1 Samuel 12:2
And now, behold, the king walks before you: and I am old and gray headed; and, behold, my sons are with you…
Old and grey headed. On speaking of himself as "old and grey headed," Samuel immediately afterwards made reference to his childhood. "I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day." He loved to linger (as old men are wont) over his early days; and in his case there was every reason for doing so, for they were surpassingly pure and beautiful. One of the chief lessons of his life is that a well spent childhood and youth conduces greatly to a happy and honoured age. Consider him as an eminent illustration of piety in old age.
I. OLD AGE IS PRESUMPTIVE OF PIETY, inasmuch as -
1. Piety prevents indulgence in vices that tend to shorten life. How many are brought by such vices to a premature grave! When, therefore, we see an old man we naturally infer that he has been a good man, nor can there be any doubt that he has exercised much self-control. Samuel was a Nazarite.
2. It has a direct tendency to prolong life by producing healthful virtues. The fear of the Lord prolongeth days "(Proverbs 10:27).
3. It has the promise of many days. "With long life will I satisfy him" (Psalm 91:16). "Even to old age I am; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you" (Isaiah 46:4). "A good old age" (Genesis 15:15). "Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in his season" (Job 5:26).
4. It is commonly associated with long life. There are, doubtless, exceptions, the causes of which are not far to seek, but this is the rule.
II. OLD AGE IS MADE HONOURABLE BY PIETY, because of -
1. Its maintaining the respect which is naturally felt for the aged. Among the Spartans, when a hoary headed man entered their assemblies, they all immediately rose, and remained standing till he had taken his place; and it is enjoined in the law of Moses: "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man" (Leviticus 19:32). But this injunction assumes the possession of godliness, without which old ago neither deserves nor receives appropriate reverence.
2. The beauty and perfection of character which it develops. There is beauty in the fresh springing corn, but there is still greater beauty in "the full corn in the ear," bending under its golden burden. A good old man, matured in character by long growth, and abounding in "the fruit of the Spirit," is one of the noblest sights on earth. He is a king amongst men. "The hoary head is a crown of glory if it be found in the way of righteousness" (Proverbs 16:31; Proverbs 20:29).
3. The conflicts and perils that have been passed. "An old disciple" (Acts 21:16), or "such an one as Paul the aged" (Philemon 1:9), is like a veteran soldier bearing on him the scars of many a hard fought battle, and wearing the honours conferred by a grateful country. He is like a giant of the forest, standing erect when the storm has laid his companions in the dust.
4. The good that has been done in past time, and lives to bear witness to the doer, and "praise him in the gates." We value the young for the good they may hereafter effect, the old for the good they have already accomplished. "Them that honour me I will honour."
III. OLD AGE IS RENDERED USEFUL BY PIETY, for thereby it -
1. Furnishes a convincing evidence of the truth and power of religion. When faith survives doubts, temptations, difficulties, its very existence is an argument for the reality of that which is believed, a proof of the practicability of a religious life, and a commendation of its unspeakable worth.
2. Sets forth an impressive example of the spirit of religion - humility, trustfulness, calmness, patience, resignation, Cheerfulness (Genesis 48:21; Deuteronomy 33:1; Joshua 14:10, 12; Joshua 23:14; 2 Samuel 19:32).
3. Bears valuable testimony for God, and continues in prayer and labour on behalf of men. "They shall still bring forth fruit in old age," etc. (Psalm 92:14, 15; Psalm 71:14, 17, 18). Although some services are no longer possible, others, often more valuable, may, and ought to, be rendered till the close of life.
4. Affords wise counsel to the younger and less experienced. Wisdom is proverbially associated with age. Those who have seen and heard much of the world, and had long experience of life, may be expected to know more than those who are just starting out in their course. Their judgment is less influenced by passion and impulse; they look at things in a clearer light, and in a calmer frame of mind, and are more likely to perceive the truth concerning them.
"Whose ripe experience doth attain
To somewhat of prophetic strain." Much of the inspired wisdom of the Scriptures is based upon the sanctified experience of the aged. "Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance" (2 Peter 1:15, 12-14; 1 Peter 5:1, 5). "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18). "Little children, love one another."
IV. OLD AGE IS GREATLY COMFORTED BY PIETY. It has its drawbacks and troubles. Bodily infirmities increase, the mental powers lose their vigour, and friends become fewer (Ecclesiastes 12.). It is also liable to moral failings, such as irritability, fretfulness, despondency, and excessive carefulness, which need to be guarded against. "When I consider in my mind, I find four causes why old age is thought miserable: one, that it calls us away from the transactions of affairs; the second, that it renders the body more feeble; the third, that it deprives us of almost all pleasures; the fourth, that it is not very far from death" (Cicero 'on Old Age '). But notwithstanding such things, it has, "with godliness," abundant compensations, consisting of -
1. Pleasant recollections of the past, especially of the Divine benefits that have been received. "Surely I will remember thy wonders of old" (Psalm 77:11).
2. Wide observation of the works and ways of God. "I have been young, and now am old," etc. (Psalm 37:25).
3. Inward support and consolation derived from communion with God. "Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16). "The glory of the old age of the godly consists in this, that while the faculties for the sensible no less than mental enjoyments gradually decline, and the hearth of life gets thus deprived of its fuel, the blessings of godliness not only continue to refresh the soul in old age, but are not until then most thoroughly enjoyed. The sun of piety rises the warmer in proportion as the sun of life declines."
4. Bright prospects of the heavenly home - "a house not made with hands," the vision of God, perpetual youth, reunion with parted friends, perfect and endless blessedness. As the world of light draws near, some of its rays seem to shine through the crevices of the earthly tabernacle that is falling into decay (Genesis 49:18; Luke 2:29, 30). "The state in which I am now is so delightful, that the nearer I approach to death, I seem, as it were, to get sight of land; and at length, after a long voyage, to be getting into the harbour. O glorious day I when I shall depart to that Divine company and assemblage of spirits, and quit this troubled and polluted scene" (Cicero). "If the mere conception of the reunion of good men in a future state infused a momentary rapture into the mind of Tully; if an airy speculation - for there is reason to fear it had little hold on his convictions - could inspire him with such delight, what may we be expected to feel who are assured of such an event by the true sayings of God" (R. Hall). "I have a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better" (Philippians 1:23; 2 Timothy 4:6-8) Observations: -
1. Let us be thankful for the consolations of religion in "the time of old age."
2. Let the aged cherish the dispositions by which it is made beautiful and useful.
3. Let the young honour the aged, and not forsake "the counsel of the old men" (1 Kings 12:8).
4. Let them also remember that they will grow old, and so live that they may then be honoured and happy. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: And now, behold, the king walketh before you: and I am old and grayheaded; and, behold, my sons are with you: and I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day.