When I was 32, the year before the passing of the millennium, as it approached, I became very reflective over the time that I had lived thus far, back then. 1999, and the few years previous, were a nostalgic time. I actually wrote a book called, My First Thirty Years, and had only one copy made, because it was a personal warts-and-all memoir to that point.
This Psalm is of that contemplative order; it draws on spiritual reflection, selecting many best-of verses from other Psalms, compiling them in a bookmarked way.
The psalmist, possibly David, because he is cited in the LXX, may be writing this Psalm from the viewpoint of facing a challenge earlier known, yet not recently experienced. It’s the Psalm of an old man with the young mind; a mind for yesteryear as it relates also today.
Its commencement, in faithfulness to the Lord, tends to be its refrain:
“In you, O Lord, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.”
~Psalm 71:1 (NRSV)
It may be fair, consistent with the wisdom in this Psalm, to delimit ourselves from insisting on structure, for there are many reminiscent remembrances as we read throughout. Indeed, the aged have that privilege and agency, to get away without strict curricula. There is a quality in this Psalm that superintends the purposes of structure.
It is best, then, to admire its general qualities, and the qualities of the author in plucking its verses, revealing his mood, without being hemmed in by the need for structure.
The Advantages Of Stoic Mid/Old Age
By stoic I mean, resilient enough that life has not worn the elderly or mid-aged person down; life has not chided their spirit. Anyone beyond 40 is in sight for this Psalm.
The beauty of age is the blessedness of reflection, having learned the myriads of things that God has, through our lives, destined us to be exposed to, to reflect on, and to draw meaning from. Without age there is no such experience. Without age, humbling as it is to deal with relative physical incapacity, compared with youth, we cannot appreciate the superior vestiges of God’s sovereignty—we, the mature-of-years, are not as bullet-proof as we once thought we were, and acceptingly so.
Age, therefore, has many advantages. Physical prowess cannot compensate for the spiritual spark within one so aged as to truly be able to appreciate life, and their God interminably within it.
When The Agencies Of Weakness Contend
Another of these more humbling realities of life is the fact of the enemy; whether these are people, our inner fears, generalised or specific situations, or anything else.
Certain enemies stay with us the entirety of our lives. Such is the old age resplendent in this Psalm, the psalmist continues to beseech their Lord, and there is a level of acceptance for this thorn, or messenger of Satan (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
The maturity to accept these agencies of weakness is a blessing for the aged.
There are many advantages within the acceptance of age. The art of reflection, for good instance, is honed and magnified and enjoyed all the more with age. We can read this Psalm through the experiences and heart of an older person, who has retained their younger mind. Reflective practice keeps the mind faithfully young.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.