Old and grey-headed - In the ninth verse he mentioned the circumstance of old age; here he repeats it, with the addition of hoary-headedness, which, humanly speaking, was calculated to make a deeper impression in his favor. Though all these things are well known to God, and he needs not our information, yet he is pleased to say, "Come now, and let us reason together." And when his children plead and reason with him, they are acting precisely as he has commanded.
Now also when I am old and grey-headed - Margin, “unto old age and grey hairs.” This does not necessarily mean that he was then actually old and grey-headed, but it would imply that he was approaching that period, or that he had it in prospect. The time of youth was past, and he was approaching old age. The literal rendering would be, “And also unto old age and grey hairs, do not forsake me.” This is the prayer of one who had been favored in youth, and in all his former course of life, and who now asked that God would continue his mercy, and not forsake him when the infirmities of age drew on.
Forsake me not - Still keep me alive. Give me health, and strength, and ability to set forth thy praise, and to make known thy truth. See the notes at Psalm 71:9.
Until I have showed thy strength - Margin, as in Hebrew, “thine arm.” The arm is the instrument by which we execute a purpose, and it thus becomes a symbol of strength.
Unto this generation - literally, “to a generation.” The reference is to the generation then living; that is, the generation which had come on the stage since he had reached manhood - the generation - the new generation - which one who is approaching old age sees engaged in the active scenes of life, cultivating the fields, filling the offices, constructing the bridges and roads, manning the ships, occupying the dwellings, instead of those with whom he was formerly associated, and who are now in their graves. His own generation - the companions of his own early years - had passed away. He had lived to speak to a new generation, and he was desirous that they should start on the journey of life with the advantage of his experience, as of one that had gone before. Each generation “may” thus enter on life with all the accumulated wisdom of the past; that is, as wise as those had become who had themselves had the experience, and treasured up results from the observations, of a long life.
Society thus makes progress. One generation becomes wiser and better than the one which went before it, and the experience of all ages thus accumulates as the world advances, enabling a future age to act on the results of all the wisdom of the past. Man thus differs from the inferior creation. The animals, governed by instinct alone, make no progress. Compare the notes at Psalm 49:13. They profit neither by the wisdom, nor the follies of the past. The first robin built its nest of the same materials, and with as much art, as the robin does now; the first stock of bees constructed their cells with as nice and accurate adaptations, with mathematical precision as complete, as a swarm of bees will do now. Neither the bird nor the bee has learned anything by experience, by study, or by observation - nor lays up, to transmit to future generations of birds or bees, the results of its own sagacity or observation.
Not so with man. The result of the experiences of one generation goes into the general experience of the world, and becomes its capital; a new thought, or a new invention struck out by some splendid genius, becomes the common property of the race; and society, as it rolls on, gathers up all these results, as the Ganges or the Mississippi, rolling on to the ocean, gathers into one mighty volume all the waters that flow in a thousand streams, and all that come from rivulets and fountains, however remote. It is this which makes the life of “a man” so valuable in this world; this which makes it so desirable for a man, even when approaching old age, yet to live a little longer, for, as the fruit of his experience, his observation, his ripe wisdom, his acquired knowledge, he may yet suggest something, by writing or otherwise, which may add to the intelligence of the world; some principle which may be elaborated and perfected by the coming age.
And thy power - Thy greatness; majesty; glory.
To every one that is to come - To all future generations. That I may state truths which may benefit future ages. He who suggests one truth which the world was not in possession of before, is a benefactor to mankind, and will not have lived in vain, for that truth will do something to set the race forward, and to make the world better and happier. It is not a vain thing, then, for a man to live; and every one should endeavor “so” to live that the world may not be the worse - or may not go backward - by his living in it, but that it may be the wiser and the better: not merely so that it may keep on the same level, but that it may rise to a higher level, and start off on a new career.
“Let my prayer come before Thee:
Incline Thine ear unto my cry;
For my soul is full of troubles:
And my life draweth nigh unto the grave.” PK 341.1
Psalm 88:2, 3. PK 341
“Thou art my hope, O Lord God:
Thou art my trust from my youth.
By Thee have I been holden up.”
“Forsake me not when my strength faileth.”
“O God, be not far from me:
O my God, make haste for my help.”
“O God, forsake me not;
Until I have showed Thy strength unto this
And Thy power to everyone that is to come.” PK 341.2
David marked that although the lives of some while in the strength of manhood had been righteous, as old age came upon them they seemed to lose their self-control. Satan stepped in and guided their minds, making them restless and dissatisfied. He saw that many of the aged seemed forsaken of God and exposed themselves to the ridicule and reproaches of his enemies. David was deeply moved; he was distressed as he looked forward to the time when he should be aged. He feared that God would leave him and that he would be as unhappy as other aged persons whose course he had noticed, and would be left to the reproach of the enemies of the Lord. With this burden upon him he earnestly prays: “Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.” “O God, Thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared Thy wondrous works. Now also when I am old and gray-headed, O God, forsake me not; until I have showed Thy strength unto this generation, and Thy power to everyone that is to come.” Psalm 71:9, 17, 18. David felt the necessity of guarding against the evils which attend old age. 1T 423.1
It is frequently the case that aged persons are unwilling to realize and acknowledge that their mental strength is failing. They shorten their days by taking care which belongs to their children. Satan often plays upon their imagination and leads them to feel a continual anxiety in regard to their money. It is their idol, and they hoard it with miserly care. They will sometimes deprive themselves of many of the comforts of life, and labor beyond their strength, rather than use the means which they have. In this way they place themselves in continual want, through fear that sometime in the future they shall want. All these fears originate with Satan. He excites the organs which lead to slavish fears and jealousies which corrupt nobleness of soul and destroy elevated thoughts and feelings. Such persons are insane upon the subject of money. If they would take the position which God would have them, their last days might be their best and happiest. Those who have children in whose honesty and judicious management they have reason to confide, should let their children make them happy. Unless they do this, Satan will take advantage of their lack of mental strength and will manage for them. They should lay aside anxiety and burdens, and occupy their time as happily as they can, and be ripening up for heaven. 1T 423.2
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