SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 26 December 2021
Sermon Text: Proverbs 20:29
I. The glory of young men is their strength
II. The splendour of old men is their grey hair
Today is the last Sunday in 2021. Let me tell you a truth – time flies! This year has been another challenging year for the whole world with an obvious reason, and we of St Columba’s give thanks to God for His care and guidance.
As we reach the end of a year like today, it’s almost automatic for us to look back in time and count God’s blessings. We also think a lot about time which is a unique and strange thing. So strange it is that people cannot exactly define time. Physicists for example try to define time this way – ‘time is the progression of events from the past to the present into the future.’ But, it’s rather a simple observation of time than a thorough analysis of the foundational characteristics of time. Time is one of the greatest mysteries of God’s creation. Nothing in the world exists outside of the domain of time; only God is over and beyond it.
And this time flies, and it carries everything with it. No one escapes its grip, and Peter Pan exists only in a book or movie. A baby is born and, being carried by time, arrives his youth, then, adolescent and quickly adulthood. He becomes a parent of a child and soon grandparent. In this fast forward movement, he like all others becomes sensitive to time, especially at a moment like today, ending a year and facing another year to live.
Prov. 20:29 invites us to pause for a moment and consider the qualities of the time we pass through. God encourages us to know the time each of us have and make the best of it. So, let us do what our gracious God invites us to do, and contemplate the qualities of our days.
I. THE GLORY OF YOUNG MEN IS THEIR STRENGTH
First of all, this verse in this ‘wisdom’ book calls ‘young men,’ that is, everyone in the earlier part of his/her given time, and tells them that their ‘strength’ is their ‘glory.’ In other words, their strength is their ‘pride’ or ‘beauty,’ something that is admirable.
‘Strength’ means a characteristic of young people in both physical and mental senses. Young men and women are fit for action, able to carry out various businesses including difficult tasks, and they’re also capable of breaking through many troubles. If they fail, their inherent physical and mental nature is to try again and again. This strength young people have is their glory or pride or beauty.
It also means that this glory of young men is not a permanent quality but temporal. When a young person passes the time of his youth, his strength will go away with time, and never be recovered. Then, strength will no longer be his glory or pride or beauty. As time flows and cannot be held, as time flies in a rate enough to surprise and sometimes stun people, so every young soul must consider their physical and mental strength precious, valuable, weighty and, most importantly, thankful to the One who has granted it to them – that is, the Lord God.
So, ‘use it wisely, young men and women’ is the message. Use your strength fittingly to the purpose of this endowment – that is, on the one hand, to serve God and His church and to love their fellow Christians while helping the unbelievers find the Lord Jesus. This means, on the other hand, abstaining from every form of evil and fleeing from the ‘love of money’ and all evil that arise from it. In a word, the strength of youth is for this purpose.
Compare this with the way of the young of the present world. It’s a complete reverse. No wonder why there are so much regrets and remorse in the minds of people in the world who have already passed the time of their youth.
II. THE SPLENDOUR OF OLD MEN IS THEIR GREY HAIR
The next part of Prov. 20:29 summons ‘old men,’ meaning, the elderly, and reminds them that their ‘splendour’ is their ‘grey’ hair. By ‘splendour,’ it means ‘splendid adornment’ or once again ‘beauty’ or ‘glory.’ Pointing out their ‘grey hair,’ the author of Proverbs means ‘wisdom’ as mentioned in Prov. 16:31. Let me read you Prov. 16:31 which is very vivid and colourful when that verse describes the meaning of ‘grey hair’ – it read, “Grey hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” In this verse, a righteous life is closely linked to grey hair, and grey hair is portrayed as a crown of glory.
Amazingly, the ultimate end of this chain of thoughts with ‘grey hair’ is what Dan. 7:9 states in these words, “As I looked [that’s Daniel], thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took His seat; His clothing was white as snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool; His throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire.” As Daniel describes in this verse, the foundation of wisdom overlapped with grey hair is the God Almighty whose wisdom is limitless, thus, immeasurable. This is the picture Prov. 20:29 portrays when it links grey hair to wisdom through a righteous life.
Simply put, old men’s glory, splendour and beauty is their wisdom in the righteous Lord. Their grey hair is a simple and visible representation of their wisdom in God.
What exactly does this mean? It means that, through their experience of failures in sin and God’s chastisements, through their repentance and God’s renewal of their hearts, through repetition of this process in their life, they now see and understand that chasing one’s fleshly youthful lusts is not only futile, but also destructive and abominable. Seeing this, they no longer are tempted by fleshly lusts, no longer go that way of abomination. But by their dependence on the wise God, they walk the way of God shown in the very Word of God! This is the splendour or beauty of the old men and women.
What does this tell us? Like the way the first half of our text verse urged young people to use their gift of strength wisely, fittingly to meet its purpose, the grey-haired wise old people should employ their God-given wisdom in bringing praises to their Lord. They should wisely strengthen all members of the church – especially those younger than them, should wisely cheer up the discouraged, should wisely bring the disheartened back to Christ, wisely admonish the rebellious, and wisely share Christ with all! Imagine how glorious and splendid it would be for anyone who has done all these! Surely, the joyful greeting of the Master will be his/hers as Jesus mentioned in His parable, “Well done, good and faithful servant … enter into the joy of your master”!
Having said, let me tell you an important point as the conclusion for today’s message. The ultimate point Prov. 20:29 makes by calling out people of ‘young’ and ‘old’ is not only according to their physical age but also (and more importantly) according to their spiritual maturity. The fundamental message is for all believers – both young and old – should know the way of God and pursue it with full joy.
Looking back in time, all should see God’s gracious hand; and turning their eyes forward, every believing soul should be excited with time granted to him/her. Whether it is a time of strength or of wisdom, rejoice with it and use each one’s endowment from heaven to the glory of God in and through Jesus Christ, the King! ***