Over the years of my Christian walk I would frequently hear of some new thing that people were excited about—some new way or methodology that its inventor promised would help us better live the Christian life and take us closer to our destination. Sometimes I have wondered if the destination people are looking for is the same one God has for them—Himself—for I haven’t been able to agree that these many new ways brought people closer to Him.
With this in mind I was reminded a few days ago of a word the prophet Jeremiah gave during a time of waywardness among the people of his day.
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 (Jer. 6.16).
I imagine Jeremiah standing out somewhere, and he can see the busy people going here, going there… some in this way and some in that… confident these pathways will take them where they want to go. And as Jeremiah watches, the Lord lays a message on his heart. The Lord has counsel for His people relative to the destination He has in mind for them. “Thus saith the LORD…” It is the Lord Himself who advises His people to “stand in the ways, and see…”
In other words, see where these ways are leading you? I wish we would lay it to heart and do the same in our day amid all our ways—the programs and methods we are so confident about, and are so sure are the Lord’s business. Let’s have an honest look at these our ways, and see. Are we really getting anywhere? Are we making any real impact on our world around us with our many church programs and methodologies? If we think we are, we are kidding nobody but ourselves… and have either not seen or lost sight of the impact that the living God is capable of.
And so our Lord counsels us, while we are busy in these many ways leading nowhere, to ask for the Old Paths. We are to recognize these other ways for what they are—man’s ways—and in the midst of them all ask, “Where is the good way?”
The good Way is about overgrown with brush these days. But we are to ask, and continue asking, “Where is the good Way?”
And discovering this Way we are to “walk therein.”
And ye shall find rest for your souls.
“Ask for the Old Paths,” our Lord counsels. What are the Old Paths, then? The Lord speaks of these in the singular. “Ask for the old paths: where is the good way?” Singular. There is just one Way—the Good Way—Jesus Christ Himself. “I am the Way,” He says, “the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by Me” (Jn. 14.6).
Here is our destination, then—the Father. And here is our Way—the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
“Ask for the Old Paths; where is the Good Way…” Jesus Christ Himself is The Way. And so how do we walk this Way? How do we walk in Him? The only way we can walk in Jesus is to walk in the Spirit. This is the Way the early church walked in. I know Jeremiah was speaking to people under the old covenant, but remember—he was a prophet writing things for our day. “Not unto themselves but unto us they did minister…” (1 Pt. 1.12). And so from a new covenant point of view, the Old Paths are the New Thing the Lord began doing when He poured forth His Spirit at Pentecost, and the church of Jesus Christ was born. Those early disciples began walking in a New and living way. In fact the early disciples became known as the people of The Way (Acts 9.2, 19.23, 22.4, 24.14). Can the same be said of us today? Is it this that characterizes us? Do we walk in this same Way?
I am reminded of something Solomon said:
As Thou knowest not what is the way of the wind, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all (Eccles. 11.5).
That phrase just haunts me—“the way of the wind.” It’s a path that can’t be seen with the natural eye; there are inner workings in God that, like the child in the womb, are beyond the reach of the mind of man to grasp. I know, when it comes to the weather and medical science we’ve got these things all figured out now. But what Solomon said is still true. We simply cannot know the things of God by human ingenuity and man’s device, no matter how inventive our new programs and methodologies and techniques.
It is so beautiful to see how Jesus combines those two thoughts about the way of the wind and the child in the womb, telling Nicodemus the teacher of Israel that there is in fact a Way in which he can come to know the things of God. That is, by being born again, born of the Spirit—the Wind. Being born of the Wind we become like the Wind, and so know His Pathway… because we are borne along in it.
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Wind (Jn. 3.8).
Oh how we love this verse. But how can we miss seeing that the born-again experience is to become more than just the initial point of our salvation and birth into the Kingdom of God… and then it’s left to us to proceed with our own works and ways? No, the Way of the Wind is to be our Way all our days. Could it be, then, that this is the reason why, in spite of all our ways– these methods, these programs of ours– that we—yes we the born-again people of God—simply aren’t getting anywhere? We have missed The Way, we have lost our Way! We want to see the lost saved, but we ourselves have lost our way.
God’s counsel to us is to ask for the Good Way, the Old Paths, the Pathway of the Wind—of the Spirit.
Oh, to see the churches abandon their own ways and return again to this beautiful Way! Where are those who are asking for the Old Paths, the Good Way? How tragic that time and again through church history, and again in our day, God’s people have swerved out of this beautiful Pathway of the Spirit and got involved in their own ways and works. It is heartbreaking folly. We would be so much further along if we would come to repentance, and return to the Old Paths, the beautiful new Way of the Spirit. This was our Lord’s counsel to those of old. It is His counsel for us today.
Yet when I read Jeremiah’s prophecy and the answer that was returned to the Lord’s counsel by those of old, I am troubled. It was, “We will not walk therein.”
Is that our answer today as well?