CONFIDENCE IN PRAYER Psalms 64–72
“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death” (Ps. 68:19–20).The psalmists often express feelings of overwhelming need. Yet they also remind us that however great the need, our God is able to answer prayer.
This group of psalms is launched with a plea for protection (Ps. 64). God’s ability to answer prayer is affirmed in psalms that review His righteous works (Ps. 65), His awesome works (Ps. 66), His rule (Ps. 67), and His saving works (Ps. 68). Two pleas (Pss. 69–70) are followed by a psalm expressing confidence in God (Ps. 71). Book II ends with a psalm by Solomon celebrating the ministry of the messianic King (Ps. 72).
Understanding the Text
A Plea for Protection.
David sought God’s help against cunning enemies who plotted against him. “I voice my complaint” Ps. 64:1–10. The Hebrew word translated “complaint” is better rendered “troubled thoughts.” Those who plot against us and attack behind our backs are more dangerous than open enemies. David asked God to bring them to ruin, so all might see that God guards those who take refuge in Him. When we are troubled, we too have a refuge in God, who is celebrated in the next four psalms. Psalm 65: God’s Righteous Works. David praised God as One who hears prayer, and whose righteousness is displayed in a creation He continues to care for. “O You who hear prayer” Ps. 65:1–4. In Hebrew to “hear” prayer is to answer it. The God who has atoned for our sins and blessed us with good things does hear our prayers. “Awesome deeds of righteousness” Ps. 65:5–13. We know that God does right by men, for He who created the world (vv. 5–8) continues to care for it, so that nature overflows with an abundance of all man needs to enjoy life. Psalm 66: God’s Awesome Works. These works, performed in man’s behalf, assure David that the Lord will answer the prayers of those who fear Him. “How awesome His works in man’s behalf” Ps. 66:1–7. David called our attention to history, to “come and see” what God has done. In the past the Lord “turned the sea into dry land” for Israel’s forefathers (vv. 5–7). Even more, the Lord had acted in David’s time. “He has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping” (vv. 8–9). God had also “refined us like silver,” an image which speaks of the purification that comes through divine discipline (vv. 10–12). As a result of God’s work in his life David now came to the Lord’s temple a fully committed man (vv. 13–17). The psalm’s emphasis of commitment is important. As David said, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” When you and I try honestly to please God, we can be sure that He will answer our prayers (vv. 18–20). Psalm 67: God’s Just Rule. God rules His people justly, blessing those who praise Him. “May the peoples praise You, O God” Ps. 67:1–7. In this psalm praise and blessing are two halves of a circle. Blessing causes us to praise God. And praise, our appropriate response to His gracious provision, maintains that intimate relationship with God which guarantees the blessing. Today as we devote ourselves to praise, we can be sure that “God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear Him.” Psalm 68: God’s Saving Works. One of Scripture’s most vibrant, triumphant psalms celebrates God’s saving works and what they mean to His people. “Sing to God” Ps. 68:1–6. The psalm opens with a triumphant shout; we can imagine it as a fanfare, played on a hundred trumpets. Some commentators believe the psalm may have been sung when David triumphantly brought God’s ark into Jerusalem and danced before the Lord (cf. 2 Sam. 6). Whether it was or not, the tone of this psalm is one of triumphant joy. “When You went out” Ps. 68:7–18. God is praised for His triumphal march through history, in scenes that recall the Exodus, His appearance at Sinai, the thunderstorm that defeated Sisera in Deborah’s time, and the rains which made the Promised Land a place of blessing. “Who daily bears our burdens” Ps. 68:19–31. Relationship with Israel’s saving God assured His people of victory (vv. 19–23). Israel marched in triumph, praising the Lord (vv. 24–27), who one day will see even the Gentiles bow before Him (vv. 28–31). “Sing to God” Ps. 68:32–35. The psalm ends with another fanfare, joyfully trumpeting the power of the awesome God who “gives power and strength to His people.” Psalm 69: Plea of the Distressed. David represented the vulnerable man, a victim of slander, betrayal, and his own faults. In his distress the psalmist’s only hope was that God would “rescue me from the mire.” “The floods engulf me” Ps. 69:1–5. Deep waters frequently represent overwhelming difficulties or troubles. Here David felt helpless before his enemies (v. 4) and his own sins (v. 5). “Folly” is not misjudgment, but sinful choice. “Be disgraced because of me” Ps. 69:6–12. Humiliation of God’s servant reflects on God and His people as a whole. The New Testament quote of verse 9 (John 2:17) reminds us that David was not speaking only of himself here. These words also reflect the humiliation of the despised and rejected Messiah. “Answer me with Your sure salvation” Ps. 69:13–18. In distress the psalmist prayed to God for deliverance. He expected an answer, not because he deserved it, but as an expression “of the goodness of Your love.” “I am scorned” Ps. 69:19–21. In a series of powerful words David described his feelings: he was scorned, disgraced, shamed, helpless, alone. Again the words picture not only David’s feelings, but also the experience of the Messiah. Dragged to Calvary Christ found no comforter, and was offered gall mixed with vinegar to drink (cf. Matt. 27:48–49). “May they be blotted out” Ps. 69:22–28. Here David’s natural feelings broke through, and he called down curses on his enemies. In contrast Jesus, from the cross, prayed “Father, forgive them.” Both expressions are appropriate. In Christ God offers forgiveness to all. Yet those who refuse to trust Messiah will “be blotted out of the Book of Life.” “The Lord hears the needy” Ps. 69:29–36. Even in his distress the psalmist praised God, sure that the Lord does hear and will not despise (reject the plea) of His captive people. Praise rightly precedes deliverance as well as follows it. When we praise God for what He will do, we affirm our faith in Him. In praise we also find the courage we need to wait until God is ready to act for us. Psalm 70: Plea of the Poor and Needy. When you or I recognize our need we turn to God, who alone is “my help and my deliverer.” Psalm 71: Confidence in the Lord. Memories of God’s faithfulness bring the aged hope. (See DEVOTIONAL.) Psalm 72: Ministry of the King. Solomon’s vision of his own calling as king led him to celebrate the greater ministry of the coming Messiah. Although this psalm is not quoted in the New Testament, its theme has been understood by both Jewish and Christian commentators as messianic. One day a coming King will “judge your people in righteousness” and “defend the afflicted.” He will “rule from sea to sea” and “all kings” and “all nations will serve Him.” He will rescue the weak and the needy “from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in His sight.” The ancient promises of God to Abraham will be fulfilled in Him, for “all nations will be blessed through Him, and they will call Him blessed” (cf. Gen. 12:1–4).
Growing Old(Ps. 71)
Most of us don’t look forward to growing old. We expect old age to rob us of so much that’s important. Our sight will begin to fail. Our hearing will fade. We’ll lack the strength to do many of the things we now enjoy. Many of us will lose much of our sense of taste. Aches will come too, with an increased vulnerability to serious illness and pain. No wonder old age seems to loom like some dark threat on the horizon of our future. Yet in this psalm David reminds us of something that several modern polls have revealed. Old age can be a time of blessing. Those polls have shown that no segment of our population is as content with their lot as those over 60! Perhaps many of our older citizens find comfort and hope in their past experiences of God’s grace. Listen to just a few of the verses in this towering psalm, and perhaps your view of old age may change. You have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on You (vv. 5–6). Since my youth, O God, You have taught me, and to this day I declare Your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare Your power to the next generation (vv. 17–18). Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter, You will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth You will bring me up. You will increase my honor and and comfort me once again (vv. 20–21). When we do grow old, we will have years of relying on the Lord and of experiencing His grace to sustain us. All God has taught us throughout our lives will so enrich us that we will be able to bless the next generation. If we learn to rely on the Lord in our troubles now, the years ahead can truly be golden. We will live those years in confidence, sure that beyond them God will restore our lives again, and then we will be forever young.
Today’s experience of God’s grace prepares us for whatever tomorrow may bring.