Aging Well

  • By Pastor Boffey
  • on Wednesday, June 24, 2015
(Proverbs 16:31) The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness. Our text sets forth the potential for our royal acclaim, and a wise culture will render due respect unto such an aged king. Moses' Law commanded, “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD” (LEV 19:32). Solomon later observed, “...the beauty of old men is the gray head” (PRO 20:29). It is a general promise of Scripture that “...the fear of the LORD prolongeth days...” (PRO 10:27). Keeping God's commandments from the heart implies that “...length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee” (PRO 3:1-2). By walking in the fear of God, being ever mindful that “...all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (HEB 4:13), one can not only avoid many of the life-shortening natural consequences of foolish or sinful living but also the immediate wrath of God Who stands ready to judge high-handed sinners with sudden death. Ananias and Sapphira, for example, could have lived much longer than they did, but for their sin (ACT 5:1-11). Church members are warned to not duplicate Israel's attitude and conduct in the wilderness lest we, like them, should be destroyed by God directly (1CO 10:5-12). Little children are not immune to God's wrath either, as witness the sudden destruction of forty-two of them who mocked the prophet Elisha (2KI 2:23-24). Paul commanded children, “Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (EPH 6:1-3). By the fear of God and healthy living, one has the best chance of finishing life like Abraham, “...in a good old age, an old man, and full of years...” (GEN 25:8). On the other hand, “...the years of the wicked shall be shortened” (PRO 10:27). In the beginning, Scripture records numerous individuals who lived many hundreds of years; the longest lifespan belonged to Methuselah: 969 years (GEN 5:27). After the flood in Noah's time, lifespans began to shorten, and by the time of the Psalm of Moses, it was noted, “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” (PSA 90:10). Seventy to eighty years has remained an average lifespan. Interestingly, as another example of how sinful and wicked Jesus Christ was legally made for us because of our sins (2CO 5:21), His days on earth were less than half of that average lifespan, about 33-1/2 years and PSA 55:23 had said, “...bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days...” A shortened life was part of the curse that Christ bore to the cross, “...being made a curse for us...” (GAL 3:13). It would be wonderful (if we must die before Christ's return, 1TH 4:15-17) if we all could end life like Moses, “...when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated” (DEU 34:7). But such is not a likely scenario. Old age approaching death is generally more like Solomon's melancholy description (ECC 12:1-7): evil days without pleasure but with failing body parts and senses. It seems fitting that Solomon began that passage with, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth...” (ECC 12:1) since one of the things that tends to fail with age is memory. Let the young person meditate upon his God and saturate himself with His holy laws and precepts. This will have the double benefit of instilling godly fear which lengthens days and also so engrain His principles in the mind that they are likely to be a man's second nature even late in life: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (PRO 22:6). It is good that this yoke be borne in youth, per LAM 3:27, as Timothy of whom it was said, “...that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures...” (2TI 3:15). But for too many, youth is wasted on the young and Western Civilization has been long drunken on its prosperity and playthings, churning out an increasingly immature batch of Peter Pan wannabes. What then, of the adult who still sacrifices principle for playtime and speaks in childish language of childish values? Paul said, “...when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1CO 13:11). Peter Pans should heed Solomon's admonition to consider that the irresponsible, self-centered ways of youth bring judgment and therefore one should not weep over their departure: “Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity” (ECC 11:9-10). Old age should accord with mature thinking and exemplary wisdom: “I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom” (JOB 32:7). But sadly, that is not always the case. Solomon also described “...an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished” (ECC 4:13). His hoary head was not a crown of glory (PRO 16:31) but a gray dunce-cap. There is something painfully incongruous about elderly persons who by deliberate poor conduct or indifference to admonition lose the respect that should rightly be theirs. Remember, our text sets forth a condition: “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness” (PRO 16:31). We should be cautious to not presume to be properly crowned merely because of our age. We are exhorted to grow in grace (2PE 3:18), not disgrace. Solomon also wrote: “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children...” (PRO 13:22). A believer may be materially poor yet still pass on a good inheritance. Paul exhorts aged men and women to soberness, gravity, sound faith, etc., and so instruct and set an example for the younger generation (TIT 2:2-5). Let the aged show that God is their inheritance, as He was for Aaron (NUM 18:20). Let the aged pray and act accordingly, “O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. 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” (PSA 71:17-18). What better legacy to leave than a noble faithfulness, not tarnishing one's crown in old age but living an upright life as part of God's house in this world?: (PSA 92:13) Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. (PSA 92:14) They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; (PSA 92:15) To shew that the LORD is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. As believers age, they have an excellent opportunity to magnify God even in their infirmity while they prepare themselves for the judgment seat of Christ before which all shall appear (2CO 5:10). A good prayer would be, “Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth” (PSA 71:9). God will honor such prayer, as He told Paul, “...My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2CO 12:9), and “...I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (HEB 13:5), and “...even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you” (ISA 46:4). But what if one's performance up to now hasn't been all that it should have been? Wise Solomon has an answer for that: “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end” (PRO 19:20). The Psalm of Moses mentioned earlier has a fitting close to this meditation: (PSA 90:12) So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

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