Elderly Ones—Valuable Members of Our Christian Brotherhood
“Those who are planted in the house of Jehovah . . . will blossom forth. They will still keep on thriving during gray-headedness.”—PSALM 92:13, 14.
1. How do many people view the elderly?
JEHOVAH loves all his faithful servants, including those of advanced years. According to a national estimate, however, every year nearly half a million elderly people in the United States suffer abuse or neglect. Similar reports from around the world indicate that abuse of the elderly is a global problem. At its root is what one organization calls “the pervading attitude among many people . . . that older persons have outlived their usefulness, are unproductive and over-dependent.”
2. (a) How does Jehovah view his faithful elderly servants? (b) What heartwarming description do we find at Psalm 92:12-15?
2 Jehovah God treasures his loyal elderly servants. He focuses on “the man we are inside”—our spiritual condition—rather than on our physical limitations. (2 Corinthians 4:16) In his Word, the Bible, we find the following heartwarming assurance: “The righteous himself will blossom forth as a palm tree does; as a cedar in Lebanon does, he will grow big. Those who are planted in the house of Jehovah, in the courtyards of our God, they will blossom forth. They will still keep on thriving during gray-headedness, fat and fresh they will continue to be, to tell that Jehovah is upright.” (Psalm 92:12-15) A consideration of these verses will reveal aspects of the valuable contribution you older ones can make to the Christian brotherhood.
“Thriving During Gray-Headedness”
3. (a) Why are righteous ones likened to palm trees? (b) How can older ones ‘thrive during gray-headedness’?
3 The psalmist likens the righteous to palm trees ‘planted in the courtyards of our God.’ They “keep on thriving during gray-headedness.” Another version reads: “In old age they still produce fruit.” (Tanakh) Do you not agree that this is an encouraging thought? Graceful, upright palm trees were a common sight in Oriental courtyards in Bible times. In addition to their decorative value, palms were prized for their abundant fruit, with some trees continuing productive for over a hundred years. * By remaining firmly planted in true worship, you can similarly “go on bearing fruit in every good work.”—Colossians 1:10.
4, 5. (a) What important fruitage do Christians need to produce? (b) Give Scriptural examples of older ones who produced “the fruit of lips.”
4 Jehovah expects Christians to produce “the fruit of lips”—words spoken in praise of him and his purposes. (Hebrews 13:15) Does this apply to you as an older person? It certainly does.
5 The Bible contains examples of older ones who fearlessly bore witness to Jehovah’s name and purposes. Moses had already exceeded his “seventy years” when Jehovah commissioned him as his prophet and representative. (Psalm 90:10; Exodus 4:10-17) Advanced age did not prevent the prophet Daniel from giving a fearless witness regarding Jehovah’s sovereignty. Daniel was probably in his 90’s when Belshazzar summoned him to interpret the mysterious handwriting on the wall. (Daniel, chapter 5) And what about the aged apostle John? Toward the end of his long career, he found himself imprisoned on the isle of Patmos “for speaking about God and bearing witness to Jesus.” (Revelation 1:9) Very likely you can remember many other Bible characters who produced “the fruit of lips” in their later years.—1 Samuel 8:1, 10; 12:2; 1 Kings 14:4, 5; Luke 1:7, 67-79; 2:22-32.
6. How has Jehovah used “old men” to prophesy in these last days?
6 Quoting the Hebrew prophet Joel, the apostle Peter declared: “‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I shall pour out some of my spirit upon every sort of flesh [including “old men”], . . . and they will prophesy.’” (Acts 2:17, 18; Joel 2:28) Accordingly, in these last days, Jehovah has used elderly members of the anointed class and of the “other sheep” to declare his purposes. (John 10:16) Some of these have faithfully been producing Kingdom fruitage for decades.
7. Illustrate how older ones continue producing Kingdom fruitage despite physical limitations.
7 Consider Sonia, who became a full-time Kingdom publisher in 1941. Despite a long struggle with chronic illness, she regularly conducted Bible studies in her home. “Preaching the good news is part of my life,” explained Sonia. “Actually, it is my life. I refuse to retire.” Not long ago, Sonia and her sister, Olive, shared the Bible’s message of hope with Janet, a terminally ill patient whom they met in a hospital waiting room. Janet’s mother, a devout Catholic, was so impressed by this loving interest shown to her daughter that she accepted the offer of a home Bible study and is now making excellent progress. Could you seize similar opportunities to produce Kingdom fruitage?
8. How did aging Caleb demonstrate his trust in Jehovah, and how can elderly Christians imitate his example?
8 By courageously pressing on in the Kingdom-preaching work despite the limitations of advancing years, older Christians are following in the footsteps of the faithful Israelite Caleb, who accompanied Moses in the wilderness for four decades. Caleb was 79 years old when he crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land. After fighting in the ranks of Israel’s victorious army for six years, he could have rested on his laurels. But no, he courageously requested the challenging assignment of capturing the “great fortified cities” in the mountainous region of Judah, an area inhabited by the Anakim, men of unusual size. With Jehovah’s help, Caleb did “dispossess them, just as Jehovah promised.” (Joshua 14:9-14; 15:13, 14) Be assured that Jehovah is with you, as he was with Caleb, as you continue producing Kingdom fruitage in old age. And if you remain faithful, he will grant you a place in his promised new world.—Isaiah 40:29-31; 2 Peter 3:13.
“Fat and Fresh They Will Continue to Be”
9, 10. How do older Christians remain healthy in faith and retain their spiritual vigor? (See box on page 13.)
9 Calling attention to the fruitfulness of elderly servants of Jehovah, the psalmist sang: “The righteous himself will blossom forth as a palm tree does; as a cedar in Lebanon does, he will grow big. They will still keep on thriving during gray-headedness, fat and fresh they will continue to be.”—Psalm 92:12, 14.
10 How can you retain your spiritual vigor despite advancing years? The secret of the palm tree’s perennial beauty lies in an unfailing source of fresh water. Likewise, you can draw sustenance from the waters of Bible truth by your study of God’s Word and by association with his organization. (Psalm 1:1-3; Jeremiah 17:7, 8) Your spiritual vitality makes you a precious asset to fellow believers. Consider how this proved true in the case of elderly High Priest Jehoiada.
11, 12. (a) What vital role did Jehoiada play in the history of the kingdom of Judah? (b) How did Jehoiada use his influence to promote true worship?
11 Jehoiada was probably over a hundred years old when ambitious Queen Athaliah seized control of Judah by murdering her own grandchildren. What could elderly Jehoiada do? For six years he and his wife hid the only surviving royal heir, Jehoash, in the temple. Then, in a dramatic move, Jehoiada proclaimed seven-year-old Jehoash king and had Athaliah executed.—2 Chronicles 22:10-12; 23:1-3, 15, 21.
12 As the king’s guardian, Jehoiada used his influence to promote true worship. He “concluded a covenant between himself and all the people and the king that they would continue as the people of Jehovah.” At Jehoiada’s orders, the people tore down the house of the false god Baal and removed its altars, images, and priest. It was also under Jehoiada’s guidance that Jehoash restored temple services and carried out much-needed temple repair work. “Jehoash continued doing what was right in Jehovah’s eyes all the days of his that Jehoiada the priest instructed him.” (2 Chronicles 23:11, 16-19; 24:11-14; 2 Kings 12:2) When he died at the age of 130, Jehoiada was given the exceptional honor of burial with the kings because “he had done good in Israel and with the true God and His house.”—2 Chronicles 24:15, 16.
13. How can older Christians ‘do good with the true God and his house’?
13 Perhaps poor health or other circumstances limit what you can do to promote true worship. Even if that is so, it is within your power to ‘do good with the true God and his house.’ You can display zeal for Jehovah’s spiritual house by attending and participating in congregation meetings and by sharing in the field ministry whenever possible. Your ready acceptance of the Bible’s counsel and your loyal support for “the faithful and discreet slave” and the congregation will have a strengthening effect on the Christian brotherhood. (Matthew 24:45-47) You can also incite fellow worshipers “to love and fine works.” (Hebrews 10:24, 25; Philemon 8, 9) And you will be a blessing to others if you act in harmony with the apostle Paul’s counsel: “Let the aged men be moderate in habits, serious, sound in mind, healthy [“vigorous,” An American Translation] in faith, in love, in endurance. Likewise let the aged women be reverent in behavior, not slanderous, neither enslaved to a lot of wine, teachers of what is good.”—Titus 2:2-4.
14. What can longtime Christian overseers do to promote true worship?
14 Have you served as a congregation elder for many years? “Use the wisdom that comes with advancing years unselfishly,” is the advice of one longtime congregation elder. “Delegate responsibility, and share your experience with others who have a willing spirit . . . See the potential in others. Develop and nurture it. Build for the future.” (Deuteronomy 3:27, 28) Your genuine interest in the ever-expanding Kingdom work will result in many blessings for others in our Christian brotherhood.
“Tell That Jehovah Is Upright”
15. How do elderly Christians “tell that Jehovah is upright”?
15 Older servants of God joyfully discharge their responsibility “to tell that Jehovah is upright.” If you are an elderly Christian, your words and deeds can show others that ‘Jehovah is your Rock, in whom there is no unrighteousness.’ (Psalm 92:15) The palm tree bears silent witness to its Creator’s superlative qualities. But Jehovah has given you the privilege of testifying about him to those now embracing true worship. (Deuteronomy 32:7; Psalm 71:17, 18; Joel 1:2, 3) Why is this important?
16. What Bible example illustrates the importance of ‘telling that Jehovah is upright’?
16 When the Israelite leader Joshua was “old and advanced in days,” he “proceeded to call all Israel, its older men and its heads and its judges and its officers,” and to remind them of God’s upright dealings. He said: “Not one word out of all the good words that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true for you.” (Joshua 23:1, 2, 14) For a time, these words strengthened the people’s resolve to remain faithful. After Joshua’s death, however, “another generation began to rise . . . that did not know Jehovah or the work that he had done for Israel. And the sons of Israel fell to doing what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah and serving the Baals.”—Judges 2:8-11.
17. How has Jehovah dealt with his people in modern times?
17 The integrity of the present-day Christian congregation does not depend upon the oral testimony of older servants of God. Yet, our faith in Jehovah and his promises is reinforced when we hear firsthand accounts of the “great work” that he has performed for his people in these last days. (Judges 2:7; 2 Peter 1:16-19) If you have been associated with Jehovah’s organization for many years, you may recall the time when there were very few Kingdom proclaimers in your region or country or when the preaching work faced stiff opposition. Over time, you have seen Jehovah remove certain obstacles and ‘speed up’ Kingdom growth. (Isaiah 54:17; 60:22) You have noted the clarification of Bible truths and have witnessed the progressive refinement of the visible part of God’s organization. (Proverbs 4:18; Isaiah 60:17) Do you seek to build others up by sharing with them your experience relating to Jehovah’s upright dealings? What a positive and strengthening effect this can have on the Christian brotherhood!
18. (a) Illustrate the long-term effect of ‘telling others that Jehovah is upright.’ (b) How have you personally experienced Jehovah’s uprightness?
18 What about the occasions when you have experienced Jehovah’s loving care and guidance in your personal life? (Psalm 37:25; Matthew 6:33; 1 Peter 5:7) An elderly sister named Martha used to encourage others by saying: “No matter what happens, never abandon Jehovah. He will sustain you.” This advice had a profound effect on Tolmina, one of Martha’s Bible students who was baptized in the early 1960’s. “When my husband died,” recalls Tolmina, “I felt very discouraged, but those words made me determined not to miss a single meeting. And Jehovah really did strengthen me to continue.” Tolmina has given the same advice to many of her own Bible students over the years. Indeed, by offering encouragement and recounting Jehovah’s upright dealings, you can do much to build up the faith of fellow believers.
Jehovah Treasures Faithful Older Ones
19, 20. (a) How does Jehovah view the activities of his elderly servants? (b) What will be considered in the next article?
19 Today’s world, characterized by a lack of gratitude, has little time for the elderly. (2 Timothy 3:1, 2) When they are remembered, it is often because of their past achievements—what they were, rather than what they are. In contrast, the Bible says: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name, in that you have ministered to the holy ones and continue ministering.” (Hebrews 6:10) Of course, Jehovah God remembers your past record of faithful works. But he also values you for what you continue to do in his service. Yes, he views faithful older ones as fruitful, spiritually healthy, and vigorous Christians—a living testimony to his power.—Philippians 4:13.
20 Do you view the older members of our Christian brotherhood as Jehovah views them? If you do, you will be moved to show your love for them. (1 John 3:18) The next article will consider some practical ways to show such love in caring for their needs.
^ par. 3 Each cluster of dates may have as many as a thousand individual fruits and may weigh 18 pounds [8 kg] or more. One writer estimates that “each fruit-bearing [palm] tree will have yielded two or three tons of dates as tribute to its owners in the course of its lifetime.”
What Are Your Answers?
• How do the elderly “produce fruit”?
• Why is the spiritual vitality of older Christians a valuable asset?
• How can older ones “tell that Jehovah is upright”?
• Why does Jehovah treasure his longtime servants?
[Box on page 13]
How They Have Remained Healthy in Faith
What has helped longtime Christians to remain healthy in faith and to maintain their spiritual vigor? Here is what some have said:
“I have made it a point to be present at every baptism talk and to listen carefully, as if it were my own baptism. Keeping my dedication fresh has been an important step in remaining faithful.”—Harry, baptized in 1946.
“Daily prayer is vital—always asking for Jehovah’s help, protection, and blessing, ‘taking notice of him in all our ways.’” (Proverbs 3:5, 6)—Antônio, baptized in 1951.
“Listening to experiences of those still faithfully serving Jehovah after so many years renews my determination to remain loyal and faithful to him.”—Joan, baptized in 1954.
“It is important not to think too much of oneself. What we have is due to God’s undeserved kindness. Having this perspective keeps us looking in the right direction for the spiritual nourishment needed to endure till the end.”—Arlene, baptized in 1954.
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The elderly produce valuable Kingdom fruitage
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The spiritual vitality of the elderly is a valuable asset