Thursday, 24 November 2011

To Old Age and Grey Hairs

I'm still a couple of years short of the 30 mark. Yet, that hasn't stopped the grey hairs making their appearance. In fact, in the past year they've been making their way in flocks! Despite the occasional teasing I get, I'm thankful for my growing number of white streaks. I'm thankful because they serve as a reminder to me, and point me to some very important truths.

My grey hair is a reminder of the simple fact that, as year gives way to year, I am getting older. Old age is an inevitable part of my future (unless I die or Jesus returns first). The same is true for all of us. All of us face the prospect of old age. All of us face a future of reduced mobility, increasing weakness, diminishing strength, and numerous ailments.

If we're honest with ourselves, the very thought of this frightens us. It makes the future uncertain. It makes us concerned about how, we'll care for ourselves. Or who'll care for us if we can't. Alongside this, many of the effects of old age, such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons, are a distressing prospect for anyone.

I'm thankful for my grey hairs, because they remind me of some important 'grey hair truths'. Tuths that give us great reason for confidence, and not fear, in the face of the uncertain future that grey hair brings. Here are three key things I've been reminded of:

1) A Promise
In Isaiah 46:4 God promises His people: "even to your old age I am he, and to grey hairs I will carry you."

Now we must be careful to read this verse in its context. In chapter 46 Isaiah is comparing the handmade gods of Babylon to the true and living God. In verses 1-2 we see that these gods need to be carried. Bel and Nebo, the handmade idols of Babylon, are loaded upon animals because they cannot move themselves. They are too heavy, and the beasts that carry them become exhausted, stagger and fall.

In contrast God does not need to be carried. No. He does the carrying. In verse 3 He reminds His people that He is the One who has carried them "from before your birth". He will not grow tired, like the beasts that are loaded down with man-made idols do. He will continue to carry them, even to old age and grey hairs, even until the end of their days. He continues unswervingly committed to His people. Just as He has been faithful in the past, so will He be into the future. Unlike the idols of Babylon, the true and living God is a God who can be depended on. He is a God who carries His people.

When we fear the uncertainties of old age, we must remember the character of our God. He is the God who carries His people. As He has done in the past, so will He do in the future. He is the God who continues to sustain and keep His people from start to finish. He is the God who, having begun a good work in His people, will carry it on to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

2) A Plea
In Psalm 71:18 we find words that are strikingly similar to those in Isaiah 46. The Psalmist cries out ot God: "even to old age and grey hairs, O God, do not forsake me".

This plea comes in the midst of much opposition and hardship. The Psalmist has taken refuge in God (verse 1). He does this because He recognises that He is utterly dependent upon Him, even from "before my birth" (verse 6). God is the One who has kept and taught him from his youth (verse 17). Now, as he looks to an uncertain future, in the midst of much hardship, he prays that God would continue to keep him, just as He always has done.

Behind the Psamist's prayer is a recognition of the truth that Isaiah knew. He recognises that he is utterly dependent upon God, from the womb to the grave. More than that, He recognises that God is able and willing to keep His people. He looks back to how God has dealt with Him in the past (verse 6, 17). This gives him confidence to pray to God for the future, pleading with Him not to forsake him into old age (verse 9, 18).

God has not changed. Therefore, we can have the same confidence to make the Psalmist's prayer our prayer. When we see the grey hairs, and worry about what we will do when the days come when our strength is spent (verse 9), we ought to fall to our knees before the God upon the God who brought us forth from our mother's womb (verse 6), and pray that He will keep us in our old age (if He sees fit to give us those years).

3) A Purpose
In his prayer the Psalmist has a key purpose for praying "to old age and grey not forske me". Notice how he continues in verse 18: "...until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come." The purpose of his prayer is proclamation. He longs to see the majestic saving power of God proclaimed to another generation. The reason he prays for God to sustain him in old age, is so that he can be a faithful witness to generations to come, so that they also might praise Him.

Ought that not to be our desire also for our old age? Why should we pray that God would keep us to old age? Is it not so that we can proclaim the gloroius gospel of His grace in Christ Jesus to the next generation? May we not become selfish as we think about our old age. Rather, may we long that our old age, whether mobile or bed bound, may be a testimony in lips and lives to the glory of Christ. Ought we not long that God would use our old age to see another generation be filled with joyful praise to Christ.

So, to old age and grey hairs, O God, do not forsake us.