God made a Covenant of Nations with Abraham when he and his wife Sarah were well past their child-bearing years, and Sarah had not yet borne a child: When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations…I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you (Genesis 17:1-7). “…I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son” (Genesis 18:10b).
During the time of the Judges, Boaz took Ruth the Moabite to be his wife and she bore him a son in Bethlehem. At the birth of the child, the women prophesied over the widow Naomi, Ruth’s former mother-in-law: “…’Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.’ Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, ‘A son has been born to Naomi.’ They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David” (Ruth 4:14-17). Obed’s grandson King David and his great-grandson King Solomon ruled over Israel until they each died at a good old age.
In the New Testament, Luke tells the story of Zechariah the high priest and his wife Elizabeth, and the annunciation of the conception of John the Baptist. Although Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous before God, …they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. Now while [Zechariah] was serving as priest before God…he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense…And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord…and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:6-17).
Nowhere in the scriptures does God promise that we will not grow old, but God pledges that he will give us the power to do great things if we will only be obedient to him and trust in his word. We do not have space to record its entirety here, but when you have time, consider visiting the book of Isaiah chapter 40. In it, God heralds the coming of John the Baptist, comforts us with a description of the majesty of the Messiah, and asserts his dominion over the nations. At the end of this mighty passage, Isaiah records a momentous promise:
“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (vv. 28-31).
Three hundred years earlier, King David sang of this promise in Psalm 103:1-5, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.”
Scripture after scripture confirms that old age is no barrier to the workings of God’s plan. On the contrary, God reassures us that the more our heads are crowned with grey, the more he will be present with us to strengthen us. When we explore the passages quoted here and search out what the Bible says about aging, we discover that this supernatural renewal of capacity always occurs alongside a fresh revelation of God’s grace, his goodness, and his sovereignty. For example, we read in Psalm 92 that, “The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him” (vv. 12-15).
The psalm begins by instructing, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night…” (vv. 1-2). The righteous who are firmly planted in the house of the Lord and sing his praises day and night remain fresh and productive, even into old age.
You may say, “But Suzanne! I love the Lord, but my productive years are behind me. My get-up-and-go got up and went a long time ago!” Of course I understand, and that is what makes the promises of God so marvelous! Our strength is not what is required for us to continue to produce fruit. Remember Paul’s experience with the thorn in his side? “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me…For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).
When we are weak, God is strong. Our time of greatest weakness is also our time of greatest usefulness to God. This seems counter-intuitive, but remember we follow the one who was born in a manger, died on a cross, and was despised for hobnobbing with fishermen, tax collectors, and sinners! “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong…” (1 Corinthians 1:27). God does not ask us to operate in our own power, he is asking us to lay our human frailty at the foot of the cross so that he can fill us with his strength!
Paul, who understood weakness so well, wrote “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Remember Beloved Friends, our lives are hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). We are not meant to remain on this earth but to dwell forever in his presence. While we await the call to join him on high, we may offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, yielded to the working of the Holy Spirit, to praise, witness, and pray to bear good fruit in Jesus’ name.
As the Master said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:7-11).
All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation.