THE OLD PATHS
by Wayne S. Walker
The people of Israel in Jeremiah’s day had forsaken Jehovah. In fact, they had always been a rebellious nation. They murmured against Him while coming out of Egypt. They failed to fulfill His command to drive out the nations around about them. When they became evilly influenced by those nations, He sent oppressors to punish them and judges to deliver them. But they rejected God’s method of rule and requested a king. One of those kings, Solomon, married heathen wives and reintroduced idolatry. The kingdom split upon his death. The apostasies of Jeroboam led the northern tribes into Assyrian captivity. The same fait was awaiting the southern kingdom as they followed a like path. Jeremiah admonished the people to return to God.
"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).
I. Something old?
What are the "old paths" mentioned by Jeremiah? Are they merely old ways of doing things? The answer is no. The scriptures do not reveal that something is right just because it is old. The Jews had been walking in the traditions of the elders for many years, but Jesus told them, "Ye also transgress the commandment of God by your traditions" (Matthew 15:3). The Jewish rulers and their followers were wrong even though they were "doing it the way they had always done it." The concept of "good enough for parents, good enough for me" was not the criteria Jesus used. Some of the most cherished religious beliefs and doctrines are based on antiquity rather than scripture.
II. Something new?
On the other hand, we must be careful of that which appears to be "new, fresh, and imaginative." Often, in rejecting stagnant traditionalism, many will swing to the other extreme and fall for every new idea that comes along without critical examination. Paul cautioned against being "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14). Simply because something is new, it is not necessarily good. Many churches practice things as a result of this experimental spirit rather than respect for God’s word.
III. Something from God
What are the old paths? They are simply the words of the Lord as revealed in His written word. In order to please God, men must learn to stay within its boundaries. Yet numbers of people today "transgress, and abide not in the doctrine of Christ" (2 John v. 9), by either clinging to vain traditions, or trying to update and modernize the old paths. We call for men to accept religious teaching not on the basis its historicity or recentness, but its conformity to God’s truth. We plead for a return to the Bible as the complete and final guide in spiritual matters. Let us take God at His word and be content with His will. (—taken from Torch; Aug., 1982; Vol. XVII, No. 8; pp. 22-23)