Summary: Methuselah has become the biblical symbol of longevity. His life was long but thin as a string. The two Q's of life are important, quantity and quality. A certain quantity of years is important in order for a person to develop quality.
6 April 2016
Title: Aging—the World’s Oldest Man (Genesis 5:1-32)
Who would you identify as the first senior adult? The Scripture text will give you a clue. You may have had the question when playing Trivial Pursuit, "Who is the oldest person in the Bible?" Now you know where I am headed.
Many of us have heard of Methuselah and his claim to fame, living to be 969 years old. Isn't it amazing that Methuselah lived so many years? Why do you think there is such a difference in the length of his life and the length of ours? At least four other men -- including Adam -- are listed in this text as having lived more than nine hundred years. Methuselah edged out Jared for longevity by seven years resulting in many people remembering Methuselah's name. Does anybody remember Jared? What a difference seven years can make.
I am 74 years old, and believe me when I say that my body feels every one of those years. Now I wish I had taken better care of my health but it is too late, because I already have some serious health issues: Heart disease; high blood pressure; diabetes; restless leg; sleep apnea; back, shoulder, hip, knee and foot pain; depression, anxiety. I could go on but I think I can make my point. “I can’t imagine living another 895 years with all these problems. Surely, he at least had arthritis.” Or perhaps God shielded him from every disease and accident that could happen.
Consider what we know about Methuselah. He was the son of Enoch; he had his first son when he was 187. That son's name was Lamech, who was the father of Noah. Methuselah had other children and he died at age 969. That is all we know about him. I regret that his other children were not considered significant enough by the story-tellers to at least have their names listed.
Lamech was listed because he was Noah's father and Methuselah was mentioned, not because he lived the longest but because he was Noah's grandfather. Don't you prefer to have your identity because of who you are rather than because of your relationship to someone else? You are a person in your own right rather than John's wife, Joan's husband, Dillon's dad, George's mother-in-law, Sam's father, or Sarah's daughter. However, as the story unfolded and Noah became a significant character in the story, it became necessary to trace all the leads in the story to provide a family tree extending from Adam to Noah.
Methuselah served as a link between generations. That is something all of us do, whether or not we have children. We are the communicators to the next generation of what our generation has been like and has accomplished. In this sense we are passing on our part of the life story.
But surely there is more to life than being a link between generations. We can be more purposeful than that about our lives. One thing that stands out clearly in this text is human mortality. The phrase, "and he died," is found eight times in this passage. The Bible does not beat around the bush when it comes to the fact of human mortality. People are born, they live for a season, and they die, just as all living things on earth do. However, there is the major difference between human beings and all other life forms; it is that we are conscious of dying, we can foresee it, and we feel the resistance of the insatiable hunger for life.
Methuselah has become the biblical symbol of longevity. His life was long but thin as a string. The two Q's of life are important, quantity and quality. A certain quantity of years is important in order for a person to develop quality. Infants that die do not have enough quantity of life to develop quality. That does not mean their lives are meaningless because they are important to their parents, but the infants are not aware of the quality of life.
Length, breadth, and depth are necessary to provide life with both quantity and quality. Depth and breadth of life are developed through relationships. People with many friends have a breadth of experience from which to draw because they are exposed to the experiences and knowledge of many people and open themselves up to human need and understanding. Depth and breadth also develop through the relationships of people with God and as they open themselves to the presence of God in their private lives and in their relationships with others. Just as a shallow lake becomes stagnant so do our lives if we do not develop depth.
One of the punishments of people in the middle ages was to place them in dungeons where it was impossible for them to stand erect. How painful, cruel, and destructive that punishment was. Many people condemn themselves to an emotional and spiritual existence like that. Their lives are shallow, no depth, and they stagnate. I read this just recently, "A person wrapped up in himself makes a very small package." (Repeat)