Elder Neil Phelan, Jr.
GRANDPARENTS: THE TESTIMONY OF THE AGED
"By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joesph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff"" - Hebrews 11:21
We have extracted from scripture the testimony of two grandparents: Lois, the grandmother of Timothy; and Jacob, the grandfather of Ephraim and Manasseh. In both instances we find a powerful testimony: the testimony of the aged.
Granted, many grandparents would not consider themselves aged, but in the eyes of their childrens' children they have been around awhile and know many secrets of life. To the grandchild, every word that comes from the mouth of the grandparent is marked with experience, leaving indelible traces in their little hearts and minds. The testimony of the aged is a powerful one.
Herein we discover a double blessing: first the special blessing of becoming a parent; and secondly, the blessing of loving offspring bearing children. The Bible speaks well of grandparents and gives us, by way of word-picture, some wonderful glimpses into the lives of God-loving and God-fearing grandparents, as we see in the lives of Lois and Jacob. What an impact these grandparents had upon the lives of Timothy, Manasseh and Ephraim.
LOIS: TIMOTHY'S GRANDMOTHER
Timothy's grandmother was a woman of faith. Other than being Timothy's grandmother, and one of Timothy's spiritual tutors, this is all the Bible tells us about her. But what better epitaph could be written in one line for any grandparent. We can be quite sure she wasn't a perfect woman, but from the few syllables the Bible tells us about her, this kind lady exerted a godly influence in the life of her daughter, Timothy's mother, as well as in the life of Timothy that was worthy of notice. Here we find a powerful testimony of the aged.
LOIS' UNFEIGNED FAITH
Paul observed Lois as the first source of the Christian faith in the family of Timothy: "which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois." Her age would suggest that she was among the first of the converted Jews. Her Lord and the church were important to her. Paul describes her faith as "unfeigned".
The word "unfeigned" means sincere, without hypocrisy. Lois didn't profess religion and live contrary to her confession; she didn't talk about religion and the Bible, pointing to a dusty book on the coffee table: she lived the faith of the Bible. She must have been faithful in her attendance and exemplary in her walk in life. For Paul to call attention to this lady and for God to have recorded her faith in His word, she must have been a dynamic example to her family and other Christians.
I am persuaded there was more to Lois than example, for when the Bible speaks of this kind of faith, it refers not only to the walk, but also to a faith which has knowledge of precepts and principles: Lois was knowledgeable of the scriptures. She knew the Bible and taught it to her daughter and her grandson, Timothy.
Here is the beautiful, yet simple, scriptural, example of teaching our children: teaching them from within the family circle; from loving parents and grandparents. The Godly instruction from a loving parent and grandparent will leave a lasting mark upon a child that can never be achieved from any other source. Men have tried entertainments and substitutes, but all their attempts have fallen short of that which God has ordained. Are children today, who have been taught outside the family circle, more devout than those of yesterday who sat by the fireside and listened to mom and dad read the Bible and comment upon it? You just can't improve upon the pattern that God has so wisely set forth in His word.
When Paul wrote to Timothy, he admonished Timothy to "Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" - 2 Tim. 3:14-15. For Timothy to continue in his studies of the scriptures, he must have first learned them at home. Who taught Timothy? Who was Paul referring to when he wrote, "Knowing of whom thou hast learned them?" His grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice! When did they begin to teach Timothy? "From a child." Paul's ministry was a continuance of those principles and precepts that Timothy's mother and grandmother had already begun. So it should be in every church. The pastor's teaching should compliment the scriptural tutorage the children have already been introduced to in the home. For this to be achieved, parents must be willing to dedicate a portion of their evenings to their children.
I do not believe that Lois was a non-denominational grandmother. Again, for Paul to have been impressed with her faith and for Timothy to have been able to continue in his learning, she must have believed sound doctrinal principles and taught them to her family; doctrines that her grandson would someday preach. Doctrines such as the sovereignty of God; the faith of the saints; the fear of God; the creation of the universe; and the creation of man. She must have handed down to her offspring an accurate knowledge of the Jehovah of Israel who parted the Red Sea and led Israel through a waste howling wilderness. For Timothy to have embraced the faith of the first Christians, she must have taught Timothy of the Lord's Christ, the fulfillment of prophecy; the promised Messiah; the Saviour of the elect. Simple truths we can be sure of, but truths that would leave a lasting impression upon the lives and hearts of her offspring, keeping them from false doctrines and manifold temptations.
This testimony of Lois was so apparent that an apostle could point his finger at it and remind a young preacher, not of the apostle's example of faith, but of the grandmother's faith: "Wherefore I put thee in remembrance". As much as to say, "Timothy, remember your grandmothers faith." What strength Timothy must have drawn from this memory in days of trials and temptations. She being dead yet speaketh.
GRANDFATHER: FATHER OF THE FAMILY
Among the Hebrews, the oldest male member of a family or tribe was considered the head of the tribe: he was referred to as father. Many times, this was the grandfather. The name Abram means high father. Abraham means father of a multitude. The scriptures place grandfathers in a place of great respect in the family. Their words were fraught with wisdom and their actions were weighed by their offspring. Jacob was found in such a position in his later days, having many children and grandchildren.
Jacob, the grandfather of Ephraim and Manasseh, was also an example of faith to his grandchildren. The last scene of Jacob's life was a scene of blessing and worship, shared by two of his grandsons: "By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff"- Hebrews 11:21. Among the Hebrews, the blessing, in the form of a prayer, was frequently the last earthly experience between children and parents. As John Gill has wisely written, "Which was the usual time of blessing with the patriarchs; and the reason of it was, that what was said might be more attended to and regarded, and more strongly impressed upon the mind...." The Hebrews well knew the best moment to make lasting impressions. The last words of a dying man are not easily forgotten, especially when they come from a loving parent or grandparent. We have known of some to use this moment to make unreasonable requests, but Jacob was wise: he worshipped.
What a scene we behold. By way of word-picture, we have a glimpse into the last scene that Ephraim and Manasseh experienced with their grandfather. Here we have a "dying" old man who had been through manifold experiences in his life, too weak to stand, leaning upon the top of his staff, peering through clouded eyes at his son and grandsons. This one scene alone probably stuck in the mind of Ephraim and Manasseh for the rest of their lives. Genesis, chapter 48, reveals what they experienced.
1) Jacob shares his testimony with his son and grandsons. He tells about his first experience with the Lord and the blessings he received from Jehovah's bountiful hand. -Genesis 48:3. Testimonials are still important today.
2) Jacob shares with them the promises of God; promises not yet fulfilled; promises that these grandchildren were to look for and teach their children. - Genesis 48:4.
3) Jacob owns these children as his own as he acknowledges them as his offspring. -Genesis 48:5.
4) Jacob looks beyond this life as he, by faith, expects the fulfillment of God's promise and the receiving of their families portion of Caanan's land after their departure from Egypt. -Genesis 48:6.
5) Jacob shares some of the heartaches and struggles of his life. -Genesis 48:7.
6) Jacob now focuses his attention directly to the grandsons and reminds them that they are part of the promises because they are his offspring. -Genesis 48:8.
7) Jacob's eye being dim, confirms the children as being Joseph's(probably remembering a former day in which he deceived his own father whose eyes were dim) and acknowledges his intent, "I will bless them." - Genesis 48:9.
8) Jacob openly shows his affection for his grandsons: "and he kissed them, and embraced them." -Genesis 48:10.
9) Jacob, again, acknowledges the providence and blessing of God as he reminds his grandchildren they are a special blessing from God. -Genesis 48:11.
10) They worshiped. Their worship was in the form of prayer as Jacob prayed unto God. In his prayer, Jacob again acknowledged the blessings of God as he sought the Lord's favor upon his grandsons. -Genesis 48:15-16.
11) Finally, we observe Jacob's parting words as words of faith, words that looked to a promise fully expected by Jacob, but not yet fulfilled, "Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers." - Genesis 48:21.
Do you believe that this scene left a lasting impression in the mind and heart of Manasseh and Ephraim? I believe that it did! In spite of the many failures in Jacob's life, this one scene alone covered a multitude of sins. In the eyes of his grandchildren, Jacob's later end was one of faith.
A GOOD NAME
It is a strength and a blessing to have a godly heritage, to have fond memories of godly grandparents for, "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold" - Proverbs 22:1. When we can remember lives of faith, the testimony of the aged, we have an example set before us, an example that will add fuel to the fire of our own faith. I wonder how many grandchildren have had temptations set before them when something within would say: "Would your grandfather do that? Would your grandmother do that? How will that make your family look? There has been many a grandchild brought into the fold as a result of a grandparents prayers and example.
A few weeks ago, this true testimony was shared in a local church by a sixty year old man of faith: "When I was a small child an older lady in the community was concerned about the spiritual welfare of my brother and me. It was a day in which no one locked their doors at night, and this kind lady would come into our house on Sunday mornings, wake us up, wash our faces, get us dressed and take us to church. My mother and father did not attend church. After a period of time, my mother began to get up and go with us. Finally, my father recognized the importance of family worship, and he too began to attend the Lord's house. By this time, my brother and I were taken to church by our parents and we were attending church as a family. The older lady then began to focus her attention to others and bring them to church. Today, I have the privilege of sitting in the Lord's house with my family. The older lady was my grandmother."
Even today, the testimony of the aged is a powerful one. Some may think that their years have robbed them of accomplishing much good in the Lord's house. But the oldest of trees bear the sweetest fruit. Jacob and Lois have taught us that until our dying breath, much good can be accomplished and the faithful testimony of a loving grandparent will have a dynamic impact upon the lives of their offspring. --PL