O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. 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. – Psalm 71:18-19 ESV
These two simple verses found in Psalm 71 have struck a chord with me. Maybe it’s because I turned 60 this year and the mention of old age and gray hairs felt a bit too personal. But I think what really impacted me was the sense of passion the Psalmist felt for God. He had sensed God teaching him from his earliest memories as a young man. And now that he was an older man, he was still proclaiming the wonders of God. There is a sense of continuity in his words. He and God had a relationship that ongoing and always evolving. The psalmist felt a responsibility to tell others about the goodness and greatness of God. He was not content to merely receive God’s blessings and enjoy His presence in his life. He had to tell someone. And the older he got, the greater his resolve to proclaim the greatness of God became. The years were increasing his passion rather than diminishing it. Each passing year simply provided more personal testimonies of God’s wondrous deeds to share with others.
There is a sense in which our primary job description as God’s creation is to tell of His greatness. We are to declare His glory. The Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it this way: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” We exist to glorify God and our job is never done because God’s glory is inexhaustible. We will never run out of reasons to praise Him. We will never run short of His great deeds to proclaim. Because God never rests. He never takes a day off. He never ceases to perform wonders on behalf of His children. The problem is not that God is silent or still, but that we too often fail to recognize all that He is doing all around us. We can also lose sight of our primary function as His creatures: to glorify Him.
I think the thing about these verses that struck a chord with me was the intentionality and passion they express. Here is a man who recognized the influence of God over his life, but who also recognized his own responsibility to tell others about it. He had a lifelong duty to proclaim all that he knew about God to everyone he met. And he was asking God to keep him at it well into his “golden years”. There is no sense of retirement in his words. He isn’t looking to coast into old age. He realized he has a God-given responsibility to proclaim God’s might to the generation to come. Each generation of believers has the responsibility to share with those who come after them, to “tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Psalm 78:4 ESV). Old age is no excuse to slow down or give up. To our final dying breath, we should be telling the next generation all that we know about God. And the longer we live, the more we should have to share. As the number of our days remaining decrease, our determination to tell others about God’s wonders should increase, so “the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God” (Psalm 78:6-7 ESV).
All of those reminds me of a verse in the early chapters of the book of Judges that sets up the sad story that was to follow. It simply says, “After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the LORD or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10 NLT). One generation had failed to tell the next, and the result was a new generation that had no real knowledge of God. The rest of the book of Judges tells us how that generation abandoned God and served false gods. One generation had failed the next. They hadn’t done their job. And the consequences were serious. The book of Judges closes with a sobering message. “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (judges 21:25 NLT). Not only did they have no human king, they failed to recognize God as King. Each man and woman lived with their eyes focused on themselves. They had become their own personal kings reigning over their petty kingdoms of one. All because one generation had failed to do its job. Could the same thing happen in our day? I believe it already is. But it is not too late. Those of us with graying hair and diminishing strength still have an opportunity to make a difference. We may be working less, but our work is far from done. We must tell the next generation about the greatness and goodness of God. We must proclaim His wonders and give testimony to His unfailing faithfulness.
Growing old is no excuse for growing complacent. We have a job to do and God has not given us permission to retire or renege on our responsibility. Increasing years should only increase our sense of urgency. Our time is running out. We must take advantage of every day that God gives us to proclaim His might to another generation, His power to all those to come.