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Really Good Fruit

“Even now, they prosper in their gray hair;

They are plump and juicy.”

(Psalm 92:15 {verse 14 in English translations})

While I can’t say that I know anyone who would like to be described as “plump and juicy,” we must remember that the analogy of the tree bearing good fruit is still before us. Thus the “plump and juicy” is a reference to those who are mature in their faith bearing the fruit of faith that is rich and desirable — pleasing to those in their midst. Such fruit, the psalmist reminds us, belongs to the grey hairs in our midst, who have made their lifestyle one marked by walking in faith and obedience.

How radically different the Biblical perception of age is from the current western perception of age. Now in my mid-forties, I am still a comparatively young man (though it definitely depends on who you talk to). Even so, I (and those of my age) often look back and focus on all the things that I am no longer able to do, that I used to be able to do when I was in my twenties. Back when I was a younger man, I was stronger and had better endurance than I do today. In fact, while I was never in the running to win “Athlete of the Year” or anything remotely like that, I was in probably the best shape of my life and I was able to do things then that, when I try to do them now, leave me sore and regretting the action for days. Yet, these are all physical things.

The Bible presents a different picture. The physical is not bad…indeed it has some value (1 Timothy 4:8)…but the spiritual is more profitable for us. Thus, instead of looking back at what we used to be able to do physically, the Bible presents us as looking forward to the spiritual maturity that we will one day have if we remain faithful in our walk of faith. And the gray hairs do not signify wasting away, but instead they signify growth and maturity…dare I say…they are something to be celebrated, not detested. This is the reward for a life of faithfulness. And this is how one grows good fruit…really good fruit.

He died with Good Grey Hair

“These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived: one-hundred and seventy-five years. Abraham perished and died with good grey hair, an old man and fulfilled. And he was gathered to his people.”

(Genesis 25:8)

 

These are the final words recorded in the narrative of the life of Abraham. What follows relates his burial and the transition in God’s covenant story from Abraham’s life to that of Isaac. Even so, here we have the scriptural epitaph for this man of God. His days were full and long, he died with a full head of grey hair (a sign of maturity), and he was gathered to his people — his spirit joined the spirits of all those other believers who had passed on ahead of him in the presence of their almighty God. Though it is brief (as are all epitaphs), as far as epitaphs go, this is just about as good as it gets.

There is something that we have lost in our modern pursuit of youth, and that is the respect and honor due to those elders in our midst. Too often we see them as slow, not up to date, and a burden, when we ought to see them as a great treasure and repository of wisdom. Those grey hairs were earned and thus things to be held in honor, not hidden under layers of dye or relegated to being “old fashioned.” That grey head of Abraham signifies more than his old age — it signifies the wisdom that those many years brought to his life. His death marked not only the passing on of the covenant responsibility from himself to his son, but the passing away of wisdom and experience from this world — something that must be mourned.

Notice that the passing away of one with great wisdom is a community affair — all recognize their corporate loss as well as the family’s immediate loss. Again, in a culture that glamorizes the vibrancy of youth, often the wisdom of maturity is neglected. Yet, as the word of God brings a close to Abraham’s life, it does so with great dignity and grace and from that we can learn as we honor the passing of those in our own midst.