The Song of the Gray Head

Psalm 71



1.                  One thing we have in common: if we live, we will be older than someone else.

a.                   James Thurber once remarked, “I’m sixty-five and I guess that puts me in with the geriatrics, but if there were fifteen months in every year, I’d only be forty-eight.”

b.                  The problem is, of course, there are not fifteen months in any year.  If may be that how you look at it matters, but the fact still is that anyone who lives–whether it is ourselves or our loved ones–will age.


2.                  Scripture on aging

a.                   Lev. 19:32 – God commands respect

b.                  Prov. 16:31; 20:29 – Wisdom observes honor

c.                   Psalm 71 – Persons experience emotions


3.                  Two statements indicate that aging is in view

a.                   Psalm 71:9 – “Do not cast me off in the time of old age;

                                                forsake me not when my strength is spent.”

b.                  Psalm 71:18 – “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God do not forsake me,

                                                until I proclaim your might to another generation,

                                                your power to all those to come.”


4.                  You can see the circumstance

a.                   A life-long practice of taking refuge in God as commanded, v. 3, 6

b.                  Now threatened by unjust and cruel enemies, v. 4, 13

c.                   Concerned about whether he will be able to end well, v. 10, 11


5.                  Doing what he always has: taking it to his God

a.                   Prayer in the form of an individual lament, v. 1, 4, 13

b.                  A tone of dignity and strength, v. 2, 3

c.                   Hopeful in outlook, v. 5, 14


6.                  Useful guidelines for facing the gray-headed years

a.                   Make your whole journey with God, v. 6, 17

i.                    Notice the personal connections with him which are indicated in the first seven or eight verses.

ii.                  “Thy mercy heard my infant prayer;

                                    Thy love, with all a mother’s care,

                                                Sustained my childish days:

                                    Thy goodness watched my ripening youth,

                                    And formed my heart to love thy truth,

                                                And filled my lips with praise.”  – Sir Robert Grant



b.                   Remember that others are learning from you, v. 7

i.                    “Portent” is “a marvel” or “a wonder” in other versions.  It means “something which clearly shows that God is at work.”

ii.                  George: “I find myself wishing I had known them better.”

c.                   Think of your role as injecting faithful, thankful, hope into life, v. 5, 12

i.                    In a very real way, the world cannot do without you.

ii.                  How are succeeding generations supposed to learn that everything will be alright?

d.                  Develop your recognition of what God has done, v. 15, 16

i.                    His acts, hid deeds, his righteousness–can you see it as you look back?

ii.                  What kind of person does thinking on these things turn you into?

iii.                Allen Harmon sent me this:

                                    “He lives alone,” I heard him say,

                                    Who sadly cast a glance my way,

                                    “It must be hard when day is done

                                    To set the table just for one.

                                    What does he do when twilight falls

                                    All alone with those walls?

                                    It’s a shame he’s missing out

                                    On what the world is all about.”

                                    I paused a moment in surprise,

                                    Then turned and gazed into his eyes

                                    And felt a pang of sympathy

                                    For those who look but do not see.

                                    Within each soul God puts a spark

                                    Of purest hope that lights the dark.

                                    Who lives alone should never be

                                    The object of one’s sympathy,

                                    For moments worth their weight in gold

                                    Are often ours to have and hold.

                                    And though I set a place for one

                                    He’s with me till the meal is done,

                                    And evermore and constantly

                                    I have the Lord for company.

e.                   Accept the mission to the next generation that you still have, v. 17, 18

i.                    Youth has its advantage is many good works, but so does age.  Someone observed, “Youth is faster, but age is more accurate.”

ii.                  Psalm 92:12-15

iii.                Dalton Key offered this encouragement: “Don’t let the inevitable accumulation of birthdays discourage you.  Focus on those things you can do, those works that you can perform, those services you can render for the cause of Christ.  Strive to develop and maintain a positive, faith-filled, optimistic attitude.  Look more to the needs of others than to your own aches and pains and frustrations.”  (Old Paths, February 2006)


f.                   Let what he has done in your life renew your confidence in what he will yet do, v. 19-21

i.                    One of the pluses of experience is that, when you think about it, you know what he has already brought you through.

ii.                  2 Timothy 4:17, 18

g.                  Praise your God as if the victory had already happened, v. 22-24


7.                  The key: the promise of God – Isaiah 46:3, 4

a.                   Our God is “the Lord of what is left” (E. Cloer, Psalms 2, 367)

b.                  Hannah Flagg Gould wrote “A Name in the Sand”–


                        Alone I walked the ocean strand;

                        A pearly shell was in my hand:

                        I stooped and wrote upon the sand

                                    My name–the year–the day.

                        As onward from the spot I passed,

                        One lingering look behind I cast;

                        A wave came rolling high and fast,

                                    And washed my lines away.


                        And so, methought,’twill shortly be

                        With every mark on earth from me:

                        A wave of dark oblivion’s sea

                                    Will sweep across the place

                        Where I have trod the sandy shore

                        Of time, and been, to be no more,

                        Of me–my day–the name I bore,

                                    To leave nor track nor trace.


                        And yet, with Him who counts the sands

                        And holds the waters in His hands,

                        I know a lasting record stands

                                    Inscribed against my name,

                        Of all this mortal part has wrought,

                        Of all this thinking soul has thought,

                        And from these fleeting moments caught

                                    For glory or for shame.

                                                            (From William Bennett, The Book of Virtues, 777-778)