Updated: Sep 4, 2019
Ask for the Old Paths
Jeremiah’s writings and lamentations are a commentary on where our sin-nature can take us – from light to darkness.The Hebrew nation: the elect of Yahweh, struggled over the ages to remain faithful to their Creator, all too frequently choosing the darkness of immoral behavior and idol worship over the light of righteousness and the ways of Yahweh. In our continuing series on the Signs and Symbols of Jeremiah, this month’s topic is taken from Jeremiah 6:16, captured by the phrase ask for theold paths. In the previous chapters of Jeremiah, we read of the Israelitish nation’s apostasy, learning that the depravity and shameless idolatry of the kingdom of Judah was worse than that of the kingdom of Israel. Jeremiah would not find one righteous man, as Yahweh had said, Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it(Jeremiah 5:1). Their sin being so pervasive, they would not hear the healing words of Jeremiah nor recognize the devastating Babylonian ambitions to the north. They blinded themselves saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace(6:14).
Jeremiah was appointed by Yahweh to be over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant (Jeremiah 1:10). He was a light to the kingdom of Judah, to bring remembrance of their former ways, the ways pleasing to their God, that they might return to Him the sweet savor of faithful worship, adoration, and obedience. These former ways were known to the great men of Judah as Jeremiah confirmed, I will get me unto the great men, and will speak unto them; for they have known the way of the LORD, and the judgment of their God;but of their vanity Jeremiah writes, thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods(Jeremiah 5:5, 7). The consequence of Judah’s forsaking their Lord was that Yahweh would utterjudgments against them touching all their wickedness because theyhave forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands(Jeremiah 1:16).
O ye children of Benjamin,pleaded Jeremiah, 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.In their blindness and wickedness, they emphatically responded, We will not walk therein (Jeremiah 6:1, 16). Fully conscious of the futility of his appeals and rebukes, Jeremiah later speaks of the impending Babylonian desolation of Judah as if it were already accomplished.
All the families of the house of Israel…walked after vanity, and are become vain(Jeremiah 2:4-5). They remembered no more the salvation they received at the hand of Yahweh when He brought them up out of the land of Egypt and cared for them as a father does his child. He had cultivated them as a noble vine, yet they grew into the degenerate plant of a strange vineto Him (Jeremiah 2:21). Their independence and arrogance led them to say, we are lords; we will come no more unto thee(Jeremiah 2:31). For this boldness Yahweh declared the whole land shall be desolate… nevertheless… I will not make a full endwith you(Jeremiah 4:27, 5:18). Yet, there is the blessing that waits for us: Yahweh, in His wisdom, reserved a remnant and did not make a full endto the hope of a Promised Land of rest for those faithful who will become the chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light(1 Peter 2:9).
The Old Paths
Jeremiah likened the choices for Judah to one standing at a crossroads and facing a choice of which path to take.The path chosen will affect the outcome. Only one path is the good way,styled the old paths,which leads to rest for their souls; while the other path leads to destruction for them and their nation. The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) renders Jeremiah 6:16 thusly, Here is what Adonai says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask about the ancient paths, Which one is the good way? Take it, and you will find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not take it.And later in 18:15 …but my people have forgotten me and offer incense to nothings. This causes them to stumble as they walk the ancient paths; they leave the highway to walk on side-trails.
The old or ancient path is the way and the direction set forth by Yahweh as to how we are to order our lives: it is the path of life if we walk therein. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight; Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore(Psalm 119:35, 16:11). Keeping the way of the LORD (the old paths) is to do justice and judgment(Jeremiah 22:15; 23:5) that we might be heir to those great and precious promises covenanted to Abraham. Not only are we to walk in the commands of Yahweh, but we are to teach our children and all that will hear as did Abraham, as God declared, For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him(Genesis 18:19). The good way leads to life and eternal rest, a rest which remaineth…to the people of God, andhis rest shall be glorious (Hebrews 4:9; Isaiah 11:10).
To remain on the good path in our own lives it must be well-trodden through daily use. If an obnoxious weed were to sprout in our pathway, it would be quickly stamped out by our continual walking thereon. Otherwise, weeds will soon fill the path so that the good wayis no longer obvious. How do we keep the weeds trod down? Yahweh tells us to lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up(Deuteronomy 11:18-19). These old pathscome alive to us in our daily Bible readings and the writings of our pioneer brethren. We bear personal accountability to study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth(2Timothy 2:15), and to lay up in our hearts the good waysthat are the old paths.
Stand at the Crossroads
We face a crossroad each day when we awake – will we, in this day, serve the Lord or we will take a path that satisfies the flesh? The entire Bible is the outplaying of such decisions. Jeremiah’s world is but one segment of that continuum of choice, and we know his nation chose to not walk therein, to not take the good way, the way pleasing to the Lord that leads to life. Jeremiah was instructed of the Lord to say to the people, stand ye in the ways and see(stand at the crossroads and look – CJB).What were they to see? This demand was to awaken their senses to see the error of their ways, to recognize they were on the wrong path. A message much like that of Haggai, consider your ways (1:5). A message like that of Jesus’s discourse on the mount where he frequently said, ye have heard that it hath been said…but I say unto you (Matthew 5:33-34). The leaders of Jeremiah’s day had led the people astray and the people willingly followed. We must always scrutinize the influence of those around us through the sieve of Yahweh’s words, His old paths, the good waysHe set forth in the beginning, and, as time progressed, revealed through the prophets, His Son, and the Apostles.
Ask, Yahweh said to thechildren of Benjamin… ask for theold paths is the complete phrase and carries an important message for us. Yahweh condemned the people for not asking their prophets and priests to direct them in the right way (Jeremiah 5:31), to bring them back to the former ways of worship, the good wayswhich would please Yahweh. This suggests the people couldn’t return to the good waysby themselves as they lacked the knowledge, the strength of belief, and the will. The religious leaders, however, did know the way of the LORD, but had chosen another way (Jeremiah 5:5).
The Pattern Repeated
A similar situation existed in the days of Jesus. Only this time it was Jesus and the Apostles who asked for the religious leaders to remember the former days and return to the spirit of the good ways/the old paths. Jesus said, For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?(John 5:46-47) Just as with Jeremiah, we are told that Jesus came unto his own, and his own received him not(John 1:11). The destruction of the Israeli commonwealth followed some 40 years later.
Today the apostate churches surround us and the potential exists that they may influence us, such that we turn away from the old paths, even if ever so slightly. Judah was influenced by Israel to the north, the heathen roundabout, and from within their own midst. Jesus described the religious leader’s practices of the day concerning Deity as, in vain do they worship me [Yahweh], teaching for doctrines the commandments of men; while rebuking them for laying aside the commandment of God(Mark 7:7-8). As we stand at our crossroad each morning, we need to ask ourselves where we may have diluted the Word of Yahweh, and if so, restore that which was lost. There is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10), so we must admit to the need to seeand lookfor behaviors that compromise our ability to hold to the “good path” prescribed by our Lord and Savior. We should not be over confident in our ability to hold fast to the old paths,lest we be beguiled by the wiles of the world or be found as napping watchmen on a side-trailand without hope.
Take the Good Way and Find Rest
Judah had lost its way having chosen to serve other gods, and refused to walk in the old paths.Yahweh desired Judah to repent of their idolatry and immorality: to remember and observe the covenant, Which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God(Jeremiah 11:4). This was the good way wherein they would find rest for their souls.
As Christadelphians, we too must must consider our ways. We are to live in the harmony of the one faith, rejoicing in the Truth, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together; but continuing stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers(Hebrews 10:25; Acts 2:42). Do we have cause to ask for the old paths, where is the good way? Yes, we do. We are sin-flesh and must daily overcome the temptation that is in the world. This is a question we should continually ask ourselves to ensure our walk, step by step, is pleasing and acceptable to Yahweh. Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD(Lamentations 3:40) by removing leaven wherever it might be found.
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equitywe turn to the proverbs of Solomon (Proverbs 1:3). In Proverbs thePreacherinstructs, In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death(12:28). For 2,000 years now, Christ has been the wayand has shown us the path we must take to fellowship with the Father (1 John 1:6-7). This is the good way and we are to walk therein, for this is the path of righteousness that leads to life everlasting in our Father’s Kingdom. Christ, the righteous one of Yahweh, through death, opened up the way of life. Christ himself said, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me(John 14:6). Jeremiah’s Judah was the family redeemed from Egypt, yet they walked in darkness. We will be the family redeemed from the world, a world of darkness, if we walk obediently in the righteousness of Yahweh’s commands of justice andjudgment: the old pathsset forth from the foundation of the world.
This ancientand good wayhas at its base the plan of salvation set forth by our Fatherwhen he pronounced to the serpent that the woman’s seed, Christ, would bruise thy head. For Jeremiah, there was no side-trail:the old pathswere the right and good ones, and in following them, Judah could have found rest. We too desire this rest for our souls, but for us that time is styled the seventh day, the future millennial aionwherein Yahweh’s voice will be known and His justice and judgmentwill be as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14). Then the redeemed, those that sought after and followed theold paths, where is the good way, will singthe song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints (Revelation 15:3).
Scott Cram, Richmond, VA