Although Scripture clearly differentiates between the body and the spirit of man (“Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” II Cor. 4:16), it also has some interesting things to say about the process of aging and how Bible folks dealt with it.
Abraham is referred to as the Father of the faithful, offering Isaac as a sacrifice because God asked him to, answering God’s call to uproot his family for a new assignment, etc., for a lifetime of one hundred seventy-five years. Do you suppose his faithfulness had anything to do with his life span?
Caleb comes to mind as a remarkable example of how to grow old. When he was eighty-five years old, he stood on Mount Hebron and with eyes flashing asked Joshua to give him a mountain to climb. Enemies were there, and the job was a tough one. But Caleb said, “I am as strong this day as I was when Moses sent me. Now, therefore, give me this mountain…” Joshua 14. His eye was not dimmed nor his strength abated. His hope and faith in God were as strong as ever. A warrior for God all his life, his trust had never faltered until the mission was accomplished. What an example of how to grow old! His secret: he said, “It may be that the Lord will be with me!” Ah, yes, Caleb, and He was—and we can count on the same faithful promise if we are as dedicated to His will as Caleb was, maybe not in length of life but certainly in quality of life.
In the final chapter of Ecclesiastes, Solomon’s short Book of Wisdom, there is a graphic and eloquent metaphorical description of the aging process:
“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them—before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark. (blindness) and the clouds return after the rain, when the keepers of the house tremble (hands and feet), and strong men stoop, when the grinders (teeth) cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades, when men rise up at the sound of birds (sleep limited), and all their songs grow faint (deafness), when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms (white hair), and the grasshopper drags himself along, and desire is no longer stirred. Then man goes to his eternal home (death), and mourners go about the streets (burial).
Remember him before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken, before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground from which it came, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.’ Eccl. 12:1-7
In the New Testament we meet Simeon and Anna, two beautiful examples of how to grow old joyfully. Joseph and Mary had taken the Baby Jesus to the temple for the Levitical rite of presentation. Luke 2:25 says, “There was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the Consolation of Israel (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he went to the temple courts. When Jesus was brought to him, Simeon took Him in his arms and said, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised. Now dismiss your servant in peace for my eyes have seen your salvation…” Joseph and Mary marveled at this, and Simeon blessed them. He had served all his life and now he had been allowed to see King Jesus, the crowning gift, before he died. Talk about dying triumphantly!
Then there was Anna, a prophetess, who lived and served at the Temple and was very old. She had lived with her husband seven years until his death and was now an eighty-four year old widow. She never left the temple, fasting and praying. As she came upon Mary and Joseph with the Baby Jesus, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the Child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Israel. It’s a short little biography, but what a lesson in growing old gloriously!
Lastly, there is the aged and weary Apostle Paul living his last days in a dark, damp Roman prison but triumphant still as he proclaimed to all who would listen, and especially to Timothy and his close associates:
II Tim. 6-8: “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
If we walk with the Lord through life, old age and death are just idle threats.