In this article, I would like to consider the truth as given to us by our God in a particular text of Scripture. It is a Word of God that is especially appropriate to consider in the days in which we are called to live: The text is Jeremiah 6:16: “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.”
This text is addressed to the children of God in the day of great apostasy; and it is addressed to the church in a day of impending judgment. It was a day then to be likened with the day in which you and I live. The apostasy that runs rampant in our age is without measure, and has never been seen in this measure before. O! there has been great apostasy before. In the old dispensation in Judah the apostasy was so great that God brought them into captivity. But then the church had been gathered through one line (Israel). The church was gathered organically from the Israelites; the other nations were heathen. And that particular people walked in such a way that their apostasy was a type of the final apostasy that befalls the church in our day. Today the whole world has come under the influence of the gospel of Christ, and apostasy in our day is final. Many fall away, the love of many wax cold! And also today it speaks of impending judgment of our Holy God.
It is in those days that Christ strongly admonishes His church that they follow not the way of apostasy unto judgment and damnation. It is then to this sounding forth of the Word of God that we now turn our attention. Thus saith Jehovah: stand in the way; ask for the old paths.
We have a glimpse of the occasion for the word of our text if we read a portion of Jeremiah 1: 14ff. “Then the Lord said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land. . . . And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands.” It is obvious the occasion for our text is the impending captivity of Judah as the judgment of God upon their wickedness. The judgment was severe, as it really was the end of Israel as a nation. God brought this judgment against Israel because of her wickedness and abominations. As we noted in the text quoted above, Israel had forsaken God. They had left off serving Him; they turned away from serving God and turned from His Word. The result was that they followed their own craftiness and their own understanding. This resulted in further sin: they burn incense unto other gods. This is always the way of apostasy and sin. They served gods of their own making. This indeed is the way of natural man!
When we come before that Word of God in natural strength, the result is the same. The Word says it is right and good to serve God, but by nature we say, No, it is right to serve our own need and will. The Lord says it is right to sanctify the Lord’s Day—that the day is to be set aside for the worship of God and is to be used for our seeking Him for the hearing of His Word. But we would say, no! it is a day for our leisure. Oh, we might go to church for awhile or once in awhile, but basically the day is ours. It is for our ease; we will use it to watch the football or hockey game on T.V. We will use that day for our pleasure and ease.
But understand, when one so” turns from the commands of God, then it is necessary to change the Word of God. Man desires to have no longer a God that judges his activity, but rather a God of his own making, and reason. He no longer desires the God of Scripture. When the God of Scripture says to us that we are to walk before Him in such a way that the covenant relation of God to His people is to be reflected in our relationship of man to woman, then by nature we say No! We walk in sin and say the woman must be equal to man, she must have equal say, equal place in all things, her speech must be heard in the church. And then we depart and seek after other gods! God will not condone such ungodly heresy and sin. The examples could be multiplied by many. But so had Israel reasoned and sinned. They departed after other gods.
Further, we read in Jeremiah 2:5ff: “Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain, Neither said they, where is the Lord that brought us up out of the land of Egypt. . . .” The Word asks, has your God given you the occasion for departing? Then lay your charge before God! God calls our attention to the fact that fie has not forsaken His ways. And it is not true that the people did not know. It is not true that the people of Israel in their history did not see that the merciful God delivers from sin, and that God by grace alone led them from captivity, led them through the wilderness; and brought them into the land of Canaan, overflowing with milk and honey, a land that typically looked forward and spoke of glory! He has revealed mercy and grace.
But what is so is that they have forsaken to rehearse the history of that gracious and merciful work of God. They ceased to talk of God’s judgment against the wicked. They did not want a God who judged—a God Who would destroy every man, woman, and child in Canaan because they had filled their cup of iniquity. Rather, they wanted a god who loved all men. They despised the Word of God that spoke of an antithetical walk, a Word that demanded that they have no part with the world. They filled their heart with a new word, one that taught that we must infiltrate the world in order to make it like us. The result is very predictable, because it is always the same. They began to worship Baal, they did not instruct their seed in the faith once delivered unto their fathers. They took the Word of God and counted it of none effect. They changed it wherever they willed and however it pleased them. This is natural man! This is you and I by nature! Do not do this with God’s Word, beloved!
It is for this reason too that we need to hear the Word of our God. In this day of apostasy, in this day when judgment is impending, we need to hear. Jehovah tells us in this day as He told the church in the day of Jeremiah, Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, wherein is the good way. We are to stand in the way and ask for the old paths.
What is that way, and what are the old paths? A way or a path is that which leads from one point to another. That is evident. You know that figure well! When you walk in a path it takes you somewhere. When you are on a way it implies you have a goal. The way includes always the end of the way, the goal. And you are to stand in the way. In that, you are to strive to attain the end of the way. And understand, there are two different ways which one might traverse. And there are only two! The one path is, according to Christ, a broad way. It is a way easily traversed for the flesh. It is a way that brings no ridicule in life. It never limits you, it is a way that causes the parent never to say to the child—you may not! It is a way that never keeps you from obtaining your hearts desire. It is a broad way and an easy way. But, Christ says that that broad way leads to destruction!
There is another way—it is a narrow way. That narrow way is so narrow that it becomes very hard for the flesh. It is a way that we do not like by nature. For if we walk that way by the grace of God, our activity is limited, our thoughts are limited, our friends are limited, our entertainment is restricted, our work is limited. We can not obtain the high wages of the union laborer, for instance, for we are restrained by God’s grace from joining ourselves in an ungodly union. That narrow way brings upon us mockery, and ridicule from the ungodly. It is a hard way for the flesh. But Christ says it is the way that leads into the fellowship of our God.
Our text concerns which way you will walk. However, it does not imply that you will make the right decision naturally. Because if it were a question of our natural choice of walk, there is no question which way we would take. Don’t be so foolish to think that you would take the narrow way. You or I would never do that. There is not one of us so holy! No! if it were up to us, we know which way we would go. Oh, I know that—too much I know that! Is that not our confession?
But we have a strong and efficacious Word of God. There is no condition here. But God says, “Stand ye in the way and ask for the old paths.” That is the command of our God! It is the powerful command of Christ to His church! Walk in those ways. By grace that Word takes hold of the child of God. It overpowers him. It gives him strength to fight the battle of faith.
What more specifically are those ways? The covenant youth asks the question ii Psalm 119:9 “How shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.” It is a question that tie all are concerned with, and its answer is our only comfort. The way? The old paths? That which leads into the blessed fellowship with our Father in heaven? It is the path of God’s Word! God gives us His Word, and when we walk in the way, we walk in His Word. It is the remembrance of God’s way, of God’s law, of His deliverance, whereby we have been delivered by the blood of Christ.
We are to follow the old paths. But, today man wants everything new. And the church man wants everything new. That is why he doesn’t follow the old paths any longer. The sound preaching of the Word must be replaced with something more appealing to the masses, to the youth. A little story with a moral slant will suffice. They say we want more participation in church service. We need longer liturgy. Further, the old ways offend, say they, for according to the old way we close our church service to half of the congregation. It offends when women are not able to vote or have offices in the church. We may not follow these ways, say they. And the doctrine of the old ways makes division. Much better to draft new statements of faith that will not offend, but will rather bring together all. Thus the result is that there is not rehearsed before the children the old paths. The way of salvation through the blood of the Lamb also is silent. That alone which can deliver from bondage and bring into the land of rest becomes, dead. They sought new and exciting ways—a new and exciting God. The church is filled with apostasy and becomes dead!
Beloved, in that day, in this day, ask for the old ways, do not ask for the new ways, ask for the old paths! Stand in the faithful creeds, and upon the faithful translation of the Scriptures (The King James) which is tried and found to be true over the years by our fathers. Ask for the faithful preaching of the catechism, and of the Word. Ask for the faithful labors of elders and deacons. Thus saith Jehovah.
Understand, this is not my word, but thus saith the Lord. God says this; it is His command. Oh, you may say to yourself: that is just the Bible, 1 will not hear. But you cannot do that. Oh, you may think that you can, but you may not without sure judgment! You may not do this and walk as God’s faithful child.
Christ’s word comes with power. And it strikes the child of God in his heart, and causes him to turn! The Word says, stand in the ways. From II Cor. 1:24 it is evident that faith stands so. Faith given His child by God causes one to stand in the way. And as God admonishes us to that faith, he nourishes it and strengthens it, and we shall stand and ask for the old ways. Beloved, God teaches us the means of grace that so enable faith to stand. He does so in Eph. 6:11-15. We shall stand with our loins girt about with the truth, and with our feet shod with the Word of God, having on the breastplate of righteousness. God admonishes the child of His grace to stand upon His Word and the righteousness alone in Christ.
And our text says, “and see. . . .” Not to stand founded in the faith of our fathers, upon the Word of God, is not to see. It is to dwell in darkness, and to lose all comfort of salvation. But standing by faith in the ways of God we see, and taste the blessedness of Father’s fellowship in Christ Jesus our Lord. There is peace, joy, and comfort.
Thus the Spirit admonishes us to ask, to dig deeply. The same admonition of our Lord comes to us when He admonishes, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” It refers to our whole walk. May God give us the grace to hear and obey. Then we shall be satisfied with the old ways. The result is peace and salvation. There is rest for your soul. The reason is that in those ways is the blood of Christ, the cross, grace, the grace to walk in the fellowship of God! Surely, then, our desire shall be to stand and to ask for the old ways and paths, to walk therein.