David's Deliberations . . .
Ask For the Old Paths
The Old Testament is filled with many lessons for the Christian. It was written for our learning (Romans 15:4) and the events and people we read about serve as examples to us (1 Corinthians 10:11).
In this time of turmoil for us, we would do well to focus on the basics (in some ways we have been forced to practice the basics), especially where our faith is concerned.
In the days of Jeremiah the prophet, a time of religious turmoil for Israel, the Lord wanted to offer them rest for their souls:
Thus says the LORD,
Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,
Where the good way is, and walk in it;
And you will find rest for your souls.
But they said, 'We will not walk in it.'
Using the imagery of travelers who have lost their way, the Lord calls for them to ask for the ancient paths, the old ways. There are several lessons here for us to learn.
1) "Stand in the ways and see." There is not just one way available to take, but many different paths that one might choose to follow. The problem for us is that most paths do not take us where we want to go, and the way we want to go may not be so easy to find. Jesus said "the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:14)
2) "Ask for the ancient paths." The "old way" is often the best way. If there is a path on which to walk, then many have already passed that way, headed to a desirable destination. Such is certainly the case here. The old way is the way in which God has called his people to walk.
3) "Where the good way is." Not all paths offer the "good way." In Jeremiah's time, the ancient paths led back to the Law of Moses (cf. Jeremiah 7:22-24). God was pleading for His people to come to Him and with Him on life's journey.
Jesus makes a similar plea to us today (Matthew 7:13,14; Luke 13:24), to strive to enter the right path with a gate that is narrow; this is only one way to the Father (cf. John 14:6; Acts 4:12)
For there are other, broad, ways that one might follow (Matthew 7:13) It is a way that many follow and that leads to destruction.
Yet the way Jesus offers is a "good way," one that likewise offers rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28). In our time, the way leads back to words of Jesus (Matthew 11:29). These words are relatively "old" by today's standards.
In Jeremiah's day, Israel had stumbled because they had forgotten God (Jeremiah 18:15). Though God had revealed Himself and His will long before through Moses and the prophets. He had established a "highway" (a good road) for them to follow. Instead, they had turned to many of the side "pathways" (following other gods, or "doing what was right in their own eyes.")
We, as God's children, face similar choices today. Jesus established a "highway" for us to follow: His words, doctrine, commandments (cf. Mt 11:29 "learn from Me") as communicated through His apostles (Matthew 28:20) who were aided by the Holy Spirit (John 16:12-13), constitute that "highway" for us.
The early disciples were careful to follow this way (Acts 2:42) which the Christians were commanded to follow (2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6). This is the way that leads to the Father and to eternal life (John 14:6; etc.)
Yet there are many man-made "pathways" that would lead us astray. These would include the doctrines of men (Matthew 15:9) and the philosophies of men (Colossians 2:8). Often packaged as "new!" and "improved!," such doctrines and philosophies fail to deliver what only the Lord truly offers: "rest for your souls."
Let us find that rest to our souls by asking for and finding the old paths as revealed in the New Testament of our Savior, and resolving to walk faithfully in them.
—David Carl Swanson