The Door-Step Evangel

Aged Ministers and their Wives
Dr. Ronald L. Tottingham

Excerpts from the book of the same title by Dr. Tottingham.

Aging is, to some, a dreaded subject and a dreaded time of life, while to others it is a time they seem to blossom and live perhaps more than they did in their youth. Well, however we accept aging for ourselves or in others, it is one certainty of life and the only other alternative I've run across is to die. Not a desirable alternative for most. I would propose that for God's Saints it is to be His choice to take us from this life as a continuing part of His divine and sovereign will for our lives. Though suicide does not reverse genuine new birth, it is not God's choice for His people, unless He specifically revealed it so under extreme cruel circumstances. I can see a mother knowingly committing her own death to save a child or a man knowingly committing his own death for a wife or family, but such circumstances would be dire and unusual illustrations and certainly not normal nor desired.

Now back to what the Bible teaches us about growing old. There are physical affects which aging brings upon one's body. Those we most generally are aware of but also there are mental affects and emotional affects. One of the best Scriptures is found in 2 Samuel 19:35. King David is returning to Jerusalem after the insurrection of Absalom, his son, and wishes to honor the man who kept the King and all of his house. Notice: V:31 "And Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim, and went over Jordan with the king, to conduct him over Jordan. [32] Now Barzillai was a very aged man, even fourscore years old: and he had provided the king of sustenance while he lay at Mahanaim; for he was a very great man. [33] And the king said unto Barzillai, Come thou over with me, and I will feed thee with me in Jerusalem. [34] And Barzillai said unto the king, How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king unto Jerusalem? [35] I am this day fourscore years old (80): and can I discern between good and evil? can thy servant taste what I eat or what I drink? can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women? wherefore then should thy servant be yet a burden unto my lord the king?"

Let's look at the Scriptures for a study of what God shows us of this subject (doctrine) and perhaps some of what it means to God's people.

General Aging:

Such physical affects as weakening of eyesight, failing of strength, poor circulation, graying of, or loss of, hair are affects of aging. The Lord shows us that our value decreases past age 60. Look at Leviticus 27:7 "And if it be from sixty years old and above; if it be a male, then thy estimation shall be fifteen shekels, and for the female ten shekels." As in V:3-4 we are shown that the value of those between age 20 and 60 is the highest. "And thy estimation shall be of the male from twenty years old even unto sixty years old, even thy estimation shall be fifty shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary. [4] And if it be a female, then thy estimation shall be thirty shekels." Then in V:5 we see the value of males between age 5 and 20 is even more than past age 60, while females is the same ages 5-20 and over 60. "And if it be from five years old even unto twenty years old, then thy estimation shall be of the male twenty shekels, and for the female ten shekels."

Physical Aging:

Hair - One of the first noticeable aging processes is the graying of the hair (1). Hosea 7:9 "yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not." Psalm 71:18 "Now also when I am old and grayheaded...," Genesis 44:29, 31 "my gray hairs... the gray hairs of thy servant our father...," and 1 Samuel 12:2 "...and I am old and grayheaded..."

Eyes - Another noticeable physical aging affect, though not so noticeable because even children seem to wear corrective glasses these days, but it is the dimming of the eyes (2). Genesis 27:1 " And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see...," Genesis 48:10 "Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see...," 1 Samuel 4:15 "Now Eli was ninety and eight years old; and his eyes were dim, that he could not see."

Force - Still another physical affect of aging is the abating (to put an end to, to decrease) of our natural force (3). Deuteronomy 34:7 "And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated." It is natural for ones force to abate or for the physical strength to fail or weaken. Look at John 21:19 "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not" Also, Zechariah 8:4 "...old men and old women...with his staff in his hand for very age," and 2 Samuel 21:15, 17 "...David went down, and fought against the Philistines: and David waxed faint. [17]...Then the men of David sware unto him, saying, Thou shalt go no more out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel." We see a progression of the natural strength diminishing or decreasing with age. That natural "huff and puff" they say youth has over older folks seemed to be gone from David. Jesus told Peter he would one day become old and another will need to gird him and David grew old enough that the BATTLE DEMAND vigor, that emergency adrenaline energy he knew as a young man in battles was not there any longer, and he grew dangerously faint.

Weight - Some get quite heavy with age as Eli did (1 Samuel 4:15, 18) "Now Eli was ninety and eight years old... [18] he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy." A sedentary lifestyle of little exercise is not good for sound health.

Other - Let's look at other physical affects of aging. There is poor circulation (4) bringing with it a loss of body heat. First Kings 1:1 "Now king David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he gat no heat," and 1 Samuel 28:14 "...An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle." And yet another is aging flesh and skin, and brittle bones (5) Lamentations 3:4 "My flesh and my skin hath he made old; he hath broken my bones."

Good Health - The Bible also says some deliberate things about the strength of some aged people and gives some hints concerning this exception. For instance in Genesis 43:27-28 we read " And he asked them...Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? [28] And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health...," and Genesis 47:9 "And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years..." Then we read in Joshua 14:10-11 about Caleb "...and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old. [11] As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in." Yet neither David nor Peter had this retainment of strength. David's testimony: 2 Samuel 21:15, 17 "...David went down, and fought against the Philistines: and David waxed faint. [17] ...Then the men of David sware unto him, saying, Thou shalt go no more out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel," and Jesus testimony to Peter: (John 21:19) "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not." It is said that this is persecution, to which I would agree. However, it still shows that when he is old he will not have the force to fight it.

Renewed Youth - But the Lord speaks of renewed youth in Psalm 103:5 "Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's." And in Isaiah 40: 28-31 we read "Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?... [29] He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. [30] Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: [31] But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." As the youth wearies but renews quickly with minimum rest, so may God give such to some aged people as He did to Calab (Joshua 14:10-11) "...and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old. [11] As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come ." And to Jacob (Genesis 43:27-28; 47:9) "And he asked them...Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? [28] And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health...," "And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years..." In Deuteronomy 34:7 we are told "And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated."

Finishing One's Course - Truly too, the Lord wills that His servants fulfill the course He has given them to do. 2 Timothy 4:7 tells us this, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course..." Then notice Isaiah 65:20 "There shall be no more thence...an old man that hath not filled his days..." Could this just mean grow old, yes it could but it does seem to beg a question of meaning. If just growing old why tell us? That we already know. But to have a purpose to fill full before we die is important.

Mental Aging:

We are told in Joel 12:20, and repeated in Acts 2:17 that the old shall dream dreams. "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh...and your old men shall dream dreams..." Could these be spiritual dreams? Are these dreams of hope, of salvation, security? Is this because they begin to see light ahead for which they've been looking?

A Clear Mind - Job 12: 20 "He...taketh away the understanding of the aged." We are also told that aged women are known for starting fables and teaching them as doctrine. "But refuse profane and old wives' fables" 1 Timothy 4:7.

Even though one may become crippled in old age to retain a clear mind is a gift of God. Look what we are told of Moses, "And he said unto them, I am an hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in..." (Deuteronomy 31:2) However, Moses had his natural "force." "And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated." (Deuteronomy 34:7) Could this have been his ability to lead, to command, to think, to counsel, etc.?

Some aged folks apparently need to strongly consider this for they are admonished in Titus 2:2-3 "That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. [3] The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things."

Mental Demands - Leadership must be able to make tough decisions or their lack of leading will most certainly hurt others. Besides, why sit in the office of leader if one cannot lead, or will not lead? We read of just such a situation in 1 Kings 1:20 "And thou, my lord, O king, the eyes of all Israel are upon thee, that thou shouldest tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. [21] Otherwise it shall come to pass, when my lord the king shall sleep with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon shall be counted offenders." Making decisions are a must of those in command and, even an aged leader must still be able to function or ruin will come to what and who they oversee. Caleb, who at 85 years was asking for "that mountain" from Moses, said "I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in." (Joshua 14:10) Fighting demands strength, and God's people are in a war of wars, the battle for souls with the god of this world and his armies.

Care For The Aged:

Old Folks Home - Naomi was told that she would need a nourisher in her old age, "And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age..." Ruth 4:15. Also, "...the king was very old; and Abishag the Shunammite ministered unto the king." 1 Kings 1:15. I believe the Bible teaches that God's choice for the "old folks home" is to be the home of their children.

Old Folks Care - Aged folks need care as they grow older. We are told in John 21:19 "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, ... when thou shalt be old...another shall gird thee, and carry thee...," and in Zechariah 8:4 that seeing "...old men and old women...with his staff in his hand for very age," is to be expected of some aged folks. They will need help walking, keeping warm, "Now king David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he gat no heat." First Kings 1:1, and "...An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle." 1 Samuel 28:14, and help seeing "...when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see..." Genesis 27:1, eating and drinking, "and a nourisher of thine old age..." Ruth 4:15, caring for their skin, etc. And in addition, some will have poor health "...in the time of his old age he was diseased in his feet" 1 Kings 15:23, be heavy "...he was an old man, and heavy" 1 Samuel 4:18, and not retain their natural force of knowing good from evil.

This study has been a Biblical look at the Creator's "doctrine of aging." Remember, those who brought us into this world, who we should love dearly, will either grow old or will die in their youth. If they grow old, unless God chooses to allow their natural force to remain, they too will age as we have studied. We should love them even unto death!

The Door-Step Evangel is published in the interests of Evangelism and information as a Church paper, sincerely devoted to the cause of Jesus Christ. We are in favor of everything that is right and opposed to everything that is wrong.

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