Posted by: Bill Hornbeck | April 19, 2023

“But at the age of fifty years they shall retire from service in the work and not work any more.”

Today’s devotion comes from Numbers 8:23-25.

“Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “This is what applies to the Levites:  from twenty-five years old and upward they shall enter to perform service in the work of the tent of meeting.  But at the age of fifty years they shall retire from service in the work and not work any more.  They may, however, assist their brothers in the tent of meeting, to keep an obligation, but they themselves shall do no work.  Thus you shall deal with the Levites concerning their obligations.”  Numbers 8:23-25.


First of all, I am certainly not maintaining that we should necessarily retire at age of 50.  We can rest too much or retire too early, and there are Scriptures that address that problem.

But, today’s Scripture is specifically on retirement and leads us to meditate on retirement (and more generally on rest).

There are some who have no problem going into retirement. They eagerly look forward to it and throw a party when the day of retirement arrives.

But, there are others who resist rest, including retirement, thinking it is more religious to avoid it. There are some in Christian service, professional paid clergy and lay volunteers, who believe that they should never retire; they proudly proclaim that they will only retire when they get to heaven.  And, there are many more in ordinary jobs serving the public, outside of what most consider Christian service, who believe the same thing and who wear “Always Busy” as a badge of honor.

We see that the LORD provided specific times of rest in Scripture though the Sabbath, Festivals, the year of Jubilee, and other times like retirement in today’s Scripture. In addition, the LORD also provided general times of rest as how we handle life in general.

In summary, rest is not foreign to a Christian’s life but is part and parcel of a Christian’s life. With the Scriptures in this devotion in mind, we can trust God to instruct us and teach us in the way which we should go as the concluding Scripture states.

So, let us consider some Scriptures.

“2 Thus says the LORD,
“The people who survived the sword
Found grace in the wilderness—
Israel, when it went to find its rest
3 The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying,
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” Jeremiah 31:2-3.

“I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord GOD.” Ezekiel 34:15.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.” Psalm 23:2.

“For He Himself knows our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust.” Psalm 103:14.

“As the cattle which go down into the valley,
The Spirit of the LORD gave them rest.
So You led Your people,
To make for Yourself a glorious name.” Isaiah 63:14.

“11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
The LORD gives grace and glory;
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
12 O LORD of hosts,
How blessed is the man who trusts in You!” Psalm 84:11.

“10 He does not delight in the strength of the horse;
He does not take pleasure in the legs of a man.
11 The LORD favors those who fear Him,
Those who wait for His lovingkindness.” Psalm 147:10-11.

“7 Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.
8 Cease from anger and forsake wrath;
Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.
9 For evildoers will be cut off,
But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.” Psalm 37:7-9.

“23 O love the LORD, all you His godly ones!
The LORD preserves the faithful
And fully recompenses the proud doer.
24 Be strong and let your heart take courage,
All you who hope in the LORD.” Psalm 31:23-24.

“Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
3 Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
4 Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
5 Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.” Psalm 103:1-5.

“Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42.

“So the LORD gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it. And the LORD gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and no one of all their enemies stood before them; the LORD gave all their enemies into their hand. Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.” Joshua 21:43-45.

Rest, including retirement, is proof of our faith in the LORD to provide all that we need for salvation, to accomplish what concerns us for our works, and to provide for all our daily earthly needs.

“But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,” Romans 4:5.

“Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” John 6:27-29.

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10.

“for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6.

Reformed Doctrine accurately summarizes Scripture and teaches that salvation is a work of God alone, by grace alone, and that God provides all that we need for salvation from beginning to end: from the beginning of “Unconditional Election” through “Limited Atonement” through “Irresistible Grace” to the end of “Preservation of the Saints”, the “U”, “L”, “I”, and “P” of “TULIP”, the Five Points of Calvinism, the Reformed Doctrine of Salvation. This true doctrine of salvation is more fully taught in the Reformed Confession called Canons of Dordt.

“The LORD will accomplish what concerns me;
Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.” Psalm 138:8.

“You will establish peace for us,
Since You have also performed for us all our works.” Isaiah 26:12.

“Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.” Psalm 116:7.

There are also practical reasons for rest, including retirement.  Here are four examples.  

First, generally, with exceptions, as we get older, we get weaker, less flexible and less steady. We cannot stand as much physical and mental stress. We do not have as much energy. Generally, although there are certainly offsets to help us in old age such as wisdom and experience and sometimes more time to do each project, as we get older, we get more susceptible to the quantity and severity of injuries and mistakes.

In summary, it requires much wisdom and guidance from the LORD to know when to retire.

Every employment is different. For example, in sports, manual labor, and other employment primarily depending on physical condition, one should generally retire sooner than where one works behind a desk. Moreover, some employment has plenty of staff to hide or make up for the weaknesses of old age. Finally, it is usually not straight down hill as we get older; it is more of a rollercoaster gradually going down.

We do need to consider the possibility that when we get too tired or too old, the quality of our work can suffer, and we can harm others.  Even though our poor work is not intentional, it can be negligent and can cause damage to others.

“Beware of being negligent in carrying out this matter; why should damage increase to the detriment of the kings?”  Ezra 4:22.

“Cursed be the one who does the LORD’S work negligently, …” Jeremiah 48:10.

Second, when we stay too long in our position, we do not allow the rested or younger or less experienced to serve (even though they may be more talented).  We know from sports that sitting on the bench too long leads many to quit or transfer to another team.  We should give opportunity to others to serve.

“What then is Apollos?  And what is Paul?  Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.  So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”  1 Corinthians 3:5-7. 

Even after retirement, we can still assist others. We do not need to work. We can encourage and advise others. We can pray for others. We can give money to help support the work. As stated in today’s Scripture: “They may, however, assist their brothers in the tent of meeting, to keep an obligation, but they themselves shall do no work. …” Verse 26.

Third, retirement gives us more time, opportunity, and standing to make helpful conclusions based on a lifetime of service and experience. We can teach and pass on this wisdom to the next generation.

Fourth, retirement gives us more time and opportunity and desire to prepare for the next stage: life after death. Although the following verses apply to all ages, old age is most well-suited to prepare for the next stage. We have more time and opportunity to pray, read the Bible, and think more deeply about heaven. We are less attracted and less able to participate as fully on the things on the earth.

“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2.

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Colossians 3:1.

“The LORD has established His throne in the heavens,
And His sovereignty rules over all.” Psalm 103:19.

“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.” Revelation 19:6. “To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5:11.

This may be part of the meaning of the prophecy of “your old men shall dream dreams” in Acts 2:17.


Many think that there is joy and peace in retirement in vacations, cruises, and sitting on a beach and looking out at the beautiful water. I certainly enjoy it, and we can do more of it. But, how much more joyful and peaceful is it to focus on God and His qualities and His “Total Perfect Triumph” such as summarized in the headnote “About God” above!

“And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to all who are to come.” Psalm 71:18.

“With a long life I will satisfy him
And let him see My salvation.” Psalm 91:16.

There are a number of different causes why we refuse to rest and refuse to retire.

I will summarize just three causes in this subsection.

First, our fear causes us to refuse to rest and refuse to retire. We fear that God will not take care of us financially after we stop working and we think we will need more money than we actually do need.

Second, our pride causes us to refuse to rest and refuse to retire. We seek our kingdom and our righteousness, rather than seeking God’s kingdom and His righteousness.

Third, we do not have a correct understanding of rewards that causes us to refuse to rest and refuse to retire. We either think we are indispensable, we want extra rewards, or we are not willing to share the glory. We show that we do not think (or do not want) that God can raise up others to do His work. We show that we think that God’s success depends on our free-will and our work rather than on God’s sovereignty and His work.

But, there is hope!

“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:31-34.

“9 “Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
10 Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;
11 Calling a bird of prey from the east,
The man of My purpose from a far country.
Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass.
I have planned it, surely I will do it.” Isaiah 46:9-11.

There are warnings.

“One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 4:6.

“Behold, as for the proud one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous will live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2:4.

“If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:8-10.

“14 “Issachar is a strong donkey,
Lying down between the sheepfolds.
15 “When he saw that a resting place was good
And that the land was pleasant,
He bowed his shoulder to bear burdens,
And became a slave at forced labor.” Genesis 49:14-15.

Generally, the above Scripture can serve as an example that we can see that rest is good and retirement pleasant, but we can still refuse to rest and retire, and in so doing, become slaves to work.

“12 He who said to them, “Here is rest, give rest to the weary,”
And, “Here is repose,” but they would not listen.
13 So the word of the LORD to them will be,
“Order on order, order on order,
Line on line, line on line,
A little here, a little there,”
That they may go and stumble backward, be broken, snared and taken captive.” Isaiah 28:12-13.

“15 For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said,

“In repentance and rest you will be saved,
In quietness and trust is your strength.”
But you were not willing,
16 And you said, “No, for we will flee on horses,”
Therefore you shall flee!
“And we will ride on swift horses,”
Therefore those who pursue you shall be swift.” Isaiah 30:15-16.

“Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.”  Hebrews 4:1.

“For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.  Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.”  Hebrews 4:10-11. 

But, there is hope!

“3 “Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
You who have been borne by Me from birth
And have been carried from the womb;
4 Even to your old age I will be the same,
And even to your graying years I will bear you!
I have done it, and I will carry you;
And I will bear you and I will deliver you.
” Isaiah 46:3-4.

“4 I sought the LORD, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.” Psalm 34:4-7.

“17 The righteous cry, and the LORD hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the LORD delivers him out of them all.” Psalm 34:17-19.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9.

“25 I have been young and now I am old,
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
Or his descendants begging bread.
26 All day long he is gracious and lends,
And his descendants are a blessing.” Psalm 37:25-26.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30.

“It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” Psalm 127:2.

When I was in my 20s, I thought life could not get any better than hanging out with my single friends. When I was in my 30s, I thought life could not get any better than being married. When I got in my 40s, I thought life could not get any better than being successful in my business and watching my sons play sports. When I got in my 50s, I thought life could not get any better than seeing my sons succeed in school and the start of their careers. When I got into my 60s, I thought life could not get any better than writing my meditations on God’s Word.

But, what about the future? As we get older, weaker, and face the uncertainty of retirement, God’s strength, God’s faithfulness, and the certainty of God’s care for us are not diminished one bit.

“Your lovingkindness, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” Psalm 36:5.

“but just as it is written,


“Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:6.

“8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;
I will counsel you with My eye upon you.

9 Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding,
Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check,
Otherwise they will not come near to you.
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
But he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him.
11 Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones;
And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.
” Psalm 32:8-11.


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