Legend has it that many years ago there was a South African king of the Zulu tribe named Shaka the Lion. When Europeans began to establish themselves in that country, it is said that Shaka didn’t die—he simply went to sleep, to be awakened one day and resume his powerful rule over his people. At least that’s the way the legend was recounted by famous American folk singer, Pete Seeger, on his album With Voices Together We Sing (Live).
Even many younger people today are familiar with the bass chant, “Wimoweh, uh-wimoweh, uh-wimoweh, uh-wimoweh,” over which float the haunting falsetto lyrics, “In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight.” Pete Seeger created the word “wimoweh” as he transcribed the words to the song off an album made by a South African singing group, The Evening Birds. The word Seeger transcribed as wimoweh was really uyimbube, Zulu for “you are a lion”—a reference to the legendary Shaka the Lion.
An Oldie but a Goodie
Shaka the Lion was an old king who was expected to awaken to a good purpose. And “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” is definitely an oldie and a goodie in the annals of popular music. But did you know that God had an “oldie but a goodie” near the beginning of recorded history—from whom we can learn a valuable lesson about being awakened for a new and good purpose in God’s kingdom?
God’s oldie was a man named Noah, one of the most familiar and famous individuals in the Bible. The days of Noah were dark ones on the good earth God had created. God’s kingdom had been invaded by sin. Looking around, God could find no reason to rejoice in what He had made and no reason to preserve it. No reason, that is, except for a man named Noah.
Noah was nearing his six-hundredth birthday when God came to him with a mission to save the world. We know absolutely nothing about the first six hundred years of Noah’s life except that he was “a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God” (Genesis 6:9, NLT). He had labored unremarkably for the first two-thirds of his life and was approaching “retirement age.” But then God’s call awakened him.
Noah was advanced in years, and yet Noah said “Yes” to God. He was like a lion that had slept for six hundred years and was then awakened to fulfill his true calling and destiny.
A Time for Lions to Awake
Noah lived to be 950 years old and was 600 when the great Flood came upon the earth. If we use 100 years as a modern human lifespan, an equivalent age for Noah’s calling would be just over 63—right about the time many Westerners are thinking about retiring and “taking it easy.”
As I look out over the “mighty” church, I see many lions and lionesses of God who are asleep in a world not unlike Noah’s. They served God quietly and faithfully for five, six, or seven decades but have assumed that because of their age and place in life it is time for them to nap, time to rest from their labors.
I pray that God might awaken each one who thinks the days of fruitful service in the kingdom are past because of their age or station in life.
“Uyimbube”—You Are a Lion
If you have time, strength, and resources that will allow you to find a “second career” in the second half of life, ask God to help you discover that career. It might be as a volunteer in some aspect of your church’s ministry. Or it might mean taking your witness for Christ into your community in some capacity. Or it might be writing, or praying, or creating for the benefit of others. Or it might even mean going to another culture on a long- or short-term basis to spread the Gospel of Christ to those who have yet to hear.
Do not let your years be a limitation. Noah did the most important work of his life just as he approached retirement age! And the same can be true of you. You’ve spent decades accumulating wisdom and knowledge and understanding. And now is the time to let your voice be heard.
David Jeremiah is the host and founder of Turning Point and serves as the senior pastor at Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California. For more information about Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org.
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