When I Am Old and Gray Headed
by Kent Heaton
The infirmity of old age is the burden of a fleshly temple ravaged by time through disease and increasing weakness of mind and body. Solomon spoke of the descent into the difficult days when the affliction and sadness burdened life; the arms and hands tremble; the legs bow down; teeth are few and the eyes grow dim; hearing is lost and the voice is softer; the “almond tree blossoms” and the appetite fails. Death is swallowed up as the loosing of a silver cord or the golden bowl that is broken and the pitcher shattered at the fountain (Ecclesiastes 12). Old age is looked upon as a time of great difficulty and sometimes despair sets in. The thought is that life for all its good is over and there is nothing left to do.
The author of Psalm 71 is unknown. What a wonder their name would be to declare to all generations but in God’s will the name remains silent. Vibrant in this Psalm is the spirit of someone who has found that old age is not the end but a continuing of what they had sought to do all their lives. Psalm 71 is a declaration of trust and hope in the Lord – not an end of things. Trust is proclaimed in verses one and five with hope the surety of faith (vv5,14). The author does not express giving up but rather there is much work to be done.
His faith in the Lord is as secure as a “strong habitation” and a “rock” and a “fortress” (v3). He is oppressed by the wicked but will not allow them to destroy his faith in the blessings of Jehovah God (4). The love of His Lord has guided him from youth (vv5,6) and his life is a testimony of Jehovah’s grace. His enemies marvel at his faith and the longevity of his trust in Jehovah. He begs that Jehovah not forsake him “in the time of old age” (v9).
The aged author is not ready to give up serving the Lord. He is doing everything he can to reaffirm his willingness to establish righteousness, obedience, praise and honor to the God he has served so faithfully. His mouth will not be silent but “tell of Your righteousness and Your salvation all the day” (v15). His body may have weakened by the passing of time but he declares that he will “go in the strength of the Lord God” (v16). Can you see the gleam in his eye? Can you feel the strength in his voice to tell the old, old story? His work is not over – it continues.
He cannot quit telling people about the praises of His God. The Lord has been his teacher from youth (v17) and he must tell every generation about the wondrous things Jehovah God has done in his life. He writes, “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” (Psalms 71:18). There are stories to tell, lessons to teach, souls to touch and work to be done. The generations after him must hear the good news. The ‘young folk” must know of the power of Jehovah God. His life is a living testimony to the strength and power of God.
“O God, who is like You?” (v19). He knows the Lord will care for him and give him strength to carry on. He praises Him for His faithfulness, redemption and righteousness (vv22-24). There is a lot of spark left in this aged man. There is a lot of work to be done – even when we are old and gray headed. May we never stop serving the Lord until the time comes to lay our armor down – then - rest!