Focal Passage: 2 Samuel 17:27-29; 19:31-39; 1 Kings 2:1, 7
I was raised in a small town in southeastern North Carolina, and there were certain expectations placed upon me by my mama. Those expectations are quickly going by the wayside in today’s society, and they are called “manners.” Simple things such as greeting those that are older than you with respect. These were staples in conversations, and if they were forgotten a quick tug on the ear would remind one how to speak. There are other simple terms of respect that seem to have been forgotten as well.
However, the responsibility does not just fall on the younger generations; many seniors may not see it as their calling to maintain these levels of decorum. One friend told me, “I look forward to becoming an elderly Southern lady; I will grow tomatoes and wear funny hats.” It involves more than that, and in life we have responsibilities and expectations of what we will leave the future generations. Growing old with grace and leaving a legacy for posterity, most especially a legacy to point toward a commitment to God. In 2 Samuel and 1 Kings we see the interaction between King David and an elderly man named Barzillai who shows his faith through his actions.
David is facing an insurrection led by his son Absalom and he is fleeing for his life. How disconcerting it must be to face a rebellion led by your own son, and find yourself fleeing from your capital city. One of the loyal subjects, an elderly gentleman, assists David. The subject’s wealth supported David for his stay in the city of Mahanaim east of the Jordan River. This created a bond because Barzillai was willing to do this and possibly faced retribution from Absalom’s army. In David’s final words (1 Kings 2:7), he tells Solomon to be faithful to Barzillai’s family.
David is so overtaken by the actions of Barzillai that he asks him to cross the Jordan River with him and return to Jerusalem after the revolt had been put down. David wished to repay him for his support and kindness during his exile. Barzillai realizes his age and infirmities will keep him from traveling and he desires to die at home, so he sends what is felt by most commentators to be his son.
In Barzillai we see an image of growing old with grace and an example of wisdom. He followed his heart and his faith. He knew that which was right and followed the direction that God laid before him. He also knew when to say no and stand firm upon his decisions, even when speaking to a king. For his commitment and faith, his family was rewarded with eating at the king’s table. What will be the benefits that our decisions will leave the generations we leave behind?