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Aging: The First Senior Adult (Genesis 5:1-32)

By Howard W. Roberts
Who would you identify as the first senior adult? The Scripture text will give you a clue. You may have had the question when playing Trivial Pursuit, "Who is the oldest person in the Bible?" Now you're getting it.

Many of us have heard of Methuselah and his claim to fame, having lived to be 969 years old. Isn't it amazing that Genesis 5 lived so many years? Why do you think there is such a difference in the length of his life and the length of ours? At least four other men -- including Adam -- are listed in this text as having lived more than nine hundred years. Methuselah edged out Jared for longevity by seven years resulting in many people remembering Methuselah's name. Does anybody remember Jared? What a difference seven years can make.

Consider what we know about Methuselah. He was the son of Enoch, he had his first son when he was 187. That son's name was Lamech, who was the father of Noah. Methuselah had other children and he died at age 969. That is all we know about Methuselah. I regret that his other children were not considered significant enough by the story-tellers at least to have their names listed.

Lamech was listed because he was Noah's father and Methuselah was mentioned, not because he lived the longest but because he was Noah's grandfather. Don't you prefer to have your identity because of who you are rather than because of your relationship to someone else? You are a person in your own right rather than John's wife, Joan's husband, Dillon's dad, George's mother-in-law, Sam's father, or Sarah's daughter. However, as the story unfolded and Noah became a significant character in the story, it became necessary to trace all the leads in the story to provide a lineage list from Adam to Noah.

Methuselah served as a link between generations. That is something all of us do, whether or not we have children. We are the communicators to the next generation of what our generation has been like and has accomplished. In this sense we are passing on our part of the life story.

But surely there is more to life than being a link between generations. We can be more intentional than that about our lives. One thing that stands out clearly in this text is human mortality. The phrase, "and he died," is found eight times in this passage. The Bible does not hedge on the fact of human mortality. People are born, they live for a season, and they die, just as all living things on earth do. However, there is the major difference in the human dimension that we human beings are conscious of dying, we can foresee it, and we feel the contradiction of the insatiable hunger for life.

Methuselah has become the biblical symbol of longevity. His life was long but thin as a string. The two Q's of life are important, quantity and quality. A certain quantity of years is important in order for a person to develop quality. Infants that die do not have enough quantity of life to develop quality. That does not mean their lives are meaningless because they are important to their parents, but the infants are not aware of the quality of life.

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