“O God, You have taught me from my youth; and to this day I declare Your wondrous works. Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.” Psalm 71:17–18

I discovered this psalm when I was in college. As a pastor in training, I was captivated by the idea that this text lays out a plan for a man’s spiritual career. From youth to old age there is a purpose for living and a living on purpose.

As with so many Scriptures, the blessing of a Bible passage grows richer with the passing of time and the gaining of experience. It is almost as if the believer has the privilege of digging into God’s Word until the Holy Spirit shines His light on a raw diamond. The believer realizes there is real value in the text for his soul. Then, the believer gets to watch, throughout the rest of his life, the Holy Spirit take that raw diamond and slowly, artistically, bring out the brilliance, clarity, and quality of the wisdom from the Word of God. How blessed we are to meditate on God’s promises for a lifetime!

If no psalmist is named, scholars assume that the author is the same as the one credited in the preceding psalm. In this case, it appears to be David. It is certainly David’s characteristic thinking that we find in the psalm and, as usual, there is no shortage of enemies surrounding him.

David’s general gist of the psalm is his desire to never be ashamed of his dependence upon God, no matter what age he is. With two references to old age in the psalm, we can infer that he is in the later chapters of his life; he has certainly attained gray hair. Usually with gray hair there is assumed wisdom gained by experience. Some even think that those who are gray-headed should find life easier! However, it was probably someone with a silver mien that first said, “Just when I have figured out all the answers, they have changed all the questions!”

No matter how much, or how little, real wisdom one has gained in life, it is never enough. Circumstances, challenges, and enemies seem to mount while your reservoir of strength, courage, and resource seems to diminish. The humble believer grows in his dependence and trust in the Almighty. This is the tenor of David’s psalm evidenced by its outline.

I found tis five-point outline for Psalm 71 in the margin of my Bible: Prayer of Confidence (verses 1-4), Affirmation of Confidence (verses 5–8), Prayer in Old Age (verses 9–13), Hope in Old Age (verses 14–18), and Reaffirmation of Confidence (verses 19–24). The confidence David displays is well founded because it rests solely upon the nature of God; He is Righteous. God is righteous for He does right, He keeps His promises, and He is the Enemy of all that is twisted in morality and truth.

For a man, righteousness in its essence and quality must be learned, must be observed, and must be embraced. For our God, it is His nature—He is the Source, the Arbiter, the Standard, and the Revealer of righteousness. Righteous is who He is. Growing in righteousness is what a believer does.

Observe how David touches upon righteousness in the psalm. Psalm 71 verses 2–3 read, “Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape; incline Your ear to me, and save me. Be my strong refuge, to which I may resort continually, You have given the commandment to save me, for You are my Rock and my Fortress.” Verses 15–16 read, “My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and Your salvation all the day, for I do not know their limits. I will go in the strength of the Lord God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.” Verse 19 reads, “Also Your righteousness, O God, is very high, You who have done great things; O God, who is like You?” Verse 26 reads, “My tongue also shall talk of Your righteousness all the day long; for they are confounded, for they are brought to shame who seek my hurt.”

With this laser-like focus of David’s soul there is no doubt that he has made it a studied habit to walk with the Righteous One for his lifetime. Verse 5 states, “For You are my hope, O Lord God; You are my trust from my youth.” Verse 17 states, “O God, You have taught me from my youth; and to this day I declare Your wondrous works.” David is equipped to recount the events, the works of God, the rescues, and the salvation of the Lord that he has experienced time and again through his long life. Adversity does not defeat him. Verse 14 reads, “But I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more.”

Though inner strength fails, God never will. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever! David’s thought of being cast off in old age is answered by his words in verse 18, by his prayer for enabling strength to the very end! Strength to declare, not his strength, but God’s strength, God’s ability, to this present generation, and God’s power to those who follow afterward. That is the godly man’s fondest hope and surest legacy. Gray hair should mean you are well on your way to showing this living wisdom. Trust and obey.