“You shall rise before the gray-headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God; I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:32)
When my dad left us, I was twelve years old … the oldest of 3 other siblings. I immediately signed up for two paper routes to help with the expenses and needs of our family that was reeling from all of the negative events.
When I would go to collect the monthly subscriptions, I became very close to a number of older citizens who would invite me in for a snack, cold drink, or hot chocolate on cold days.
Having already worshipped with a large number of older members of the church, it was easy to be kind and considerate of them. To this day, I can recall them by face and even by name.
As I grew a few years older, one of my uncles owned a grocery store in south Oklahoma City, and I began my illustrious, but short career in the grocery business. I met many ‘seniors’ and would always hurry to be the ‘sacker’ who carried out their groceries. Most were very kind, friendly, and caring. Not all of them of course.
Then on to J.C. Penny … where I continued to be exposed to dealing with a great number of ‘seniors’ … both customers and fellow employees, or members of management. And I came to see their value as more experienced with the ups and downs of life … the good, the bad, and sometimes the ugly of living in this world.
If I might inject one other portion of influence and learning, it would be the respect and appreciation my mother had for so many who were older and she actively demonstrated it and advocated for each of us to “go and do likewise.”
For just about every gospel meeting we had while growing up, she would invite the visiting preacher to come to our house after worship services for coffee and dessert … and she did so out of hospitality, but also for learning! I shall always be indebted to her desire to teach us about life and living … about the truths of kindness and compassion, and respect … especially for those who were older in age and in “the faith.”
I was then blessed by this exposure to older and wiser men of God that I am quite sure contributed greatly to my desire later to become a preacher as well.
I could go on with a biography of my many years of living, but I will not bore you with all of the details. But what I will tell you is I learned that for the most part, they knew so much about life and I was hungry to learn what they knew.
There are many examples found in both Testaments of the Bible, but there is one that most clearly illustrates the point of our blog this week.
Found in Exodus 18:17-19 is the time when Moses needed some good advice in leading such a large group of people. His father-in-law approached Moses having witnessed the heaviness of what Moses was trying to do. Here is what he then offered as advice from one who was older.
“So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘The thing that you do is not good. Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself. Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God.” (NKJV)
Moses respected Jethro for his wisdom, as well as his age, and for being his father-in-law. Such humility and respect for age is not such a popular scene in our times, but it is highly commended, and is in fact commanded in the Scriptures, and where it may have been ignored and needs to be restored.
Although Jethro had not experienced the things Moses had already faced and was facing presently, Jethro having lived longer was exposed to the elements of life and living … he had obviously gained wisdom from his own journey!
Recognition by Jethro of the need for God’s approval to put these suggestions into place is very apparent. The tact and graciousness of Jethro are very visible in this story.
“So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said.” (Exodus 18: 24)
We are not in any way implying that those who are in the later stages of life give perfect wisdom, answers, and advice. In fact, some have forsaken God’s clear counsel and some have become slaves to Satan’s desires for them.
In so many cases … those who have lived godly and righteous lives have acquired the highly coveted wisdom and knowledge of God and His ways. It is then that they actually can help us with improving our lives, families, and help us to avoid pitfalls they were tripped up on!
It is such a wonderful gift, to be able to return to our aging family members what they once gave to us as infants and youth. Our grandparents in most cases raised our parents who, in turn, raised us so that we might raise our own children and so on. This is a beautiful and natural cycle of trust, caring, and love, a constant in an ever-changing world.
This is exactly what God has asked of His people … to pass their faith and trust in Jehovah to the next generation!
The gift is a two-way blessing … to the one who is being given the honor, reverence, a little more joy, and happiness before death comes knocking, to receive the hugs, smiles, and kind words from grandchildren!
The other side of this kind of recognition is a sweet gift in return … of seeing their loved one feel genuinely loved, cared for, and respected! And sometimes, a little needed wisdom.
“Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.” (Psalm 71:9, ESV)
Bill Fairchild, Jr.