THE END IS NEAR ! (Psalm 71:18 NIV)
Verse of 2018 January 7, 2018
Rev. Jeremy B. Stopford, Pastor
TODAY’S SPECIAL: “A Golf Challenge”
A young man who was also an avid golfer found himself with a few hours to spare one afternoon. He figured if he hurried and played very fast, he could get in nine holes before he had to head home. Just as he was about to tee off an old gentleman shuffled onto the tee and asked if he could accompany the young man as he was golfing alone. Not being able to say no, he allowed the old gent to join him.
To his surprise the old man played fairly quickly. He didn’t hit the ball far, but plodded along consistently and didn’t waste much time. Finally, they reached the 9th fairway and the young man found himself with a tough shot. There was a large pine tree right in front of his ball – and directly between his ball and the green. After several minutes of debating how to hit the shot, the old man finally said, “You know, when I was your age I’d hit the ball right over the tree.”
With that challenge placed before him, the youngster swung hard, hit the ball up, right smack into the top of the tree trunk and it thudded back on the ground not a foot from where it had originally lay.
The old man offered one more comment. “Of course, when I was your age that pine tree was only three feet tall.”
INTRODUCTION Last year at this time, we were talking about faith in the form of the Master’s question: when Jesus returns, will He find faith on earth? 2017 sure had many opportunities for stepping out on faith, in both our home, your homes, and in our church. Let’s not stop that focus.
I have been a Christian for going on 47 years this year. I have probably read through the Bible almost every one of those years – although I’ll never top Pastor Tom who in his latter years would read through the Bible once a month with a different version each month. Wow. This year I’m doing something new – just what I’ve challenged YOU to do: “3 chapters/day and 5 on Sunday.” I’ve never done that before. This is a first.
But it ties in with this year’s new verse from Psalm 71. I trust that this year’s verse will be both challenging and encouraging to each of us as we seek to walk with the Lord in fresh ways this year.
This is a simple verse. Let’s look at 3 main parts of this verse today.
#1. “OLD AND GRAY”
So we need to ask and answer the question, “how OLD is ‘OLD’?”. Perhaps you’ve known someone much younger than you who has pre-mature gray hair. Is he old simply because he LOOKS old? Or perhaps when you were younger, you met someone 15 years older than you and you said, “my, he’s really old!”. And the first time someone said to you, “ma’am” or “sir”, you felt old, didn’t you?
But what does the Bible say?
David and Solomon both died when each was 70 years of age. At that time – yes, 70 years of age – it was said of David, “when David was old and well advanced in years” (1 Kings 1:1). For him, physically, he was an old man.
Methuselah died at age 969 years. He was the oldest Biblically recorded person. And yet what did he have in common with those who were younger than he? It is said of him (Genesis 5:27), “altogether, Methuselah lived 969 years, and then he died.”
Only one other person in Scripture is described as being “old and gray”. And that is Samuel the prophet. (1 Samuel 12:2). And yet even at that age, he was able to testify to the people of Israel their entire history of rebellion against God. He knew the Scriptures.
Sarah, Abraham’s wife at age 89, was advised by the Lord that although she was old, there was nothing impossible to have happen to her because of the Lord! (Gen. 18:13) – even the birth of Isaac! Do you or I feel that God gives us tasks that are too big for us, regardless of our age?
Proverbs 22:6 is a familiar verse. Our NIV says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Some have interpreted that verse to mean that if we raise our children in church and in the Scriptures, they will never fall from the Lord. But the verse is actually talking rather about a manner of life and lifestyle – both in trade and in character. Are we raising our children to be one day children of godly character?
And finally, of all places, there is John 3:4. But first, do you remember Jesus’ amazing statement to Nicodemus in verse 3? It says, “Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” And in verse 4 is the reply of Nicodemus. Now remember, he is a scholar of Scriptures, a master of Israel. Yet he asks the One standing before him, ““How can someone be born when they are old ….Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” The whole theology of the new birth in Christ is centered around the impossibility of man to save himself, and yet the possibility of God to take a creature of dust and make him a new creation in Christ.
So how old is old? The Scriptures tell us that there is no age limit to God’s work in a life. When one is young, he or she should be encouraged in the disciplines of the Word. And when one is older, he or she should know that even at that age, God is still able to do amazing things through that life.
Do you feel “young” today? God wants to establish some good and godly disciplines in you! Do you feel “old” today? God is not through with you!
#2. “DO NOT FORSAKE ME”
Note that the author of this psalm is not named. It could have been David. But theologians share that when authorship of a psalm is not given, that means the psalm takes on a wide view of application. So the “me” in this plea could be anyone – either of the author’s day or even of ours!
This is a familiar expression in Scripture. It was the charge that at age 120 years, Moses gave to Israel in general and to Joshua in particular: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6). It surrounds one of the most oft-quoted verses in Scripture, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5). And our Savior Himself, upon giving the charge of what we call the Great Commission, closed His ministry with these wonderful words of encouragement: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Even in the psalm of the origin of this year’s verse, note the author’s plea in verse 9: “Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.”
What is he saying? That as long as I have breath, God is not through with me! And while the tasks may seem overwhelming, we are invited to cast ourselves upon the promises and character of the One Who has called us to Himself. Regardless of our age, God has a promise for us. Regardless of our age, God has an assignment where He has wisely planted us.
And God’s presence is truly the only support the servant of the Lord needs to do what God has wisely called that servant to do!
#3 “TO THE NEXT GENERATION”
I personally find this last phrase the most challenging of the 3 we are looking at in this year’s verse. Why? Because you and I are often most concerned with…TODAY! Bills to pay. Things to do. People to see. There is seemingly not enough time to do what I want to get done!
Yet the psalmist is looking at “the next generation” and “all who are to come”. How long is a generation? The best estimate is somewhere between 30 and 40 years. Let’s compromise and say “35 years”. Now take the number of years that you are alive today. Add 35 years. OK, to make it easy for you, I’ll be your guinea pig. 65 PLUS 35 = 100 years. You know, I’ve got better things to do at age 100 than thinking about the next generation, of those who are to come after me. Why, by age 100 I should be able to shoot under my age in golf! (well, at least for 9 holes anyway!)
Yet the psalmist reminds us to think “eternally”. I encourage you to read Genesis 17 where the Lord relays to Abraham what is known as the “Abrahamic Covenant”. God bypasses the impossibility of Abraham being a father at age 100. Instead, He encourages Abraham to think “eternally”. What did God say to Abe in verse 7? “ I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.”
Why does the psalmist say almost the same thing? Because God wants the generations to come to have the true God as their God! He wants the generations to come to know Jesus as Savior! And the psalmist encourages us that regardless of what we think our purposes in life are today, we need a fresh vision of Who God is and what He has for us to do today! For what we do today will affect at least the next generation! Can we trust God to do that through us?
(1). “Old and gray” – God is not particular as to one’s age nor one’s hair color (or lack thereof). He has a job for us to do.
(2). “do not forsake me” – God invites us to trust Him, and in so trusting, He reminds us of the many promises He has for us – especially the promise of His presence!
(3). “To the next generation” – a fresh vision. God gives each of us a fresh vision of the task, and more importantly, of those hearts around us that He has wisely set before us every day. Those hearts are “the next generation”. They may be family. They may be friends, neighbors, co-workers, or people we meet today for the first time. They are the next generation.
This year’s verse gives us a fresh vision – of God and of His work.
Will you trust Him with me for the fresh vision from Him?
close in prayer