Signs for the Ancient Paths

Have you ever experienced a Bible passage that the Lord repeatedly uses in your life? I have several but one stands out. It is Jeremiah 6:16 (ESV): 

Thus says the LORD:

“Stand by the roads, and look,

and ask for the ancient paths,

where the good way is; and walk in it,

and find rest for your souls.”

But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

lilies

The Lord seems to remind me of this verse often. In my flower garden, I have an old variety called surprise lily. In the spring the bulb sends up many green strap-like leaves. They flourish a bit but then fall away and decompose to nothing. You can’t even see where they were. Then in August, flower buds shoot up almost overnight with showy amaryllis-like blooms. They literally surprise you. This August has been a great year for the surprise lilies. They are making a show everywhere in my region of Arkansas. 

Driving back to town through the hills recently, nearly every old farmhouse had some. One clump stood out. Twenty-five yards off the road, among the trees and underbrush, I noticed a large display. They appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. But they did not get there by themselves. They were planted there by some long-forgotten farmer’s wife. The house and barn are gone, the drive is gone, but these flowers continued, marking the ancient path to the homestead. There I once again remembered Jeremiah 6:16.

God called to his people to search out the ancient paths. The ancient paths might not be obvious so searching may be necessary. But the ancient ways, when we follow them yield three benefits. 

The ancient paths are good. In my region, early settlers blazed trails but those settlers often simply walked in straight lines. This was not so among the native Americans. They followed the ridgetops or natural ravines. Their trails were not shorter but nevertheless could be traveled with less effort. Their ancient paths were good paths.

The ancient paths provide a way to walk, a metaphor for living life. I love to hike though I seldom get the chance nowadays. I associate my spiritual life with the idea of pilgrimage, leaving one place to arrive at another. We are on a journey. The way we live our lives demonstrates the value of our lives or lack thereof. Walk in the ancient paths.

The ancient paths give rest. Rest. Rest is the one thing most people crave but never find because they have chosen paths without rest. Rest is God’s good gift to his people. We see this throughout the Bible wherever there is a discussion of Sabbath. In fact, the book of Hebrews demonstrates that God led his people into the promised rest. Ultimately, our trust in the salvific work of Jesus brings us into a glorious, eternal rest that begins here and now in this life. 

When the culture challenges my faith, when distractions divert my attention from the things of God, when weariness festers in my soul, I look for the ancient paths. Just like the surprise lilies, God points out the good way, so I might walk in a way of rest. 

Don’t refuse the ancient paths.

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