A Psalm for Seniors

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Reading: Psalm 71
(Verses 9-18)
Do not cast me away when I am old;
do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
For my enemies speak against me;
those who wait to kill me conspire together.
They say, “God has forsaken him;
pursue him and seize him, for no one will rescue him.”
Do not be far from me, my God;
come quickly, God, to help me.
May my accusers perish in shame;
may those who want to harm me
be covered with scorn and disgrace.
As for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more
My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
of your saving acts all day long—
though I know not how to relate them all.
I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign L
ORD;
I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come
(NIV).

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Early morning shadows — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
I am officially a senior, and I am inching my way toward my seventieth year. With each passing year I can more fully identify with the psalmist’s prayer. For those of us in our sixth decade and beyond, great wisdom can be found in this psalm. As physical vitality declines, more and more we come to rely on the strength of God.

The psalmist laments, For my enemies speak against me; those who wait to kill me conspire together.”

Our enemies don’t all strut about on two legs. Some of them creep into our lives in more subtle forms like discouragement, depression, dementia and disease. These are the more common enemies that conspire against us. When they gain the upper hand, our golden years lose their lustre. Against this backdrop the psalmist is defiant. He takes his stand. As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more…

Having come this far by the grace of God, this is not the time to retreat… till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.

Response: LORD God, thank you for your presence with me since my youth. Continue to fill my life with joy, meaning and purpose. Day by day, be my help and strength until I see you face to face. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you look forward to your golden years?

The LORD — my Rock of Refuge

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Reading: Psalm 71
(Verses 1-8)
In you, LORD, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me;
turn your ear to me and save me.
Be my rock of refuge,
to which I can always go;
give the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.
For you have been my hope, Sovereign LORD,
my confidence since my youth.
From birth I have relied on you;
you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you.
I have become a sign to many;
you are my strong refuge.
My mouth is filled with your praise,
    declaring your splendor all day long
(NIV).

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Are you rock solid in your love for the LORD? — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
I must confess that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with rocks. I grew up on a farm on the Canadian prairies and annually the rich soil produced two crops—a crop of grain and a crop of rocks. Grain crops such as wheat, barley and oats were welcomed—the rocks not so much.

Simply working the soil in spring would bring the rocks to the surface. It was our job as children and teens to help our dad to pick those rocks and haul them off the fields. For the most part it was tedious work. That’s the unpleasant part of my relationship with rocks. But as for the rocks themselves, for the most part I liked them. They came in a huge variety of shapes, colors, sizes and textures. I found them fascinating. 

For the psalmist, the LORD was his solid foundation—his rock of refuge in a changing world. Hear his prayer: Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. 

In the shifting circumstances of life, it is essential that we have those things that remain solid and unwavering. From our childhood onward we need a rock of refuge from the storms of life—a rock to which we can always go in good times and bad.

It’s wonderful when we can say with the psalmist, From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you.”

Response: LORD God, thank you for being my solid rock. Your faithfulness has steadied me in stormy times. You have been my help and strength, my shelter and fortress. Amen.

Your Turn: How has the Lord been a solid rock for you?

Shine on Us

I will praise Him!

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Tulip fields — photo by David Kitz

Tremble and do not sin;
    when you are on your beds,
    search your hearts and be silent.
Offer the sacrifices of the righteous
    and trust in the LORD.

Many, LORD, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?”
    Let the light of your face shine on us.
Fill my heart with joy
    when their grain and new wine abound.

In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for you alone, LORD,
    make me dwell in safety.

(Psalm 4:4-8, NIV)

I Will Not Fear

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I will praise Him!

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Multi-petalled tulip — photo by David Kitz 

I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
    assail me on every side.

Arise, LORD!
    Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
    break the teeth of the wicked.

From the LORD comes deliverance.
    May your blessing be on your people.

(Psalm 3:5-8, NIV)

The Poor Rich Man

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Reading: Psalm 70
For the director of music. Of David. A petition.
Hasten, O God, to save me;
come quickly, Lord, to help me.
May those who want to take my life
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
be turned back in disgrace.
May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!”
turn back because of their shame.
But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
“The L
ORD is great!”
But as for me, I am poor and needy;
come quickly to me, O God.
You are my help and my deliverer;
L
ORD, do not delay (NIV).

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Backyard pansey — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
When I consider my situation—my station in life—I would not call myself poor, but neither would I say I am rich. I live in a comfortable suburban home. It’s no mansion, but we are mortgage free. I have income that covers our expenses with a little left over at the end of the month. We can afford one major trip each year, as long as we do a little penny pinching along the way. Our car will need to be replaced at some point, but for now it’s doing just fine. I have no worries about retirement.

Many in this world would see me as rich. On the other hand, I’m a pauper in the eyes of the super wealthy. I view myself as living in the comfortable middle.

David did not see himself that way. Hear his confession—his desperate prayer: But as for me, I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; LORD, do not delay. 

We don’t know at what point in his life David penned this humble petition. We know that the Shepherd-King of Israel was a man of humble origin, but he also ruled as King of Judah for seven years and for all of Israel for another thirty-three years. From the midpoint of his life onward, he was a man of wealth and power, but his humility remained. Like authoritarian rulers throughout the ages, he could have had his personal history cleansed of such self-effacing pleas for mercy, but David chose a different path. He let the record stand. Perhaps like other heroes of our faith he was looking for a better country—a better kingdom. See Hebrews 11:16.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Some poverty and humility of spirit might be fitting for me as well. How about you?

Response: LORD God, I don’t want to live the life of the self-satisfied. You are my treasure and my very great reward. I am needy—in constant need of you. Come quickly to me, O God. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you poor in spirit? How do we remain that way in spirit even when we are blessed financially or in other ways?

Despite Pain and Affliction

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Reading: Psalm 69
Verses 29-36
But as for me, afflicted and in pain—
may your salvation, God, protect me.
I will praise God’s name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the L
ORD more than an ox,
more than a bull with its horns and hooves.
The poor will see and be glad—
you who seek God, may your hearts live!
The L
ORD hears the needy
and does not despise his captive people.
Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and all that move in them,
for God will save Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah.
Then people will settle there and possess it;
the children of his servants will inherit it,
and those who love his name will dwell there
(NIV).

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Backyard iris — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
The word ‘despite’ does not appear in this final reading from Psalm 69, but despite its absence it’s at the core of what David is saying here.

But as for me, afflicted and in pain—may your salvation, God, protect me. I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.

Despite affliction and pain David resolves to praise God and give Him thanks. David decides to rise above his circumstances. He does not give into his troubles and sorrows. He does not yield to the complaints of his body. Not by the flesh, but in the Spirit, he rises above his afflictions.

Often I would rather wallow in my difficulties and coddle my discomforts. But the LORD calls us to live on a higher plane. It takes praise, thanksgiving and a song in our heart to lift us to that higher level. But before the song comes and the praise begins to flow, we determine our response. We must decide. We have a ‘but-as-for-me’ moment.

Despite opposition from our flesh, despite the doubts and misgivings of our peers, we determine that God is worthy of our praise. He is the God of the afflicted—not just the God of the feel-good set—so let the thanksgiving begin and praise burst forth.

Often God sees our heart and He intervenes and our situation changes. But if not, He is still worthy of wholehearted praise. Take time to praise and thank Him now.

Response: LORD God, in my difficulties I praise you. This pain-prone human flesh praises you. Thank you for this life you have given me. Your goodness and mercy never end. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you living in a season when praise comes easily? Is praise difficult for you at times?

Drinking Vinegar

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Reading: Psalm 69
(Verses 19-28)
You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
all my enemies are before you.
Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless;
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
for comforters, but I found none.
They put gall in my food
and gave me vinegar for my thirst.
May the table set before them become a snare;
may it become retribution and a trap.
May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
and their backs be bent forever.
Pour out your wrath on them;
let your fierce anger overtake them.
May their place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in their tents.
For they persecute those you wound
and talk about the pain of those you hurt.
Charge them with crime upon crime;
do not let them share in your salvation.
May they be blotted out of the book of life
and not be listed with the righteous
(NIV).

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Wild flowers, Winfield Park, Abbotsford, BC — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
Vinegar is not the first thing I would reach for, if I wanted to quench my thirst. Vinegar sets my teeth on edge. It curdles milk. It crinkles the stomach. Why? Because it’s acid, a naturally occurring acid. 

You don’t give your friend acid to drink. But at his crucifixion that’s what the soldiers gave Jesus to quench his thirst. The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar (Luke 23:36).

Like many of David’s psalms, there is a prophetic element in them and in this portion of Psalm 69; we see that prophetic element vividly portrayed. Jesus experienced the rejection described here. His friends deserted him. There were none to comfort him. He was scorned, disgraced and shamed. As he hung dying, he was given vinegar for his thirst.

The retribution that this psalm calls for fell on Judas. In Acts 1:20, Peter references this psalm as he speaks of the judgment that fell on Judas for his betrayal of Jesus. Yet in his moment of weakness even Peter denied knowing the Lord.

When our time of testing comes will we stand true to the Lord?

Response: Lord Jesus, you suffered rejection on my behalf. Help me be faithful to you when the world mocks you. Help me stand true. Give me courage through the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you always stood true, aligning yourself with Jesus?

God’s Timing

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Reading: Psalm 69
(Verses 13-18)
But I pray to you, LORD,
in the time of your favor;
in your great love, O God,
answer me with your sure salvation.
Rescue me from the mire,
do not let me sink;
deliver me from those who hate me,
from the deep waters.
Do not let the floodwaters engulf me
or the depths swallow me up
or the pit close its mouth over me.
Answer me, LORD, out of the goodness of your love;
in your great mercy turn to me.
Do not hide your face from your servant;
answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.
Come near and rescue me;
deliver me because of my foes
(NIV).

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The Ottawa River in flood stage — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
I have a confession to make and here it is: I don’t understand God.

Maybe a better way of putting this is to say that I have a limited understanding of God. Yes, I have studied a lot about God, and I have written a lot about Him, but my understanding is small—minuscule beside an all-knowing God of infinite wisdom.

In particular I do not understand God’s timing. When I pray, I want prompt answers. I run my life by a clock and a schedule, but God seems quite unimpressed by my propensity for planning. He’s been known to show up when I least expect Him. Furthermore, when I desperately want Him to put in an appearance, He usually keeps me waiting.

God can be unpredictable like a bad date. Speaking of a date, dear Lord, is that answer I want coming tomorrow, next week or next year?

Apparently I’m in good company. David seemed to have the same problem with God. Hear his plea, But I pray to you, LORD, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation.

There’s one thing I know. God is not my heavenly bellhop. But amazing things happen in the time of God’s favor. So like David, I’ll call out to Him. I’ll wait for Him. He is well worth waiting for, because when the LORD shows up everything changes. I change; the world changes.

Response: LORD God, favor me. Show up in your perfect timing. I need you now. I need you always. You know best. Teach me patience and grant me peace. Answer me with your sure salvation. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you like me? Do you sometimes get impatient with God?

The Scars Show His Glory

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A Book Review

“The Scars Show His Glory” can be characterized as a testimonial book. It is a personal 41800141testimony to the healing and sustaining power of God.

As a young teen the author, Ralph Lucien, developed a fast-growing cancer tumor that required massive brain surgery. The book goes into considerable detail about the extent of the tumor and the complexity of the surgery, but it also explores Ralph’s faith, and the faith of his mother as they faced those difficult days.

Here is a favorite quote from this book:

“God’s love and comfort are more powerful than our pain.” — Ralph Lucien

Due to two rounds of surgery, Ralph’s face has been permanently scared. But he has also experienced divine healing and the grace and presence of God in his life. This short 92-page book recounts Ralph’s journey through those very trying times. From personal experience he believes the healing power of God is available today, and he quotes a good deal of scripture to prove his point.

Jesus emerged from the grave triumphant but with scars. Ralph Lucien has also emerged from his bout with cancer triumphant but with scars.

This book portrays a radiant, overcoming, contagious faith in the healing and saving power of Jesus. Today’s world needs a healthy dose of that kind of contagion.

Misplaced Zeal?

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Reading: Psalm 69
(Verses 6-12)
Lord, the LORD Almighty,
may those who hope in you
not be disgraced because of me;
God of Israel,
may those who seek you
not be put to shame because of me.
For I endure scorn for your sake,
and shame covers my face.
I am a foreigner to my own family,
a stranger to my own mother’s children;
for zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.
When I weep and fast, I must endure scorn;
when I put on sackcloth, people make sport of me.
Those who sit at the gate mock me,
and I am the song of the drunkards.
(NIV).

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Flood my heart with love for you, Lord. — photo by David Kitz

Reflection
The start of a new week or month is a time when many of us set goals and consider our progress over the past week or month. Our personal goals spring from those things we value and hold dear. So what did David, the author of this psalm, value and hold dear? According to his own words, David was motivated by his zeal for the house of God. He longed to be in God’s presence and to seek His face. He placed his love for God ahead of his love for even his family.

I am a foreigner to my own family, a stranger to my own mother’s children; for zeal for your house consumes me… 

Many of us would call that misplaced zeal, even fanaticism. But Jesus called for precisely this kind zeal from his disciples. He calls for a radical transformation in the lives of his followers. Are you a disciple, or are you following at a distance? His words are an open challenge everyone. 

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:37-39).

After Jesus cleansed the temple, his disciples recalled the words from this psalm. His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17).

Response: LORD God, give me a zeal for your house and your presence. As the months and years roll by, I want my values to be reflected in my actions and my passion for you. Replace my lukewarm heart with a burning desire to know and love you. Amen.

Your Turn: Where does the house of God rate on your zeal meter? Do you value the community of faith to which you belong?