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The God of old age

March 2003 | by Timothy Cross

‘Even to your old age I am he, and to grey hairs I will carry you’ (Isaiah 46:4)

I

recently heard someone use the word ‘wrinkly’ to describe someone who is old, and it really grated on me. As a ‘thirty-something’, I am not myself ‘old’, but I still found the word mildly offensive.

Why? Probably because — over my years — I have benefited a great deal from the ministry of experienced saints of God, who although advanced in years have remained youthful in spirit.

Possibly since the late 1950s and 1960s,the general emphasis has been on youthfulness and the young. This remains largely true today.

Yet when we turn to the Bible, we see that the emphasis is completely opposite to this trend. In the Bible, it was ‘chic and trendy’ to be old, not young! Let us explore this a little further.

Honour

Proverbs 16:31 reads: ‘A hoary [white/grey] head is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life’. Think of that!

Today, the hair-colour restoration industry is big business — but they would have been wasting their time in the days of the Bible, when grey hair was respected. Then, grey/white hair was considered to epitomise wisdom and experience. (In fact it was this perception that first led our own judges to wear white wigs.)

Job 12:12 says: ‘Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days’. Contrast this with the tongue-in-cheek definition of a teenager which goes: ‘Teenagers are people who are always ready to give adults the full benefits of their inexperience’.

We may take this definition with a pinch of salt. There are no doubt wise and astute teenagers, just as there are foolish and cantankerous old folks. Sin is no respecter of persons.

Yet, this apart, you can see the drift of the argument. This being so, we would do well to take heed of the spirit, if not the letter, of Leviticus 19:32: ‘You shall rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord’.

Fruitfulness

If we read the Bible — and trawl our own personal experience — we will know that old age does not necessarily stop people working for the Lord in a full and fruitful manner.

For instance, Moses was eighty years of age when, under the Lord, he led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt — an event central to Old Testament revelation.

Then we have the testimony of that active grandfather, Caleb, the one who ‘wholly followed the Lord my God’ (Joshua 14:8-9).

Caleb testified: ‘I am this day eighty-five years old; I am still as strong to this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength then, for war, and for going and coming’ (Joshua 14:11).

Skipping the centuries — and turning to the New Testament — we come face to face with an old lady called Anna. She was eighty-four years old, yet ‘she did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day’ (Luke 2:37).

Maybe Paul had Anna’s type in mind when he mentioned the widow who ‘continues in supplications and prayers night and day’ (1 Timothy 5:5). What a work is prayer! Only eternity will reveal the debt that the church and the world owe to the faithful, unseen prayers of the elderly — those mature in years and perhaps infirm in body.

Senior saint, is the Lord calling you to be an intercessor? Are you burdened to pray for the prosperity of the gospel and those who proclaim it?

Do you long for more and more people to enter into the joy of God’s salvation, which is already yours in Christ? Do you not long for God’s purposes of grace and glory to be fulfilled?

The ageless God

In a world obsessed with youth, it is good to remind ourselves that God himself never grows old. He is ageless. He is eternal — the great I am and the everlasting ‘now’.

In Revelation 1:8 he says of himself: ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega … who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’.

And what is true of God is also true of his Son, for the Bible is clear that the Lord Jesus ‘continues as a priest for ever’ (Hebrews 7:3). He is ‘a priest … By the power of an indestructible life … He hold his priesthood permanently because He continues for ever’ (Hebrews 7:16, 24).

It is because of this that the next verse can proclaim: ‘Consequently he is able to save for all time those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them’ (Hebrews 7:25).

An endless hope

Jesus saves for time and eternity. The good news for aging saints (and for Christians of all ages) is that we will never grow old in the land of glory.

The full Christian hope involves the redemption of the body as well as the salvation of the soul. Our eternal hope will see the end of all death, decay, disease and aging — in fact an eradication of everything that currently brings us low.

We cannot conceive the wonder of it, limited as we are by time — but the Bible tells us it is so!

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.