By David Sanford, Crosswalk.com
Early in our marriage, Renée and I invested a lot of time with women and men in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. One of our dear friends lived to be 101. Another lived to be 106. These two (and many others) showed us how to enjoy life to the full until the very end.
Over the past four decades, Renée and I have actively sought to model our lives after theirs…and after the lives of their favorite Bible characters.
So, who were their favorite Bible characters? We’ll begin with Adam, Enoch, and Noah…and end with Simeon, Anna, and John.
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1. Adam Enjoyed a Lifetime Loving Eve and Loving the Lord
Adam lived to be 930 years old (Genesis 5:5). Over the next nine generations, only three of his descendants lived longer: Enoch’s father Jared (962), Enoch’s son Methuselah (969), and Methuselah’s grandson Noah (950). Like every other biblical character who did great things for God in his old age, Adam sinned. Yet his greatest achievements were a lifetime loving his wife, Eve, and loving the Lord his God.
The pastor to senior citizens at a huge church shocked me. He reported that over the years a significant percentage of that church’s senior citizens have walked away from the Lord. And that’s after they had lived only six or seven decades. Adam, however, loved his wife and the Lord faithfully all down through the centuries. What a great legacy!
2. Enoch Maintained a Close Daily Walk with God
Enoch lived to be 365 years old (Genesis 5:23). In the pre-flood world, that was super young. Then again, in that world, Enoch was the only man who never died. The Bible makes this remarkable statement: “Enoch walked with God; and he was no more, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24; see also Hebrews 11:5).
The only other man who never died—again, because God took him—was the great prophet Elijah (2 Kings 2:11). Let’s not forget that Enoch too was a prophet. One of his most important prophecies, about the Lord’s future judgment of evil men, is quoted in Jude 1:14-15.
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3. Noah Obeyed the Lord No Matter What
Noah lived to be 950 years old (Genesis 9:29). After the flood, human lifespans dramatically shortened within the first few generations. Of course, humanly speaking there would have been no humans, animals, reptiles, and other creatures unless Noah had done something great for God before the flood.
For 120 years prior to the flood, Noah and his sons constructed a massive ark. The ark was a quarter of the height and half of the length of the Titanic. No wonder it took so long to build! Even more remarkable? Noah built it by faith in God (Hebrews 11:7). Up until then, mankind had no experience with great floods, let alone with massive ship building.
In other words, Noah had never seen what God told him. By faith in God, however, Noah obeyed and still is one of the most famous men ever.
4. Job Repented and Trusted God Again
When comparing Job 1:1-5 with Job 42:16, once can see that Job lived to be at least 210 years old. The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly how old Job was when he died. Back then, men often waited 40 or 50 years to start their family. Job lived 140 years after God appeared to him. So, it’s easy to surmise that Job was well over 200 years old when he died. Then again, that’s not what’s important.
What’s important is that Job courageously listened to the Lord’s rebukes, humbly turned from his sins, and trusted the Lord wholeheartedly again. Later, the Lord blessed Job with twice as many possessions and 10 more children. There is no indication, however, that the Lord promised to bless Job. It’s just what the Lord likes to do when we trust Him wholeheartedly again.
We all endure deep losses and grief. We all experience deep anger and sorrow. The question is, are we willing to listen to God, humbly turn from our sins, and trust Him wholeheartedly again? I hope so!
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5. Abraham Believed that God Can Do Anything
Abraham lived to be 175 years old (Genesis 25:8). His life easily breaks into two parts. At age 75, he turned from idols. Then for the next 100 years, Abraham followed the one true God, maker of heaven and earth (Acts 7:2-8).
Like every other Old Testament hero of the faith, Abraham wasn’t perfect. In fact, it took about 38 years for Abraham to finally obey the Lord fully without hesitation. Everything up until then was preparatory for Abraham’s greatest test of faith: sacrificing his beloved son, Isaac.
Remember, Abraham didn’t have even one page of the Bible. He only had what the Lord God told him. Still, the idea of sacrificing Isaac was the ultimate test. The apostle Paul explains what this test proved: it proved that Abraham believed God would raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19).
This amazing story of faith in Genesis 22 foreshadows the Lord’s own willingness to send His dearly loved Son, the perfect and sinless Lord Jesus Christ, to die on a cross, and to rise again from the dead on the third day. It’s the Gospel in a nutshell.
6. Joseph Trusted that God Was Always With Him
Joseph lived to be 110 years old (Genesis 50:26). His great grandfather Abraham’s legacy never would have continued—let alone continued for 4,000 years—without Joseph’s unswerving trust that the Lord God always was with him.
We first see this when Joseph is sold into slavery. We see this again when Joseph is thrown in prison. We see this a third time when Joseph is promoted to Egypt’s supreme leader under Pharaoh’s authority. Finally, we see this when Joseph has the opportunity to slaughter his brothers, but instead forgives them.
Listen to Joseph’s robust statement of faith: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20). What remarkable trust in God’s sovereignty and providence! No wonder he’s considered one of the greatest biblical heroes.
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7. Amram and Jochebed Raised Three Famous Children
Amram and Jochebed are the most famous Bible husband and wife no one has heard of (Exodus 6:20 and Numbers 26:59). Then again, everyone has heard of their three famous children: Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. Moses lived to be 120 years old (Deuteronomy 34:7) and his older siblings were even older when they died (see Numbers 20:22-29 and Numbers 20:1). Again, the trio are super-famous, so I won’t repeat their stories here.
Instead, I want to take a paragraph to express my deep admiration for Amram and Jochebed, who lost their youngest son when he was an infant, received him back within 24 hours, several years later lost him again, and probably never saw him after that. Yet the great faith they instilled in Moses paid huge dividends, as did the great faith they instilled in their older son, Aaron, and oldest child, Miriam. Amram and Jochebed deserve our utmost respect. I can’t wait to meet them in heaven!
8. Joshua Obeyed the Lord’s Audacious Commands
Like Joseph, Joshua lived to be 110 years old (Joshua 24:29). Like his fellow good spy, Caleb, Joshua loved, trusted, and obeyed the Lord wholeheartedly. Caleb may have beaten Joshua at arm wrestling, but Joshua stands out as one of my all-time favorite Bible heroes. Like his predecessor, Joshua had the courage to obey the Lord no matter how audacious His commands sounded.
Joshua’s secret was listening for the Lord, even if the Lord spoke to him only once every few years. His other secret was immediately repeating and obeying the Lord’s commands. After all, if the Lord said it, and He cannot lie, then what the Lord promised will come true. Walk around the hostile city of Jericho quietly for seven days? Check. Walk around it quietly six extra times on the seventh day? Got it. Then shout? Good as done.
Only one ancient city in all the world has walls that imploded into the city. That is, the walls imploded everywhere except one spot (Rahab’s house and those next to it). Archeologists call it Jericho City IV. No other archeological site is quite like it!
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9. Jehoiada Led the Kingdom of Judah Back to the Lord
Jehoiada lived to be 130 years old (2 Chronicles 24:15). He’s the last of Old Testament heroes of the faith to live well past a century. He did great things for God throughout his lifetime. The stories are told in 2 Kings 11-12 and 2 Chronicles 22:11-24. His greatest accomplishments were overthrowing Judah’s murderous queen, establishing a new monarch, leading a national revival, and restoring the Temple to its former glory.
Unlike every other Old Testament priest, Jehoiada received an exceptional honor at death. We read about this incredible honor in 2 Chronicles 25:16: “He was buried among the kings in the City of David, because he had done so much good in Israel for God and his Temple.” The king who ordered the assassination of Jehoiada’s godly son, however, wasn’t buried in the royal cemetery. It’s one of the Bible’s greatest examples of poetic justice.
10. Isaiah and Daniel Prophesied About the Coming Messiah
Isaiah served as a prophet during a reign of four consecutive kings who ruled Judah from 791 B.C. to 687 B.C. Daniel served as a prophet during the reign of six kings who ruled the Babylonian empire as well as the king who overthrew the Babylonians and ruled over the much larger Persian empire. Both men were actively serving the Lord well into their 80s and 90s and possibly died after age 100.
What’s incredible is how faithfully Isaiah and Daniel proclaimed the words of the Lord no matter what it cost them. I like to think of both as brilliant, strong, highly-respected, and godly gentlemen. Yet for Isaiah, three years were spent naked and barefoot (Isaiah 20:2-4). And for Daniel, three episodes were spent facing near-certain death (Daniel 1, Daniel 2, and Daniel 6).
Even more incredible? How accurately both Isaiah and Daniel prophesied about the coming Messiah. Isaiah says more about the Messiah than all the prophets who followed him, and Daniel accurately stated when the Messiah would come during the last great ancient empire.
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11. Simeon and Anna Rejoiced Over the Newborn Messiah
Simeon lived in Jerusalem. Anna lived in the Temple itself. Their stories are told in Luke 2:25-38. Both were prophets. The Lord had told Simeon that he would not die in old age until he had seen the Messiah. Then the Lord spoke through Simeon exalting the Christ child and speaking words of exaltation and warning to the newborn’s mother, Mary.
While Simeon was so happy he was ready to die, Anna probably was older. The literal reading of the text says she had been married for seven years and then lived as a widow for eighty-four more years. If Anna was married at age 13 (not uncommon in ancient times), she would have been 104 years old when she walked up and joined Simeon.
Unlike Simeon, Anna had never felt more alive. We read that “she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). I can imagine her radiant smiles and excitement as she went around the Court of the Women talking with everyone she met. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s still doing that in heaven!
12. John Lived a Full Life in Love with the Savior
The youngest of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ, John outlived them all. His lifespan probably covered almost all of the first century A.D. Traditionally, John was the author of the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation.
The Gospel of John includes arguably the most famous Bible verse, John 3:16. Not surprisingly, John uses the word “love” more than the other three Gospels combined. It’s true that every New Testament book (except Acts) uses the word “love” repeatedly, but 1 John uses it far more often than any other New Testament epistle (letter). John even uses “love” repeatedly throughout the book of Revelation.
No wonder John often is called “the apostle of love.” Then again, make no mistake: John wasn’t in love with love. Instead, he deeply loved the Savior. He also deeply loved his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ—and rejoiced greatly when they walked in the truth.
After the Lord Jesus Christ gives me a bear hug and welcomes me into heaven, I can’t wait to get another bear hug from the apostle John. What a welcome that will be!
David Sanford coaches leaders passionate about demonstrating the relevance of Jesus Christ in every major sphere of life. His book and Bible projects have been published by Zondervan, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, Doubleday, and Amazon. His speaking engagements have ranged everywhere from The Billy Graham Center at the Cove (NC) to UC Berkeley (CA).
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