Talking today again about the challenge of old age. How do we face what’s called the twilight years? Do you have feelings of hope, or do you dread the thought of it? You’re dreading those years of retirement. It was the French born film and vaudeville actor Maurice Chevalier, who remarked rather glibly, “growing old is inevitable for all of us. The clever thing is to accept it and always plan your next move well in advance.”
But, of course, his recipe for contentment in old age, I don’t think, gives a great deal of comfort. But Evangeline Booth, from the Salvation Army years back, had a better perspective on ageing. She was reported to have said once, “It’s not how many years we live, but what we do with them.”
So, contrary to this myth about ageing, seniors don’t necessarily decline in their intelligence or they don’t lose their decision-making abilities. I mean history, if you look at that, it gives countless examples of creative, productive seniors. At 71 Michelangelo was appointed chief architect of Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, and you have George Bernard Shaw. He wrote some amazing things at 93. And Arthur Rubinstein. He gave his stunning performance at Carnegie Hall. He was 90.
So, like these famous people, there are millions of elderly people. They don’t have anything wrong and they’re still productive. They’re active and they want to remain so. Well, if you look at the Bible, Scripture regards great age as the supreme reward of virtue. I mean, back in the Bible times, the aged were shown great respect and honour.
I mean, people took notice of older people. It was a blessing, not a curse. The scripture says rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. That’s from the Old Book of Leviticus. The Psalmist, he said the righteous shall bear fruit in old age. They will stay fresh and green, proclaiming the Lord is upright. He is my rock. And there is no wickedness in him.
So as you can see, growing old became a symbol of blessing and wisdom and righteousness. It was really an honourable process by which God rewarded those who were obedient, for example, in honouring their parents, your father and mother, it says in Exodus so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you – keep my commandments. The Scripture says for lengths of days and years of life and abundant welfare, they give you so a crown of glory. It talks about that in Proverbs 16.
It is gained in a righteous life.
Unfortunately, there is this concept of pushing the elderly aside on the fringe of society. And really, it’s a shameful thing. We diminish old people. We make our society poorer through the loss of their maturity. I mentioned yesterday that Moses was 80 when God called him to lead his people to the Promised land, and Moses became the historian and the leader. He became a statesman, and then, at about 85 Joshua, he was divinely commissioned by God to succeed Moses. And at his death, 100 and 10 years of age, he was he was deeply mourned. And if you read Joshua 24 from the Old Testament, you’ll see just what people thought about him. But if you fast forward to the New Testament, there was still that great reverence for old age.
They were esteemed, they were the saints.
If you look at Luke’s gospel (Luke 17), you see them there – the first characters to appear are the priest, Zachariah and Elizabeth, who were advanced in years. They were old, but that didn’t mean that God couldn’t use them. And they were certainly instruments of God’s purposes. You have Simeon and Anna who were old people. And the remarkable thing is that Simeon dies in the beginning of the gospel account, and he was looking forward to a time that unfortunately he wasn’t around for.
So Anna. Here was Anna, an 84 year old prophetess who goes to the temple to worship and praise day and night. She recognises Jesus. She sees in great joy who Jesus is. So as people have clung to the promises of God over many years, these people are there for us to revere.
Well, Heavenly Father, sometimes, Lord, we get discouraged, Lord, whatever our age. But we thank you for what you’ve done for us. Encourage us, Lord today because you are real. And I ask this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.