by Pastor Matthew Bishop
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You have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and fortress (Psalm 71:3b).
It was particularly miserable weather when I went to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland with my family. The previous day in Galway had been perfect – t-shirts and blue sky. Not so the next. Horizontal rain and the full force of an Atlantic westerly gale smashing into the rock wall, buffeting the few brave (and stupid) tourists trying to see this famed piece of Irish coastline.
What we’ll never forget is the puffin birds nestled safely into the nooks on the cliff face. How do they withstand the appalling conditions? Where is their sense of panic? In those rocks is their sure refuge. From their youth, they have experienced this. They know a new day will dawn. Their instincts tell them to stay where they are. They can wait out the storm.
Psalm 71 is the voice of an elderly person, possibly an older King David, in time of trial. They have reason to panic. ‘Rescue me from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man’ (verse 4). But they have a firm basis for confidence in their request: ‘For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust O Lord from my youth’ (verse 5). As the storms of life threaten them, they take refuge (verse 1) in their ‘rock and fortress’ (verse 2), the one to which they have continually come throughout their life (verse 3).
There is considerable spiritual buttressing to be gained from reading and meditating on the whole of Psalm 71 today. Not just the first six verses. Older people can identify with spent strength and grey hair (verses 9 and 18), yet they have confidence for the future that comes with the witness and experience of God’s mighty deeds (verses 16,17) of the past. They can share this testimony with the younger people in their life. If you are younger, you can benefit from the writer’s wisdom in mapping out how knowing God from our youth leads to a calm place of refuge and solace in all life’s future circumstances. And all ages can think of the most important rock on planet earth as the reason for our confidence: the open tomb of Mount Calvary’s garden that always tells us our most serious enemies, sin, death and the devil, will never have the final say (see Luke 24:1–3,44–47, not least the proclamation of repentance and the forgiveness of sins).
Where does Psalm 71 remind you of Christ’s refuge and help in the storms of your life?
Thank you, Holy Spirit, that you teach us that Christ is our rock and refuge, the one who inclines his ear to us and saves us. Keep us hearing his comforting and strengthening voice today. In his name. Amen.