New Days Need Old Paths
The people of God in every generation come to crossroads that force them to make crucial decisions. This is true of individual believers as well as of churches and larger associations and Christian organizations. At such times the Lord instructs us to give careful attention to where we have been and where we are going.
This was precisely the situation facing God's Old Covenant people in Judah during the life and ministry of the prophet Jeremiah. In chapter 6 of that prophet's book the Lord calls them to decision. Judah had gone through generations of spiritual and moral degeneration. They had given themselves over to every form of idolatry and immorality imaginable. Though they still claimed to be God's people, they had turned their back on God's ways. Under King Josiah, they had reformed some of their outward expressions of degeneration--they had torn down many of the altars to false gods and started going through the motions of worship again, but for the most part, their hearts had not really changed. They were still far, far away from the Lord.
So what does the Lord call them to do in such a situation? He calls them to stop and consider the life that is absolutely best for them--and then to choose to pursue that kind of life.
Jeremiah 6:16 says, "Thus says the LORD: 'Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls.' But they said, 'We will not walk in it.'" Basically the Lord calls His people to stop, look and listen.
They need to take time to stop and consider where they are in life and where they want to go. Ill-defined goals and misplaced priorities are often the result of a failure to stop and look seriously at life. If you do not know where you are going then any path will do. But if you have a destination clearly in mind, then you need to travel the right road to get there.
For the spiritual welfare of His people the Lord calls them to make an inquiry, to ask for the ancient paths in which is found "the good way." A path is not good just because it is old, but an old path that has faithfully taken those who have traveled it to their desired destination is certainly worthy of consideration and respect.
For their own spiritual health the Lord instructs His people to return to the old paths. Yet, they refused. The cult of the contemporary breeds historical myopia that cannot see the value in learning from those who have gone before us.
Wisdom, however, dictates that we learn from the past and be willing to travel the same roads of biblical fidelity that guided those who have gone before us to days of spiritual health and vitality.