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Three Score Years and Ten

Three Score Years and Ten October 15, 2021

 

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.  (Psalm 90:10; KJV)

Today I attain my Biblical allotment of three score years and ten, that is to say, 70 years.  Everything else will be extra.

Even today in the USA, for all of our advancements in medicine and in our standard of living, the life expectancy for a man is only  75, right in the middle of the Biblical range.  We are told that the average lifespan in the ancient world was only in the 30’s or so, but those kinds of statistics come from factoring in the high death rate of infants, children, and young adults.  But those who somehow avoided getting killed in battle or contracting a dire disease could expect to live until their seventies or eighties.

At any rate, I feel like I have accomplished something.  I am embracing my status as an old person.  I am certainly not going to hide my age or try to act young.  I am a Bob Dylan fan, but his song Forever Young, while beautiful and with explicitly religious lyrics, has that annoying line that it repeats over and over:  “May you stay/ Forever young.”  Why would anyone want to stay forever young?

To be sure, old age, this final phase of life, is no picnic:   “yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”  It’s hard work being elderly.  It’s full of sorrow.  Friends and family members die one after the other, as will I.  We will all soon “fly away.”  I’m in good health, but I’ve started to have aches and pains that remind me that my body will gradually be shutting down.  And yet, while I used to be afraid of death, I’m really not anymore.

Much of the oft-cited wisdom in old age comes from experience and perspective.  We “elderlies,” as one of my grandchildren calls us, don’t have to worry about what other people think of us.  We don’t need to care about being cool or popular or making a good impression or getting likes on social media.  Such preoccupations are understandable in the young, but we no longer need to play the mating games, agonize about finding a job and succeeding in our careers, going through the pressures and responsibilities of child-raising, and the like.  These are all important and precious in their way, but we have already gone through all of that.  Now we can simply exist on our own terms.  To be sure, many of us must still struggle to make ends meet, though my wife and I, having socked away retirement money throughout our working lives, are now experiencing  extensive leisure for the first time.  Thus, there can be a freedom that comes with old age.

A major theme in Psalm 90, which speaks of those three score years and ten, is that time passes.  The years go by “like a dream”; they are swept away “as with a flood”; they are like grass that flourishes in the morning, but “fades and withers” in the evening (90:5).  The LORD, though, is beyond time, and He is the one constant:

Lord, you have been our dwelling place[a]
    in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You return man to dust
    and say, “Return, O children of man!”[b]
For a thousand years in your sight
    are but as yesterday when it is past,
    or as a watch in the night.  (Psalm 90:1-4)

Even as we go through this fast-passing life, knowing this eternal Lord can give us satisfaction, can establish what we have accomplished into the lives of our children, and make us “glad all our days”:

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16 Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!  (Psalm 90:14-17)

Here is the bottom line, according to this Psalm:  “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (90:12).

That’s what I’m trying to do, number my days, year by year, candle by candle.

 

Photo from PublicDomainPictures.net, CC0 Public Domain.  Actually, I wanted to use this picture, but it had copyright restrictions.  Click the link and take a look, for the whole effect.

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