He was a man growing old, but a man still strong, and a man who knew where his heart was.”–Louis L’Amour (The Empty Land)
“Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly forsaken, nor seen their children begging for bread.”
–Psalm 37:25 (NLT)
I remember reading the story of the arrest of Polycarp. If I am not mistaken, he was bishop in Smyrna and was a disciple of John. Polycarp was an aged man when he was arrested and the Roman proconsul offered him a chance to save himself. Polycarp replied, “Eighty-six years have I served Him, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who has saved me?” Polycarp was then taken to the arena where he was bound to be burned at the stake. The fire failed to consume him, so he was stabbed.
I can see my Grandma sitting on her bed, Bible in hand, reading the Word. Until she died in her nineties, she read her Bible. She couldn’t do the things she used to do, but she could still meet with her Lord, and have sweet communion with Him. This is the concept of Psalm 71:9-18.
9 — Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength fails.
10 — For my enemies speak against me; and those who lie in wait for my life take counsel together,
11 — Saying, “God has forsaken him; pursue and take him, for there is none to deliver him.”
12 — O God, do not be far from me; O my God, make haste to help me!
13 — “Let them be confounded and consumed who are adversaries of my life; let them be covered with reproach and dishonor who seek my hurt.
14 — But I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more.
15 — My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and Your salvation all the day, for I do not know their limits.
16 — I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD; I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.
17 — O God, You have taught me from my youth; and to this day I declare Your wondrous works.
18 — Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come. (NKJV)
Now Grandma didn’t have enemies like David. But she did have the enemies of pain, sorrow, and coming death. She was in constant pain, but had the faith in her Lord to see her through. David, as king, still has enemies who would like to see him dead. But David, in his old age knew that God would not abandon him or trade him in for someone else.
No longer youthful, David (and Grandma along with Polycarp) had the wonderful experience of walking with the Lord for many years. They epitomized verse 14, “But I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more.” Hope–the earnest expectation of being with Christ even through old age. How will your days end? In regret, twiddling your thumbs looking back in regret and bitterness? Will you be the proverbial grouchy old man or woman? Or will you continue to model the life that God has given you, praising Him and declaring His works and goodness?
All have bad experiences in life–David, Polycarp, Grandma–but that is no reason to speak badly of the Lord, rather it is reason to give Him praise. The future of eternity with the Lord is before you. The remaining years…who knows? Use them to praise the Lord and be an example.
Yes, broken, timeless, still, O Lord,
This voice transported, shall record
Thy goodness, tried so long;
Till, sinking slow, with calm decay,
Its feeble murmur melt away
Into a seraph’s song.