“Do not cast me off in the time of old age. Do not forsake me when my strength fails.” (Psalm 71:9)
I have heard people say that the word ‘old’ is degrading – an insult! But is it? “Old” is a beautiful word in Scripture, conveying dignity, maturity, and purpose. The question is: What meaning do we give old age? The Word of God teaches us that old age is a blessing from God, and that longevity will characterize the kingdom of the Messiah (Exodus 20:12 ; Isaiah 65:18). But unfortunately, for many old people nowadays, their reality is the opposite experience. Why is that?
Johnny Khory, manager of the only Messianic care home for the elderly in Israel, shares his thoughts…
First of all, an elderly person naturally experiences many different kinds of loss – social, economical and physical. The increase of life expectancy even magnifies this reality. King Solomon referred in a figurative manner to the changes a man experiences in old age (Ecclesiastics 12:1-7), and called those years, “…the evil days …the years about which you will say, I have no delight in them.” From the carnal point of view, thinking about old age can be depressing!
By contrast, Paul brings the spiritual approach, which should encourage us: “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16) The renewal of the inner man has to do with the spiritual condition of a person.
The other thing the Scriptures teach us is that God commands an attitude of honor and care for the elderly: “You shall rise up before the gray headed and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:32) Here the reference in the Hebrew text is to both old age (seiva) as a phenomenon, and to the elderly – as people. The second part of the verse reminds us that honor and care for the elderly will be motivated by our conscience before God; to Him we shall be accountable. In a similar spirit the apostle Paul reminds Timothy (“the young elder”): “Rebuke not an elder, but exhort him as a father… the elder women as mothers…” (1Timothy 5:1-2)
In Exodus 20:12, the commandment is: “Honor your father and your mother…”, and to honor one’s parents isn’t just a matter of treating them right, but also actually taking care of their needs – such as feeding them! The immediate responsibility of providing for the needs of the elderly lies upon the biological family, as a part of the proper worship of God.
“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8) “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)
In the event of a family being unable to provide the needed support, the responsibility for the elderly falls on the congregation, who should impartially provide for their needs (Acts 6:1).
The care and honor of the elderly amongst us are a living testimony of a true work of love. And indeed, James, Peter, John, Barnabas and Paul were all committed as apostles to caring for the needy among the Jews and the Gentiles (Galatians 2:9-10).
But beyond the physical aspect, the elderly amongst us have mental and spiritual needs that we mustn’t forget or neglect. We must visit the elderly, read Scriptures to them, pray with them, sing to them, etc. Likewise, it is very important to listen to them. The old might feel that their bodies are “withering “, but when they are listened to – they blossom!
“The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, he will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God; they will still yield fruit in old age, they shall be full of sap and very green; to declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” (Psalms 92:13-16)
The elderly are a testimony to the grace and faithfulness of God from generation to generation, and they are eagerly waiting for an opportunity to share with others what the Lord has done in their lives. No technological advances can ever become a substitute for what can be learned from the life experience and wisdom the elderly have accumulated.
So what meaning do we give old age? What is our “last days” vision? The elderly’s self-worth does not depend on what we say about them, but on what we do for them.
The Lord clearly called me to serve in this field, and I started working part-time in the “Ebenezer Old Age Home” in Haifa, in the summer of 1998, while being academically trained in Nursing Home Management. In 2003 I was made the first Israeli manager of “Ebenezer”. The purpose of the Home is to give not only the proper care to the elderly, but also to provide a spiritual home for the older brothers and sisters, and in that way to serve them, their families and their congregations. That said, the Nursing Home is not meant to take the place of the family and the members of the congregation.
Johnny Khory is the Manager of “Beit Ebenezer”, an Israeli home for senior citizens who love Yeshua. The are from all kinds of backgrounds, Jewish, Arab, and others who came to Israel to serve from all over the world, and enjoy fellowship together in this special place.