Biblical Inspiration

WHERE ARE THE OLD PATHS

Churches of the World: The magical path leading to the old and abandoned church of Llanfihangel Ysceifiog. North Wales, United Kingdom.

 

 

 WHERE ARE THE OLD PATHS?

 

 

Where Are The Old Paths? 

By Elder Emerson Proctor

Pastor of Bethesda Church, Wadley Ga

 

Jeremiah 6:16 Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.

Jeremiah began his prophetic ministry during the reign of King Josiah who sought to bring about a religious reformation in Judah according to the “Book of the Law.” Because of that, it was an encouraging time for people like Jeremiah. However, this did not last long, and Judah resumed its descent toward the doom Jeremiah had begun to predict. That doom came just as Jeremiah had said it would, and the Babylonians overran Judah, and the city of Jerusalem and Solomon‟s Temple were destroyed.

The reality of this impending disaster was the atmosphere in which Jeremiah wrote the words of this text. Jeremiah issued this impassioned plea for repentance against the backdrop of this tremendous cloud that hung over the Kingdom of Judah. In the midst of a cacophony of divergent voices, the people turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the message of Jeremiah.

What was the message of Jeremiah? What was his plea to the people of Judah? It was a call to repentance. He urged them to turn from their present path of idolatry and ungodliness to the path of obedience and a return to the ancient word of God. He said, “Stand in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, wherein is the good way. . . .”What were these “old paths” to which Jeremiah called them? It seems clear that they were the paths of God‟s ancient covenant with Israel. As Matthew Henry put it, “Oh that men would be wise for their souls! Ask for the old paths; the way of godliness and righteousness has always been the way God has owned and blessed. Ask for the old paths set forth by the written word of God.” Jeremiah went on to spell this out even more clearly in the next chapter.

Jeremiah 7:23 But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.

These were the instructions given by Moses when God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt. Jeremiah is probably referring to a passage like this one in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 11:13 And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,

Deuteronomy 11:14 That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.

Deuteronomy 11:15 And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full. Deuteronomy 11:16 Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;

Deuteronomy 11:17 And then the LORD’S wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.

Centuries had passed since Moses had given these basic and fundamental principles to the nation of Israel. During that time, many variations of that word had grown up in Israel. Small departures from the true worship of God had been introduced among the people. Sections of the ancient Scriptures had been ignored altogether. Some leaders had brought in outright idols, and they told the people that they could worship God through these idols as well as the way God had originally commanded. In this way the true worship of God was diluted, and the religion of Israel had become an amalgamation of pagan worship along side of the worship of God. Such things had become settled in Israel, and in this way strong traditions were established and they were now entrenched as orthodox and true.

This most likely explains why the people refused the call of Jeremiah to return to the “old paths.” He further explains that in the passage referred to earlier.

Jeremiah 7:24 But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward.
Jeremiah 7:25 Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them:
Jeremiah 7:26 Yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers. Jeremiah 7:27 Therefore thou shalt speak all these words unto them; but they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee.

These people were established in their own way which they regarded as right. Therefore, they regarded Jeremiah as a sort of „prophet of doom,” who was out of touch with the situation they now faced. They wanted something “relevant” to present reality, and Jeremiah appeared to be a relic of the past who spoke of some past era that had no bearing on their present circumstances. They regarded the “old paths” as obsolete paths, and they rejected them.

Furthermore, they had their own prophets who were telling them things that were much more up to date. Their prophets were bringing them a message of a bright future and good hope. As Jeremiah put it, “They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14) These prophets told the people that things were going to be fine and that they were safe in their own land, but Jeremiah had a message of doom and pessimism. These people wanted something that would make them feel good. They wanted a “positive” message, and these prophets were giving them what they wanted to hear. They were telling the people how they could have a happy and fulfilling life. That is what appealed to them, and this is what they preferred to hear.

There is a lot that Jeremiah faced that is much like what faces in the “Christian” church today. Just as in the case of Jeremiah, these old fashioned calls to return to the truths of the Bible are looked upon today as unworkable and hopelessly out of date. Large numbers of professing Christians do not want to hear these old “doctrines” that are boring and irrelevant to our times. This is a fairly commonly expressed sentiment and that not too far from where we are, and there are an ample number of preachers who are willing to give them this “positive” message of the good life.

And to complicate the matter even more, there are those who talk about the “old paths,” but they often refer to some kind of idealized vision of a past generation that they regard as the true “old paths.” The problem with many of these is that they are no more that a traditional view of things that do not really reflect the ancient truths of the word of God. In fact the Scriptures are often interpreted in the light of these commonly accepted “old paths.” The truth of God‟s word has become so mixed up with traditional views that many find it difficult to tell the difference.

All of this is included in Jeremiah‟s call to return to the “old paths.” Jeremiah says that we must strip away the alluring message of modern peace mongers as well as traditions that do not measure up to the ancient word of God. The call of the prophet is that we return to the true meaning of the text of Scripture without the traditions that often attach themselves to it. To do this requires an extraordinary effort. That is what Jeremiah refers to when he says, “Stand ye in the ways.” There are many paths before you, Jeremiah says, and you must seek the true way among a variety of wrong ways. That is not easy, and unfortunately, many people are not willing to put forth the effort and do not have the courage to find the real “old paths.”

But in really seeking the true “old paths,” Jeremiah promised the people that they would “find rest for your souls.” Yes, there is a true rest in faithful obedience, in seeking the “way everlasting” of the word of God. This is not the easy “peace, peace” promised by the false prophets. This is the rest promised by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself when He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

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