Growing Old Gracefully

Scripture Text: 2 Samuel 19:31-39, NLT

31 Barzillai of Gilead had come down from Rogelim to escort the king across the Jordan. 
32 He was very old—eighty years of age—and very wealthy [NASB ‘great’]. He was the one who had provided food for the king during his stay in Mahanaim. 
33 “Come across with me and live in Jerusalem,” the king said to Barzillai. “I will take care of you there.” 
34 “No,” he replied, “I am far too old to go with the king to Jerusalem. 
35 I am eighty years old today, and I can no longer enjoy anything. Food and wine are no longer tasty, and I cannot hear the singers as they sing. I would only be a burden to my lord the king. 
36 Just to go across the Jordan River with the king is all the honor I need! 
37 Then let me return again to die in my own town, where my father and mother are buried. But here is your servant, my son Kimham. Let him go with my lord the king and receive whatever you want to give him.” 
38 “Good,” the king agreed. “Kimham will go with me, and I will help him in any way you would like. And I will do for you anything you want.” 
39 So all the people crossed the Jordan with the king. After David had blessed Barzillai and kissed him, Barzillai returned to his own home. 


I want to speak to you today on the subject, GROWING OLD GRACEFULLY. Least you feel that the subject does not apply, let me gently remind you that we are all growing old or at least older. But I must confess that I am speaking with Senior Adults in mind. I have no problem admitting that I am a Senior Adult and I do not understand for the life of me why some people are offended by the term. Some 30 years ago, Dian and I started a Senior Adult luncheon at the old church and we had the same problem then as we do now, we had folks in their 70’s and 80’s who would not come. I asked one lady why she did not come and she said, “I am not a Senior Adult.” That’s like me saying, I am not fat, this [pat my belly] is just fluid. Adults at Danville never promote in Sunday School, never, or not in the last 40 years. Charles class was the young married when we came her and Jerry’s class was the middle adults. No one out of either class promotes, we just changed the name on the door. If you are 75, you are 75 no matter what class you go in. Eighty years old is eighty years old even if we put you in the nursery.

Transition: Seniors, we need a good roll model to follow and we find a good in the Old Testament–2 Samuel 19…the story of Barzillai, the Ironman, a highlander from the hills of Gilead and the little village of Rogelim. These highlanders were noted for loyalty, courtesy, hospitality and a passionate love of the hill country.

Verse 32 says…He was very old—eighty years of age—and very wealthy [NASB ‘great’]. The Hebrew word is ‘ga-dole’ and it means to be large in size, power, influence and character. It is the same word that is used in Genesis 1:16 in reference to the sun and moon–two great lights.

Barzillai was great man… 


You cannot do what Barzillai did without great wealth. In the last part of chapter 17, the bible tells us that when David arrived at Mahanaim, he was warmly greeted…by three noblemen…and Barzillai was one of the three. These men took care of David and his entire household. They brought sleeping mats, cooking pots, serving bowls, wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans, lentils, honey, butter, sheep, goats, and cheese for David and those who were with him. For they said, “You must all be very hungry and tired and thirsty after your long march through the wilderness.”

Few of us have the resources to provide for a king but Barzillai had great wealth and he was very generous. The Bible says in Ephesians 4:28, He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. The father in the Prodigal Son is our model and what did he do with his wealth? He shared it!

Note Barzillai’s answer to David in verse 34, “No, I am far too old to go” but he was not too old to give. One of the greatest blessing of being a Senior Adult is that I have more time and money to give.


Barzillai was not from the Tribe of Judah, he lived in Gilead. Most Israelites treated the transjordan tribes like step children. I am absolutely amazed at this Highlander’s loyalty to David. Barzillai was a KINGDOM MAN. He put the Kingdom of Israel before his own interest. Jesus taught us to “Seek His kingdom first,” and Barzillai is a good example. At a time when David’s popularity had reached an all time low, Barzillai stood with his king. Who knows what would have happened to David had it not been for people like Barzillai. We know one, David was very grateful for what Barzillai had done for the kingdom.


Chapter 17 tells us that Absalom’s army was already camped in the land of Gilead. The odds were heavily against David. At a time when most men would have been trying to protect themselves, Barzillai took the risk of giving the king sanctuary and supplies. Who knows, this man’s kindness may have made the difference. We know this; Barzillai was not thinking about himself, he literally stuck his neck out for David. If you have a friend like Barzillai, you are rich indeed.


  1. He had the wisdom to say no…”I’m too old to go.”
  2. He had the wisdom to realize his limitations. He knew he could not do things he once did:
    • Couldn’t enjoy his food
    • Couldn’t hear the voices of singers
    • Didn’t want to be a burden to David…afraid he could not pull his own weight.
    • It is not sad to be a Senior Adult, what’s bad is to be one and not honest enough to admit it. Like 70 year olds buying a sports car, a convertible on top of that, one of these jobs that sits about 8 inches above the pavement. Or one of these 75 year old women wearing short-shorts.
  3. He had enough wisdom to retire. He passed the paton to his son Kimham. He said I am too old to go but not too old to send someone in my place.

Seniors, this is what we need most–wisdom. We need to know when to give and when not to give. We need to know when to go and when not to go. We need to know when it’s time to step aside and pass the torch to someone more capable. This is becoming a sad reality…some people do not know when to quit.

Let me give you two examples: I saw an 84 year old man trying to call a baseball game the other night and he got so confused that he was calling folks out with two strikes and walking them on ball three. When someone corrected him, he got aggitated. It was embarassing for everyone. The best example of not knowing when to quit, is John McCain. He should have retired after losing the election in 2008. At one time, he was nick named John Wayne McCain but that is not how he will be remembered. He will be remembered as petty, vain and a sore loser. He destroyed his own legacy by staying too long.

Seniors, don’t quit living, don’t quit giving but don’t be a hindrance to the next generation. I love retirement, I am busier than I’ve ever been. June and I have put 30,000 miles on an 11 month old Honda and 4 month old truck. We are on track to do 40,000 plus in a year. I love being out of the decision making process. Let the young folks make the decisions because they are going to do most of the work but that doesn’t mean we are to quit ministry. We can give, pray and encourage. We may not be able to go but we can send someone in our place.

There are two kinds of senior adults: the kind and the wrong kind. Actually, it is the bitter and cynical and the happy and supportive.