2 Samuel 17:27–29; 19:31–39comment (0)
April 30, 2009
By Thomas Fuller
Related Scripture: 2 Samuel 17:27–29; 19:31–39
Bible Studies for Life
Director of Ministry Leadership Development, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
BARZILLAI: THE MAN WHO GREW OLD GRACEFULLY
2 Samuel 17:27–29; 19:31–39; 1 Kings 2:1, 7
The theme for May’s Bible studies — “Profiles in Character” — and the emphasis for May 3 in Southern Baptist churches — Senior Adult Sunday — intersect in this week’s lesson. As one whom we would classify today as a senior adult, 80-year-old Barzillai serves as an example of godly devotion and wisdom (2 Sam. 19:32). It is fitting that we honor those, past and present, who have served the Lord faithfully. From their examples, we can find inspiration and direction for our lives, especially as we consider the challenges and opportunities of Christian living in life’s final season.
Help God’s People When You Can (2 Sam. 17:27–29)
To understand the context of events in which Barzillai acted, it is necessary to read the account of Absalom’s rebellion against his father, King David, which begins at 2 Samuel 15:1. David was warned of Absalom’s impending advance against him (17:21), and he and his men fled to Mahanaim, a fortified city on the eastern side of the Jordan River (17:22, 24). Barzillai the Gileadite of Rogelim was one of three local chieftains who supplied David and his company with many necessary provisions while they were there. He did this at great risk, considering the momentum of Absalom’s uprising and his certain wrath if his aid to David was discovered. In the latter years of life, it is tempting to play it safe and avoid risks. Sometimes we may be heard to say, “We’ve done our part. Now it’s someone else’s turn.” Barzillai stands as a testimony to the good one can do in support of God’s work in any season of life.
Realistically Evaluate Your Capacities (2 Sam. 19:31–37a)
While it is true that age should not be used as a blanket excuse for declining every opportunity to serve, there is wisdom in knowing when to say no to some things. Barzillai is an example in this respect as well. Once Absalom’s revolt was put down and David’s reign was again secure, the king wished to reward Barzillai for his faithful service. David invited him to take up residence in Jerusalem, where he would be supported fully by the king. Barzillai declined the offer, citing his age. In earlier years, he may have accepted the offer and found usefulness in that new place. Barzillai, however, discerned that such a time had passed. The Lord is faithful to give wisdom for such decisions when we seek Him humbly and prayerfully (Prov. 2:1–6; James 1:5–8).
Be a Champion for the Next Generation (2 Sam. 19:37b–39)
Rather than accept David’s offer, Barzillai chose to recommend another for the king’s favor: Chimham (also Kimham). The relationship of Chimham to Barzillai is not clear, though the reference to “sons of Barzillai” in 1 Kings 2:7 may point to a father-son kinship. Since Barzillai declined the offer on the grounds of his age, we can assume that Chimham was younger than he. Barzillai’s actions reflect his selflessness and a willingness to allow a younger man the opportunity to assume new roles. Letting go of such opportunities and passing them along to members of the next generation can be difficult. Doubts and fears can abound, but the Lord is faithful to supply the needs of all who seek Him. The wisdom of age is demonstrated in a due concern for the development of godly leaders for the next generation.
Leave a Good Memory (1 Kings 2:1, 7)
As David approached his dying day, the 70-year-old king imparted some last words to his son and successor, Solomon, charging him to “keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in His ways” (2:3) and deal differently with certain individuals. Among these, David remembered “the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite.” That Barzillai merited his remembrance and favor after the passage of years reflects the profound impression his life and actions made on the king. How will you and I be remembered? Our attitudes and actions in the present day will determine the answer.