12 God, don’t stand aloof!
My God, hurry to help me!
13 May those who attack me
be dishonored and destroyed.
Cover those who want to hurt me
with defeat and disgrace.

14 As for me, I’ll keep on hoping in you
and praise you more and more.
15 I’ll announce your saving acts
your acts of deliverance day after day
though I can’t begin to count them all.
16 I’ll come announcing the incredible deeds
of Sovereign Yahveh
paying tribute to your saving acts, yours alone.
17 God, you’ve taught me from my youth.
and to this day I tell others
about the wonderful things you’ve done.
18 Even when I’m old and gray
don’t desert me, God.
Give me another chance
to proclaim your power to this generation
your might to all those yet to come.
19 Your saving justice
reaches to the heavens, Lord.
You’ve done awesome things—
who is like you, O God?
20 Though you’ve made me endure
many disasters and hard times
you’ll restore me to life again—
pull me back up out of the gaping abyss.
21 You’ll make my honor
even greater than before
and comfort me again.
22 I’ll praise you for your faithfulness
with the lute, my God
and sing to you, Holy One of Israel
with the lyre!
23 I’ll shout for joy when I sing your praise
I’ll sing to you with all my heart
because you’ve ransomed me.
24 Yes, all day long I’ll tell others
about your power to vindicate
when those who are trying to hurt me
have crept off disgraced and discredited.

With enemies whispering and plotting her ruin, the psalmist repeatedly asks God for rescue and refuge. With the psalmist aging, she knows others consider her an easy mark, a has-been. So she asks God not to discard her, but rather to let her once more proclaim his faithfulness to future generations, so they too can know and believe in the God who keeps his word.

The psalmist also emphasizes praise, starting with a 2:1 petition-to-praise ratio and reversing the ratio in the psalm’s second part. She doesn’t praise God to stroke his ego or make him more open to her petitions. Because God has none of the ego issues that plague us children of Adam and Eve. No, praise is a corrective we need most when in trouble. Urgent need seemingly demands nonstop petition. In fact, it calls for continual praise, so we can see that God, who sets things right by faithfully rescuing the weak, reigns over all we’re going through and always will. Praise corrects the psalmist’s vision, opening her up to heaven’s infinite resources and the hope of a future even brighter than her past. Even in old age. Seeing that, the psalmist imagines herself singing and shouting for joy, her rescue complete.

Lord, you’d free me from a mindset of scarcity and want to one of abundance and joy. Lift me on the wings of prayer and praise to soar through the stratosphere of your love on the jet stream of your power, dwarfing even my biggest problems. Let me yet tell others how faithful you are. Amen.

Pray this prayer in your free moments today:

Your saving justice reaches to the heavens, Lord.
You’ve done awesome things—who is like you, O God?


[1] People are saying, “Don’t do as she did unless you want things to turn out like this!”

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.