“They will still bear fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:14).
“My name is Joe and I am old.”
I know, I know. Some of you think I’m bragging. And maybe I am. But even though it has a few drawbacks and as some have said, “Growing old is not for sissies,” there is much to be said for the golden/silver (leaden?) years in service for the Lord.
You have lived through many decades on this planet, you have seen things few around you have experienced (and have the scars to bear witness), your lessons learned are solid and sure, and your reasoning powers have not abandoned you.
You have much to offer, senior saint.
Psalm 92:12-15: “The righteous one will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green, to declare that the Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
Those four verses are keepers, such memorable lines. I love this little text but in no way have I mastered the content. Here are some random thoughts:
Palm trees, we are told, grow from the inside out, whereas “normal” trees add girth from the outside, increasing one ring per year. Godly men and women grow from the inside. “Even though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” That’s II Corinthians 4:16. Love it!
What’s going on inside you today? What is growing there?
The cedars of Lebanon were the timbers used in constructing the temple. When King Tut’s tomb was unearthed in Egypt, furniture made of Lebanese cedar appeared as fresh as though it were made last week. The giant cedars adorn the Lebanon flag even today. Like those cedars, godly veterans grow strong and fine and the work they do lasts forever!
What lasting work are you doing? What of you will remain after you leave?
”Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God.” This suggests nothing to me other than a vine. Trace that winding vine through all its leafy wanderings and eventually you will find that its roots are deeply anchored in God’s house, drawing its life sustenance from the nearness of the Father. Faithful elderly go here and there serving God, doing all manner of things, but trace us to the source and you find we are anchored in God’s House, in the Lord Himself.
Where do you find your strength? What is your source?
”They will still bear fruit in old age ... full of sap ... very green ... to declare the Lord is upright ...” Godly old people are fruitful, youthful, beautiful, truthful. Let’s take those one at a time.
Fruitful. Bearing fruit in old age. God’s senior saints often have energy, will hopefully have the resources, and always have the experience which can bless so many who are coming behind them. But they must not allow themselves to be put on the shelf. They have so much to offer.
Look around to see who you can bless.
Want to see how this works? Check out Barzillai in Second Samuel, chapters 15-19. When King David was fleeing Jerusalem with his little entourage—his son Absalom was leading an insurrection and storming the city—as they crossed the Jordan River, the royal party was hosted by several old friends, including Barzillai (see 17:27-29). Later, when Absalom is dead and the rebellion over, David is returning home. At the Jordan, he invites Barzillai to, as we say in the rural south, “Come on and go home with me.” David wanted to repay his hospitality.
Barzillai’s answer is classic. “I don’t have long to live, so why should I go up to your city and be a burden on you? I’m 80 years old. I can’t distinguish any longer between good and bad. I can’t taste the food I eat. I’m so deaf I can’t even hear the singing of my people.” He thought a minute and then said, “However, here is Chimham. Let him go with you. Do for him whatever you think is fitting.” (19:31ff.)
Whether Chimham was his son, his grandson, or the son of a friend or servant, we have no idea. But do not miss what happened there: The old man gave the youth to the king! He endowed the youngster in a life-changing way.
Many years later, when some people are talking about leaving Judea for Egypt, they mention staying at “Geruth Chimham, which is beside Bethlehem” (Jeremiah 41:17). The footnote says “geruth” means “the lodging place of Chimham.”
So, what do we have here? Going strictly by guesswork, since not a single additional word in Scripture speaks to this, a distinct possibility is that David took Chimham back to Judea and gave him land from his own inheritance somewhere in and around Bethlehem, the place of his birth and upbringing. Then, hundreds of years later—Jeremiah lived and worked in the 6th century B.C., some three to four hundred years after David—his descendants are still there, still in place.
Barzillai changed forever the destiny of that young man and all who would come after him.
That is bearing fruit in old age. Endow a scholarship, lead a youngster to Christ, send a young preacher to seminary, give a car to a struggling but faithful young father, buy someone’s groceries and don’t let them know where it came from.
Youthful. They’re full of sap.
The life of a tree is in its sap, those nutritious fluids running up the veins of the trunk and throughout the limbs right out to the very ends of the leaves.
Some of the youngest people I know are the oldest ones in church. They are full of life, happy in the Lord, overflowing with love and laughter, fun to be around. They are still learning and growing and serving. They are the most positive, upward-looking people in the congregation, the ones readiest to “tear down this old building and construct something for the future!” They appreciate their history, but love their Lord and God’s people far more. They are not so attached to the old hymns (which they love) that they cannot enjoy learning a new song.
Someone told me about their grandmother moving into the little specially-built apartment adjoining the house. Each morning as the family awakened, they could hear Grandma singing through the walls and knew she was all right. But one morning, no sound came from her part of the house. They began to worry after a bit and one of the kids was about to go over and check on her, when all of a sudden, her lovely voice was heard singing, “All my exes live in Texas—that’s why I’m in Tennessee!” Grandma was just fine.
Young people love to sing and laugh, to learn and read and have fun, to get together with friends and to hug.
The saddest thing you’ll ever see is people who grow elderly long before their time. Let’s not let it happen to us.
“They shall be very green.” The first time I noticed this phenomenon was with a lovely saint we all called Aunt Millie. I was her young pastor, some 40 years her junior, and we adored one another. One day, while looking through some old albums at the church, I spotted her among the crowds during the 1940s. The overwhelming thought that occurred to me was, “She’s a lot prettier now than she was then.” And that was a shock.
Until that moment, I subscribed to the cultural falsehood that people hit their prettiest in their teens or twenties and thereafter, it’s all downhill. What an injustice we have done to ourselves with that lie.
Sometimes, speaking to high schoolers, I pose this little scenario to them: Here are two 15-year-old girls, one who is gorgeous on the outside and ugly inside (bad attitude, self-centered, mean-spirited) and the other who is plain on the outside but beautiful within (great attitude, loving spirit, sweet-natured). In time, if they keep on the way they are going now, their situations will completely reverse. The one who is beautiful outside and ugly inside will become unattractive outwardly, too. And the one who is plain on the outside and beautiful inwardly will become attractive outwardly.
Whatever is inside works its way out and will in time become evident to the world.
I’ve heard variations of this line: The face you have at age (whatever? 15?) is God’s gift to you; the face you have at (? 75?) is your gift to God.
“To declare that the Lord is upright ...”
They tell me that on the old sitcom “Golden Girls,” the character of Sophia (“Ma”) played by Estelle Getty is brutally truthful because she had had a stroke.
No one wants people around them who have lost their sense of propriety and who blurt out what they are thinking without any kind of controls.
We’re not talking about that kind of brutal truth-telling.
We’re speaking of witnessing to the living Lord, of telling what we have learned of Him through our years.
“To declare that the Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
No youngster just starting out in the Christian life can attest to this. These are hard realities learned in the crucible of everyday living—of being married 40 years, some of it great and some of it extremely difficult; of raising children and getting through those difficult teen years; of stretching the paycheck and struggling to give our tithes when the money is scarce; of being faithful to the church when it’s in crisis, of loving a neighbor or brother-in-law who seems dedicated to your destruction. Come through all this and you look back and say, “Wow. The Lord is my strength, my Rock! He really is as good as His Word! It all worked out just as He said it would!”
There are no shortcuts in life.
The only way to learn the Lord is upright is to be part of a world that is teetering.
The only way to learn the Lord is your Rock is to live in a world where everything else is crumbling.
The only way to know there is no unrighteousness in Him is to experience unrighteousness all about you.
Now, when you have arrived at this stage in life, senior disciple, where you see these things and know these truths, tell them! Do not keep this wisdom to yourself.
Tell your story, old-timer. The rest of us need to hear it.
I know, I know. You’re saying, “But they don’t want to hear it. They don’t have time.”
It’s true that they are rushed and don’t have long attention spans. So, here are my suggestions:
1. Get a blog. Write short articles there, telling experiences you had and lessons you learned the hard way.
2. Remember to tell the good and the bad, the bright and the dark. Each has contributions to make to the effectiveness of the other. By giving the downside, you make the upside authentic. By telling the upside, the great things, you give hope to those going through the valleys.
3. In doing a blog, your grandchild can set it up for you; it doesn’t have to cost a penny, and no one but the few family and friends you tell how to access it have to see it—write some every day. If you don’t, or if you think you have to wait until you can do it perfectly, it’ll never get done.
4. An alternative is to write a book. Type it or handwrite it, your choice. And—repeating myself here—do not burden yourself with the need to do it perfectly or you’ll go to heaven with not a line written.
Get on with it. Tell us what you learned. Tell what you know of the Lord Jesus Christ and His way. Tell us what you got right and what you wish you could do over.
Have fun. Laugh. After all, you’re full of sap.