Seeking the Old Paths
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 6:16).
The prophet Jeremiah lived during a difficult time. Looking back after almost 2600 years, we see clearly that the writing was on the wall for Judah: Babylon was coming, and Judah would not be able to stand. The LORD tired of Judah’s constant faithlessness and idolatry, and would no longer protect the land of His people (cf. Ezekiel 5:11-17, 11:22-23). The judgment of God was imminent.
The people, however, paid no heed. They did not seek the ways of notable Israelites of the past, such as Moses, Joshua, David, Hezekiah, or Josiah. They continued to follow after their idols and listened to false prophets proclaiming peace and security (Jeremiah 6:13-15). Judah survived the Assyrian attack, and they believed that they could survive the Babylonian attack. Nevertheless, within a generation they would all be dead or exiled to Babylon.
What a tragedy! Had the people of Judah repented, Jerusalem would have been as Nineveh, spared in God’s mercy (cf. Jonah 1-4); nevertheless, they continued in their own paths to their own destruction.
While times may be different today, peoples’ attitudes are not. Our confidence in modern technology has led us to find “the old paths” rather “quaint”; in our world, however, “old” answers do not seem to answer our “new” questions. “New and improved” has replaced “stable and trusted”. To be “relevant” now means to constantly change and innovate and not to rely on past standards. The question must be begged: is this focus on novelty profitable, especially in spiritual matters? Should Christians just move on from fad to fad?
Let us heed the words of the prophets, apostles, and teachers from old. The LORD begged Israel to return to the old paths, which were good, providing rest for their souls (Jeremiah 6:16). The New Testament demonstrates that the “old paths” as presented within its pages are also good, and can provide rest for the soul. The Hebrew author establishes that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), and therefore the brethren should not be led away by “strange” and “diverse” teachings (Hebrews 13:9). Paul warns the Galatians that anyone who preaches a Gospel different from the one which he preached to them previously (even if Paul himself were preaching this “new” Gospel) was accursed (Galatians 1:6-9). Jude wrote to encourage the Christians of his day to contend earnestly for the faith that was delivered “once for all” to the saints (Jude 1:3).
It is true that something new is not automatically wrong, but whatever is “new” should not diminish the practice of the ancient faith. 21st century Christians cannot become first century Christians, but 21st century Christians must share the same faith and practice as commended by the first century Christians. Let us strive, then, to seek the old paths and remain within them, so that we may obtain the Promised Land and not find ourselves separated from God!
Ethan R. Longhenry