This sermon is offered by the CRCNA as part of our Reading Sermons series.
Scripture: Psalms 92:1-15
Sermon prepared by Pastor Jack De Vries, Listowel, Ont.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Did you know that Mickey Mouse is enjoying his retirement years? You wouldn't know it, would you? He doesn't seem a day older than when he first appeared on the scene. Yet today Mickey Mouse is over 70 years old. With the decline in the birth rate and with people living longer, more and more people in our North American society are senior citizens. In Canada there are 3.8 million people over age 65. This is 12.5% of the total population. By the year 2040, 1 out of every 4 persons in Canada will be over 65. The statistics in the United States are even a bit higher. 13.6% of the total population has reached the retirement age of 65. Already today, in some cities there are more senior citizens than children. Like the rest of North America, we too are seeing an increase in the number of senior citizens in our own congregations. The percentage of elderly people is increasing.
How should we view an aging population? What thoughts do you have about the older generation? Some of you are senior citizens. How do you see yourself? Is growing old a blessing or a curse? Once a person reaches a ripe ol' age — be it 65 or 75 or 85, — what is the best way for us to deal with them? Is it to put them in old age homes or nursing homes? Is growing old a problem to struggle with or is it a blessing to celebrate? What do you think?
Psalm 92, our text for today, has something to say about growing old. Here there is a message for you who are like Mickey Mouse — well into your retirement years. But there is also a message for the rest of this congregation — something all of us need to remember as we think about an aging population - both for ourselves and for the elderly among us. The central concern in Psalm 92 is the contrast between the destiny of the wicked and the destiny of the righteous. Think for a moment about wicked people — people who do not believe in God, perhaps they worship idols of their own making, they are God-haters, they never worship God or gather for worship, they in fact revel in sin: they cheat, steal, murder, gamble, lie, get drunk, and make it tough for believers.
Now you would think that God would deal harshly with such wicked people. Above all, God would not bless them, right? Well, what is your experience in life? Look around in the world you live in. Is the psalmist not correct? Look at v. 7: “The wicked spring up like grass and all evildoers flourish”... Just think how quickly grass grows in early spring after all the winter moisture and warm spring sunshine. "The wicked are like that," says the Psalmist. Then and now, the wicked seem to be well off; they seem to prosper; they flourish like grass, fresh and green after rain.
But that is not their destiny! The Psalmist is quick to point out that the wicked are, “senseless, fools who do not understand” (v. 6). They do not recognize God nor do they foresee the destiny God has appointed for them. Their prosperity has no future! The destiny of the wicked is death. One day their life will come to an end. “They will be forever destroyed” (v. 7). These evildoers — they are enemies of God and they will perish. Now they flourish like the grass. God in his love and grace blesses them just as he pours out the blessings of life upon all people. God is gracious also to the wicked. “The Lord is not... willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). If evildoers do not repent, they will perish. That is the destiny of the wicked.
Why? Because God is sovereign! That is the reason given in verse 8. This verse is at the heart, the very centre of the entire Psalm: “But you, O LORD, are exalted forever.” The LORD is the Most High God (v. 1). God will reign supreme forever. And one day God will prove to the wicked that they cannot simply go through life doing whatever they please. One day they will have to face the Sovereign Most High God and they will have to give an account for how they lived out their life. On that day, the wicked will not flourish — but they will perish — forever destroyed. God's sovereignty is seen in the destiny of the wicked!
God's sovereignty is not only seen in the destiny of the wicked but also in the destiny of the righteous. While the wicked flourish like the grass that is here one day and gone tomorrow, the righteous will flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar tree (v. 12).
The palm-tree is a tall, slender tree with a plume-like leaves at the top. Its deep tap roots seek out water in the ground. The palm tree produces fruit that is eaten as food, as much as 270 kilos of fruit a year. A drink can be made from its sap. The leaves often were used for roofs and woven together into mats and baskets. The palm tree is a symbol of fruitfulness.
The cedar tree is a deep-rooted coniferous tree that lives to a great age and grows very high and large. The wood of a cedar tree is durable and resistant to insects. To this day cedar trees are the preferred lumber for musical instruments, chests, panels, furniture and outdoor buildings. The cedar tree is a symbol of something that endures.
The righteous flourish and grow like palm and cedar trees because they still bear fruit in old age. They will stay fresh and green. The righteous will flourish like a palm tree — full of sap, bearing fruit. The righteous will grow like a cedar tree, remaining fresh and green still in old age. This is the destiny of the righteous. In contrast to the destiny of the wicked, the righteous will have an enduring fruitful life. God's sovereignty gives the assurance that life belongs to the righteous, and not to the wicked.
Yes, the destiny of the righteous is an enduring, fruitful life. The source of this life is found in God. The reason the righteous are fruitful in old age, remaining fresh and green, is because they are planted in the house of the LORD (v.13). Like palm trees and cedar trees they have long roots that go deep into the source of living water. The righteous flourish because they are rooted in a living communion with God. They are connected to the ever abundant source of life that is found in God.
That's the picture of the righteous — planted in the house of God. Worship is a priority. No wonder the psalmist begins by saying, “It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night” (v. 1-2). The psalmist knows that the source of life is found in communion with God. That is why it is good to praise the Lord. It is through worship that the righteous communes with God.
You probably noticed that this psalm is a song for the Sabbath day. It was on the Sabbath day, as the Psalmist gathered in public worship, that his faith was renewed and his life was restored as his roots went deep into communion with God. Through public worship, personal prayers and meditation on God's Word, the righteous remain rooted to the source of life - to God. And it is evident — for the righteous flourish like palm and cedar trees; they still bear fruit in old age.
What a wonderful portrait of a righteous person growing old! Reaching retirement age does not mean an end to a fruitful life. This is the destiny of the righteous: they will have an enduring fruitful life. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.
This description of growing old might seem far too glamorous for some of you. You think of old age and you think the time when your knees buckle and your belt won't. Old age is when you turn out the lights for economic rather than romantic reasons. Old age is when you have too much room in the house and not enough in the medicine cabinet. Someone once said that if you want to know what it feels like to be old, smear dirt on your glasses, stuff cotton in your ears, put on heavy shoes that are too big and wear gloves, and then try to spend the day in a normal way.
Yes, for many righteous elderly saints, growing old is marked with many challenges. For those who suffer with Alzheimer disease or senility, crippling arthritis or osteoporosis, loss of spouse and the resulting loneliness — yes, growing old has its many challenges and obstacles. Just visit any nursing home and you know that for many righteous men and women old age does not appear to be something to celebrate.
But that is not the point of Psalm 92. This psalm is not about a categorical promise that every believer can lay claim to. Not everybody reaches a ripe o1' age! Some even die young. But the message of Psalm 92 is this: we see evidence cf the sovereignty of God in the enduring fruitful life of the righteous.
This is so true! When you grow older, and some of you have already reached retirement, as you remain planted in the house of the Lord, deeply rooted in communion with God, you will still bear fruit in old age. In the gospel of John (ch.15), Jesus said, “lf a person remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.” Twice in this gospel Jesus referred to himself as the source of living water. When you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and you are deeply rooted in Him, if you remain in Jesus as a branch remains in a vine — then you will bear fruit — fruit that will last (15:16). Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God came into this world so that you may have life, and have it to the full (10:10).
The righteous believer in Psalm 92 proclaims, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock.” Jesus is the Rock of Ages, cleft for you! He shed his blood for you. Water and blood poured out from his side. As you hide yourself in Jesus — as you trust Him, as you worship Him, as you follow Him — you will bear fruit — fruit even in old age.
Racehorses do not race for many years. After that they might be used for breeding purposes. But once a horse gets beyond a certain age they are put out to pasture. But that is not the picture we have in Psalm 92 of the elderly among us. They are not put out to pasture, no matter how old they are. They are the workhorses of the kingdom.
The elderly among us must not be viewed as the squeaky wheel that gets the grease — they ought to viewed as the gears that should get things going. The elderly among us must not be viewed as a bunch of dead wood — just taking up space in the church; they are fresh and green, full of sap, still bearing fruit in old age. It has often been said by the elderly when they are asked to be involved in the church: “We have to make room for the younger members.” But making room for the youth does not mean checking out of the room yourself.
That's the picture of the elderly righteous person given to us in Psalm 92. They have reached a ripe o1' age — a ripe o1' age: they still bear fruit in old age. A man who was celebrating his 100th birthday was told by a friend, “Well, I congratulate you, but I'm afraid you'll not be here to celebrate a second hundred.” To this the man replied, “I'm not so sure of that. The fact is, I am feeling very much stronger to begin this second hundred than I was when I began the first.”
That's the attitude Christians need as they face their senior years. Just think of it: what a storehouse of wisdom and spiritual power is evident in God's senior saints! That's why you elderly shouldn't let your advancing age and declining physical vigour stop you from doing things for the Lord. Instead, older Christians should continue to be fruitful and productive.
Abraham left his country to begin a new life in a land God would show him when he was 75 years old. Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt when he was 80 years old. But we don't even have to look that far back to find the righteous still bearing fruit in old age.
Just look around in this congregation — there are a number of old saints, men and women, mothers, fathers, grandparents — they might be considered retired and receiving a pension, but they have not retired from the serving God and His kingdom. They are busy in the church and in the community. They have a wealth of wisdom that they have to offer. And they are ready to share it with those who are eager to listen.
When we as a congregation see you seniors among us faithfully serving God and his church, deeply rooted in a personal relationship with Jesus, eager to worship, ready to serve — we see evidence that the LORD God is exalted forever, that He is the sovereign Lord, the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
To those of you here this morning who have not yet reached retirement age — don't miss out on a blessing God would want you to share in. The seniors among us really care about you. There is nothing that they are more concerned about than you coming into a living relationship with Jesus Christ, that you too could say with them, The LORD is my Rock, that you too would join them in proclaiming God's love in the morning and his faithfulness at night! Young people, if you really want to be blessed, then visit the elderly in this church. Talk to them and listen to them. They have a wealth of knowledge and experience that is rooted in a deep relationship with Jesus Christ. They might have reached a ripe ol' age, but they have lots of fruit they want to share with you — not apples and oranges — perhaps that too — but the fruit that comes from a life rooted in Jesus.
Mickey Mouse is over 70 years old and he is busy as ever at Disney world. The righteous might be old and grey, but they still bear fruit in old age, they stay fresh and green! This is reason enough to sing of God's love and faithfulness.
Proposed Order of Service
Welcome and Announcements
Call to Worship: Psalm 92:1,2
Silent Prayer followed by: PH 833
Psalm of Praise: PH 187
Service of Renewal
God's Will for our Lives Exodus 20:1-17
Assurance of Pardon: Isaiah 1:18
Song of Thanksgiving: PH 32:1-3
Service of Prayer and Giving
Song of Dedication: PH 296:1,2,5
The Word of God
Prayer for the Word
Scripture Reading: Psalm 92
Sermon: "Ripe ol’ Age"
The Response and Dismissal
Song of Response: PH 8g:1,3,5,8
Closing Song: PH 639