David is here in a holy transport of joy and praise, arising from his faith and hope in God; we have both together Ps. 71:14; where there is a sudden and remarkable change of his voice; his fears are all silenced, his hopes raised, and his prayers turned into thanksgivings. “Let my enemies say what they will, to drive me to despair, I will hope continually, hope in all conditions, in the most cloudy and dark day; I will live upon hope and will hope to the end.” Since we hope in one that will never fail us, let not our hope in him fail us, and then we shall praise him yet more and more. “The more they reproach me the more closely will I cleave to thee; I will praise thee more and better than ever I have done yet.” The longer we live the more expert we should grow in praising God and the more we should abound in it. I will add over and above all thy praise, all the praise I have hitherto offered, for it is all too little. When we have said all we can, to the glory of God’s grace, there is still more to be said; it is a subject that can never be exhausted, and therefore we should never grow weary of it. Now observe, in these verses,
I. How his heart is established in faith and hope; and it is a good thing that the heart be so established. Observe,
1. What he hopes in, Ps. 71:16. (1.) In the power of God: “I will go in the strength of the Lord God, not sit down in despair, but stir up myself to and exert myself in my work and warfare, will go forth and go on, not in any strength of my own, but in God’s strength—disclaiming my own sufficiency and depending on him only as all-sufficient—in the strength of his providence and in the strength of his grace.” We must always go about God’s work in his strength, having our eyes up unto him to work in us both to will and to do. (2.) In the promise of God: “I will make mention of thy righteousness, that is, thy faithfulness to every word which thou hast spoken, the equity of thy disposals, and thy kindness to thy people that trust in thee. This I will make mention of as my plea in prayer for thy mercy.” We may very fitly apply it to the righteousness of Christ, which is called the righteousness of God by faith, and which is witnessed by the law and the prophets; we must depend upon God’s strength for assistance and upon Christ’s righteousness for acceptance. In the Lord have I righteousness and strength, Isa. 45:24.
2. What he hopes for.
(1.) He hopes that God will not leave him in his old age, but will be the same to him to the end that he had been all along, Ps. 71:17, 18. Observe here, [1.] What God had done for him when he was young: Thou hast taught me from my youth. The good education and good instructions which his parents gave him when he was young he owns himself obliged to give God thanks for as a great favour. It is a blessed thing to be taught of God from our youth, from our childhood to know the holy scriptures, and it is what we have reason to bless God for. [2.] What he had done for God when he was middle-aged: He had declared all God’s wondrous works. Those that have not good when they are young must be doing good when they are grown up, and must continue to communicate what they have received. We must own that all the works of God’s goodness to us are wondrous works, admiring he should do so much for us who are so undeserving, and we must make it our business to declare them, to the glory of God and the good of others. [3.] What he desired of God now that he was old: Now that I am old and gray-headed, dying to this world and hastening to another, O God! forsake me not. This is what he earnestly desires and confidently hopes for. Those that have been taught of God from their youth, and have made it the business of their lives to honour him, may be sure that he will not leave them when they are old and gray-headed, will not leave them helpless and comfortless, but will make the evil days of old age their best days, and such as they shall have occasion to say they have pleasure in. [4.] What he designed to do for God in his old age: “I will not only show thy strength, by my own experience of it, to this generation, but I will leave my observations upon record for the benefit of posterity, and so who it to every one that is to come.” As long as we live we should be endeavouring to glorify God and edify one another; and those that have had the largest and longest experience of the goodness of God to them should improve their experiences for the good of their friends. It is a debt which the old disciples of Christ owe to the succeeding generations to leave behind them a solemn testimony to the power, pleasure, and advantage of religion, and the truth of God’s promises.
(2.) He hopes that God would revive him and raise him up out of his present low and disconsolate condition (Ps. 71:20): Thou who hast made me to see and feel great and sore troubles, above most men, shalt quicken me again. Note, [1.] The best of God’s saints and servants are sometimes exercised with great and sore troubles in this world. [2.] God’s hand is to be eyed in all the troubles of the saints, and that will help to extenuate them and make them seem light. He does not say, “Thou hast burdened me with those troubles,” but “shown them to me,” as the tender father shows the child the rod to keep him in awe. [3.] Though God’s people be brought ever so low he can revive them and raise them up. Are they dead? he can quicken them again. See 2 Cor. 1:9. Are they buried, as dead men out of mind? he can bring them up again from the depths of the earth, can cheer the most drooping spirit and raise the most sinking interest. [4.] If we have a due regard to the hand of God in our troubles, we may promise ourselves, in due time, a deliverance out of them. Our present troubles, though great and sore, shall be no hindrance to our joyful resurrection from the depths of the earth, witness our great Master, to whom this may have some reference; his Father showed him great and sore troubles, but quickened him and brought him up from the grave.
(3.) He hopes that God would not only deliver him out of his troubles, but would advance his honour and joy more than ever (Ps. 71:21): “Thou shalt not only restore me to my greatness again, but shalt increase it, and give me a better interest, after this shock, than before; thou shalt not only comfort me, but comfort me on every side, so that I shall see nothing black or threatening on any side.” Note, Sometimes God makes his people’s troubles contribute to the increase of their greatness, and their sun shines the brighter for having been under a cloud. If he make them contribute to the increase of their goodness, that will prove in the end the increase of their greatness, their glory; and if he comfort them on every side, according to the time and degree wherein he has afflicted them on every side, they will have no reason to complain. When our Lord Jesus was quickened again, and brought back from the depths of the earth, his greatness was increased, and he entered on the joy set before him.
(4.) He hopes that all his enemies would be put to confusion, Ps. 71:24. He speaks of it with the greatest assurance as a thing done, and triumphs in it accordingly: They are confounded, they are brought to shame, that seek my hurt. His honour would be their disgrace and his comfort their vexation.
II. Let us now see how his heart is enlarged in joy and praises, how he rejoices in hope, and sings in hope for we are saved by hope.
1. He will speak of God’s righteousness and his salvation, as great things, things which he was well acquainted with, and much affected with, which he desired God might have the glory of and others might have the comfortable knowledge of (Ps. 71:15): My mouth shall show forth thy righteousness and thy salvation; and again (Ps. 71:24), My tongue shall talk of thy righteousness, and this all the day. God’s righteousness, which David seems here to be in a particular manner affected with, includes a great deal: the rectitude of his nature, the equity of his providential disposals, the righteous laws he has given us to be ruled by, the righteous promises he has given us to depend upon, and the everlasting righteousness which his Son has brought in for our justification. God’s righteousness and his salvation are here joined together; let no man think to put them asunder, nor expect salvation without righteousness, Ps. 50:23. If these two are made the objects of our desire, let them be made the subjects of our discourse all the day, for they are subjects that can never be exhausted.
2. He will speak of them with wonder and admiration, as one astonished at the dimensions of divine love and grace, the height and depth, the length and breadth, of it: “I know not the numbers thereof, Ps. 71:15. Though I cannot give a particular account of thy favours to me, they are so many, so great (if I would count them, they are more in number than the sand, Ps. 40:5), yet, knowing them to be numberless, I will be still speaking of them, for in them I shall find new matter,” Ps. 71:19. The righteousness that is in God is very high; that which is done by him for his people is very great: put both together, and we shall say, O God! who is like unto thee? This is praising God, acknowledging his perfections and performances to be, (1.) Above our conception; they are very high and great, so high that we cannot apprehend them, so great that we cannot comprehend them. (2.) Without any parallel; no being like him, no works like his: O God! who is like unto thee? None in heaven, none on earth, no angel, no king. God is a non-such; we do not rightly praise him if we do not own him to be so.
3. He will speak of e3d them with all the expressions of joy and exultation, Ps. 71:22, 23. Observe,
(1.) How he would eye God in praising him. [1.] As a faithful God: I will praise thee, even thy truth. God is made known by his word; if we praise that, and the truth of that, we praise him. By faith we set to our seal that God is true; and so we praise his truth. [2.] As a God in covenant with him: “O my God! whom I have consented to and avouched for mine.” As in our prayers, so in our praises, we must look up to God as our God, and give him the glory of our interest in him and relation to him. [3.] As the Holy One of Israel, Israel’s God in a peculiar manner, glorious in his holiness among that people and faithful to his covenant with them. It is God’s honour that he is a Holy One; it is his people’s honour that he is the Holy One of Israel.
(2.) How he will express his joy and exultation. [1.] With his hand, in sacred music—with the psaltery, with the harp; at these David excelled, and the best of his skill shall be employed in setting forth God’s praises to such advantage as might affect others. [2.] With his lips, in sacred songs: “Unto thee will I sing, to thy honour, and with a desire to be accepted of thee. My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee, knowing they cannot be better employed.” [3.] In both with his heart: “My soul shall rejoice which thou hast redeemed.” Note, First, Holy joy is the very heart and life of thankful praise. Secondly, We do not make melody to the Lord, in singing his praises, if we do not do it with our hearts. My lips shall rejoice, but that is nothing; lip-labour, though ever so well laboured, if that be all, is but lost labour in serving God; the soul must be at work, and with all that is within us we must bless his holy name, else all about us is worth little. Thirdly, Redeemed souls ought to be joyful thankful souls. The work of redemption ought, above all God’s works, to be celebrated by us in our praises. The Lamb that was slain, and has redeemed us to God, must therefore be counted worthy of all blessing and praise.