“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)
When we search for a source of comfort, there are times when returning to the old ways can be very therapeutic. We listen to music we enjoyed when we were younger as we the nostalgia of old TV shows or movie classics provide memories of days-gone-by. During the restrictions imposed as a result of the coronavirus epidemic, it was found that families reunited at home over old board games or around the kitchen table enjoying a longstanding family recipe that surfaced because they were forced to make home-cooked meals. As humans, we are always looking for the new. We have a creative streak in us that generates, searches for, and escalates new ways of thinking. We have become convinced that old things can almost always be done in a better way. Thus, the world is shaped and molded by new ideas, new inventions and new people. But the Bible takes a slightly different view: “This is what the LORD says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’” (Jeremiah 6:16).
In this text, God is speaking through the Prophet Jeremiah to a rebellious and wicked people who were willfully defying God though their choice of a lifestyle of idolatry. They had turned their back on the true and living God by following the sinful practices of other nations. God had consistently warned His people through the prophets regarding the consequences of their defiance against Him. He had promised to send them into captivity because of their unholy ways and spiritual decline. Specifically, Jeremiah spoke of their impending doom and predicted the fall of the nation of Judah. He warned them of approaching oppression, violence, and the ravaging of their land. Although the Lord informed Jeremiah that the people would not listen to his words, this weeping prophet was faithful to his calling by remembering their covenant with God and calling for a return to the good ways of righteousness.
The ‘good way’ is being willing and ready to do what God wants us to do, even when we may not know exactly what that is. Whenever we come to a crossroad in our life and we need to make a decision – He offers us a choice. We can either receive or reject it. Though His Word, we can reflect on examples of the paths that were followed by the faithful. When Samuel helped the Israelites overcome the Philistines, he took time to stop and reflect on how God had helped him. He built a monument from stone and called it “Ebenezer” which means “By God’s help we have come thus far” (1 Samuel 7:10-13). There are times of challenge and change in each of our lives when we will hopefully meet Jesus at the crossroads. There we will be faced to consider the option of returning to the old ways or be influenced by those who have decided that new is better. Those who take this new position have abandoned the true and living God to serve other gods disguised by titles, materialism, degrees, money, and status, to name a few.
Sadly, we often find that even the Christian church is challenged to look for new or fresh ideas to boost appeal, endeavor to make its message more modernized, or simply to satisfy their own members’ thirst for change. But God isn’t concerned about what’s interesting, exciting, politically correct, or able to be streamlined. He is unlike the world which confuses change with progress, for not all changes or new things are improvements. Those who have their eyes wide open will discover that there is timeless wisdom which cannot be improved upon and is the best path to follow. Paul says that those who do not travel this path “walk in the futility of their own mind, having their understanding darkened, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them” (Ephesians 4:17-18). While we are not called to walk the same ancient path to which Israel was called, we are required to be faithful to our calling; that is, to walk in spirit and truth as outlined in the Word of God. This requires that we make a commitment to grow in grace and in knowledge of the Lord by maturing in the faith we have been taught. So, rather than following the new, simply searchfor the old paths . . . and you will find the good way.
REFLECTION: Consider ways you might have dishonored the Lord by following modern trends? Are you listening for God’s direction and obeying what you hear? Or, are you doing what is right in your own eyes? Are there organizations to which you belong that would be better off if they would just apply some of the old ways? How might you encourage them to do so without appearing to be old-fashioned?