Through the AgesMay 6, 2012 - 5:00 am
“Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.” — Psalms 71:9
In Psalm 71, David pleads with God from the vantage point of youth; in other words, David requests that one day, when he eventually grows old, God will continue to watch over him. It appears that David exhibits the anxieties of a man in his prime, worrying over the unknown that comes with age.
The ancient rabbis, however, offer an alternative explanation of the verse’s context. The rabbis explain that David speaks here not as a younger man, but as an elderly man who fears being forgotten in his old age. As the rabbinic sages portray it, David says, “When I was a young man, I went off to do battle on behalf of my people; but now that the vigor of youth has left me, please, Lord, do not forsake me.”
How often do all of us feel just as David felt? How often does youthful idealism give way, over time, to world-weary cynicism? Whether at the office, on a baseball field, in a relationship, or even at worship, it becomes increasingly difficult, year after year, to recover the energy we exuded in our younger days. The psalm writer encourages us to turn to God for a revitalization of the body and spirit.
But more importantly, we may glean from the rabbis’ interpretation of David’s plea a powerful lesson for living a fulfilling life. There are, of course, just a few of us who feel an intimate connection to God regardless of circumstances. For many of us, however, even if we know we should strive for a deeper connection to God, we find it difficult on a daily basis to seek divinity in our lives. After all, we’re so busy with other, mundane concerns – whether at work or at home – that we often convince ourselves that there’s no time to spend even a few moments contemplating our connection to the Almighty.
How powerful, then, is David’s sentiment in this verse? David fears not an increase in his responsibilities to God, but rather laments the difficulty of maintaining the same level of commitment as he did while a young man!
This sense of drive, of passion for the Divine should guide our own lives. No matter what age we are right now, if we find our spiritual lives worn and flagging, remember we can turn to God as our constant help and guide — from childhood to old age.