Rev. Miersma is pastor of the Loveland Protestant Reformed Church in Loveland, Colorado. *This meditation is a transcript of the speech given by Rev. Miersma at the Seniors’ Retreat in Estes Park, CO on October 5, 2009.
And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.
Winter! Once more a natural, physical, and earthly picture pointing to the spiritual aspect of our life. The Lord Jesus Christ often taught this way, for He stated that all things happen in parables. Therefore, we can look at creation and read that most elegant book and see spiritual truths.
We have looked at three seasons of our life so far, and now come to the fourth and final season. Traditionally winter portrays death. The ground is frozen and no longer yields her fruit. All plants are either dead or lying dormant, waiting for the spring sunshine and rains. Yet, winter can be one of the most beautiful seasons of the year. One is filled with awe at the snow-covered mountains glistening in the sun. One marvels as he looks at the snow flakes, each one different from the other. There is something very cozy about a stormy day when activity virtually comes to a standstill, and one can stay in the house by the fire and curl up with a good book, or pop some popcorn, drink some hot chocolate, and play some games with others. A time also when one gets out the photo albums and reminisces about the past.
Solomon, under the inspiration of the Spirit, wrote about this season of our life in Ecclesiastes 12. In verse 3 he speaks of “the keepers of the house [that] shall tremble,” referring to the arms. Also that “the strong men shall bow themselves,” meaning the legs. Then that “the grinders cease because they are few,” no doubt referring to the teeth as they begin to fall out. And “those that look out of the windows be darkened,” pointing to the eyes that grow dim.
He continues the picture in verse 4. “The doors shall be shut in the streets,” indicating the ears or lips or both. Then “the sound of the grinding is low,” making reference to the chewing. We might also add “slow.” One “shall rise up at the voice of a bird.” The aged are usually very light sleepers and are awakened by the slightest sound. And “the daughters of music shall be brought low,” referring to the vocal cords.
In the next verse (5), he tells us that one “shall be afraid of that which is high.” We know how the elderly are afraid of heights. “Fears shall be in the way.” The elderly tend to shuffle along, fearful of anything in their path. “The almond tree shall flourish,” pointing to the almond tree as it blossoms forth in a blaze of white blossoms portraying the hoar head of the aged. The weak and aching back is pictured in “the grasshopper [being] a burden.” One who is elderly makes repeated reference to his aching back, no matter how light the burden. And finally “the desire shall fail.” In the sobriety of old age the sexual desire fails, but also many other desires. One no longer has the desire to go out, especially at night. One is very content to stay at home in the comfortable confines of one’s recliner with a good book.
Very comforting are the words of Isaiah as quoted above, “And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.”
What we see here is the manifestation of the unchangeable God. That He is unchangeable in Himself Scripture makes abundantly clear in such passages as Malachi 3:6, where we read, “For I am the Lord (Jehovah), I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” We read something similar in James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
Nature adds to this testimony. In harmony with the theme of the retreat, “The Seasons of our Life,” we see in nature the constant change from spring to winter, which in turn gives way to spring again to start the cycle anew. This has been happening for thousands of years. This was created by God in the beginning. In Genesis 1:14 we read, “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for seasons, and for days and years.” So it has always been. The sun still shines, rising in the east in the morning, and setting in the west in the evening, every day since the beginning. And it will continue that way until Christ comes. In harmony with that, the oceans’ tides rise and fall twice a day and the moon waxes and wanes. Not only does God remain unchanged, but the Scriptures also remain unchanged. The Bible that instructed us as children and that we carried to Sunday School is the same Bible that we hold in our hands today and that we read as we sit in our beds in our old age. The promises of God revealed to us in these Scriptures, which cheered us in our youth and when we made confession of faith, continue to cheer us now when our eyes become dim with age.
This unchangeableness of God is also reflected in our worship. When we were young and were carried into God’s house in the arms of our parents, we heard the psalms sung, the prayers offered to God, and the Word preached. Today we sing the same Psalms, pray the same prayers, and hear the same Word preached. All this is the same because our God is unchangeable.
Our God is unchangeable not only in His nature, but also in His dealings with us. As we saw in Isaiah 46, He will carry us the same, deliver us the same, and bear us the same as He used to. God’s care for us is not limited to a certain age, but is limited to His people, no matter what their age. The mercies shown to God’s people in David’s time are unchanged today as He deals with us. No doubt this is your experience and your confidence. What was true in your youth is still true today. That will be your testimony to the youth of today—to your children and grandchildren, who look up to you with respect.
The winter season of our life is a time of special memories. There are the joyous and happy memories. All the harvests that have been brought in. There were the shoutings of the children as they rejoiced about you. We do not forget all the many worship services that we attended, the sermons heard, and the Psalms sung. Many were the deliverances that made you laugh for joy. When you look back you can string God’s mercies together by the thousand. With David we can say, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”
However, there are also many griefs that are remembered. We remember the bed of affliction, upon which were spent many hours of travail and pain. Many times one has gone to the side of the grave. There a husband has laid his wife, or the wife her husband. Or it may have been a child taken at a very young age. It may have been a youth in the very strength of his years. It may also have been many old friends that you have had in your home many times. In all this the conclusion is “even to old age God hath been the same, and even to hoary hairs He hath carried him.”
We also look back and see all the sins that we have committed. We moan, “Oh, how have I sinned, in youth, in middle age, and even now when infirmities have gathered around me. How often have I forsaken God! How frequently have I wandered from Him. How often have I provoked Him. How constantly have I violated all I knew to be good and excellent. I can only wonder how it is that Christ could have preserved me so long. Truly, I can say, ‘Even to old age He is the same, and even to hoary hairs He hath carried me.'”
Along with these memories, pleasant and unpleasant, the child of God in his old age has peculiar hopes. Your hope today is the same as when you first made confession of your faith, a hope “undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (I Pet. 1:4). The ground of this hope is nothing less than the blood of Christ. It certainly is not based on your long service, no matter how old you are, nor on your devotedness to God’s cause. Christ is the only basis also today at your present age. The reason for your hope is that God has given you the grace to believe. And the object of your hope is that final resting place in heaven in perfect fellowship and communion with our covenant God.
Another peculiarity of the aged is that of anxieties. The aged one is not so anxious about self anymore. He does not have the cares of starting in business, as he once had. Nor does he have to launch out children in business. His family is no longer at home to care for. But he casts his anxious eyes on his bodily frame. He cannot run as he used to. The noise of the grinders is low. His body begins to totter, to shake, and to quiver. He realizes that the earthly house of this tabernacle is about to be dissolved. Even your pained and worn-out body is proof of God’s everlasting love for you, for He is taking down your old tenement, stick by stick, and will build it up again in brighter worlds, never to be taken down anymore.
In addition to being anxious about the body, the aged is anxious for the mind. He forgets what took place a short time ago, but can remember clearly events that took place fifty or more years ago. But even though one forgets much of which he wishes to remember, he still finds that God is the same. One finds that God’s goodness does not depend on his memory. And that the sweetness of God’s grace does not depend upon his palate. Even when his mind fails a little, God carries him down to his hoar head, his old age. To the aged, He is ever the same.
But the greatest anxiety is death. Young men may die, but old men must die. Even the Christian knows that he is not a long way from death, and there is a certain anxiety about that. In a few more years, or less, he must stand before his God. He does not wait as a man who thinks the coach is a long way off, but as one who hears the horn just down the street. But he has the sweet satisfaction to know that the nearer death is, the nearer heaven is, because God’s faithfulness is the same.
Finally, old age is a time of special duties. He has the duty of testimony. If you hear an older person talk, you pay more attention to what he or she says. Old men and old women should labor whenever they can to bear testimony to God’s faithfulness, and to declare that now also, when they are old and grey-headed, their God forsakes them not. We read God’s Word inTitus 2:3: “The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” One can also give testimony through one’s memoirs.
Another duty is that of comforting. When the young come to the old, the old say, “Do not fear; I have gone through the waters, and they have not flowed over me; and through the fire, and have not been burned. Trust in God; ‘for down to old age He is the same, and to hoar hairs He will carry you.'” How often have not your grandchildren come to you with one concern or another, and you were able to console them as none other can.
A further duty is that of warning. If an old man were to go out in the middle of the road, and shout out to you to stop, you would stop sooner than you would if a boy were to do it; for then you might say, “out of the way, you young rascal,” and go on still. The warnings of the old have great effect; and it is their peculiar work to guide the imprudent, and warn the unwary.
Therefore, dear readers, you who are now experiencing the winter of your life, do not let the young people catch you indulging in melancholy, sitting in your corner, grumbling and growling, but go about cheerful and happy, and they will think how blessed it is to be a Christian. If you are surly and fretful, they will think that the Lord has forsaken you; but keep a smiling countenance, and they will think the promise is fulfilled, “And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you; I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.”
Try to be of a happy temperament and cheerful spirit, for a child will run away from a surly old man; but there is not a child in the world who does not love his grandpa if he is cheerful and happy. Make yourself merry with the people of God, and try to live happily before men; for so will you prove to us that even to old age God is with you, and that when your strength fails, He is still your preservation. May God bless you, for the Savior’s sake.