One of the most beautiful things to see is an elderly person—gentle, distinguished. Quietly, unassumingly noble.
“The beauty of old men is the gray head.” (Proverbs 20:29)
“The elder women as mothers…” (1 Timothy 5:2)
Conversely, one of the saddest things to see, is an elderly person who has all of the aforementioned qualities, yet somehow not imbued with the vitality and youthfulness of God. But that’s a story for another time.
The relatively short period of time that separates the young from the old is very important with God. Honoring and respecting those who came before is a directive that God Himself honors and respects—and rewards. Funny thing is, there always seems to be an exception to the rule. I suppose with reference to the first sentence of this paragraph, when God calls someone to know something and to stand out for it, if they’re willing to submit to His discipline and program for which that calling requires, God just may move that person to the head of the class. And in that case, age has nothing to do with it. “Let no man despise thy youth.” (1 Timothy 4:12) This doesn’t mean that you disrespect the people who got there first. The psalmist spoke of “understand[ing]more than the ancients, because I keep Thy precepts.” (Psalm 119:100) This flows perfectly with Paul’s command to “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.” (Galatians 6:6). Accountability is essential. Jesus exemplified this verse when He and His family went to Jerusalem for Passover. Luke recounts in his gospel (2:41-52) of Jesus, twelve years old, “sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.”
“I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom. But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding. Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment.” (Job 32:7-9) This is Elihu speaking. Funny thing, he may not know what he’s talking about trying to assert his youth amidst Job and his “friends”, but the words he speaks have an element of truth. Maybe someday he’ll grow into them.
I wonder, when we get to Heaven, who the people are that got there first. Obviously, that’s everyone. But I wonder who those people are that Jesus will introduce us to who were praying for us before they went home. Praying that we’d be enabled to do what we were called to do when we were younger, as we were younger.
Paul tells Timothy (his own “son in the faith” 1 Timothy 1:2) to count “the elders that rule well…worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in the word and doctrine” (1 Timothy 5:17, emphasis mine). In John Eldredge’s excellent book Fathered by God, he talks of the “six stages of a man’s life”. The identifies the sixth stage as “Sage”. As men age and their mobility decreases, so, says John, should their influence with God increase. It would seem that the Lord has a special relationship with those—men and women both—who have walked all their lives with Him.
“I write unto you fathers, because you have known Him that is from the beginning…” (1 John 2:13)
Enoch. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses. David. John the beloved disciple was at least 70 when he was exiled to Patmos and received Revelation. The apostle Paul. All of these men weathered the storms of life and vaulted over them. And God rewarded them greatly. David expresses it perfectly: “I have been young and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25) God saw David through every single storm and hardship. Anna the prophetess at eighty-four years of age, “served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” (Luke 2:36) And Naomi: “Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband.” (Ruth 1:12) Evidently, Naomi, in her old age was someone who was still worth hanging out with: “And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”
“Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5) That’s what Ruth did.
Don’t worry. We’ll all get there sooner or later, depending on whether or not Jesus chooses to return during this generation of course. I’ll close with this particularly encouraging verse from Psalm 71 (verse 18): “Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed Thy strength unto this generation, and Thy power to every one that is to come.”
We can do our part now, whatever our age and station in life.