16 Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ 17 “And I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’ 18 “Therefore hear, O nations, And know, O congregation, what is among them. 19 “Hear, O earth: behold, I am bringing disaster on this people, The fruit of their plans, Because they have not listened to My words, And as for My law, they have rejected it also. Jeremiah 6:16-19
The old path behind our place will take you to a great meadow, after passing beside a dank green swamp and some hardwood stands. It then arcs back, and leads you home through a quiet, thin forest.
Some novice had come through with a brush cutter, and started a new path away from the old one. I was curious enough to follow it, for I know this section of land well. After much meandering and zig-zagging about, the new path came to an abrupt halt in a dense thicket on the north side of the swamp. A dead-end. This path led to nowhere but muck and briars.
I thought of that walk recently, while reading through Jeremiah and reaching these verses in chapter six. There are a lot of ways (:16) available for us as well. Many “new pathways” revel in their novelty. “We’re not the ‘old’ (read: ‘antiquated’) way!” It occurs to me that everything new is not necessarily improved. It’s true with tools, furniture, cultural trends, foods, entertainments, and yes, even religion. Much that is new supplants the better with a cheaper, watered-down substitute.
This “new pathway” has come for the church, where today I would question the label of “church” for some groups. What do you have when there is no authority of the Scriptures, no fear of the Lord, and no upholding of the foundational truths of the Gospel of Christ? When worship turns to self-worship, and trends and styles of the culture are slavishly adopted as the “new” way? These new paths of feeling good and being relevant are already deeply rutted by the proselytes marching in heady quick-step. The groups should be called other than “church,” but that too is telling of the deception of the new pathways. After all, church is church, right?
Meanwhile the (:16) ancient path of obedience, fear of the Lord, reverence and holiness is becoming obscured by weeds as fewer travel it.
Jeremiah shares God’s invitation; (:16) walk in the ancient, good way. God promises rest to those who walk His path. But many refuse His instruction. Am I the only one who notices the restlessness, agitation and continual rage among those walking their strange new pathways? Little wonder, since their path meanders and is constantly being redirected, from one dead-end to another!
The Lord then states (:17) that we should listen to the ones upholding His Word. But again, God is scorned and the people choose other heralds with new “truth.” What happens when people start following guides of the “new pathways?” I am reminded of the ill-fated Donner party, who trusted a guide and his guidebook for a new path that would lead them West. It led them to disaster—for that guide had never traveled that path by wagon. His motive was to sell his path, and achieve notoriety. Hmmm… “fastest growing new path group in _________, Michigan.” Sound familiar?
The Lord then pronounces His verdict (:18) and as you would surmise, it is not good for the ones who reject Him. The Lord also tells His “congregation” to observe and learn from what befalls the scoffers. The sentence is for disaster to come. There will be a harvest of bitter fruit. Their path is a path that leads to destruction. Even the godly will suffer as judgment falls. Do not veer from the ancient path. It will lead to your deliverance.
The Lord Jesus in Matt. 7:13-14 speaks strikingly similar words. No wonder since the Word become flesh will speak only the Word of God.
13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14
Who could ever think it would be better for us, to leave the ancient path and venture down the new, wide way? The narrow ancient path is not a popular way—does that surprise or offend us?
I’m sure we’ll “miss out” on lots of thrills. Big good times. Maybe even a lot of shiny, new stuff. But the end of that wide path holds only bitter destruction. Some may escape it, but most will find it impossible to extract themselves, once the mud starts pulling them down.
Think on these things. If I have brought an unsound word, you have every freedom to seek a new path. For myself, I do not intend to leave the ancient path, at this juncture of my journey home.