Elderly Ones—A Blessing to the Young
“Even until old age and gray-headedness, O God, do not leave me, until I may tell about your arm to the generation, to all those who are to come, about your mightiness.”—PSALM 71:18.
1, 2. What should elderly servants of God appreciate, and what will we now consider?
A CHRISTIAN elder in West Africa visited an aged anointed brother and asked him, “How are you doing?” The brother responded, “I can run, I can skip, I can jump, and I can hop,” attempting to act out his words as he said them. “But,” he added, “I cannot fly.” His intent was understood. ‘What I can do, I am glad to do, but what I cannot do, I do not do.’ The elder who made that visit is now in his 80’s, and he fondly remembers that brother’s sense of humor and his loyalty.
2 The godly qualities that an older person manifests can make a long-lasting impression on others. Of course, age alone does not automatically produce wisdom and Christlike qualities. (Ecclesiastes 4:13) The Bible states: “Gray-headedness is a crown of beauty when it is found in the way of righteousness.” (Proverbs 16:31) If you are advanced in years, do you appreciate just how your words and actions can affect others beneficially? Consider some Bible examples that show the extent to which aged ones have been a real blessing to younger ones.
Faith With Far-Reaching Effects
3. How has Noah’s faithfulness affected all those now living?
3 The faith and steadfastness of Noah produced benefits that are felt even to this day. Noah was approaching 600 years of age when he built the ark, gathered the animals, and preached to his neighbors. (Genesis 7:6; 2 Peter 2:5) Because of his godly fear, Noah, along with his family, survived the great Flood and became the ancestor of all people living on earth today. True, Noah lived when life spans in general were longer. Yet, even in his most advanced years, Noah remained faithful, and that resulted in significant blessings. How so?
4. How has Noah’s steadfastness benefited God’s servants today?
4 Noah was nearly 800 years old when Nimrod began engineering the Tower of Babel in defiance of Jehovah’s command to “fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1; 11:1-9) Noah, however, had no part in Nimrod’s rebellion. Thus, it is probable that his language was not changed when the rebels had their language confused. Noah’s faith and steadfastness, seen not only in his old age but also throughout his long life, are truly worthy of imitation by God’s servants of all ages.—Hebrews 11:7.
Influence on the Family
5, 6. (a) When Abraham was 75 years old, what did Jehovah tell him to do? (b) How did Abraham respond to God’s command?
5 The influence that elderly ones can have on the faith of their family members can be seen in the lives of the patriarchs after Noah. Abraham was about 75 years old when God said to him: “Go your way out of your country and from your relatives and from the house of your father to the country that I shall show you; and I shall make a great nation out of you and I shall bless you.”—Genesis 12:1, 2.
6 Imagine being told to leave your home, your friends, the country of your birth, and the security of your extended family to go to a land that you do not know. Abraham was told to do just that. He “went just as Jehovah had spoken to him,” and for the rest of his life, he lived in tents as an alien and a migratory resident in the land of Canaan. (Genesis 12:4; Hebrews 11:8, 9) Though Jehovah had said that Abraham would become “a great nation,” he died long before his offspring became numerous. Sarah, his wife, bore him but one son, Isaac, only after Abraham had sojourned in the land of promise for 25 years. (Genesis 21:2, 5) Yet, Abraham did not grow weary and return to the city from which he had come. What an example of faith and endurance!
7. What effect did Abraham’s endurance have on his son Isaac, and with what result to mankind?
7 Abraham’s endurance had a powerful effect on his son Isaac, who spent his entire life—180 years—as an alien resident in the land of Canaan. Isaac’s endurance was based on faith in God’s promise, faith that was instilled in him by his aged parents and later reinforced by Jehovah’s own word to him. (Genesis 26:2-5) Isaac’s steadfastness played a key role in the fulfillment of Jehovah’s promise that a “seed” for the blessing of all mankind would come through the family of Abraham. Hundreds of years later, Jesus Christ, the primary part of that “seed,” opened the way for all who exercise faith in him to be reconciled to God and to enjoy everlasting life.—Galatians 3:16; John 3:16.
8. How did Jacob demonstrate strong faith, and with what effect?
8 Isaac, in turn, helped his son Jacob to cultivate strong faith that sustained him into his old age. Jacob was 97 when he wrestled with an angel all night long for a blessing. (Genesis 32:24-28) Before he died at the age of 147, Jacob summoned enough strength to bless each of his 12 sons. (Genesis 47:28) The prophetic words that he uttered, now recorded at Genesis 49:1-28, proved true and are still undergoing fulfillment.
9. What can be said about the influence that spiritually mature older ones have on their family?
9 Clearly, aged loyal servants of God can have a wholesome influence on their family members. Scriptural instruction combined with the voice of experience and an example of endurance can make a real difference in determining whether a young person will grow up with solid faith. (Proverbs 22:6) Older ones should never underestimate the powerful force for good that they can be to their family.
Influence on Fellow Worshippers
10. What was Joseph’s “command concerning his bones,” and what was its effect?
10 Older ones can also be a good influence on fellow believers. In his old age, Jacob’s son Joseph performed a simple act of faith that had a profound effect on millions of true worshippers who lived after him. He was 110 when “he gave a command concerning his bones,” namely, that when the Israelites finally left Egypt, they were to take his bones with them. (Hebrews 11:22; Genesis 50:25) That command served as an added ray of hope for Israel during the many years of hard slavery that followed Joseph’s death, providing assurance that their deliverance would come.
11. What influence did aged Moses likely have on Joshua?
11 Among those nourished by Joseph’s expression of faith was Moses. When Moses was 80, he was privileged to carry Joseph’s bones up out of the land of Egypt. (Exodus 13:19) About that time, he came in contact with Joshua, who was much younger. For the next 40 years, Joshua served as Moses’ personal attendant. (Numbers 11:28) He accompanied Moses up Mount Sinai and was on hand to meet Moses when he descended from the mountain with the tablets of the Testimony. (Exodus 24:12-18; 32:15-17) What a wellspring of mature counsel and wisdom aged Moses must have been to Joshua!
12. How did Joshua prove to be a force for good to the nation of Israel for as long as he lived?
12 Joshua, in turn, imparted encouragement to the nation of Israel for as long as he lived. Judges 2:7 tells us: “The people continued to serve Jehovah all the days of Joshua and all the days of the older men who extended their days after Joshua and who had seen all of Jehovah’s great work that he did for Israel.” With the death of Joshua and the other older men, however, there began a 300-year period of vacillation between true worship and false, leading up to the days of Samuel the prophet.
Samuel “Effected Righteousness”
13. What did Samuel do to ‘effect righteousness’?
13 The Bible does not say how old Samuel was when he died, but events in the book of First Samuel cover about 102 years, and Samuel witnessed most of them. At Hebrews 11:32, 33, we read that upright judges and prophets “effected righteousness.” Yes, Samuel influenced some of his contemporaries to avoid or abandon wrongdoing. (1 Samuel 7:2-4) By what means? He was loyal to Jehovah throughout his life. (1 Samuel 12:2-5) He was not afraid to give strong counsel even to the king. (1 Samuel 15:16-29) In addition, Samuel, having “grown old and gray,” proved himself exemplary in praying with regard to others. He declared it “unthinkable . . . to sin against Jehovah by ceasing to pray” in behalf of his fellow Israelites.—1 Samuel 12:2, 23.
14, 15. How might elderly ones today imitate Samuel in the matter of prayer?
14 All of this highlights an essential way that aged ones can exert an influence for good on fellow servants of Jehovah. Despite limitations imposed by health or other circumstances, those advanced in years can pray in behalf of others. Older ones, do you appreciate just how much your prayers benefit the congregation? Because of your faith in Christ’s shed blood, you enjoy an approved standing before Jehovah, and because of your record of endurance, your faith has acquired a “tested quality.” (James 1:3; 1 Peter 1:7) Never forget: “A righteous man’s supplication, when it is at work, has much force.”—James 5:16.
15 Your prayers in support of Jehovah’s Kingdom work are needed. Some of our brothers are in prison on account of their Christian neutrality. Others have fallen victim to natural disasters, wars, and civil strife. Still others, right in our own congregations, are facing temptations or opposition. (Matthew 10:35, 36) Those taking the lead in the preaching work and in overseeing congregations also need your regular prayers in their behalf. (Ephesians 6:18, 19; Colossians 4:2, 3) How good it is that you mention fellow believers in your prayers, as Epaphras did!—Colossians 4:12.
Teaching the Generation to Come
16, 17. What was foretold at Psalm 71:18, and how has this come true?
16 Association with faithful ones of the “little flock,” those with the heavenly calling, has provided essential training for those of the “other sheep,” who have the hope of living forever on earth. (Luke 12:32; John 10:16) This was foretold at Psalm 71:18, which reads: “Even until old age and gray-headedness, O God, do not leave me, until I may tell about your arm to the generation, to all those who are to come, about your mightiness.” Spirit-anointed ones have been eager to train their other sheep companions for increased responsibilities before leaving them to be glorified along with Jesus Christ.
17 In principle, what Psalm 71:18 says about instructing “those who are to come” could also be applied to the other sheep, who have received instruction from God’s anointed ones. Jehovah has entrusted older ones with the privilege of testifying about him to those who are now embracing true worship. (Joel 1:2, 3) The other sheep feel blessed for what they have learned from anointed ones and are impelled to share their Scriptural education with still others who desire to serve Jehovah.—Revelation 7:9, 10.
18, 19. (a) What precious information can many older servants of Jehovah impart? (b) Of what should elderly Christians be confident?
18 Older servants of Jehovah, both anointed ones and those of the other sheep, are a living link to important historical events. A few still living were on hand for the original showings of the “Photo-Drama of Creation.” Some personally knew the brothers taking the lead who were imprisoned in 1918. Others participated in broadcasts on the Watchtower radio station, WBBR. Many can tell about the time when cases involving the religious freedom of Jehovah’s Witnesses were fought in the highest courts. Still others stood firm for true worship while living under dictatorial regimes. Yes, older ones can relate how the understanding of truth has been progressively revealed. The Bible encourages us to benefit from this wealth of experience.—Deuteronomy 32:7.
19 Elderly Christians are urged to be good examples to the younger ones. (Titus 2:2-4) Perhaps now you do not see the effect that your endurance, prayers, and counsel has on others. Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and others could not possibly have known the full impact of their faithfulness on the generations to come. Yet, their legacy of faith and integrity mattered greatly; so does yours.
20. What blessings await those who maintain their hope firm to the end?
20 Whether you are preserved through the “great tribulation” or you are brought back by resurrection, what a delight it will be to experience “the real life”! (Matthew 24:21; 1 Timothy 6:19) Imagine the time during the Thousand Year Reign of Christ when Jehovah will reverse the effects of old age. Rather than experiencing relentless deterioration of our bodies, we will awaken each day to progressive physical improvements—more energy, sharper vision, keener hearing, better looks! (Job 33:25; Isaiah 35:5, 6) Those who are blessed to live in God’s new world will always be young in comparison with the eternity yet to be experienced. (Isaiah 65:22) May all of us, therefore, maintain our hope firm to the end and continue to serve Jehovah whole-souled. We can be confident that Jehovah will fulfill all that he has promised and that what he will do will far exceed any expectations we may have.—Psalm 37:4; 145:16.
How Would You Answer?
• How did the steadfastness of aged Noah result in blessings for all mankind?
• What effect did the faith of the patriarchs have on their descendants?
• In their advanced years, how did Joseph, Moses, Joshua, and Samuel strengthen fellow worshippers?
• What legacy can older ones pass on?
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Abraham’s endurance had a powerful effect on Isaac
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Moses’ mature counsel encouraged Joshua
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Your prayers in behalf of others can accomplish much good
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Young people benefit by listening to faithful older ones