Prior to Noah’s flood we have records of people living 800 and 900 years. Methuselah holds the record at 969. Many folks today of course don’t believe it. That sentiment is understandable when you consider what a wreck most of our bodies already are by the time we are 70 or 80…sometimes 40 or 50. Is it possible that man really did live to almost a thousand years?
Firstly, we read of no disease in the early goings of mankind. If they had no sickness, they would only have death from accidents and killings. As sin took root in the human race, sickness also took hold. …sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…Rom 5:12 Sickness is really just death on the installment plan. The human body was originally constructed to live forever as it continually regenerates itself. Every seven years almost every cell in your body has been replaced. Unfortunately, as we are all too aware, as each cell regenerates it is reborn a little more decrepid than the time before. The process is called ‘aging’… maybe you’ve heard of it? Your skin becomes wrinkly, your hair turns grey and everything creaks and groans.
Secondly, the climate of planet earth was significantly different in Noah’s day. The bible says that it had never rained but the dew came up from the ground to water the earth. There was something of a green house canopy that covered the earth and shielded out harmful UV rays and produced an ideal growing climate. There are some biblical scholars (not necessarily me) who believe the dinosaurs roamed the earth during this period, not millions earlier. Repitiles grow indescriminately and therefore the older they are, the bigger they become. The theory is, they were just really old reptiles. So once the atmospheric canopy broke up and poured out rain for 40 days the potential for man to live almost 1000 years (and the dinosaurs?) was gone for good.
More importantly, God was not impressed with sinful man and his bad behaviour. Leave him around too long and there is no telling the damage that he could do. Hitler only lasted to 56. Imagine his type around for several hundred years. God fordid… and He did. God changed the rules. And the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” Gen. 6:3 Well, apparently He meant it. The oldest living person in the world is Gertrude Baines of California at a mere 115 years old. 120 seems to be the upside limit and most of us don’t make it anywhere close.
Last week I was in Ottawa for the Billy Graham School of Evangelism. Mr. Graham of course was not there. He is now 90 and physically not doing well. Mentally and emotionally though, they say, he is as sharp as ever. We did however have a cameo appearance by George Beverly Shea. Mr. Shea began working with Billy Graham as his music director in 1947. He holds the world record for singing to the most people ever with a cumulative live audience of 220 million. You can keep trying Mick Jagger, but you will never catch up. “America’s Beloved Gospel Singer” is actually a Canadian. He was born a pastor’s son in Winchester, Ontario.
A select few of us had the opportunity to sit down for lunch with ‘Bev’. He regaled us with stories of the old days for an hour and then he sang, Just a Closer Walk with Thee. His voice is crisp and his mind is sharp and absolutely clear. He still summers at his cottage north of Ottawa and drives his twenty three foot, 300 HP boat. He walks with a cane and will often travel any longer distances by wheelchair. Still, not bad for a man who is in his 101st year! “I’m a hundred and a half,” he likes to say. I felt like I was interacting with a piece of living history… because I was.
Only the good die young? Not always.