In 2 Samuel 19.32 we read of Barzillai the Gileadite, a man of eighty years old. When King David was fleeing the rebellion of Absalom together with two friends, Barzillai had provided help and sustenance for the king. How bountiful was their provision! They provided "beds, and basons, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and flour, and parched corn, and beans, and lentils, and parched pulse, And honey, and butter, and sheep, and cheese of kine" (2 Sam 17.28-29). All that the king required was freely and generously given by this aged man to those who were weary and thirsty in the wilderness.
When faced with this crisis Barzillai might have been excused if he had kept clear of any association with David. He could have argued that, as an old man, his days for involvement in issues like this were over, and that he was much too old to put himself at risk in this way. To those looking on, the position of David looked most precarious. His own people seemed to have turned against him, and to help him would be dangerous. For Barzillai, however, there was no retirement from serving the true king. What a lesson we can draw from the example of this faithful man!
With advancing years we may be tempted to retire from an active part in the work of the Lord. It is time now to pass the torch on to others and to enjoy a little more free time. Indeed, retirement from many of the activities in which we have engaged is not only desirable, but looks to be most attractive. Let others who are younger and more physically fit take the strain. So we may reason. But is this really what the Lord would have us do? It will be necessary to withdraw from some of the more strenuous areas of service, but must we "retire"? Barzillais message is that older believers are still needed and there is much for them to do.
But what can be done? In a material way it may be that in later years some more money is available, and this provides an opportunity to help others. This will not be true of all who are older, but, as expenses reduce, some may find that finances are a little easier. If that is true what an opportunity is given to serve the Lord in this most practical way. Those who are younger will be committed to the cost of bringing up a family and buying a house etc, but in later years these costs no longer have to be borne, perhaps freeing a little more to be used for the Master. Grandparents who do not spend all that they have on themselves, but help in the Lords work as the Lord has prospered them, set a good example of stewardship.
But Barzillai supported the true king when others deserted him. It is good when those with experience of life support the truth of Scripture, and lend that support gladly to those who are defending such truth in the front line of the battle. It is sad when men and women of mature years turn their back on truth which they have practised for a lifetime. Let all who are older determine to stay faithful to the Lord whom we look forward to seeing in glory.