Genesis 47:31b …and Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
Confession: sometimes my body hurts for no reason whatsoever. I’m 39 years old – not sure how that crept up on me. My kids think I’m old. I think I’m young, and by most accounts I am. But some days I wake up and regardless of what my mind thinks, my body is pretty sure it is old. My shoulder hurts, my knee hurts, my back hurts. As my father-in-law says, “parts hurt.” My wife inquires as to what I did to strain these aching parts. “I slept” is my only logical explanation. Pretty pathetic, don’t you think?
I’ve got nothing on Israel, however. The guy was 147 years old when he died. His eyesight probably wasn’t all that good and most definitely, “parts hurt.” And as I read Genesis 47, there’s something remarkable that takes place with this 147 year old man. It’s a simple thing, so simple you might even miss it. But it’s also profound, so you can’t pass it up. It comes on the heels of a conversation with his son, Joseph. His heart is full like his life was. So he stood there leaning against his staff. Held up by a stick, he worshiped. There’s no lying around, no moping, no whining, no mention of aching body parts. Just an old man held up by a staff… worshiping.
Do we worship when our bodies are sore and our flesh is weak? Do we lay down, check out, and give up? Or do we stand in the strength that we have, hold ourselves up by a stick if necessary, and worship? There’s a story in Judges about a guy named Gideon. He was weak and afraid. But the angel of the Lord told him, “go in the strength that you have.” I can just see Israel on this day worshiping in the strength that he had. So like Israel, we have a choice to make. Will we worship in the strength that we have? Will we grab a stick if we need to and hold ourselves up, just so we can declare the greatness of God? I hope so. For that’s the kind of person I want to be.
*What inspires you about a 147 year old man worshiping?
Genesis 12:1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”
Some people are more adventurous than others. I think of those that love to get on their motorcycle, hit the open road, and take it wherever it leads them. I’m not one of those people. I like GPS. I like to know where I am going. In fact, when I have an upcoming road trip to an unfamiliar place, I like to get on google maps and take a look at the street view of where I am going. That way I will be familiar with my surroundings once I get there. That may seem over the top to you, but I don’t enjoy getting lost.
So what if God were to say to me, “go to the place I will show you?” Not the place I HAVE shown you. No, the place I WILL show you. That makes me a bit uneasy. It leaves me searching for my GPS. But I don’t know the coordinates to plug in. What’s the ending address, God? “I will show you,” He says.
It seems to me that God’s instructions to Abram were lacking destination. Maybe it was because the emphasis wasn’t the arrival but rather the leaving. Maybe it was more about the drive than pulling into the driveway.
God asks us all to leave our starting place. He asks us to leave the places of sin that remain within us. He asks us to walk away from the world as we know it and enter the journey toward the heavenly destination He has for us. I find the biggest challenge to be leaving when I don’t know the exact destination. And that is what faith is for. Faith challenges me to trust when I don’t know what turns lie ahead. Faith urges me to get in the car and leave. Will I leave those old places today? Will I set out on the open road and engage in the journey God has for me?
*Abraham was called a man of faith. Like Abraham, will you have the faith to leave old places without knowing your destination address?
Zechariah 8:4-5 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.”
I’ve attended church all my life. One thing is apparent: people generally want to learn and grow. They want to go out and change the world, making a real difference. However, there seems to be this attitude that there are a couple generations in the way. Who are they? The old people and the young people.
The old people are tolerated, hugged, and sometimes even taken care of. But there generally aren’t included. They aren’t invested in. They aren’t challenged to go out and be world changers. Why is that? Are they no longer usable by God? Has their time for kingdom advancing expired? It seems that sometimes they are treated in this way.
What about the kids? We think: “I could learn if I wasn’t trying to take care of them.” “I could do more ministry things if it weren’t for the kids. They are a burden.” These are all attitudes that we can take toward our young people. I pastor a church that has a lot of kids. And by that, I mean that about a third of our regular attendance is kids. This requires a large percentage of our adults to assist in our kids program. It’s not a childcare program, however. It’s an investment into the generation that God is calling up to serve Him. But for many, it can seem like a chore. It can seem like something getting in the way of their growing.
In Zechariah, God is describing what He wants to do to restore Jerusalem. One of His desires is this – in the streets of the city of God there will be both old people and young people. In other words, every generation. There is no one excluded! He wants to use those who are old to invest in those who are young. He wants to use those who are young to bless those who are old. So the next time you are at church and see that elderly woman or that 1st grader, make an investment. See them as God sees them: valuable to Him and useful for His kingdom. Let’s not hide our old and young. Instead, release them to the streets!
*Is there an old person or young person that God wants you to reach out to?
Joshua 13:1 When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the LORD said to him, “You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.
Here in Joshua 13, the dude was getting old. Very old – at least that is what God says to him. Let’s just say this, if the guy who is eternity years old says that you are old, you probably are. So what happens when you get old? Does God look for someone else to do the job? Does He look for someone a little more fit? Maybe it was time for Joshua to go into the nursing home. Possibly he should just retire and let someone more capable do the work.
Unfortunately, this type of cultural mentality leaks its way into the church today. We have people among us who have walked with God the longest. They have wisdom and maturity that we can only dream of. They have walked through great battles and have much to teach us. So we tell them to start a seniors group and go play pinochle or bridge or something. Just because they retired from their occupation in life, doesn’t mean they should retire from the body of Christ. One should never retire from his/her calling. We should be available to be used by God everyday that we draw breath here on this earth.
Such is the case with Joshua. God says to him, “wow, you are getting really old Josh.” But it doesn’t end there; God has work for him to do. He still has an assignment. The grey haired guy has still got it. So the Lord essentially says, “let’s do this old man.” Someday when I get very old, I want to hear God say the same thing to me. I don’t want to sit around waiting for my life to be over. When I’m an old man, I still want to be used by God. When I’m an old man, I want to still give every bit of my life to my Lord and Savior.