Sunday, September 26, 2010

If You're Not Dead Yet

Several teenage girls sprayed their hair an all-too-mature shade of gray. One twisted hers up in a severe-looking bun and draped a brown, crocheted shawl around her falsely-hunched shoulders. Another wore thick, large glasses too big for her narrow face and stood, leaning heavily on a well-worn, wooden cane. Yet another held a set of dentures in her hands as all stood close together in a line, nervously giggling in dowdy, floor-length dresses.

As the crowd eagerly listened, each of these faux sages began to recite a few lines of a poem about aging that has remained in my head since I was in elementary school:

"Old age is golden, or so I’ve heard said, / But sometimes I wonder, as I crawl into bed, / With my ears in a drawer, my teeth in a cup, / My eyes on the table until I wake up. / As sleep dims my vision, I say to myself: / Is there anything else I should lay on the shelf?..."

The poem then ends with the lines, "I get up each morning and dust off my wits, / Open the paper, and read the Obits. / If I’m not there, I know I’m not dead, / So I eat a good breakfast and go back to bed!"

As expected, the poem garnered many a laugh, but it also harbored an accepted truth that's not so funny--the worthlessness of the aged.

I may only be thirty-three, but I'm already finding more gray hairs than my tweezers can pluck. It concerns me that one day, I may not be considered relevant just because I have more gray than brown hair.

But if I stand on God's word, I needn't worry about the last third of my life.

In fact, in Psalm 71, a man after God's own heart, King David, expresses concern that life in his old age isn't how he planned it to be. His enemies are still attacking; he isn't living in the luxury of a trouble-free existence; his physical strength is failing.

And so in his old age, he calls out to God, reminding God (and most likely himself, too) that God has been there "continually" throughout David's life. In verse six, David speaks of how God has "sustained [him] from birth." He then remembers that God was the "confidence from my youth" (v. 5)

In his heart, he knows that God has been with him from birth to youth to old age and will still be with him even now. To prove this, three times in this chapter, David uses the word "continually."

David first asks God to remain with him: "Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come" (v. 3). Then, he reminds God that he has faithfully followed Him and still does: "My praise is continually of You" (v. 6). And, finally, David proclaims that he "will hope continually" in God" (v. 14, all my italics).

Here, David's use of the future tense "will hope" shows that his head knows God is faithful and will continue to be faithful. Yet, even though David knows in his head that God is always faithful and never changing, that still doesn't mean his flesh doesn't rise up and give him cause to worry, especially when the circumstances around him don't look too good for an old man.

As such, David's human emotions seep through his simple request: "Do not cast me off in the time of old age;Do not forsake me when my strength fails" (v. 9).

He repeats this request again in verse eighteen, but this time explains why he's asking God to take care of him now: "And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come" (v. 18, my italics).

David knew he was relevant. Gray hair, arthritic knees, dim vision and all, he knew he still had something to give back to God--his testimony to "this generation"

A few verses earlier, David explained just what exactly he wanted to declare in that testimony: "My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness And of Your salvation all day long; For I do not know the sum of them" (v. 15).

David had to tell about God's blessings of salvation simply because they were limitless.

Matthew Henry's words are so powerful in explaining this Psalm: "The psalmist declares that the righteousness of Christ, and the great salvation obtained thereby, shall be the chosen subject of his discourse. Not on a sabbath only, but on every day of the week, of the year, of his life. Not merely at stated returns of solemn devotion, but on every occasion, all the day long. Why will he always dwell on this? Because he knew not the numbers thereof. It is impossible to measure the value or the fulness of these blessings. The righteousness is unspeakable, the salvation everlasting. God will not cast off his grey-headed servants when no longer capable of labouring as they have done. The Lord often strengthens his people in their souls, when nature is sinking into decay. And it is a debt which the old disciples of Christ owe to succeeding generations, to leave behind them a solemn testimony to the advantage of religion, and the truth of God's promises; and especially to the everlasting righteousness of the Redeemer."

Young or old. Blond, gray, or no hair. In the prime of your life or decaying. If you're not dead yet, you have a mission. I have a mission. A "continually" kind of mission.

Every day of every week of every month of every year--to testify of God's righteousness and salvation...because the blessings of His salvation are without limit.

Those blessings aren't just what God has saved you from in the past. They also include what he is saving you from in the future, paths of sin we will never even know we avoided if we abide in Him.

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