Pastor Eric Schroeder - The Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost - Sunday, August 29, 2021

Text: Psalm 71

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Some of us might remember well one of the longest running ad campaigns in the last century.  Those who are too young can still find it on YouTube… It was way back in the days before you could skip over commercials on your DVR, so anyone watching TV in those days saw them on a regular basis. From 1991-2004, an advertising agency hired by Chevrolet ran a campaign that aimed to brand Chevy trucks as dependable, reliable, strong enough for any task, powerful enough to pull any fully-loaded trailer, built for whatever one might need it for. The agency gained permission to use a song from Detroit’s own Bob Seger, and then it was easy to put it all together and remind us all time and time again that Chevy Trucks were made in America and built “Like a Rock.” 

We see a similar illustration in Psalm 71, which is a song all about how God is dependable, reliable, strong enough for any task, powerful enough to defeat any enemy, and best of all, he is here with us whenever we need him—and we always need him. In other words, Psalm 71 is a song that is meant to remind us again and again of God’s faithfulness, that he is worthy of our trust and our praise. The illustration comes through in the first section. 1In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. 2Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me. 3Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. It’s a familiar picture in the psalms of David, so our best guess—because no author is mentioned—is that David wrote this one as well. 

The rest of the experiences described in the psalm would certainly fit David’s life as well, starting with how the writer had been raised to know God, just as the writer says in the next section. 5For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. 6From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you. 7I have become like a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge. 8My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long. I know it’s a theme that we’ve touched on more than once already in this psalm series, but it bears repeating because so many of the psalms remind us of the importance of starting early in life. Some of us got to know God a little later in life, but many of us know the blessing of being raised in the Christian faith. What better knowledge could we gain in our formative years than knowing that God formed us as his own creations, with our own individual personalities and our own individual purpose. People will turn on us and people will let us down and people will lie to us, but God remains faithful. No matter when we learn it, whether early on or later on, how comforting it is to know that God is our strong refuge, the one we trust in and depend on, and he will never lie to us or let us down. 

It’s also important that we keep on hearing it, because God’s faithfulness is best appreciated when we remind each other often. Life has a way of introducing challenges and obstacles, and they can take us one or two different directions, neither of which are good for us. The road that leads the soul away from God has more than one on-ramp. Maybe God so richly blesses us with health and happiness and comfort that soon we might get so comfortable that we stop relying on the source of our blessings. After all, we seem to be doing fine on our own, making our own decisions and enjoying our temporary gifts instead of fully depending on the faithful Giver.  That seems to work just fine, until it doesn’t work anymore. And if our hope and our confidence is placed anywhere but on God, we are going to wind up empty and disappointed.

On the other hand, maybe life isn’t so easy. Maybe it seems like too much of a struggle, whether it is our health, our relationships, and our finances. Perhaps it is what we observe in our world that doesn’t fit our expectations of what God should be doing. “I’m trying as hard as I can,” we might say, and it sure looks like God is letting me down. “Maybe God is faithful to some, but for some reason my life doesn’t feel all that hopeful.” The devil works in both prosperity and poverty—and everywhere in between. And with so many lies bombarding us, we can easily lose track of the truth. We fall to temptation, we forget God’s faithfulness, we get distracted from depending on him. Thank God for the reminders he gave the psalmist, and for the reminders he gives us in Psalm 71. 

Let’s repent of our sins and return to our God. He remains faithful. 9Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone. 10For my enemies speak against me; those who wait to kill me conspire together. 11They say, “God has forsaken him; pursue him and seize him, for no one will rescue him.” 12Be not far from me, O God; come quickly, O my God, to help me. Maybe some of those words sound awfully familiar. They should.

In one of our confessions that we use in worship, we say that for our many sins, God should cast me away from [his] presence forever.” But our hope in confession, whether young or old, is founded on God’s faithfulness that instead of what we deserve, God is faithful in his promise to forgive because Jesus was willing to be forsaken for us on the cross. Instead of casting us away, God cast all our sins on Jesus, and he paid for every single one. In Christ we know that as long as we live, God remains faithful and we remain forgiven. 

And so we declare with the psalmist, 14But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. 15My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure. 16I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone. No matter what ups and down occur throughout our life, our salvation remains secure because God is faithful, and we can proclaim his righteousness because through Jesus’ sacrifice for us, we are covered in it, now and forever. 

19Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you? 20Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. 21You will increase my honor and comfort me once again. It’s vital for all of us to remember what the ups and downs of this life have in common: they are both temporary! How blessed we are to know that God’s faithfulness endures forever, even beyond the grave. Once more, we don’t know who wrote this psalm, but we do know who is speaking here. It’s Jesus—the one who was set apart from eternity to make these words true. And because Jesus spoke them first, and carried out his mission to—and through—the grave, David could speak these words, and so can we, along with every believer of all time who rests in God’s faithfulness and takes refuge in his promises. 

Unless Jesus comes back first, our bodies will rest for a time. But our faithful God will restore [our] life again. From the depths of the earth [he] will again bring [us] up. The resurrection of Jesus Christ assures us of our own one day, and helps us fight the temptations of both the ups and downs of life. We don’t get too attached to the comforts of this world, because they don’t last forever; either they will leave us or we will leave them. When the difficult times occur, we know they won’t last forever either. We get to leave all struggles behind when our faithful God keeps his promise to set us free from this world and take us home. A focus on God’s faithfulness keeps us moving and keeps us praising no matter where life takes us. 

And so we’ll close with some words from the closing section. We may not be able to play a harp or a lyre, but we can use what we have to praise our faithful God, now and forever. 22I will praise you … for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praise to you …, O Holy One of Israel. 23My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you— I, whom you have redeemed. 24My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long. May this be our song throughout our earthly days, as we take refuge in our faithful God. AMEN.