Psalm 71: When Faith Grows Old

Read Psalm 71.

Noted twentieth-century philosopher Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” He’s right. Life does move at a surprisingly brisk pace. While the day-to-day can move slowly, the years tick by more quickly than they used to, or at least that’s the way it feels in my life right now.

Psalm 71 is a reminder that no matter where we are on the road of life, God is with us. He was there before we could form conscious memories: “From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb” (v. 6), and He is our hope when age overtakes us: “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” (v. 18).

When Jesus came into the world, God let a select few know about it. There was Mary, of course, and then Joseph. Zechariah and Elizabeth were in the know as well, because of the miraculous birth of their own son, John. Some shepherds in a field outside of Bethlehem were invited in on the good news in a spectacular way, and some far-away Magi found out by noting a special star in the nighttime sky. And then there were Simeon and Anna.

These two are among my favorite biblical figures, forever coupled together because of their close proximity within the extended Christmas story in Luke’s gospel. They encountered the baby Jesus in the temple when Mary and Joseph came there to present an offering (Luke 2:22–38). We don’t know much about either person, but we do know they were both old, and that they patiently waited to see the Messiah—for years and years and years (vv. 25­–26; 36–37).

Though Jesus was just a few weeks old at the time, hardly distinguishable from any other Jewish newborn, Simeon and Anna both recognized Him as the Savior they had been waiting for. We’re not told what became of them after their divine appointment that day in the temple complex, but I imagine they lived the remainder of their days with profound joy, knowing God was on the move in their midst.

Prior to that momentous day, Simeon and Anna had the promises of Scripture and the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. (Yes, I realize that the Spirit had not yet been poured out at Pentecost, but “the Holy Spirit was on” Simeon [v. 25] and Anna was “a prophet” [v. 36]). They waited a very long time to see the Messiah with their own eyes.

You and I are on the same journey right now. We have the Scriptures and the Spirit, but we have not yet laid eyes on our beautiful Savior. We must wait—perhaps until He returns, perhaps until we are dead and taken up to be with Him. Either way, the road before us is one of patience and faith. Someday, we will have the same moment of bliss that Simeon and Anna experienced, but for now, it’s a daily walk with the Lord, trusting Him each step of the way, not yet seeing what we have been promised. Lord willing, we will get to be old, weathered saints, still just as much in love with Jesus as the day we first trusted Him.

In Psalm 71, we get to see what the faith of an old, weathered saint looks like. The struggles of this world do not subside just because he’s put a few more miles on the odometer. His pleas to God do not cease just because he’s made the same requests dozens of times before. And God is still just as faithful—and he knows it. “As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more” (v. 14).

Trust in the Lord over the long haul produces perseverance and greater faith. Perhaps that’s why God chose to let Simeon and Anna in on the surprise gift He had just given the world. They, of all people, would appreciate it.

What’s this all about?

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