Thus says the LORD: “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls.”
– Jeremiah 6.16
This month we have a much-quoted Bible text for consideration. It appears in Jeremiah’s prophecy, where the Lord God announces judgment against His people for their rebellion against Him. But the Lord still shows mercy to them. He speaks about ‘walking in the good way’, on the ‘old paths’, and about how this will bring ‘rest for your souls’. The sad truth was that the people responded to God’s gracious call to His Way: ‘we will not walk in it’. He also shows how the people refused to hear the ‘watchmen’ God had appointed — His prophets, but the people said ‘We will not listen’. It is a great tragedy when the Lord has given His truth, and we foolishly refuse to listen to, or follow Him.
Our verse this month is often picked out by those who are troubled about changes in the modern church. Sometimes you will hear a preacher speak approvingly of a Church or a Christian who ‘follow(s) the old paths’.
Sadly, this often means little more than that a Church is following traditions. We have to be very careful that the ‘old paths’ we walk in are not the things which our ancestors did, or commanded us, but the things which the Lord has commanded us!
So, what are the ‘old paths’ we are to walk in? Is it that we should have pews in the chapel, or an organ? Is it that we should use a particular Bible version, or meet at certain times, or wear suits and ties? No. The Lord was angry with His people because ‘they have not heeded My words nor my law, but rejected it’ (Jer 6.19). We are to walk in God’s Way, which is to say, in His Truth. This will bring us true Life. Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life? Our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to follow Him, and be faithful to His voice, and His commands. We are to love His Word.
So when we read that the Lord calls us to stand apart from error, we’ll do it. We’ll take no part in ecumenical ventures. When we read that the Lord is Holy, and that we are to approach Him with reverence, this will mean that we keep our public meetings simple and orderly. When we see the importance of the Word of God and of preaching, this means that we will give the public preaching of the Word the highest priority.
But what we do, let us do with humility. We are not guardians of some ‘dying tradition’ which we must preserve in aspic and be proud of. We are servants of the Living God, and proclaimers of His Holy Word to a dying world. Let’s not sin by gossiping about other Christians or criticizing other churches. Rather, let our lips and lives show that we have found ‘the good way’, and may the banner of truth which we hold high attract many to join us in serving the King of Kings, who alone truly can bring our souls rest.