Digging Deeper: Old and Grayheaded

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank
| Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated reading time: 6 min.

Did you know that a psalmist entreated God to not forsake him in his old age until he had proclaimed God’s truth to the next generation?

He accepted his mission seriously by asking God to strengthen him in his final years so that God’s truth would be perpetuated to future generations. Senior citizens have a responsibility by deed and word to convey God’s truth to younger people who look to them as mentors and role models. This Digging Deeper explores this sacred responsibility to discover how God continues to work with people no matter their age or physical condition.

Our focus verses are: “O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come” (Psalm 71:17-18 KJV throughout). This verse parallels a previous one: “Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth” (Psalm 71:9).

A song of the aged

Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible introduces this psalm thus: “It is a psalm of great value as describing the feelings of a good man when he is growing old, and is an illustration of what there has been occasion so often to remark in this exposition of the Book of Psalms, that the Bible is adapted to all the conditions of human life” (e-Sword 13.0.0). The Bible is written for people of all ages. G. Campbell Morgan’s Exposition on the Bible adds: “This is pre-eminently a song of the aged, and, like old age, it is reminiscent. The singer passes from memory to hope, and from experience to praise” (Ibid.). This psalmist explains that he has served the true God since his youth (Psalm 71:5-6). He then asks God to not abandon him now that he is older, as explained by Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible: “Still keep me alive. Give me health, and strength, and ability to set forth thy praise, and to make known thy truth” (Ibid.).

The author understands he has a responsibility to teach the next generation about God and His plan, as explained by the NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible: “The psalmist knows that it was critical that the faith be passed down through the generations. God told the Israelites to teach their children of him at any time of day or night (Deuteronomy 6:7), and he stressed that each generation needed to enter into the covenant anew (Deuteronomy 5:2–3; 29:14–15; Joshua 24:25–27). It was not enough to be born an Israelite; each generation had to appropriate the faith for themselves, and it was the responsibility of the entire community to proclaim the faith boldly and to pass it down: parents, priests, and even the king (as here)” (Tecarta Bible App). This is the sacred duty of previous generations.

Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible explains how this conveyed instruction benefits civilization: “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” (e-Sword 13.0.0). Seniors are to pass along life lessons to younger people that will save them time, effort, and suffering.

Blessings and Responsibilities

The Scriptures abound with God’s promises to the elderly so that growing older should be a pleasurable time with a deep commitment to God, such as:

Psalm 92:12-14 “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. (13) Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. (14) They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing.”

Psalm 37:25 “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”

However, there are also exhortations to this senior population:

Titus 2:1-5 “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: (2) That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.  (3) The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; (4) That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,  (5) To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”

Notice, that the elderly in a community, family, or congregation have an example to set and a duty to instruct younger folks with godly wisdom. However, it is equally important that the younger generation recognizes the value of instruction from their seniors, as explained by Henry Morris in his Defender’s Study Bible: “This is a worthy prayer for all elderly believers, as well as a reminder to younger Christians that the older generation still has much to contribute to the present spiritual conflict in terms of accumulated experience and wisdom…A concerned Christian should continue to serve the Lord, in prayer if nothing else, as long as he has breath” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Leave a godly legacy

As people age, they may become resentful about limitations and infirmities associated with aging, leading to complaints to others and even to God. The ESV Study Bible addresses this matter: “The book of Psalms readily confesses that the believer’s life is full of many troubles and calamities and acknowledges that these are under God’s control (you who have made me see [v. 20]); and since God governs these troubles, he can also relieve them (hence the confidence of vv. 20–21)” (Tecarta Bible App). But they must not forget that God has some form of service assigned to every believer for the younger generation and those that follow in future generations. We all create a legacy. We must decide whether it will be a godly one. We have the potential to produce an abundant harvest if we have sowed the seeds of good fruit.

Joseph Benson’s Commentary of the Old and New Testaments provides us fitting food for thought in conclusion: “Those that have been taught of God from their youth, and have made it the business of their lives to honour him, may be sure he will not leave them when they are old and gray-headed, will not leave them helpless and comfortless, but will make the evil days of old age their best days, and such as they shall have reason to say they have pleasure in” (e-Sword 13.0.0). 

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Start Your Bible Reading Plan Now

As the year 2021 draws to a close on the Roman calendar, it is a good time to consider a plan to read through the Bible.

While we recognize that God’s Holy Days are reckoned by the Hebrew Calendar, nevertheless, our daily lives are more closely tied to the year beginning on January 1st and ending on December 31st. A reading plan that breaks down the Bible into 365 manageable segments can be a helpful tool in accomplishing the objective of reading through the complete Bible in a year. While you may have already read through the Bible, why not do so again over the upcoming year? And if you have read through the Bible from cover to cover as the Bible is arranged in our KJV or NKJV, why not do so using a different approach. To what am I referring?

The web site Blueletter Bible offers both printable PDF and handy online “checkoff” versions of “Read the Bible in a Year” schedules. In addition to the Canonical Plan, which takes you through the Bible according to the order of books in which we are familiar, they also provide the following options:

Canonical Five Day Plan – This takes the reader through the Bible according to our familiar order, but in two years.

Old Testament and New Testament Each Day – This schedule includes both a reading from the Old Testament and the New Testament each day. There is a one-year schedule and a two-year schedule with this approach.

Chronological Plan – If you’d like to read the Bible in the order of when the recorded events occurred, this plan schedules accordingly

Historical Plan – This plan schedules the daily reading according to the way in which the Old Testament is laid out in the Hebrew Bible, from the Law to the Prophets to the Writings. The New Testament readings are scheduled according to the order in which the books were authored.

While there are many different online and electronic Bible sites, Blueletter Bible provides a good options, and a downloadable app is available to use on a phone or tablet as well.

Finally, our own faculty member, Mr. Ken Frank prepared a “Read the Bible in a Year” plan with his wife for the congregation he pastored in Winnipeg many years ago. Here’s a link to his schedule.

Happy studying!

Jonathan McNair

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Digging Deeper: The Fullness of the Blessing

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank
| Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated reading time: 7 min.

Did you know that, when Paul announced he planned to visit Christians in Rome, he was confident God would impart to them a blessing in its fullness?

Paul had never met most of the brethren of the capital of the Roman Empire, except perhaps those who had met him in other locations of his ministry. Nevertheless, through the years a Church of God had developed in the capital. For some time, Paul desired to visit these outlying Christians but obstacles prevented him from doing so. This Digging Deeper considers the background to Paul’s joyful announcement to understand the spiritual interaction between brethren and ministry that imparts a full blessing. Readers will discover an anticipated blessing through Paul’s ministry to the Church of God at Rome.

Several countries have a day of national thanksgiving for the year’s blessings, usually in the autumn. Americans observed their Thanksgiving Day not long ago. Traditionally at the Thanksgiving meal family and friends recount what they are grateful for. People enjoy so many blessings that it is often difficult to choose just one. They may sense a “fullness of the blessing.”

Our focus verses are: “When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain. And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:28-29 KJV throughout). Paul wrote this epistle around AD 57 or 58, probably from Corinth. He explained he had been much hindered in coming to visit them for some years (Rom 1:13; 15:22-23). He planned to visit them on his way to Spain; however, first, he planned to travel to Jerusalem to deliver a gift from the Macedonian and Achaian brethren to the suffering Judeans (Romans 15:24-27).

A roundabout way to Rome

The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible provides historical context for traveling by ship in that time: “I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. Friends often announced travel plans in letters. Ships from the east would normally stop in Rome; voyagers to Spain would travel on from there to Tarraco, some 900 miles (nearly 1,500 kilometers). (By road one could also travel from Italy to southern Gaul then across the Pyrenees mountain range.) Travel to Cordoba would be even farther” (Tecarta Bible App).

As it later turned out, Paul was delayed in coming to Rome because he was arrested in Jerusalem. Through various unexpected events, he finally arrived in Rome—but as a prisoner. His intentions were right but he could not anticipate all that would happen to change his circumstances for his visit to Rome. The Pulpit Commentary by Spence and Exell teaches us an important lesson here: “How different from his anticipations were the circumstances of his first visit to Rome we know from the Acts. So man proposes, but God disposes, and all for final good (cf. Philippians 1:12, seq.)” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Explanatory Notes by Rhoderick D. Ice explains how Paul’s plans changed: “He certainly did not expect to reach Rome as a prisoner (see note on Acts 28:16). Yet his coming was with this blessing (Romans 1:11; Acts 28:30-31)(e-Sword 13.0.0).  Even though he did not arrive in Rome in freedom, his visit did provide these brethren a fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. The Roman authorities permitted him to have visitors since he was under house arrest (Acts 28:30-31). Without question, his presence in this great city turned out to be the fullness of the blessing of Christ’s good news but in a way he did not experience.

Spiritual fullness in the Gospel

It is important to understand more fully the phrase “in the fullness of the blessing.” Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible explains: “This is a Hebrew mode of expression, where one noun performs the purpose of an adjective, and means with a full or abundant blessing'” (e-Sword 13.0.0). Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers clarifies how Paul would offer such a blessing: “By ‘the fulness of the blessing of Christ’ the Apostle means the full or abundant measure of those spiritual blessings which he, as the Minister and Apostle of Christ, was commissioned to impart to them” (Ibid.).  

John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible details some of what that blessing involved: “There is a fulness in the Gospel; it is full of the deep things of God, which the Spirit searches and reveals, 1 Corinthians 2:10; it is full of the doctrines of grace and truth, which Christ himself is said to be full of, John 1:14, it is full of exceeding great and precious promises transcribed from Christ, and out of the covenant of grace; and it is full of a variety of food, of milk for babes, Hebrews 5:13, and meat for strong persons, Hebrews 5:14” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Paul’s time in Rome, even as a prisoner, turned out to be such a blessing, as explained by the Commentary on the Whole Bible by Ger de Koning: “Paul knew something else too, that if he were to come, he would ‘come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ’. Well, that full blessing came. It was from the prison in Rome where he wrote letters about the highest blessings of the church. We have these letters in our Bible. You can read about the ‘fullness of the blessing’ in these letters to the believers in Ephesus, Colossae and Philippi. These letters provide you with a view of Christ’s full blessing” (BP Bible These letters, along with Philemon, are today called the Prison Epistles. All of them are rich in spiritual blessings for Christians of all ages and have reached every nation on earth by the distribution of the Bible.

The blessing today

Ministers and brethren today may enjoy the same rich blessing of Christ, as noted by Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: “There is then a happy meeting between people and ministers, when they are both under the fulness of the blessing. The blessing of the gospel is the treasure which we have in earthen vessels. When ministers are fully prepared to give out, and people fully prepared to receive, this blessing, both are happy. Many have the gospel who have not the blessing of the gospel, and so they have it in vain. The gospel will not profit, unless God bless it to us; and it is our duty to wait upon him for that blessing, and for the fulness of it” (e-Sword 13.0.0).

Handfuls on Purpose, Vol 1. by Smith and Lee teaches an important lesson from this story: “It is a great blessing to be assured that when we go in God’s Name we go in God’s power, and in the fulness of the Gospel of Christ. Although Paul went to Rome in chains, he nevertheless went in the fulness of the blessing. Nothing can hinder our usefulness is [sic ‘as’] Christians but sin. This blessed assurance ought to characterise every preacher of the Gospel” (Bible Analyzer In the end, brethren in Rome, as well as those in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), were blessed by Paul’s visit and his prison epistles. Today Christians enjoy the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ when they read and study these foundational books. Additionally, they are blessed by their ministers who preach these books with the spiritual gifts given them to edify God’s church (1 Corinthians 14:3; 2 Corinthians 10:8).

Kenneth Frank headshot

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

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