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  • Pastor Joel Cooper

The Wisdom of the Aged

There is a saying that I remember as a youth which simply stated in the local dialect, “Too soon olt and too late shmart”. Of course, as a young kid this meant absolutely nothing to me. Getting older for me was the entrance to the promised land of true freedom to do whatever I wanted, so bring on the years! Yet the present irony reveals that by the testimony of most others my age, we are now looking for that hidden secret that might just slow down the passage of time so that we might employ and enjoy that wisdom we have earned. But alas, are we “too soon olt and too late shmart?”

There is in wisdom the fact that it cannot always be hurried, where just getting older slows our randomly piqued interests and at the same time sobers us, making our insight as good as hindsight. It is with age that we come to realize that those beckoning aspirations in life get in the way of the essentials, like the enduring value of relationships, discovering and pondering the beauty of nature, reading good books, and especially investing time to know God through His Word just to name a few.

I find getting older and hopefully wiser brings about these sobering essentials that have been ignored all along the way. I’m not pressing the guilt button here, especially when you consider that the Scriptures attribute wisdom to those with the “white hair”, which incidentally is a crown of glory! Or, as one of my favorite commentators, Job, puts it; “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.” Job 12:12 That is a universal truth and as such it applies broadly across the spectrum of all people, yet it is especially true of the believer whose trust in God has been built over the years.

Even so, it’s just inevitable that when your body begins to rust out, the ole engine begins to burn oil and your whole frame begins to shimmy and shake going down the road of life that such restrictions slow you down and allow for more thoughtful reminiscing and honest contemplation. Such evaluations of life’s accrued decisions both good and bad are now tallied up providing valuable insight to evaluate and to apply. The energy of our youth which drove us roughshod over the terrain of life, now begins to recede to a pace that is slow and steady. We now can see more clearly what we often missed in the blur as we flailed though life at high speed often chasing the wind as Solomon described it. Ecc 1:14

On the plus side, the aged, while often burdened with various physical trials, now have the opportunity to perceive with a quiet spirit the work and wonder of God in creation, the complexity of people being made in His image, the amazing depths of God’s wisdom and Word which embraces the mysteries of humankind. They have the ability to see God’s fingerprints in the smallest things of life so detailed and intricately constructed.

It is to hear sounds yet in stillness that seem to magnify the voice of God whispering to us the glory of God.

It is especially through blessed defeat which finds us surrendering what we can no longer hold on to or hide that we can accept with gracious resignation the limitations of our sinful humanity. Moses in Psalm 90 seems to echo this wisdom when after writing, “we finish our years with a sigh”, and while reminding us to present to God a heart of wisdom, He then asks that God satisfy us with His lovingkindness.

This I find most precious, that with the loss of strength, the desire to put an end to struggle, and admitting helplessness over reigning sin that one can discover the abundant grace and love of God through the Lord Jesus Christ. I think that this was in the mind of the prophet, Isaiah, when he wrote concerning Israel’s opportunity to find God’s blessings that “in returning and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15

Having said all this I must also add that yes, it is plausible to have lived to the end of life and become a complete fool. The stubborn refusals to gain wisdom from God by responding to His revealed truth will only serve to leave one’s life bitter as Solomon would point out. Yet for anyone, who would respond to God’s redeeming gospel through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, the God of all ages and wisdom offers salvation and redemption and a life that can turn from bitter regret to the sweetness of eternal life. It’s not too late to be smart!

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