Teaching the Generations

Many of you know how you can read a Scripture passage and something jumps out at you that you never saw before. I attribute that to the leading of the Holy Spirit. A few days ago, I was reading in Psalm 71 when my mind (and spirit?) was arrested by just a few words—verses 9 and 18—separated from the rest of the text but united in thought.

Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone. . . .

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.

What did this mean to me? Well, first of all, although I am certainly getting old-er, I don’t yet consider myself old in the classic sense. My strength is not yet gone, I am not yet seriously contemplating retirement, and I don’t feel forsaken of God.

I am gray; I’ll grant that one. But if none of the rest is totally applicable to me, why was I affected by these words?

One never knows when one’s strength will ebb more quickly, and I believe I have a lot to do still in my life and in the ministry God has given me. Perhaps it was the fact that I was grading students in finals week, another semester nearing its end.

It was those final words that meant the most to me, especially when coupled with the potential onset of older age: I teach the next generation; I want those students to know of God’s power, His mighty acts, and His abiding presence that He wants to implant within each one of them.

I began my university teaching career rather late. I didn’t receive my doctorate until I was 38, which was the time I got my first fulltime position. My 30th year of teaching will begin this upcoming fall, and I am now seeing, via Facebook, some of my former students beginning to send their children to college.

That is stunning to me. How can this be, I ask myself? The old cliché about time marching on is rearing its head. If any of my former students were to send their children to Southeastern to study under me, I would be teaching a second generation. Astounding. Why? Because in my mind, I’m not that old.

I am grateful for the many years the Lord has given me to teach those who will carry His light into this sad parody of a society we live in today. I look forward to continuing that quest. My health is still good; my strength is not gone; the vision remains vivid in my spirit.

And to all of my former students, I offer this word: send your children to me and I promise to give them all I can, everything the Lord has placed in me to pass on to the next generation.

Whittaker Chambers & Psalm 91

Chambers Testifying at HUACWhen Whittaker Chambers was making his testimony against Alger Hiss, his former associate in the communist underground, the stress of the situation was sometimes overwhelming. But encouragement can come in many forms. In his classic autobiography Witness, he remarks on one of those means of encouragement:

In those days, came the first of a series of letters that I was to receive throughout the Hiss Case. They came almost weekly and, in the depths of the Case, sometimes twice a week. After Hiss’s conviction, they came at longer intervals and at last stopped.

They were never signed. They were written in an angular hand and contained just three words: “The ninety-first Psalm.”

That Psalm, therefore, became a source of strength for Chambers. What did it contain? Here are some excerpts:

PrayerHe who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!”

For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day; . . . A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you. . . .

For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. . . .

“Because he has loved Me [says the Lord], therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.

“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.

“With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation.”

Those words are not for Whittaker Chambers only. They were given by God to provide strength and assurance for all who trust in Him. May they be real in your life if you are experiencing any trouble this day. He will be with you; He will rescue you.