A Prayer of David on the Decline of Life
To the Aged
“Cast me not off in the time of old age, forsake me not when my strength faileth.”—Psal. 71:9.
This Psalm is supposed to have been written about the time of Absalom’s conspiracy. God had cast off his predecessor Saul, and things looked as if he now meant to cast him off. His people also seemed disposed, by their joining with Absalom, to cast him off: hence the force of the petition.
Old men do not always put up this petition. If the desires of many of them were put into words, their request would be that they might save money, retain power, and many other things. Covetousness is particularly the sin of old age. The reason may be, that in early life corruption has a number of channels in which it flows; but in old age. these are stopped up, or nearly so, by the decay of natural powers and passions; and hence the whole flows in one or two channels. But these things will soon forsake us, or we must forsake them. The favour and presence of God should be the object, the supreme object, of our desire.
I. There are some peculiar circumstances of old age which render this blessing necessary.
1. Old age is a time of but little natural enjoyment, as Barzillai acknowledged, 2 Sam. 19:35. There is the more need, therefore, for other enjoyments. It is a soil on which that kind of pleasure will not grow;—but the joys of religion will, and there may be fruit in old age. Be this, therefore, our object! Psal. 92:14; Isa. 40:30, 31.
2. It is a time in which the troubles of life are often known to increase. Many are poor and can struggle no longer, and so sink under their hardships. Others have families, and live to see their children’s miseries; or what, if we fear God, will grieve us more, their evil courses. How fit then is the prayer of David to the lips of those whose gray hairs are going down with sorrow to the grave!—Others lose their friends by death. Youth is the time for forming connexions, which is a source of pleasure; and age, of those connexions being dissolved, which is a source of pain. How many poor widows may hear this address, who are left in a world of care and sorrow, to serve alone? Does not this prayer fit your lips?—At this period we often have to reap the bitter fruits of the sins of earlier years. Disobedience to parents is often followed by disobedience in children; neglect of family government by family ruin, as in the case of Eli; and criminal indulgences in youth by similar practices among our children. David had his troubles in his younger days, but they were light compared with those which respected Amnon, Tamar, and Absalom. Here impurity and blood reappeared, and wounded his heart.
3. Old age is a time in which the troubles of life not only increase, but become less tolerable. Young people will weather the storm, but it is not so with the aged. Pains of mind resemble pains of body; young people will work them off, but in old people they remain, and are carried to the grave. Jacob had hardships at Padan-aram, the heat by day, and the frost by night; but he forgot them in a little time; not so after having lost his beloved Rachel. A garment was brought to him covered with blood! Is this, or any thing like it, your condition? So much the more necessary the petition.
4. Old age is a time that ought to command respect, and does so among dutiful children, and all serious Christians; but it is often known to be attended with neglect. This is the case especially where they are poor and dependent. It has been the case where public characters have lost their youthful vivacity, and the brilliancy of their talents. In these cases, also, how fit is the petition, “Cast me not off in the time of old age, forsake me not when my strength faileth!”
5. It is a period bordering on death and eternity. The enjoyments of life are more than half gone, and the remainder hangs upon a thread more than half broken.
But it may be worth while to inquire,
II. In what cases there are grounds to hope the blessing will be granted. Not all old men enjoy God’s favour and presence. There are some tottering on to the grave who are yet wicked; yea, ripe in wickedness—mercenary, deceitful, crafty, and oppressive. Even those sins which they can no longer act, through a failure in their natural powers, they will recall in their defiled imaginations, and repeat in conversation, to the corrupting of youth. Ah, wicked old man! God will cast you off. Age itself entitles you to no respect from man, nor will you find mercy from God. Think particularly of two passages. “The sinner, a hundred years old, shall be accursed—God shall wound the hairy scalp of him who goeth on still in his trespasses,” Isa. 65:20; Psal. 68:21. Who then shall be found sharers in this blessing?
1. It is certain that, if we have been God’s servants from our youth, he will not cast us off in old age. David pleaded this, in the fifth and seventeenth verses of this Psalm: “O God, thou hast taught me from my youth; and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works.” How was this truth also verified in the old age and death of Jacob, Moses, Daniel, Paul, and others!
2. Though we should not have been his servants in our youth, yet in old age, even from thence, if we seek him with all our hearts, he will be found of us. He will not reject us even at the eleventh hour.
3. Though you should never have been his servant to this day, but have grown gray under Satan’s yoke, and are now a poor miserable creature, just ready to fall into hell; yet if from hence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, with all thy heart and with all thy soul, he will be found of thee; for the Lord our God is a merciful God: and through the death of Christ he can save thee to the uttermost. If with all your heart you only put up this prayer, “Cast me not off in the time of old age, forsake me not when my strength faileth;” he will not cast you off, but stand your friend when forsaken by the whole world, Deut. 4:29–31; Heb. 7:25.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 420–421). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.