David: Ending Well by—Living Purposefully
Jesus gave all of us something to look forward to. He told us what He would like to say to each of us when we arrive safely home to dwell with Him forever--“Well done good and faithful servant”!
Christ's well done is what any of us would call, ending well.
As you open to the 71st Psalm, you are opening to the words of someone who ended well. God’s prompts them to pause and look back over their life. They are old, have already lived through so much pain—and now are facing the weaknesses of old age, its challenges, blessings and curses.
But the key to finishing life, or ending well is the long term cultivation of godly habits.
Life is a constant stream of choices. Each choice we make has a consequence. The consequences of godly habits are good, the consequences of ungodly habits are bad. Life is really that simple and David in our Psalm this morning knows that.
Reading Psalm 71 is probably listening to the voice of God pointing out David’s resolves for life.
But if it isn’t David the only other authors that may be the ones God used are Samuel and Jeremiah. If it was Samuel then again it was most likely David who captured these thoughts from his wonderful mentor and friend and put them down on parchment to sing of God’s Great Faithfulness. If it was Jeremiah then there is also a hint of the troubles Jeremiah confesses in Lamentations combined with the hope Lamentations 3:23 which declares Great is Thy Faithfulness.
David is the strongest case for authorship and almost universally agreed upon from ancient times. The Bible of Christ's day called the Septuagint says so, as do most Jewish sources. In the Hebrew Bible Psalm 71 is joined to Psalm 70 also written by David. Also the first three verses of Psalm 71 are taken directly from Psalm 31 which David wrote while fleeing from Absalom.
Most amazing though is the fact that Psalm 71 quotes over 50 times from 26 other Psalms, 18 of which are Psalms that David wrote. This Psalm quotes Psalms 3, 5, 7, 18, 22, 23, 31, 32, 34-36, 40, 51, 56, 57, 60, 63, and 86. So we would conclude it is written by David.
So no matter what channel God chose to deliver this Psalm, it is a powerful testimony to the God we can trust in all seasons of life. And even at our weakest times, when age, infirmity and incapacity are mounting—even then our great God is faithful and will not fail us even when we fail Him.
But there is even more than just a strong comfort for the years ahead in this Psalm, Psalm 71 is also the distillation and crystallization of some underlying resolves or purposes that David had learned to live by in his long and eventful life.
Much like the books written by the titans of business and finance that give the leadership “secrets” and principles that drove these men and women to great successes in their careers—Psalm 71 is David’s testimony guided by the Mighty Hand of God, through the Infinite Spirit of God of what in life is worth repeating.
David distills the purposes of his life. David confesses those underlying truths that guided him well and keep him strong no matter what else he faces to the end of life.
So even if you are young and the weaknesses of old age are far away—this Psalm has something for you too. It is the call to live life intentionally, to live each day purposefully so that when the days speed by and life is getting short you and I can say that we are ending well because we have lived purposefully.
Please stand with me as we read the first half of Psalm 71 verses 1-13 and then pray.
We live in an aimless culture driven by the latest fads and events. We also can see trends in the church by the fads and events that we as believers reflect. One trend that I watch is what books make big splashes. If you step back, best selling books among Christians are indicators of needs and desires that permeate the personal lives of believers. That is why some mega-selling Christian books point to deeper needs being expressed.
Just for example let me point out five of the biggest selling books, written by believers, of the last thirty years. No matter what you may think about the authors or their books—they do reveal where believers are in their spiritual pilgrimages.
- In 1971, Ken Taylor’s Living Bible selling over 40 million copies, was a big statement that many people really wanted to understand the Bible.
- The same year, Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth that sold 28 million copies was an indicator that many believers also wanted to understand the future as God had laid it out in His Word.
- In 1995, Tim La Haye’s Left Behind Series was a renewed statement of a new generation of people wanting to know what God's Word says about the future, selling over 62 million copies and counting.
- Likewise the surprise of the year 2000 was Bruce Wilkinson’s book The Prayer of Jabez that overnight sold over 13 million copies; those sales were a cry from many believers that they really wanted to experience prayer. This summer at a Bible conference I spoke at a woman stood at the final meeting and gave a public testimony. She said I have been praying the Prayer of Jabez over my family for years but now I have verses from the Bible to use to focus my prayers for my family.
- And finally, in recent years Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life released in 2002 and selling an astonishing 24 million copies is a statement that many people are really interested in finding out how to live life for what matters to God.
And the best selling book in all the history of the world, God's Word the Bible gives us the truth we need to answer these and any other of the deepest cries of our hearts.
The 71st Psalm first of all contains some of the realities that come with life on planet earth. Life has a collection of problems or troubles that are always with us. Either we are just getting through some, just in the middle of some, or just headed into some—troubles! Man is born for troubles as sure as the sparks in a campfire rise up in the smoke and heat, Job told us almost five thousand years ago.
So every day we have a choice to either focus on ourselves--my troubles, my problems, my misfortunes, my woes (and there will always be some); or to focus on God--His plans, His promises, His purposes and His Faithfulness to guide our lives to the end.
Someone has well said that life is not really mountains and valleys where we have all good times (mountains) and all bad times (valleys); rather life is more life a parallel line of railroad tracks. One side is my own personal set of burdens, weakness, problems, and troubles. The other side is all of God’s goodness, His promised faithfulness, His perfect plans and purposes He is working out in my life.
God wants us to look at life with all its struggles, through the lens of His Word. He wants us to see Him and His plans being worked out in our life as we go through each day. That is exactly what David shows us in this Psalm.
So this morning, in Psalm 71 David first surveys the challenges that will face each of us as we get older. He reflects these problems of getting older in a series of verses that blend together God’s Faithfulness and promises with each of those troubles.
David begins this Psalm noting the unending struggles that lie ahead for most of us.
First, in Psalm 71:1-2 David reminds us that as we get older confusion increases. The older we get, the slower our minds, the easier it is to get confused. Life moves fast, we are slowing and our minds and bodies can’t keep us the pace at times. This prompts confusion. Too many choices, too fast a pace and too short a period to process all of the above makes for a freezing up of the ability to make a decision and thus confusion as to what to do.
When confusion increases what should we do? David declares his unwavering choice, his godly habit.
- David had learned to flee to the Lord instead of living in confusion. Psalm 71:1 In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion.
- David had learned to cry to the Lord before giving up to troubles. Psalm 71:2 Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape; Incline Your ear to me, and save me.
Secondly, another challenge of growing older David points out is in Psalm 71:3-8 where he reminds us that insecurity increases. Like confusion, insecurity shows up here and there from childhood, it just gets bigger and bigger the older, weaker we get. Older people feel like they are no longer needed, and often that they are in the way. Combined with all the weaknesses of life that breeds increased insecurity.
David warns us that God will not allow us to persist in the enticing sins of old age: a lust for comfort and convenience, a greed for recognition and covetousness for security. God uses David to remind us that the sins of old age can erase Christ's well done. We should remember Solomon who started well and failed in the end because he refused to obey God at the end of his life.
All of these increasing insecurities of old age are prompted by fears. Like the Fear of Pain, the Fear of Abandonment or Rejection, the Fear of Death, the Fear of Losing Control, the Fear of Failure, the Fear of the Future, the Fear of Shame and Embarrassment, the Fear of Strangers, the Fear of Loss, the Fear of What People Think of You, and the Fear of Aging.
See how God delivers us from fear as we conclude this message tomorrow July 21st.
For more from Discover the Book Ministries, please visit discoverthebook.org.