The huge crowd had traveled 22 miles down the valley from Jerusalem and was slowly fording the Jordan River. The ruins of ancient Jericho were against the mountains behind them while the Dead Sea lay to the south, on their right. After the multitud crossed the river, they headed north along the eastern bank, probably looking for cover in the wooded areas away from the water.
Three men watched them come, one of them, an elderly gentleman named Barzillai. The initial surprise at seeing the unexpected throng turned into genuine shock as they realized that King David was in the mixed company along with several groups of elite soldiers surrounding him.
It was clear that things weren’t right. The people were exhausted, and there was fear, frustration, and confusion written on many faces. There was little evidence of food or other necessary traveling supplies. Something was terribly wrong.
However it was that they found out about the exact details of the situation, the three friends sprang into action, mobilizing their servants to bring what these people needed. Soon there were streams of men and animals bringing beds and cleaning vessels, flour, wheat, barley, honey, milk products, sheep and cheese. These tired and hungry people were going to receive some much needed supplies.
The next day there was a massive battle between David’s followers and the armies of Israel that had been hoodwinked by his son Absalom. Before the sun would set on that day, the rebellious prince would be executed by Joab, and tens of thousands of his soldiers killed.
Soon afterwards, David began making plans to head back up to Jerusalem, his beloved capital. As he approached the river to cross back over it and start up the incline, Barzillai came up to him and began escorting him across. Even though the wealthy man had already so surprisingly and generously helped David in his moment of dire need, here he was again, wanting to make sure the king was safe and as comfortable as possible.
David, very grateful for all his help, invited Barzillai to travel with him up to Jerusalem so that he could reward him with a place near his palace. But his new friend graciously declined, and asked if he could simply walk with him for a while. Apparently, a few hours of personal fellowship with the king was sufficient reward for him.
It may be that David insisted a bit more, because the godly old man offered an alternative. What if the king took Barzillai’s servant, Chinham, in his place? Barzillai would love for the young man to enjoy the special privileges that would otherwise have been his. David agreed to this and Chinham’s life was changed forever.
Elderly men and women who are godly will always have a few attitudes in common, ones that also overflowed from aged Barzillai’s worn and wrinkled body. First, they will be interested in others, noticing when people are suffering, and jumping to supply the need with as much energy as they can muster. Then, they will highly value fellowship, finding much more satisfaction in a good, edifying conversation than in a more comfortable place to live. And finally, they will accept the slow shutting down of personal opportunities and seek to strengthen the generation of Chinhams coming up behind them.
These are the selfless, humble ways of those who have walked long and far with God.
Maybe you also can immediately think of some elderly saints who fit this description. I encourage you to reach out to them, not to receive anything, but to give. They will appreciate it more than most.
Dear Father, when I am full of energy and focused on projects you have given me, it is easy to overlook those quiet, faithful saints who have long lived for you and others. They can use encouragement like everyone else. Help me see the opportunities and jump at the privilege of being a blessing to them. Amen.