“This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.'”
~ The Bible, Jeremiah 6:16, NIV
Is there any wisdom on the ancient paths? In this twenty-first century, for many, the Bible seems to be merely an outmoded book, irrelevant in today’s complex world. Critics view the message of the Bible as disjointed, superstitious, and simplistic in its thinking. Many supporters who still find value in its words, proclaim that the Bible must be culturally interpreted, applied to today’s global world, and its overarching messages of love, justice, and grace is all that really matters. These individuals will point to societal and individual misinterpretation of the Scriptures throughout the centuries, and challenge the validity of belief of anyone who holds to a more ancient, literal interpretation. In many corners of our world, such believers are openly mocked and vilified. Others allow entitlement of belief behind the four walls of a church building, or within the home. But, these individuals stress that such beliefs have no place in today’s marketplace of ideas.
However, ideas are relevant, they are the tools that shape society and define reality. The best ideas reflect truth. Not all ideas are equally valid, nor do all withstand the test of time. I believe that the Scriptures pass that test. I believe this so firmly, that I have staked my life on the foundations of Scripture, even as I recognize that I don’t always understand all the details clearly. God’s Kingdom is being revealed through the ages, but the foundation of that Kingdom, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, stands firmly fixed within the framework of time. Although true Christians may disagree on many things, on these essentials there can be no disagreement. These truths are the foundation of the faith, and to believe otherwise, though some may still call themselves Christian, is to stray far from the truths of Christianity. This, the common foundation of Christianity, is the place for Christians to begin discussing their differences–to “ask for the ancient paths.”
Yet, many refuse to ask. They seek to undermine the reliability of Scripture, they proclaim, “We will not walk in its way,” they mock those who proclaim Scripture’s truth as simpletons, hypocrites, and hate-mongers. They proclaim, “There is no good way on the ancient paths!” And, for them, I grieve. There is no anchor for their soul, there is no forgiveness for their sin, there is no hope for their salvation apart from the ancient paths. Society will march forward, changing direction with every breeze of ideology, and along the great highway of its march lies a pathway to death.
This is what the prophet Jeremiah is proclaiming, and as the people turned away, death is the result that Jeremiah witnessed. In a time of peace and prosperity, proclamation of favor and grace, trust in the love of God while reveling in wickedness, the ancient paths remind us of impending doom. God will judge wickedness, yet in His mercy he offers opportunity to avert impending judgment. He calls nations and individuals to return to the crossroad, to the place where the great highways of contemporary living and the ancient paths of history intersect. Through the ancient prophets, God challenges us to decide which way we will go, to listen to God’s instruction, to move along the ancient paths of virtue (morality, holiness, obedience, and compassion) that God has put in place for our good. But, we must pause, stand on the foundation of God’s Word, look for the ancient paths, ask where they may be found, then walk upon the path set before us.
So here I stand; I seek the ancient paths. Like the great Protestant reformer Martin Luther, I proclaim that in spite of my many flaws, my conscience is captive to the Word of God, and in words attributed to Luther, I proclaim, in the face of today’s swiftly changing culture, “Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me.”