PSALM 71 TALK: FAITHFUL TO GOD EVEN IN OUR OLD AGE

PSALM 71 TALK: FAITHFUL TO GOD EVEN IN OUR OLD AGE

 (A Psalm that explores the problems of aging as a Christian when facing difficult times from opposition from enemies and popular attitudes in society today that suggest you are no longer useful or valuable in the service of God and society in general).

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 INTRODUCTION

 Last year I turned 65, which meant that not only was I retired from work but also I was now eligible for a full or part Government pension. I had some fun telling my friends and family that I was now a pensioner but on a more serious note it also crossed my mind that I was now washed up as a person in both society and even the church because I was now a senior citizen.

This kind of thought comes into people’s minds because many people in western society today either don’t value their senior citizens or give the impression to them that old age is a hindrance to modern society and not a resource or an asset.

I would like to quote from an excellent and very challenging talk I read on this Psalm on the net by a man named Steven J. Cole given in 1993 which explores the issues of aging as a Christian based on the teaching of Psalm 71. The talk is entitled “Psalm 71: Growing Old God’s Way” and is found on a blog Web page simply entitled “Bible. Org.”

Cole wrote this about attitudes to older people in his country USA back in 1993,

“Sadly, our American culture does not esteem the elderly. We are a self-centered, utilitarian society. The younger generation often views the elderly as a financial burden and, if they require our care, as an interference in the pursuit of pleasure and success. Then-Colorado governor, Richard Lamm, most outrageously stated this a few years ago in a discussion of spiraling health care costs, he said that terminally ill elderly people have “a duty to die and get out of the way.” Most would be more polite, but the underlying attitudes are there. Dr. Kevorkian is helping Governor Lamm’s wish come true, by assisting the terminally ill in suicide”.

 I’m afraid to say these words could be written about my country Australia today in 2016 and for what I have read this has not changed in the USA either.

This is not to say that old age does not have its problems or difficulties as Cole also points out in the opening words of his excellent talk, when he writes,

“There is something, which everybody wants, and yet almost everyone fears: growing old. Old age has many frightening aspects: an aging body which is more susceptible to illness; declining strength; feelings of uselessness (especially after retirement); the loss of friends and loved ones through death; the reality of one’s own death drawing nearer; loneliness; feelings of alienation from one’s children and grandchildren, who are busy with other interests and pursuits; and, very often, financial concerns due to dwindling income”.

 What I would like to say is that no matter what age we are life has its battles and problems. Young people face a whole set of different problems today such as higher rates of suicide caused by depression brought on by the pressures of modern life. Greater risk taking activities that leads to unnecessary early violent death. Pressures to get a good education, buy a home or raise a family in the face of rising costs of livening etc.

Cole states his argument for growing old in a positive Christian way at the start of his talk with these words,

“But as you and I face the prospects of growing old in America, we need to ask ourselves, “What should I be doing now, however old I am, to prepare for old age?” The fact is you will be then what you are becoming now. If you are not becoming a person of faith now, you will not be a person of faith then. If you are a negative, grumpy person now, you will not be a positive, cheerful person then. If you aren’t developing a walk with God now, you won’t have one then”.

 Psalm 71 explores both facing life with faith in God both as an older and younger person but it has a important message to the value and role of senior citizens in our society today particularly those who seek to follower the God of the bible as Christian believers.

This Psalm is one of only two Psalms in the second book of Psalms that has no Hebrew heading. The other is Psalm 43, which is an obvious continuation of Psalm 42 written by the Son’s of Korah. Some have suggested that maybe Psalm 71 is connected in some way to Psalm 70 and therefore is written by David.

Psalm 71 certainly reads like a Psalm of David and even borrowers David expressions like “My Rock”, “My fortress”, “My enemies”, Make haste” etc. Also this Psalm has copied or borrowed from other Psalms of David in the first book of Psalms like; verses 1 – 3 is almost a exact quotation of Psalm 31: 1 – 3, verses 5 and 6 come from Psalm 22: 9 and 10 and verses 12 and 13 are similar to Psalm 35: verse 22.

This all means that David or someone who knew the Psalms of David intimately used them to express his prayers and thoughts to God about aging as a faithful believer in the God of the bible. What we know for sure is that a man wrote this Psalm in his senior years. Some commentators have suggested Jeremiah and we have seen that the editors of the second book of Psalms have included an occasional Psalm outside of the David / Solomon period like Psalm 48 which seems to have been written in the time of Jehoshaphat (around 851BC).

So even though I favor the authorship of David I cannot say this is certain so I will simply look at the Psalm as a Psalm written by a older person who knew the Psalms of David and used some of David’s former Psalms and expressions in his Psalm.

Using the concept of ageing as a faithful believer in God I have broken this Psalm into the following three sections.

  1. FAITHFUL TO GOD WHEN FACING OPPOSITION IN OLD AGE (1 – 8)
  1. FAITHFUL TO GOD WHEN OUR AGE IS BEING QUESTIONED (9 – 16)
  1. FAITHFUL TO GOD EVEN WHEN OUR LIVES ARE COMING TO THE END

           (17 – 24)

  1. FAITHFULL TO GOD WHEN FACING OPPOSITION IN OLD AGE (1 – 8

I have broken each of the first two sections of this Psalm into two parts. While the third sections I have broken it into three parts. The two parts for this first section are:

  1. (1 – 4) A Confident call for deliverance from our enemies in our old age
  1. (5 – 8) Confidence in God in our old age comes from many years of faithful service to God.
  1. (1 – 4) A Confident call for deliverance from our enemies

 As I pointed out in the introduction the first three verses of this Psalm are almost a direct quote of Psalm 31: 1 – 3. The only change is verse 3 as Psalm 31: 3 reads,

“Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me”

 While Psalm 71: 3 reads,

“Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go: give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress”.

 In Psalm 31David was speaking confidently of God’s help in the midst of the treacherous people of Keilah who had reported him to King Saul. It looked like King Saul would trap David in the Philistine city of Keilah. David asks for deliverance because of God’s name or God’s honor while the aging believer who wrote Psalm 71 asks for God’s deliverance from his enemies simply by trusting in the power and might of God which he had learnt to do from his previous experience of God’s working in his life.

He asks for God to give the command to save him as he has proven over many years that God alone is his rock and fortress.

This is the old veteran’s experience of God that causes him to say like David in Psalm 31,

“In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame”.

 What enemies he is facing is not disclosed but they are described in verse 4 as:

“The wicked” and “evil and cruel men”

 David faced lots of these kind of men during his whole life even in his very old age he had further trouble within his family when another of his sons Adonijah sought to take the throne from David before he had passed on. Adonijah sought to steal the throne from David’s son Solomon. When David decides to correct this problem caused by the ambitious and evil deeds of his son Adonjah he says these words to Bathsheba Solomon’s mother in 1 Kings 1: 29 – 30,

“The king then took an oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, 30

 I will surely carry out this very day what I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel: Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne in my place.”

So we hear from David’s lips even in his final days of his life words that reveal he still trusted in the Lord to deliver him just as he had seen God do all through his long life.

The older writer of Psalm 71 has the same confidence in God as David had in his Psalm 31.

In verse 2, the writer like David did in Psalm 31 asks God to,

“Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness;

I quote myself from Psalm 31 verse 2 to explain the meaning of this verse,

“John Calvin believes that God’s righteousness is in fact God’s faithfulness he will not let David fall to the trap that the evil King Saul has set for David because David’s God is a God of Justice and love. If Saul’s trap worked then this would mean that evil would win over right. David knows that in God he will never be put to shame because his God can be relied upon and is always faithful to those he has called to be his own”.

So the old man who wrote Psalm 71 asks like David in vs. 2b

“Turn your ear to me and save me”

He wants God’s help so he asks him to help save or deliver him. He no doubt had prayed like this many times before and with many years of experience of going to God in prayer and seeing God’s answer he developed a great confidence in God to deliver him as he says in the next verse,

“Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go”.

Paul in the New Testament reveals the same confidence in God in the later years of his life. In probably Paul’s last letter written just before his death at the hands of the Romans he speaks of his confidence in God in the face of what he sees as his certain death in 2 Timothy 4: 6 – 8,

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing”.

Paul is looking for the ultimate form of deliverance or salvation, namely our salvation to glory or the final part of our salvation our glorification in Christ.

The older writer of Psalm 71 therefore commences his Psalm 71 with a confident call for deliverance from his enemies, who he calls in verse 4,

“The wicked” and “evil and cruel men”

We too no matter what age we are always under attack from the devil and his many evil forces. However those of us who are older Christians need to teach those younger than us how they can have confidence in God in the face of opposition from their enemies. Paul did exactly this with his younger prodigy Timothy in 2 Timothy 3: 10 – 17,

“You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”.

 Note how Paul tells Timothy that it is God’s word that equips us in this battle with evildoers which he says all Christians young or old must fight against.

  1. (5 – 8) Confidence in God in our old age comes from many years of faithful service to God.

 The idea of the writers confidence in God coming from his many years experience of trusting in God and proving his help over and over is made even clearer in the second part of the first section of this Psalm.

He starts this second part with the confident words of a life long faithfulness to God with verse 5,

“For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth”.

 These words fit beautifully to the life of David who is portrayed in 1 and 2 Samuel as a man who trusted in God from a very young age. As a young man 1 Samuel presents David trusting in God to fight lions and bears and then the giant Philistine soldier Goliath. He proved God as his hope and deliverer in the eight years of being chased around by the mad and dangerous king Saul. Even in David’s later years David had to contend with his own son Absalom seeking to kill him and again he trusted in God as his hope and deliverer.

This older writer of this Psalm speaks like a David as a man who trusted in God as His hope and confidence since a very young age and he continues this idea in the next verse as well,

“From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you”.

 This is another verse that at least mirrors the words of another known David Psalm namely Psalm 22 verses 9 and 10,

“Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.10 From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God”.

 Amazingly the Psalm 71 verse 6 is a very neat summary of the two verses in Psalm 22 and expresses the fact that this man like David has had a long relationship with God. He speaks of faith in God from the day of his birth. I have met Christians who have testified of feeling they have had their faith in God from a very young age and cannot remember not believing in God. Such people are an encouragement to Christian families to continue a strong and faithful witness to their children and of course to pray for their conversions from the day of their birth.

Verse 7 is a little more difficult to interpret as it uses the strange word “portent”. The verse reads,

“I have become like a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge”.

 “Potent” could be a negative word as Holman Christian translation interprets it,

“I have become an ominous sign to many”.

 In this translation he is saying his enemies use his problems and difficulties in his life as an example of him not being a faithful follower of God.

Then “Potent” could be translated in a positive way as many translations like American Standard Version do,

“I am as a wonder unto many”.

 This would mean that this man’s faith through problems and difficulties has been a positive example to others. Actually both negative and positive interpretation would work in the context but that little word “but” pushes me towards the negative and would mean that the Psalmist is saying that even though his enemies use his troubles as a weapon against him he will simply continue to trust in God as his strong refuge.

This thought then causes the writer to complete this first section with a wonderful word of praise in verse 8,

“My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long”.

 I like Spurgeon’s interpretation and application of this verse,

“What a blessed mouthful! A man never grows nauseated though the flavor of it be all day in his mouth. God’s bread is always in our mouths, so should his praise be. He fills us with good; let us also be filled with gratitude. This would leave no room for murmuring or backbiting”.

 This is Paul’s “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thes. 5: 18) in action. The old believer is under the pump from his many enemies and what does he do, his “mouth is filled with your (God’s) praise”.

 This is not a grumpy old man as so many older men are portrayed today but an older man whose mouth is filled with positive praise even in the face of problems and difficulties.

  1. FAITHFUL TO GOD WHEN OUR AGE IS BEING QUESTIONED (9 – 16)

Again I see two parts in this second section like the first:

  1. (9 – 13) Is being old a hindrance or an asset?
  1. (14 – 16) The positive resolve of an aging believer
  1. (9 – 13) Is being old a hindrance or an asset?

 The first heading is a question that I hope to answer and that answer is the key concept of this Psalm and what it has to say to both western societies attitude to its senior citizens and also a word to older Christians and how God wants them to live for him and serve him.

The older believer who wrote this Psalm certainly felt that his enemies saw his age as a hindrance and problem, which helped them to attack him.

In verse 9 he prays to God,

“Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone”.

 Why he makes this prayer is clear from the start of the next verse, which reads,

“For my enemies speak against me”.

 So it seems his enemies used his old age as a weapon against him. His enemies certainly did not value old age as an asset and they wanted him destroyed or killed as the second half of verse 10 reads,

“Those who wait to kill me conspire together”.

 So what is God’s view of the older person?

Does God see older people as a hindrance or an asset?

To answer this we need to look to other verses in the bible. There are many references in the bible to old age and aging and God’s attitude to senior citizens is clear but for now I will give you two Old Testament references to senior citizens and two New Testament references to give you a bit of an idea of what God has to say about being an older person.

  1. Leviticus 19: 31 – Respect the older person

The book of Leviticus contains a detailed rundown of God’s laws for his people to live by in the old covenant relationship.

This verse picks up what God has to say to his people about how they should treat older people in Israel. It simply says,

“Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord”.

This is a clear command of God to show respect to the older person and it shows clearly that God’s attitude to older people is that they are an asset and not a hindrance in the community of God’s people. There are plenty of examples of God calling and using older people for great work for him. The supreme example in the Old Testament is Moses who was probably nearly 80 years old when he was called to lead the people of God out of Egypt.

  1. Job 12: 12 – The wisdom of the older person

I was an employment counselor at one stage of my working life and I met many people over the age of 45 who were feeling the effects of being considered to old to be employed by many companies. The main skill and asset I would always tell them to promote to employers was their vast experience and if appropriate their wisdom. The old saying is very true that says, “You cannot put a old head on young shoulders” and it is this truth that Job 12: 12 is speaking about,

“Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding”.

 This verse and others like it say clearly that God wants us to value our senior citizens because of the knowledge and experience they have that if combined with a right faith in God produces great wisdom.

  1. Titus 2: 2 – 5 – An example and teacher of the younger generation

Paul speaks to Titus in his letter to him with advice on faith and conduct in the new church of Crete. Paul speaks directly to Titus about the senior men and women and gives clear and positive instruction for the role of both older men and women in the church. He basically is saying that both older men and women have a vital role in being a positive example to the younger men and women and that they are to train or teach them how to live the Christian life.

“Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted too much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God”.

I have received in my life the blessing of older Christian’s ministry helping and training me when I was younger. When I was a young teenage Christian I went to a Bible study on a Sunday afternoon before church run by the assistant minister who was coming to the end of his active Christian ministry and he was such a help to me at that stage of my life. I still praise the Lord for what he taught me those many years ago.

  1. 2 Timothy 2: 1 – 2 – Pass on the message and the faith to the next                                              generation

My final bible reference that deals with God’s attitude and purpose for Older Christians is found in probably Pauls final letter before he was killed for his faith.

Paul himself would have been around my age we believe which is mid 60” s so he was by this time a senior Christian coming to the end of his life. He wrote at least 2 letters to his younger prodgie Timothy who was one of the younger men he had selected to carry the Christian message to the next generation and in 2 Timothy 2: 1 – 2 he speaks of the important role of all older Christians passing on the message and the faith to the next generation;

“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”

 Paul does not mention anything about the age of those who are to do this passing on of the message to the next generation but I think it applies to men and women of all ages who have heard the message from someone in the generation ahead of them that now they must in turn pass this message on to the generations that follows them.

This point is were the general teaching of the bible on the role and function of the older believer and Psalm 71 come together because our older aged persecuted writer says this in verse 18,

“Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come”.

I will say more about the teaching of this verse in the final section of this Psalm talk.

The writer of Psalm 71 after speaking of how his enemies chose to use his old age as a means of bringing him down then calls out to God in desperate prayer for help in verse 12,

“Be not far from me, O God; come quickly, O my God, to help me”

When we are attacked either verbally or physically in our old age we will experience great fear and helplessness. I hear more and more on the daily TV news of younger people attacking older members of our community to steal what little money they usually have from them. This is younger unscrupulous people using age and frailty as an opportunity for personal gain and when you see pictures of the bruised and bloodied bodies of many of these older people you feel nothing but rage and anger towards their perpetrators.

This problem must make us realise that our society must find better ways of looking after and protecting our older citizens and for older and frail Christians to pray for God’s safety just like our Psalmist has just done.

In the final verse of this first part of the second section our writer does another very David like thing he prays what I have spoken about a number of times before in the Psalms of book 1 and 2, a “Imprecatory Prayer” or prayer for God’s judgment on his enemies.

As I have said a number or times before I believe this is not the sort of prayer I believe Jesus wants us to pray.

Jesus taught us in the Gospels to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5: 44).

The Psalmist however in Psalm 71 verse 13 prays,

“May my accusers perish in shame; may those who want to harm me be covered with scorn and disgrace”.

When young people who are caught for the crime of theft and assault against a senior citizen they suffer the fate of society treating them with scorn and disgrace such is the moral depravity of their actions. However as Christians we should pray for these young people that the light of the Gospel might shine into their dark and twisted souls and transform them like he has transformed us from death to life.

I know a number of Christian friends in my church and other churches that regularly go into our prisons with the message of the Gospel and many of the prisoners they encounter come to faith in Christ, which is the ultimate answer to their former wretched crimes and lives.

  1. (14 – 16) The positive resolve of an aging believer

You will probably realise that each of the three sections of this Psalm ends with the writer making some kind of positive resolve to serve and praise God in the face of great opposition and difficulty.

When we see things like the bashing of an older person or hear what could only be described as age discrimination we could easily become cynical and negative in our attitudes to life, Many of the older job seekers I sought to counsel and help when I worked as a employment counsellor had become very bitter and negative from constant knock backs from employers because of their age. Many would not listen to my advice or simply challenged me with words like, “you don’t know what you are talking about”. Continual negative experience can and does lead to negative attitudes and beliefs.

 However listen to how our older aged persecuted believer reactive to his negative experiences from his enemies,

“But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more”.

 Where did he get such positive hope and faith from?

The answer to this is found in his words we looked at back in verse 8, which reads,

“For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth”

 This man, like David knew both God’s word and God’s help in his past and that past goes back many years because he seems to be writing this Psalm as a older believer. Again Paul spoke of being positive and full of thanks in all circumstances in a number of places. I have already quoted Paul’s word on this in 1 Thessalonians 5: 18, let me share what he says about this to the church in Philippi in Philippians 4: 4 – 7,

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

 Note how we can be old and suffering because of it and yet we can still be positive in this. Paul says rejoice in the Lord, don’t become anxious but turn your anxieties into prayers and God will give you his peace, which transcends all understanding.

 The writer of Psalm 71 continues this positive resolve in the face of great opposition with the words of verses 15 and 16,

My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long— though I know not how to relate them all. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone”.

In these words of resolve the older writer of Psalm 71 is determined not to let the negative experience of being picked on by his enemies because he is old be the controlling factor in his life but rather he will focus on what God has done and will in fact proclaim that with his mouth.

What did this writer see as the mighty acts of God?

The writer of Psalm 71 answer is what he says in these two verses namely, “God’s saving acts”. These saving acts of God he calls “Righteous acts”.

Churchyard explains the term “righteous acts” this way,

“The word ‘righteous’ means ‘very, very good’. Only God is really ‘righteous’. He always does what is right”.

While Spurgeon gets the prize for its application when he writes,

“How gloriously conspicuous in the divine plan of redemption! It should be the theme of constant discourse. The devil rages against the substitutionary sacrifice, and errorists of every form make this the main point of their attack; be it ours, therefore, to love the doctrine, and spread glad tidings on every side, and at all time.”

Yes this old warrior of God is not going to let his enemies and their slanderous and prejudice words define him no he is going to be defined, constrained and enlivened by the saving acts of God which he will proclaim all day long.

What is defining you at the moment?

Is it your problems and difficulties or is it the message of God’s love seen in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

I quote Paul again here in Romans 8: 37 – 39,

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Now that’s letting God’s saving acts in Christ define us. I do meet in my senior years older people who have become bitter and twisted by their life experiences and this makes them both unproductive and painful to deal with. Sadly some of the bitter twisted older folk I have met call themselves Christians. Let me say this is not biblical Christianity in action so such people need to go back to their bibles and let it correct the error of their ways.

However I have met older Christians who are facing lots of problems and difficulties with the joy of the Lord and this is very encouraging to people of all ages.

  1. FAITHFUL TO GOD EVEN WHEN OUR LIVES ARE COMING TO THE END (17 – 24)

I have decided to divide this third section of this Psalm into 3 parts

  1. (17 – 18) The faithful elders experience in both his youth and                    old age
  1. (19 – 21) The faithful elders message to the next generation
  1. (22- 24) The faithful elders final resolve
  1. (17 – 18) The faithful elders experience in both his youth and old age

 This older Psalm writer in verse 17 returns to the theme he spoke on in verses 5 and 6, He writes,

“Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds”.

 This is a great word of testimony and even though I came to know the Lord at the young age of 13 I cannot confidently say I have always since then “declared God’s marvelous deeds”. In fact for three years in my late teens I turned away from following the Lord and it looked like I had lost my faith in God. However God worked yet again in my life and brought me back to him when I was around 20 years old.

Ever since then I have had my times of being lax in my following of the Lord but even through the dry and difficult times my faith has continued to this very day. Now in the early days of my old age I to am resolved to always let God teach me from his word and serve him by declaring his marvelous deeds in Christ Jesus my Lord and Savior.

This man seems to have been a great warrior for God and even now as he is growing older and facing great opposition and difficulty in his life he is seeking to serve the Lord.

He goes on to speak of serving his Lord all his life as he did in verse 5 with these words in verse 17,

“Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.”

 This description would have fitted well to David in his old age as the bible takes us through David’s life from a young age to his old age and except for a couple of dark periods of his life when he fell to temptation and sinned he was a man who was taught by God and who served God all through his long life.

Paul speaks to his young prodigy Timothy in in 2 Timothy 1: 3 – 7,

“I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline”.

 Paul acknowledges here both the value and importance of teaching the young the word of God and how that can be used to encourage and equip the next generation of believers. Timothy was taught the word of God by his grandmother and mother.

This is what this older Godly Psalm writer wants to do in the next verse 18,

“Even when I am old and grey, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come”.

 This is what modern society is missing out on if it devalues the older generation. They need the wisdom and knowledge of the past to be passed on to the next generation. I once had the opportunity of taking some computer students on an excursion to what was at that time a very successful computer hardware company. The manager of this company bragged to my students that all employees were under the age of 35. Within five years of visiting that company it went out of business and closed down. I later learnt they had made some unwise business decisions that caused their demise and what they needed was some older wiser counsel that no one in that business could offer them because they were all under the age of 35.

It is my belief that businesses and churches today need a combination of Youth and older people to be a successful in this ever-changing world we live in today. The church needs both Youth and older members to help compliment the skills, Knowledge and experience needed to build a strong outreaching church today.

This older believer, the writer of Psalm 71 asked God what a lot of my fellow older Christian friends ask or need to ask God today,

“Even when I am old and gray do not forsake me, O God”.

 Just as there are traps and pitfalls that the devil uses to cause a younger believer to stumble and fall in their Christian walk so there are traps and pitfalls the devil can use in our old age to cause us to stumble and fall in our Christian walk later in our lives.

One of the main traps the devil uses for the older believer is the feeling of becoming useless in God’s service. As I pointed out in my introduction Steven J. Cole had a lot of great things to say about serving God in our old age through the teaching of this Psalm. In his conclusion he tells the story of a women who came to the Lord at the ripe old age of 75 and wanted to teach Sunday school.

The minister who was used to bring her to the Lord is a famous bishop from the Anglican Sydney Diocese named Bishop John Reid. Bishop Read advised her to pray for God’s leading for ministry as he felt she was not really suited to Sunday School teaching.

God led this 75-year-old woman to a ministry of outreach and evangelism to Asian students who lived in her area. The story goes that soon after her meeting with Bishop Reid the women was working in her garden when a Chinese student from Taiwan walked by. He stopped to compliment the old lady on her excellent roses and she struck up a conversation with the young man and invited him in for morning tea. At morning tea she shared her testimony to the young man who became interested in her story.

The young man asked if he could come back to talk some more about the Christian faith and the bible and when he returned a few days later he brought a friend with him. The old women soon had a weekly bible study of up to 70 Chinese students and ended up bringing many of them to the Lord.

This story shows how God can use us no matter what age we are and we only need to be prayerful and active for God even in our old age. The writer of Psalm 71 was both prayerful and active for God for all of his life and I hope that one day in the future I will be able to write and say something like what Paul wrote towards the end of his life in 2 Timothy 4: 6 – 8,

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing”.

  1. (19 – 21) The faithful elders message to the next generation

This faithful elder or older believer has just asked God to help him pass on the message of God’s power and might to the next generation then in the next 3 verses he spells out some of the content of that message.

I believe his message set out in these three verses is threefold:

  1. God’s righteousness (vs. 19)
  2. God’s loving restoration (vs. 20)
  3. God’s promise of comfort and help (vs. 21)
  1. God’s righteousness (vs. 19)

 This faithful elder has spoken about God’s righteousness before in verse 2 when he wrote,

“Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me”

 And again in verse 15,

“My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation al day long, though I know not its measure”.

 Now in verse 19, he writes,

Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things who, O God, is like you”.

 Spurgeon captures the meaning of this verse so well I will quote him directly,

“Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high. Very sublime, unsearchable, exalted, and glorious is the holy character of God, and his way of making men righteous. His plan of righteousness uplifts men from the gates of hell to mansions of heaven. It is a high doctrine gospel, gives a high experience, leads to high practice, and ends in high felicity”.

 And this should be the same message for all of us who are older in the faith a message that is timeless, ageless and always relevant. It is the message of the Gospel of God’s saving grace revealed in Jesus Christ who gives us the gift of God’s righteousness through his death for our sins on the cross. This is the message Paul passed on to men like Timothy who in turn passed it on to their next generation.

Paul passed this message on even when he was suffering persecution in his old age like the writer of this Psalm was. Paul writes to Timothy these words in 2 Timothy 2: 8 – 13,

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

11 Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself”.

Such is the righteousness of God in Christ and we can join the older writer of Psalm 71 and say,

“Who, O God is like you?”

  1. God’s loving restoration (vs. 20)

This verse reminds me of a Psalm talk I wrote early last year on Psalm 60, which commences with the verse that reads,

“You have rejected us, O God, and burst forth upon us, you have been angry – now restore us”.

 David wrote Psalm 60 when he and his people had for some reason or another looked away from truly following God. The writer of Psalm 71 does not need God’s spiritual restoration from falling away from following him. No, he needed God’s loving restoration from the problems and difficulties his enemies had caused him to have he writes,

“Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again from the depths of the earth”.

 This old man of faith can pray like this because he obviously had proven God to be a God who does lovingly restore us from the problems and difficulties of life.

We know this to be true from things he has already said about the God he trusted in like his words in verses 3 and 4,

“Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Deliver me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of evil and cruel men”.

 That God is a God of loving restoration was both this older man of God’s experience and message. What he knew of God came straight from his word and his experience of the God of that word. This is what he said in the following verse 5,

“For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth”.

 The church today needs the counsel of older men and women of faith like this man. Men and women who can testify to a life of trust in God and how that trust helped them face all of the problems and difficulties of life.

My message would not be welcomed in some churches today as they want to hear how becoming a Christian makes life easier, more successful and is a life of one victory after another. However both my understanding of the bible and my personal experience of many years of following the Lord says something quite different than that.

Yes, as a Christian I find great help and strength in my life as the Lord is with me to help me but he is with me to help me through the problems and difficulties of life not to give me an easy successful life. As Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2: 1 – 7,

“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this”.

Note Paul is not promising Timothy a easy life or ministry and in his first letter to Timothy he says this about how God’s mercy operates in our spiritual restoration, 1 Timothy 1: 12 – 17,

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen”

  1. God’s promise of comfort and help (vs. 21)

The final part of the message of this older faithful believer is similar to the last point. It is expressed in simple terms in verse 21,

“You will increase my honor and comfort me once again”.

 In the last point I was critical of those who preach a prosperity Gospel today which says come to Jesus and all your troubles will be over and you will only know his victory in your life. However there is a truth of the Gospel message this false teaching is exploiting and that is God will ultimately give all in Christ a great victory.

The problem with the prosperity Gospel is that it confuses the doctrine of glorification with sanctification. Yes there is ultimately victory in Christ as Paul speak about in 1 Corinthians 15: 56 and 57,

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

These two verses come at the end of Paul’s teaching on the promise of believer’s resurrection from the dead, which comes when either we die in Christ or are caught up in the day of his return, which is the teaching of glorification, which has been described as, “when we will be saved”.

However there is also the teaching of “we are being saved” which is called sanctification and that is what this old believer has been speaking about in the previous verse. In sanctification God uses all kinds of trials and difficulties to make us more like Christ as Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 4: 16 – 18,

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”.

The old psalm writer of Psalm 71 seems to have both teachings in mind in verse 21 because he seems to be looking forward to a time when he will be honored or glorified when he writes,

“You will increase my honor”

 We to can look forward to our day of glorification when we will find honor in the Lord Jesus Christ.

However he speaks also of comfort in his trials and difficulties when he writes,

“And comfort me once again”.

 What does God have in mind for the purpose of going through trials and difficulties for the value of others?

Paul answers this at the start of 2 Corinthians 1: 3 – 7,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort”.

If this old faithful believer who wrote Psalm 71 had not gone through the trials and difficulties he went through then we would not have got this Psalm 71.

So the third aspect of the message of this faithful elder is how God is a God who will one day bring victory and honor to us and along the way to that great day comforts us so that we can face the problems and difficulties of this life.

  1. (22- 24) The faithful elders final resolve

As this older faithful elder has done before at the end of each section he resolves to praise God even in the midst of his problems and difficulties. He offers 3 types of praise:

  1. Praise of his music (verse 22)
  2. Praise of his lips (verse 23)
  3. Praise of his proclamation of God’s righteousness (verse 23)
  1. Praise of his music (verse 22)

This verse alone points strongly to David being the author of this Psalm but because his name is not placed in a Hebrew heading at the start of this Psalm we cannot say this for sure. The David like inference is in the reference to the harp and lyre as David has spoken before about praising God using these instruments as the verse reads;

“I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God, I will sing praise to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel”.

David speaks in a similar way in Psalm 33: 2,

“Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.”

Right from the days of his Youth, David was known for his beautiful harp playing and he of course was used by King Saul to play his harp to sooth his troubled soul. David is clearly known to the members of King Saul’s court as 1 Samuel 16: 18 reads,

“One of the servants answered, ‘I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the harp. He is brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine- looking man. And the Lord is with him”.

Saul listens to the advice of the court servant and calls for David and enlists him in his service to play the harp for him and in 1 Samuel 16: 23, we read this about David’s harp playing for king Saul;

Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better and the evil spirit would leave him”.

But of course another man who knew David’s Psalms and who also was an accomplished harp player could have written these words.

Whoever the actual writer of the Psalm is the writer resolve is to use his music and his musical talent to praise God. For many years I have developed the talent of playing the Ukulele and for the past seven years I have been in a local Ukulele group but recently I have decided to pull back from performances with this group and concentrate on using my musical talent in God’s service and to encourage praise and worship of our great God of love and faithfulness.

This is the writers resolve as well he wants to use his music even in his later years to praise God’s love and faithfulness.

Twice Paul speaks of using Psalms, Hymns and spiritual songs in worship and praise to God. He speaks of this in Colossians 3: 16 and Ephesians 5: 19 and 20 and this last reference picks up the idea of music being a source of praise when Paul says,

“Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord always giving thanks to God the Father for everything”.

  1. Praise of his lips (verse 23)

This older believer does not only want to use his music to praise God but he wants to use his lips or his voice in songs of praise, he writes,

“My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you- I, whom you have redeemed”.

 As a Christian into music and making music I meet many Christian musicians and some times I get the impression that for some of the very gifted musicians the music has taken over and the focus of using their gifts to praise God and communicate his message is being lost. It is a trap I have had to watch out for and I thank God that for me my main gift is the writing of lyrics. For me the strength of a great song of worship is the lyrics because it is through the words that the truth of God and his word is found. Many modern worship songs have great music but the words let them down.

This older Godly musician also wants the words and what they say to be the focus of his musical praise. He wants his lips and voice to be used as a source of praise and that praise is for his loving redeeming God. Spurgeon writes;

“Till men are redeemed, they are like instruments out of tune; but when once the precious blood has set them at liberty, then are they fitted to magnify the Lord who brought them. Our being bought with a price is more than sufficient reason for our dedicating ourselves to the earnest worship of God our Savior”.

 When I was very young I was in my churches choir but the leader of the choir the church organist was not a believer, a very talented musician but not a Christian believer. This man caused great trouble and difficulties for that church and I can remember as a very young person having many lively discussions about my faith with that man. Eventually I had to leave the choir, as I could not see how I could truly use my singing talent to serve and worship the Lord under the leadership of that kind of person. I think it would have been better having a less talented musician who was a true believer in charge of that choir than unbelieving talented man.

As Spurgeon said,

“Till men are redeemed, they are like instruments out of tune”.

  1. Praise of his proclamation of God’s righteousness (verse 23)

In the last verse of this Psalm the old faithful elder makes his final resolution of praise, he writes,

“My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long, for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion.”

 Three times this older writer speaks of God’s righteousness, verse 2, 15 and 19 and now he completes this Psalm with the resolution to use his tongue to proclaim God’s righteous acts namely his righteous acts of salvation. I love the words of the first verse and chorus of the great old hymn by Edward Mote, which reads,

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

 Chorus:

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand,
all other ground is sinking sand.

 This hymn perfectly captures the Christian message of God’s gift of righteousness. The Psalmist would not have known the full message of how God would fully impart his gift of righteousness to us through the spilt blood of Christ but he knew that the same God who would one day send Jesus to this world was a God who longed to save his people.

CONCLUSION

Edward Mote’s life story is a interesting reflection on the main theme of this Psalm, namely seeking to serve God even in our old age or senior years as Edward Mote worked successfully for most of his life as a Cabinet maker but at the age of 55 he left his successful Cabinet making business to become a Baptist minister.

He served out the rest of his life––more than two decades–– as the pastor of a Baptist Church in Horsham, Sussex, England.

It was when he was a Baptist minister that is said he wrote his famous hymn of “My Hope is Built”. One Sunday he payed a visit to some good friends and they asked if they could sing a hymn together. Mote had in his pocket a recently composed hymn, “My Hope is Built” and the good friends wife was so impressed with the hymn she asked for a copy of it. The story of the new hymn quickly spread to others and Mote found himself making lots of copes of his new hymn.

Mote had been a successful businessman but he did not stop serving God in his senior years but rather used it for a new ministry opportunity, pasturing the Baptist Church in Horsham, Sussex, England.

We all should have the same faithful attitude of this older faithful Psalm writer and Edward Mote and use the later years of our lives in God honouring service to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He shows us that older people particularly older believers can be and in fact are an asset not a hindrance to the church and the society as a whole.

The final words of the Psalm seem to say that this great old faithful believer was fully saved or delivered from his enemies as his imprecatory or prayer of judgment in verse 13,

“May my accusers perish in shame; may those who want to harm me be covered with scorn and disgrace”

 Seems to have be answered with the final words of the Psalm that says,

“For those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion.”

 I close this Psalm talk as I usually do with a poem and a prayer,

GROWING OLDER SERVING THE LORD

(Based on Psalm 71)

In you Oh Lord I take refuge

May I never be put to shame.

Rescue me and deliver me Lord

As I call on your mighty name.

 

Be my rock and my refuge Oh Lord

Give your command to save me

For you are my hope and my Savior Oh Lord

For many years now you’ve helped me to see.

 

Refrain:

You are my master and friend

And I’ve known you for many a year

As I grow older may a serve you Lord

Knowing you’re always near.

 

Do not cast me away when I am old

Don’t forsake me when my hair turns grey

For the Devil seeks to pull me down

Suggesting I’m of no use today.

 

But while I live I will praise you Lord

For you are my Savior and Lord

My mouth will sing of your Son who came

To deliver us and give us your word.

Refrain:

You are my master and friend

And I’ve known you for many a year.

As I grow older may a serve you Lord

Knowing you’re always near.

 

Since my Youth I have known you Oh Lord

You have shown me your marvelous deeds.

And now I long to help those who are young

Discover how the Lord helps and leads.

 

I want to sing and make music Oh Lord

And praise your faithfulness.

Help me to grow older serving you Lord

Telling others that you long to bless.

Refrain:

You are my master and friend

And I’ve known you for many a year.

As I grow older may a serve you Lord

Knowing you’re always near.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 Help us Father in heaven to always trust in you no matter what age we are. Help us realise that you have a job for us at every stage of our lives and when the devil tries to tell us we are useless in your service help us to realise that if we seek to serve you our work for you is never in vain. May we all grow older serving you Lord, may age not determine our effectiveness or usefulness but rather may your Holy Spirit empower us to serve you faithfully all the days of our lives. In Jesus name we pray Amen.