Lucia's Blog: HONOR AND RESPECT: STAND UP!
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Friday, July 17, 2015

HONOR AND RESPECT: STAND UP!



"You shall by before the gray headed and honored the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord."  
Leviticus 19:32



Reverence toward God begins with reverence in the home. When we teach our children to honor adults and especially their parents, we also give them the priceless understanding of how the universe functions under God's great governance. Let us consider the Bible teaching about reverence toward our older neighbors carefully.

The other day I came across this saying, "If a family has an old person in it, it possesses a jewel."  This inspired me to write about it since it is evident to me we live in a culture where all forms of respect and honor have been lost, especially toward our elders.  Sadly, this honor and respect are not being taught at home by parents toward their children, even when God in His revealed Word demands it.  When one abandons the divine norm given by God about how to live a righteous life, honor, and respect for human life and everything else is lost.

In the wisdom of God, our relationships depend greatly on a certain order of honor and respect. Without it, we stand in rebellion against our Creator, damaging our families and culture. The Word of God has much to say about how we ought to treat older people.  An older man is to be treated like a father, and an older woman like a mother.  This includes treating them with respect and honor while caring for them and their needs.  Let us consider the Bible teachings about honoring our elders.

Leviticus 19:32 clearly commands Christians, especially our young, to respect and honor our older people, including their parents.  It is in obeying this command that they are showing obedience and reverence to God.  This leads me to the following questions:

  1. Why would God care so much about how our young treat and view the elderly?
  2. Is Leviticus 19:32 speaking of respecting and honoring the elderly? And if so.
  3. Why are respect and honor so valuable to God in our relationship with others, especially the elderly?
  4. Why does God connect the way the young treat the elderly with their relationship with Him?
  5. What constitutes respect and manners (especially the way we treat the elderly) in society?
  6. What tears this down in our society? 
  7. And finally, why is this so significant?

Consider the following Scriptures that speak of the elderly and their importance in the eyes of our Creator:
  • Proverbs 16:31:  "A gray head is a crown of glory; It is found in the way of righteousness."
  • Proverbs 20:29:  "The glory of young men is their strength, and the honor of old men is their gray hair."  
  • Proverbs 6:20:  "
  • My son, observe the commandment of your father 
  • And do not forsake the teaching of your mother."  
  • I Timothy 5:1-2:  "Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father...."
  • Job  32:4:  "Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were years older than he."

The Word of God is crystal clear.  God commands the young to respect and honor the elderly.  

We live in an egalitarian society where every form of honor or recognition seems to be wiped out except in the courtroom.  Why?  Because our society still regards rising before a judge when he enters the room.  Our society still demands us to show great honor for a magistrate.  The thing that troubles me is that in today's culture, we don't see the same treatment given to our older men and women.   I can assure you that you will be in big trouble if you don't show respect to the judge.  

Today, we live in a culture where there are no rules of how to treat our elders, or how to treat women, certainly not how to treat police officers and those in positions of authority.  God is crystal clear about how we ought to show honor and how much He hates those who fail to accept it.  We see this portrayed in the Old Testament with His prophets.  For example in 2 Kings 2:23-25 God was very angry when they failed to honor Elisha, His prophet.  

"Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, 'Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!' When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number.  He went from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria."'

This text shows God's attitude toward those who have a lack of reverence.  We can also infer from this passage that honor is not simply a cultural issue.  All throughout history, every culture has struggled with this matter.  God demands that we honor our elders as well as our civil magistrates even if we disagree with them.  One example is Job 32:4-12.  In this text, we read of Elihu's speech to Job. He was the only one that was not rebuked by God.  Notice that at the end of the book, his words were similar to those of God.  But there was a problem, Elihu was considerably younger than Job.  Even though he disagreed with Job, he expressed himself in a very respectful way. Our young people today do not show this kind of respect for our old, especially when there is disagreement.  Our young need to learn honor and respect for our elderly. By doing this, they are showing obedience and reverence to God. 

I am going to focus on Leviticus 19:32 to speak of the honor that God demands we show, especially the younger, toward the elderly.

"You shall rise up before the gray headed and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the LORD.   Leviticus 19:32

Sadly, in today's culture, this text is a radical statement.  Why?  Because today's youth is idealized, and our people are afraid of getting old.  They don't want their age honored.  They try to deny that they are old.  Nearly everyone wants to live a long life and never get old.  Right?  People even endure surgeries to regain their former youth.  

I want to use Leviticus 19:32 to speak of the standard, the motive and the goal of respect and honor that God demands that we show for the elderly:


I.   THE STANDARD

This is simply the command given by God.  Let us analyze this in three sections:  
  • The definition of the word "honor;" 
  • The posture of honor and 
  • The presence of honor.  

A.  The Definition of the Word "Honor."

The Hebrew word (hadar) is the same word used in verse 15 of Leviticus 9:

 "Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor ("hadar") the person of the mighty; but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor."

This text helps us to define the word honor as being partial to a person.  In the Hebrew parallelism, the two words are seen as being synonyms.  In fact in Exodus 23:3 is translated as "partial."  
"nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute."

In a court of law, a judge is not to show "haddar" to any person.  It means he is not to treat anyone differently whether that person is old, young, rich, poor, great or small.  They are to be equal before the law.  But according to verse 32 of Leviticus 19, they are not all equal outside the court.  You see, verse 32 forbids us to treat all people equally.  It means we are to show partiality, if you will, to some people.  Even though we all have equal rights before the throne of God and our earthly law, we are not to treat others equally in our social relations.

This today is contrary to our modern egalitarianism which tries to destroy all distinctions.  Today, some religious groups want to say that since in Jesus there is neither male nor female, it would be wrong and hateful to treat homosexual marriages differently than those that are heterosexual.  They shamelessly want to demand that we eliminate all distinctions in sexual relations, in our social relationships.  This egalitarian pattern of behavior is also seen repeatedly in our schools and in the home where children are treated the same as adults.  Our children are taught to treat adults the same as their peers.  It is ungodly!

Our feminist culture is not far behind either.  For years, they have tried to destroy all distinctions between the husband and the wife, between men and women in their roles both in the home and the church.  Our God is not pleased when men out of their rebellious heart try to remove all social distinctions.  Isaiah speaks of the terrible state of a nation when a youth is insolent toward the elder.

"And the people will oppress one another, every one his fellow and every one his neighbor; the youth will be insolent to the elder, and the despised to the honorable."   Isaiah 3:5

So, verse 15 of Leviticus 9 shows that we ought to show honor and respect to individual people. To do this, we must resist our culture.


B.  The Posture of Honor.

So far we have discussed the meaning of honor.  Let us look at my second point, the posture of honor.

  • "You shall rise up before the gray headed."  It literally means getting up from our chair when a grey-haired man or woman first enters the room.  So, why is it that our culture and even Christians refuse to do this, even when God commands us?  I realize that this is a law found in the Law of Moses of the Old Testament, but can we be sure that God no longer cares whether we express this respect? Some Christians regard this text as foot washing. They say this is a valid example of honor, but it is not a mandated expression.  Don't you think that posture might be a part of the command to express honor toward the elderly?  Many might say that one can show honor in different ways to the elderly.  They say I don't have to stand up when they enter a room, but I show honor in other ways that they seem to appreciate more.  It is ridiculous!  Why?  Because according to this text, we have a command, not a suggestion.  Second, we have seen that the word "honor" (hadar) means that we are indeed to treat the elderly differently.  Thirdly, God would have never given us this command if it was already a cultural standard.  They seemed to have forgotten that the reason why God gave this command in the first place was because they failed to rise before the elderly.  Their culture like ours was rotten.  God demands that we behave differently from our corrupt culture.  He demands that we rise before the aged.  Are we going to obey what our culture dictates concerning honoring our elderly or are we going to honor what God ordains?  It is obvious that our culture does not want to honor our elderly at all, including our parents.  It is this lack of honor that dictates the lack of standing or rising.

In Proverbs 31:25, we notice that the same words are used to indicate that the excellent woman is clothed in honor (hadar).  In verse 28, it calls us to stand up for our women.  The word rise is the same Hebrew word for stand up. And although the husband has authority, he still rises before her. This is where our Western society got their chivalry.  They got it from the Bible.  The husband rises before his wife not because she is in authority but rather because he simply wants to honor her.

Without a doubt, we are commanded by God to rise before our elderly.  Husbands are to show honor to their wives.  Children are to show honor to their parents.  Honor includes praise and respect.

In Nehemiah 8:5 we read of how the people stood up when Ezra opened the book of the Law:

"And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood."

This is how the people showed honor and reverence to God's Word.  Standing or rising means showing honor to God's Ordinances.  God demands this respect from men.

"Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise."  Nehemiah 9:5

My question is, why does the Bible command us to stand or rise before the elderly?  I think it is because there is a close connection between our bodies and our spirits.  Our body's posture influences our spirit's attitude.  Therefore, God wants our bodies to be in harmony with our spirit's desires.

Notice what I Timothy 5:1 says,

"Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father (assuming that you treat your father with respect), younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity."

According to this text, the way we speak to each other should reflect differences in age, roles, and positions.  God commands a posture of honor.  Let us honor what the Word of God dictates and not what our culture dictates.  I encourage all of us to start putting this command of courtesy into practice especially with our children.  Posture and honor affect the way we do things.  Let this sink in deeply!


C.  The Presence of Honor.

Honor conveys the need for presence.  Out text reads, "honor the face of the aged."   Face to face communication is crucial to show honor.  We are not just commanded to honor our parents but our elderly in general.  We must show honor to our aged with our presence.  It takes effort and planning.  God wants to make a distinction between the young and immature and those who are aged and mature.  So why is it that most people want to tear down the structure of what God demands of us which is to honor the aged?  It is not an option; it is a command that you cannot dismiss even if you are the one being honored.  It is simply the Law of God, and it must be obeyed.

For the aged, they are to be models of righteousness to the younger.  The point is that we must manifest God's grace to all those who see us by our righteous deeds.  And although the body might be decaying, the soul is being renewed and must manifest God's image and grace.



II.  THE MOTIVE

So far we have considered the standard or command.  Let us then consider the reason for obeying this command.

"and you shall revere (fear) your God."  The motive for honoring the elderly is not to have a better relationship or be liked by them but rather because God commands it.  It is because we fear, that is revere God.  In fact, there is a parallel structure between honoring the elderly and showing reverence to God.  When we fear God, we are going to honor the elderly and all those above us in authority.  If we don't show such reverence, we are not fearing God.  Notice what Mark 7:6 says about honoring our parents.

"This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me.  But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men."

Later He lists one of the commandments that the Pharisees had violated.

"He was also saying to them, 'You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.  For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother; and, 'He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death'; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.'"  Mark 7:9-11

It is like Jesus is saying, "You dishonor Me when you fail to honor your parents and the elderly."  I assure you that when our egalitarian society hears Christ's judgment on those who curse their parents, that they are worthy of death, they are in shock.  God sees it as a more serious issue than we do.  A lack of reverence toward our parents will produce a shallow reverence toward God.  They go together, hand in hand.  A society that fails to honor and revere God will fail to honor and respect the elderly and vice versa.  It is a fact!

It was no surprise to me when I heard that an Ethiopian communist society outlawed all signs of respect for the aged, bowing or rising before the elderly.  In fact, they have diligently humiliated the elderly by forcing them to obey the commands of children in front of others.  It fit in well with their atheistic standpoint.  Nor is it surprising to me that the Eskimos practiced euthanasia of the elderly.  Moreover, for the same reason, it is not surprising to see that our country is going in the same direction very fast.

We are cursed when we fail to honor our parents.  Why?  Because it is God's Law.  Ephesians 6:1

Sadly, we live in a culture where our sacred duties are often turned over to the state.  Some Christians even expect others to do public charity rather than doing their own private piety.  They seem to have forgotten to honor their parents and many times expect the church to support and take care of their parents even though they can afford to do it themselves.  Some churches go as far as to excuse those who sin, partaking of their sin by accepting their obligation in their place.   They appear to have forgotten the command given by God that says, "If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed."  I Timothy 5:16.  Take notice that the church must not be charged with the care of the aged Christians when their children are still alive and are capable of meeting their needs and care.  Such Christians should not be indulged or excused but rather withdrawn from if they willingly refuse to honor their God given moral and spiritual obligations of honoring their parents.  Children who refuse and neglect to meet these God given responsibilities toward their parents are worse than unbelievers, I Timothy 5:8.  Society will disintegrate when honor toward each other is lost.  The Word of God demands to put away self-honor.  

In Malachi 4:6, God declared of John the Baptist, "He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”

God's goal was to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and vice-versa. In 2 Chronicles we see a description of an ungodly nation that had no compassion toward their elderly and the weak.  What do you think that says about our nation that willingly aborts babies but also kills our elderly in the nursing homes when their insurance runs out?  We see this breakdown in Isaiah 3:4-5 between the old and the young as a result of God's judgment.

"And I will make mere lads their princes, and capricious children will rule over them, and the people will be oppressed, each one by another, and each one by his neighbor; the youth will storm against the elder and the inferior against the honorable."

Again, it is when we fear and honor God that we are going to honor our elderly, our women, our officers, and magistrates.  Our motive must be what drives us to fear and revere God and His authority.


III.  THE GOAL

Our goal must be that of glorifying God.

"I am the LORD," or literally I am Jehovah.  Did you know that phrase occurs 14 times in this chapter?  It is also a recurrent reminder that God is our goal and our pattern of holiness as well as the supplier of such holiness.  God supplies the grace that works holiness in our lives.  Notice that this chapter 19 starts out by saying, "You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy."  The LORD (Jehovah) is the covenant God associated with redemption.  In a few words, it is only by grace that this command can properly be fulfilled.  Why?  Because our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is the ONLY One Who can restore all broken relationships.  Satan because of SIN has ruined the relationship between the young and the old.  Christ's sacrifice on the cross was intended to take away the sin that breaks relationships.  God not only gives us that command but also the strength and perseverance to obey it.  Our goal is to be conformed to the image of God.  We are to be holy because He is holy.  We are to imitate Him.  The Spirit honors the Son, and the Son honors and glorifies the Father.  The Son submits to the Father (just as the husband is to honor his wife who is under his authority).  The Father honors the Son.  This is imitating God.


IV.  THE PROBLEM WITH A YOUTH DOMINATED CULTURE:

We live in a youth dominated culture.  Everything is marketed to youth.  Everything is being cut or diced up into small portions or groups by age.  As a terrible result of this, we now have the so called "youth groups" activities, the "young adults" classes, the "baby boomers," and so on.  I am not against the whole idea or arranging such activities especially for our young people, women or perhaps those who are more "mature."  I have observed that some make of these differences in age a "church within a church."  What is even worse, some select our young out of the church to form their own group.   Are you not aware that by doing this, we are undoing the Lord's work, cutting it short?  We need each other in the body of Christ.  The church is a family.  We are not a family unless we work together and associate with each other:  the older men, the older women, the younger women, etc.  The church needs the idealism and the energy of the young.  It also needs the wisdom, counsel and reflection of the older, the mature.

  Consider how dominated our culture is toward youth:

  1. Clothes are designed to be sold to the young.
  2. The film industry appeals only to the young.
  3. Products are marketed to appeal to the youth.
  4. And even our churches seek to be fashionably attractive to the young.

This leads me to these questions:

  • What is it that we are teaching our youth?  
  • Are we actually teaching them humility, selflessness, service, and respect for the aged?  
  • Are we teaching a culture to  value human life, no matter what the disability, the age?  
  • Are we producing a culture that encourages the extermination of the elderly and other groups of people for a variety of reasons?  
  • Have we forgotten John's words when he addressed "children," "fathers" and "young men" in I John 2:12-14?  
  • Have we forgotten what Paul told Titus about teaching "older men," "older women," "younger women" and so on?  Titus 2:1-6.


V.  THE PROBLEM WITH THE LOSS OF RESPECT AND HONOR IS ASSOCIATED WITH OUR IRREVERENCE TOWARD GOD:

When a society loses respect and honor for people, the result is spiritual bankruptcy.  It also means they have lost all respect and reverence toward God and His authority.  Moreover, it means they have lost respect, fear and reverence toward God's righteousness.  This will show in the way they dress.  It will show in their irreverent behavior and their way of speech.  The consequence of all this is a de-emphasis of God, the loss of morality, ethics and standards of good and evil.  When a society dismisses God, the source of all righteousness, righteousness itself is expelled from that society.


VI.  THE SOLUTION:  HUMILITY, SELFLESSNESS, RESPECT AN LOVE:  

The Word of God teaches us to be humble.  James 4:6-10; I Peter 5:6.  To be loving toward all people, Philippians 2:3-5.  This is reflected in our speech, manners and behavior.  We must teach our young to honor the aged by rising in their presence, by treating them with respect, love and honor, by visiting them as well as ministering to them in the fear of God and to His glory.

Consider how the church can be involved in teaching the young:

  1. The church must be involved in teaching the young doctrinal Truth and how it pertains to life. 
  2. The church must be teaching leadership, genuineness and discipleship to our young.  
  3. Our young need more age integrating with church life.  It means they need more integration with other age groups and that includes the aged, elderly.
  4. Our young need to be taught more understanding of the Truth and Biblical authority to be faithful in doctrine and live a holy life.
  5. Christian parents must teach their children about moral righteousness based on the Word of God, the Bible.
  6. Our young must be taught to resolve life's questions and issues from a Biblical view of thinking rather than a worldly view.
  7. To be faithful to the Word of God, Christians as well as parents will need to endure the pressures from without and within.

If parents and the church don't start teaching all the above, tragedy and spiritual bankruptcy is right down the road.  The Word of God honors age not youth.  A person who has dedicated his whole life to serving God and His rule; who has walked in the paths of wisdom and righteousness, is surely worthy of high honor than the youth who has only just begun.  Don't you think?

So, I leave you with these questions:

  • Do you honor the Word of God by honoring the aged or are we honoring youth instead?   
  • Or are we proudly building a church for the young at the expense of the aged?  
  • Is it our primary goal to build a church that caters to the youth?  
  • Are we building an institution that subordinates each individual by groups based on their age? 
  • Are we boasting about the number of our young but at the same time disregard our older ones? Surely with this behavior, we are missing the Bible's emphasis on honoring age.

May we seek after wisdom and righteousness so that we can share our wisdom with the young and foolish when we reach our golden years.  May we honor the aged as God has commanded us.  May we double honor the grey-haired and rise in their presence, giving the honor our God requires of us. Let the words of the Psalmist sink deep into your hearts,

"Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.  They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing."  Psalm 92:13-14

Luci