Psalms 71:1-3 ESV
“In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame!
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me, and save me!
Be to me a rock of refuge,
to which I may continually come;
you have given the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.”
When we are following Jesus Christ with our lives wholeheartedly, and we are doing and saying the kinds of things he did and said, and if we are not walking in sin, but we are walking in righteousness and holiness, and if we are sharing the truth of the gospel, and if we are exposing the fruitless deeds of darkness, we are going to face opposition, even coming from those within the gatherings of the church, and perhaps even from family members.
We will have enemies who will come against us, even in ways which are hidden, and even in ways which are difficult to prove, for opposition isn’t always done in ways which are clear-cut and obvious, but a lot of times our enemies will come against us in underhanded and sneaky ways which are “under the radar,” so to speak, but which are devious and vicious, and they will use tactics such as gaslighting and manipulation and trickery, too.
Sometimes, rather than attack us directly, they will slander us behind our backs in order to convince others to turn against us. They will lie about us as a way of getting even with us for perceived wrongs they think we are committing against them by us walking in the ways of the Lord and in his truth and righteousness, and by us standing strong on the truth of the gospel, and by us exposing the fruitless deeds of darkness.
And we have no control over most or all of this opposition coming against us, although we may be able to combat some, in the right way. But what we can do is pray, and we can trust the Lord with our lives, and we can believe that he is completely sovereign over our lives and in control over all things, and that nothing can touch us but what God allows it, and if he allows it, then he will accomplish his purposes through it. And he will carry us through it, as well, if we will put our trust in him and rest in him.
Psalms 71:4-6 ESV
“Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.
For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from before my birth;
you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.”
God will not always rescue us physically, though, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man. Just look at the lives of the prophets and the apostles. They went through enormous unjust suffering at the hands of their enemies because of their walks of faith in God/Jesus, and because of their testimonies for the Lord and for his gospel message.
Just look at the lives of Christians all throughout history ever since Jesus Christ came to earth and lived and died and rose again and then ascended back to heaven. Christians have been severely persecuted for their walks of faith and for their testimonies in Jesus Christ and in his salvation. In America we have not yet had the kind of severe persecution that Christians in other nations have undergone, but we who are following Jesus are being persecuted, mostly verbally or through trickery, like mentioned above.
And then we need to remember the words of Jesus and those of the apostles who taught us that we are actually called to suffer for the sake of the name of Jesus, and for the sake of the gospel, so it should not surprise us if people hate and reject us, or if they call our names evil, and/or if they do evil and cruel things against us. And, in fact, we are to rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer for the sake of righteousness.
So, although the Lord may not deliver us physically from the hands of the wicked, though he may, at times, still he will deliver us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually from the possible ill effects their treatment of us might have on our lives if we do not surrender our lives and our circumstances to the Lord, and if we do not trust the Lord with our circumstances. But if we trust him, and if we choose to love and to forgive our enemies, he will fill us with his peace and joy, if we will rest in him.
[Rom 5:3-5; Phil 3:7-11; 1 Pet 1:6-7; 1 Pet 4:12-17; 1 Thess 3:1-5; Jas 1:2-4; Matt 5:10-12; Lu 21:12-19; 2 Co 1:3-11; Heb 12:3-12; Jn 15:1-11]
Psalms 71:7-11 ESV
“I have been as a portent to many,
but you are my strong refuge.
My mouth is filled with your praise,
and with your glory all the day.
Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
forsake me not when my strength is spent.
For my enemies speak concerning me;
those who watch for my life consult together
and say, ‘God has forsaken him;
pursue and seize him,
for there is none to deliver him.’”
This word “portent” has to do with how some people may view us as odd or as radical or as too strong or too serious about this whole faith in Jesus Christ thing. It doesn’t appear to be a positive thing they are seeing, since it is quickly followed by, “but you are my strong refuge.” “Portent” can also mean “a sign” or “a warning.” Or it can be related to people seeing that we are under severe persecution, and so we become a spectacle to them.
Whatever it is exactly, it appears that we are not being seen in a positive light, and therefore God is and must be our strong refuge. For it could be that they see us as someone to avoid and/or to be mocked, or they could be judging us falsely, like Job’s friends did with him, assuming that our suffering is because of wrongdoing on our part, when we have not been guilty of wrongdoing. But if our consciences are clear, God is our refuge.
We must be like Job was, at least initially, when he said, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” And even if we are being mistreated and judged unfairly, and even if people are treating us with disdain and with cruelty, and even if people are believing lies about us, and so they are avoiding us and/or gossiping about us and/or thinking and believing evil about us, we can still praise the Lord Jesus for his goodness.
Well, I am in my old age, too, so I can identify with the sentiment of the Psalmist with regard to the Lord not casting him off or forsaking him, although I know the Lord would never do that to those who are his servants. But when we are under persecution in many of the ways in which I have described here, based on what the passage teaches, sometimes we may feel abandoned and/or forsaken by God, and we may become fearful. But we must not yield to fear, but more than ever we must be people of faith.
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
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