“You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD.”
I was truly blessed yesterday to have occasion to speak to two World War II veterans. One of those gentleman participates in a Bible study along with me, and he is a gentle man and full of love for the Lord. The second veteran was a new acquaintance, a fellow who had enlisted at just sixteen years old to go and fight for his country and for the freedom of the world. After the war, he ended up as a Seabee (member of a Construction Battalion) in Okinawa, Japan, and he helped to build the base where US troops still serve today. In the course of our conversation, we talked about his service, his love for art, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and–not a surprise–his love for the Lord.
Some younger folks may consider me a bit old-fashioned because I truly do respect my elders. I had that idea drummed into me by my parents and grandparents, and I have found no reason NOT to treat my elders with honor and respect. Yes, some older folks have frustrated me now and then, and some hold on to ancient prejudices that were learned at the feet of their elders–prejudices that I pray were not passed on any further. But for the most part, I take great joy in speaking to and listening to the older generations.
One thing I often find among the “gray headed” is that they have a perspective on perseverance that people even just ten years younger do not have. Having made it to their twilight years, and having seen with their own eyes that the Lord is indeed good and righteous, they have a presence about them–peace with God, calm in the face of many trials, joy in the Lord, and even an indifference to what the world sees as important–and that presence is something they cannot hide. And those who are most passionate about the Lord, they share their love for God as if sharing water with a dying man–and Water of Life it is, of course, to those who thirst for redemption.
It is strange for me to think that at my tender young age of 48, others even now look up to me as an elder. I don’t think I qualify! And yet, even in what I see as my own immaturity, I know that I have seen much and lived through much, and, yes, I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. And in forty years, when I am as old as those veterans to whom I spoke yesterday, I know that if I continue to cling to the Lord as I do now, I shall find that I will have an even more grace-filled perspective on life.
1 Peter 5:1-5
1 The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed:
2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;
3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;
4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
And I suppose that is the reason the Lord exhorts us in today’s verse to honor our elders and fear God: one day WE will be the elders. We will be the example that is set before the younger generation. We will be the ones with the perspective on life. We will be the ones leading the next several generations simply by the way we serve the Lord our God. And as we grow into that role of being an elder servant of God, we bring all the honor to God by being submissive to Him, by fearing Him and following His Word. We give glory to the Lord not just in how we speak of Him but in how we teach others to speak of Him. The real crown of our achievements will not be the medals we’ve won in battle, nor the full quiver of grandchildren at our feet, nor even the gray hair on our heads. Our crown will come on that day when Jesus Christ takes us home and says to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
So, today let us rise before the gray haired and let us honor the presence of the old man and woman, for there by the grace of God go we all. And let us not forget to fear and love the Lord God, whose love and care for us know no bounds. Let us submit to our elders, listen to their stories of God’s mercy and providence, and learn from them. One day, if the Lord is willing, you and I shall be among the elders of our families and our communities and our churches. It behooves us to learn now from the elders among us so that we, too, can one day bring respect and honor and glory to the Lord in front of a new generation.
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow! Lord God in heaven, You have shown us the great benefit of following and listening to our elders. Thank You for the blessing of age and wisdom that You have given to the aged among us. May Your blessings continue to grace younger lives through the words and examples of older men and women. And I pray, dear Lord, that You will one day allow me to serve You in that same capacity, living as an elder among the next few generations to lead them to Your glory. Amen.