January 30, 2015

Growing old – in faith

My dad used to say that age was relative, that a two-year-old could be a horse, a man, or an egg! I’m inclined to think age is also relative to the way I feel, as in aches and pains, or fatigue, or that sense of time running out, or how many times I cannot remember the name of a person I’ve known for years OR the delight of no sore spots, feeling like I have all the time I need, and winning a game of Scrabble with more than three hundred points!

In the Old Testament, the patriarchs blessed their families before they died. Jacob was nearing that time. His son Joseph brought his two sons to receive their blessing. The right hand signified the greater blessings . . .

“And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn) . . . When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him, and he took his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said to his father, “Not this way, my father; since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.” But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.” (Genesis 48:14, 17–19)

I marvel at this aged man. He had learned to listen to God, and near the end of his life, he was still listening and willing to step outside tradition. He blessed his grandsons as the Lord indicated, not listening to custom or to Joseph. I hope I can have that kind of faithfulness the rest of my life.

The second passage in today’s reading also speaks of aging. It uses figurative language to describe deterioration as one grows old; the teeth/grinders cease because they are few and so on . . .

"Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets— before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity." (Ecclesiastes 12:1–8)

It seems like Solomon was having a bad day when he wrote Ecclesiastes. He sees mostly the negatives about life and the aging process is part of that. Perhaps he does not want to grow old, or lose his faculties. Most of us don’t. Yet much of his other writing in Proverbs, and even parts of this book, are positive. He can speak that way because of faith.

I know about that up/down, back/forth aspect of life. When I am operating apart from the Spirit of God, I am negative also. I don’t want any aches and pains and cannot see any good in growing old. But with faith, things look different!

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen . . . And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." (Hebrews 11:1, 6)

Faith is the ability to see beyond what my eyes can see. I cannot see God, but by faith I know He is not only real, but He is taking care of me. I cannot see eternity or even imagine what it will be like, but by faith I am certain that I will spend it with God because that is His promise to all who believe in Jesus Christ.

Jacob (Isaac) would not see his grandchildren grow up, but he knew by faith that God would take care of them. He also knew by faith what their lives would bring, so “By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau.” (Hebrews 11:20)

Most of Hebrews 11 is known as the Hall of Faith where God’s people are commended for trusting Him. Not every name is here, but many are, along with their circumstances where faith marked their lives . . .

"And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect." (Hebrews 11:39–40)

Faith is not so much about getting what I believe God will give me, but just believing God will provide, take care of me. I can pray with assurance, perhaps not seeing answers in my lifetime here, but I know that God is faithful and His plan is perfect. He will do whatever He says He will do!

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