By Irvin Himmel
The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness (Prov. 16:31).
One can recognize easily the approach of the golden years by the silver in his hair. Of course, some older people dye their hair to conceal their age. And in some cases the hair turns loose rather than turning gray.
Righteousness and the Hoary Hair
1. A life of devotion to God. The individual who waits until he is nearing the setting of the sun before trying to break bad habits, obey God, and prepare for heaven has wasted valuable years, lost much power of influence, and gambled with his soul. In contrast, the person who turned to God in holy living in earlier years and has pursued godliness – that is the type of individual who has attained something worthwhile. In his advanced years he should be more God-like than ever.
2. Years of experience in useful living. The inferior creatures “profit neither by the wisdom, nor the follies of the past. The first robin built its nest of the same materials, and with as much art, as the robin does now. . . . Neither laid in the bird nor the bee has learned anything by experience, by study, or by observation, – nor lays up, to transmit to future generations of birds or bees, the results of its own sagacity or observation” (Albert Barnes). Man finds experience to be one of his most valuable teachers. The mistakes of the past are stepping stones to new heights. A long life of useful living gives one an accumulation of wisdom that can never be obtained without extended experience.
3. The beauty and grace of maturity. There is a kingly dignity that surrounds an aged saint. Venerable qualities are present in the life which is nearing its goal. “There is a glory and beauty in the field covered with the green blades of early spring, but the period of its perfection is not in the spring, but in the autumn, when the full corn in the ear stands ready for the sickle” (W. Harris).
4. The right to respect. The law of Moses said, “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God” (Lev. 19:32). “There is something touching in the sight of hair whitened with the snows of many a winter: the old and faithful soldier receives consideration from his king, the venerable servant is beloved of his master” (C.H. Spurgeon).
5. Contemplation of eternal reward. Weary with his long journey, the aged Christian rejoices in the prospect of his house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Though the outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16). Paul the aged (Phile. 9) knew that the time of his departure was at hand when he wrote, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at the day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
Some young people do not appreciate the aged among the saints. They fail to show the deference and courteous respect which the elderly are due. The New Testament says, “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder” (1 Pet. 5:5). Paul told the young preacher, Timothy, “Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the young men as brethren; The elder woman as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity” (1 Tim. 5:1,2).
Unrighteous and the Hoary Hair
Hoary heads are not always found in the way of righteousness. If old age “Be found in the way of wickedness, its honor is forfeited, its crown profaned and laid in the dust” (Matthew Henry).
It has been said that there is no fool like an old fool. Despite the wisdom which God has given him, Solomon in old age was brought to disgrace by his love for strange women. His wives “turned away his heart after other gods” (1 Kings 11:4). It is incredible that a man of Solomon’s stature would build high places in honor of such false gods as Chemosh and Molech. One never gets too old to have need of guarding against apostasy.
What a sad spectacle to witness an individual whose life is near its end cursing God, railing against righteousness, and influencing the young to serve Satan! That hoary head which could be a crown of glory becomes a crown of shame. The hair is white as snow but the soul is black as the outer darkness of hell itself!
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 19, p. 588
October 5, 1989