Pastoral Devotion July 16, 2020

There are many wonderful advantages to growing older!

Our life as a believer is a process of sanctification where God is ever-conforming us to the image of Christ. Employing the analogy of Isaiah 64:8 and Romans 9:21, as a potter forms clay, God forms us into useful vessels just as it pleases Him. This forming and conforming comes through God’s means of time and experience. There is no other way to have 10, 30, or 50 years’ experience except to actually experience life for that many years.

We who have believed upon Christ know God is faithful as He teaches in His Word. By faith in Christ we believe and trust in God. If He said it then that’s enough for us, for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ. Yet God, through His good providence, graciously adds to our faith. He employs experiences over time to grow us, teaching us of His faithfulness as He draws us closer to Himself. As we journey through life, our faith little by little becomes sight as we experience His fulfillment of His promises toward us.

An advantage to growing older is that we can look back upon our life and world events and see that God has been faithful just as He promised. In reflection upon our darkest nights we realize that through it all God was holding us in the palm of His hand. The reality is: the only way we can look back upon such events and realize the faithfulness of God is by going through trials and tribulations.

Thus, having experienced many years of life the older saint can personally testify that they were well-educated in how absolutely true God is as He, His Word, and His faithfulness were put to the test. As time and troubles passed, we actually experienced Christ as He promised: He never left us nor forsook us. What the Bible says and we believed to be true we experienced; time and troubles are passing but our Savior is ever-present just as our Father is ever-faithful.

As difficult as it may be to believe, there was a time when I was young. In my youth I didn’t have a seasoned believer’s perspective – how could I? I wasn’t a seasoned believer. But God was very gracious to me as He placed some wonderful older believers in my life. One such man was Herman Buttenbach. He would take me aside and encourage me saying things like, “Timmy, I appreciate you; a young man serving the Lord. Don’t be discouraged! When you get to be an old guy like me you’ll see that God was always with you! So, keep it up! Serve the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength!”
While no 17-year-old wants to hear his name pronounced in the diminutive form, I cherished his every word. And I would think, “Mr. Buttenbach has seen it all. And God has been faithful to him all his life!” What great encouragement his few words of testimony were and still are!

There was another elderly man in our church whose life was filled with disappointments, pain, and tragedy. While I can’t remember his name, I certainly remember him. Only heaven knows how much of an encouragement he was to me. One Sunday, the old gentleman sang a special song: “The Longer I Serve Him.” While he could carry a tune, it was with an old worn-out voice. As he sang, his voice was raspy and he couldn’t hold out the notes. Some of my friends snickered at his singing. But as I knew him and all he suffered, I was encouraged that this old guy who had suffered the throes of life was singing of his growing love and appreciation for Jesus.

For many years I kept a recording of his singing and when I was discouraged or worried, suffering some anxiety or discomfort of life, I would listen to his song over and over. As a young man I was greatly encouraged as I listened to this weather-beaten elderly saint sing of the faithfulness of God.
I especially appreciated the second verse,

“Ev’ry need He is supplying,
Plenteous grace He bestows;
Ev’ry day my way gets brighter,
The longer I serve Him,
The sweeter He grows.”

What encouragement came to me! How this old saint ministered to me! And I would think, “God kept him through all his terrible trials and sorrows! And he’s still growing in his love for Christ! God was faithful to him! God will be faithful to me!”

Thanks to God in those days that even in the terrible weakness and error of my theology God was faithful in keeping me, employing some elderly gentlemen as an encouraging, preserving grace.

Since then several years have been added to my life. Now, I can reflect upon my many years of experience and recognize God is perfectly true to His Word! He’s been abundantly faithful through thick and thin. He has blessed beyond what I would have ever thought or asked. I can testify first hand that He brings to pass what He promises. Read His Word and believe Him for He is faithful!

Oh, this letter is supposed to be a devotional isn’t it? I suppose it’s beyond time for me to get to the devotional part! (Sorry, the older I get the more stories I have to tell!)

Well, here goes: The Psalmist King David wrote of growing older and of the faithfulness of God he had observed. In the 37th Psalm, verses 23-25, as the Holy Spirit breathed out God’s Word, David testified saying,
37:23, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord;
And He delights in his way.

24 When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong;
Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.
25 I have been young, and now I am old;
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken,
Or his descendants begging bread.”

Here we read of the observation of the veteran believer, the Psalmist David. David was a man after God’s own heart (cf. I Sam. 16:1; Acts 13:22). He was a man of great victories and terrible failures. Still today in Israel he is their most venerated king. He was responsible for great victories. Even as a shepherd boy he slew Goliath with a sling and stone. He also knew what it was to experience heart-wrenching adversity amongst his family. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, was guilty of the death of her husband Uriah, and he suffered the death of three children. He experienced many extremes in his lifetime. And in his many years and many more experiences this is what he learned about God and His people.

He wrote, Psalm 37:23, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord; And He delights in his way.”

Some translations have added the word “good” reading, “The steps of a good man are established by the Lord.”

In the original, the noun “man” refers to “a hero, a valiant man, a man who is morally ethical.” It really refers to a godly man. If a man is ethically valiant and morally upright, it is because God has worked so in him. We know that without God all are lost in sin. So here, this good man is not the one credited with right-doing but it is God who is credited and praised as the good man’s steps are established by the Lord. The Lord not only directs the godly man’s way, but in so doing He is the One who makes the man godly.

Thus, “He delights in his way.” Question: Does “He” refer to the Lord or should the word “he” be in the lower case and refer to the “good man”? Let’s briefly consider the two options.

“He (the Lord) delights in the good man’s way.” Of course God delights in the way of the good man for the good man’s life is ordered by God Himself. God delights in what He does and works in the lives of those whom He chooses! God is blessed as His glory is made known as He directs the steps of fallen men into His good righteousness.

Or if, as some translations have it, the “he” of the second phrase refers to the “good man” then the Psalmist means to communicate that the “good man delights in his way”. The good man takes great joy in the path in which God has him established. He is fulfilled and confident in walking uprightly. He delights in the law of the Lord as he seeks to fulfill his Lord’s will.

Well, does the “he” of verse 23b refer to “the Lord” or the “good man”? Which shall we choose? Option one or option two? Since both are true, I choose both option one and two.

The good man delights in the Lord and the Lord delights in the good man! What a wonderful relationship that is between the believer and his Lord and God!
Now why do both “He” and “he” “delight in his way”? On account that, verse 24, “When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong; Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.”

The question is not, “Will the good man fall?” for he will. In life there is a multitude of “falling”. Perhaps one will fall as David did in sin with Bathsheba. Perhaps there will be sickness, disease, and tragedy. Perhaps there will be family disappointments, divisions, and heart-ache. Perhaps one will wrestle with the dark thoughts of depression and they will fall into doubt and despair. And there will be those who pass on before us and we may fall into severe grief. As we are all subject to the fall, born in sin, and live in a fallen world, even the most righteous among us will fall.

Despite that reality there is good news. The good man whose steps are ordered by the Lord shall not be hurled headlong. He may suffer a failure, but not to his doom. He may endure some painful hardship, but not to his final detriment. Even if he suffers death, God will raise him up!

Why? Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand! The imagery is quite comprehendible. A father walks hand in hand with his child. The child stumbles upon a crack in the sidewalk. But with his little hand in the big strong hand of his father, the father holds on and rescues him from stumbling to the ground headlong. This is a picture of us as children walking hand in hand with God our Father. Though we stumble, though the effects of sin and this fallen world come upon us and sorely affect us, God will not let us fall to an ultimate ruin.

A New Testament story will help illustrate the point. In Matthew 14 we read of Jesus walking on the water. Seeing Him, the disciples were terribly frightened, but Jesus assured them that it was He. Peter said, “Lord, if it’s you then command me to come to you.” Jesus commanded him and Peter stepped out and began to walk on the water. Peter successfully walked on the water until he saw the wind and became afraid. At that moment he began to sink. He then cried out to Jesus saying, “Lord, save me!” And in that instant Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of Peter and rescued him. If you will, Peter stumbled but Jesus did not let him stumble headlong.

Beloved, we live in a fallen world! And not only that, we were also born in sin. But, as we who believe have our steps established by the Lord, neither the ills and pains of this life, nor the temptations and failures of sin, nor the social unrest and viruses of this world – though they may all have a very real effect on us – individually or all combined together they will not cause us to fall headlong into a final ruin. That is impossible for the Lord holds our hand!

Just as the falling child may lose his grip but the father never loses his hold of the child, so it is with our Lord and God! He is our Heavenly Father and no one can take us from His hand. God

our Father never loses His hold of us! We are firmly in His hand. If we try to take our hand from His, we will feel the firmness of His grip. He does not let go!

David continued his song with these lyrics of testimony: verse 25, “I have been young, and now I am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Or his descendants begging bread.”

David, by the Holy Spirit, in all his eventful life and in all he’s seen and observed has never seen the righteous forsaken. Wow!

Now someone might take pause and say, “Well, that was only what David observed and his observation is very limited in scope.” Please don’t forget that this is the Spirit-breathed Word of God. Though David writes these words, these are God’s Words. To dispute the complete reach of David’s song is to dispute God whose word this is. God did not have David write this so we would have a little bit of hope, but so we would have all hope, complete and sure.

Who are the righteous whom God does not forsake? They are His elect – those whose steps He establishes. God does not order the steps of the good man and then in His righteousness abandon him. God holds the righteous in His hand!

So what will separate us from the love of God? Who can take us from out of our Heavenly Father’s hand? How will He, our Lord and God, our Father in Heaven, allow us to stumble headlong? The answer is, “Nothing! No one! He will not allow us to stumble headlong for He does not forsake His righteous ones!”

Just as the Father did not abandon His Righteous Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to the grave, neither will He abandon any of His people to any kind of ultimate ruin. There may be troubles along the way. There may be the loss of a job. There may be sickness. There may be sorrow and hardship. There may be death. But there will never be abandonment! I’ll say it again, “There will never be abandonment!” You will never walk alone!

Though the economy wavers and our money flies away, what have you to fear? Your faithful Father owns the cattle on ten thousand hills! He who caused manna to fall from heaven knows how to feed you! Though some may riot and threaten your life – fear not for God is with you! Don’t fear those who can only destroy the body. Reverence Him who holds both body and soul in the palm of His Almighty hand! If you are hospitalized with some virus and your family cannot come to see you in your final hours – fear not for you are not alone! God, the Ultimate Comforter, is with you and soon to receive you unto Himself! As your Father will not forsake His righteous ones, for us death will yield and give way to the most glorious day we will ever see!

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary says, “… alike in the Old and the New Testaments, the godly are exempt from permanent abandonment as to the needs even of this life. He who commands us to pray, Give us this day our daily bread, will not mock His children by withholding that which He Himself has encouraged them to ask, with the implied promise that He will grant it. He does not raise hopes only to disappoint them. They who make heaven their end will not be allowed to want any necessary on the way (Matt 6:33; Ps 84:11; Rom 8:28, 32).” Amen! Praises to God our Father from whom all blessings flow!

And think of this! The end of our life and our entering into heaven is not the end of God’s faithfulness. David wrote, “Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Or his descendants begging bread”!

John Calvin comments, “Though the just man die, yet God’s blessings are extended to his posterity and though God suffers some just man to lack temporal benefits, yet he recompenses him with spiritual treasures.”

Oh! And here is a spiritual treasure beyond compare: David has never seen the offspring of the good man begging for bread. No, but the righteousness of a father visits a thousand generations!

The blessings of God do not end with our life. As God surpasses all, His blessings transcend the temporal nature of this passing life. Not only does He take us on to glory, but He blesses our children so that they can grow old and with David say, “I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Or his descendants begging bread”!

How wonderful is our Lord and God, our Father who is in Heaven!

So now, consider these wonderful words of Jesus: Matt 6:24-34, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. 25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? 26 “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 “And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span? 28 “And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. 30 “But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith? 31 “Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ 32 “For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

As Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters.” We can choose to spend our life caring about the passing things of this world or we can simply trust in God. Choose today whom you will serve. And as you give this some thoughtful consideration, please remember this:

1. The steps of a righteous man are established by the Lord.
2. When the good man stumbles, he will not be hurled head long for the Lord holds him in his hand.
3. God does not forsake His righteous ones.
4. Even after He has taken His righteous ones to glory, God blesses their children.

Why worry? Why be anxious? Trust in God! Believe in Jesus! Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes into a right relationship with the Heavenly Father but through faith in His Son, Christ Jesus the Lord. In fact, this is how we in these N.T. days become the good man of verse 23 – by trusting in Jesus. As God the Father did not abandon Jesus to the grave, neither shall He abandon us for we who believe are in Christ!

If you are young, please let me encourage you. It is wonderful to grow old in the Lord. Amen! I love you!

Grace and Peace,