A curious five year old granddaughter sits proudly on her grandpa's lap, while he bounces her on his knees and sings her a little tune. With 20/20 vision at a close up 6 inches, she examines with awe and amazement every line in his face, every wrinkle in his brow, every grey hair around the edges of his bald head. "How old are you, Grandpa," she asks? Before he can answer, she proclaims, "I'll bet you are about old enough to die!" Grandpa chuckles, and agrees with her innocent proclamation. He has walked down many pathways during his lifetime, and experienced both the joys of success, and the agonies of defeat. Now his little granddaughter begins her walk down a path where he walked many decades ago. How can he spare her the heartaches, pitfalls and crushing disappointments she is bound to experience? How can he teach her to walk in the old paths?
by Jerry Gentry
"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" (Jer. 6:16).
Some old timers today will tell you of a time when they were young and how they walked to school every day through wind, through rain and through snow for many miles, lunch sack in hand, bare foot, and up hill both directions! Such were the days they remember, as they walked to school and elsewhere over many rough, untrodden, crooked and winding trails.
Were these the old paths spoken of in scripture? Are we to find the old paths by returning to a barefoot lifestyle deprived of modern conveniences?
Do you remember a time in your life when you had no indoor plumbing, no electricity, no TV and no telephone. If you are old enough to remember the 1950's, and you lived in a rural area, chances are you experienced the lack of such modern conveniences. Yes, the good old days of the fifties in America would not be considered so very good by most young people of today. "If those were the old paths, you can leave me out. I like things as they are today much better," they will tell you.
Will we find the old paths in poverty or riches; in sickness or health; in trouble or smooth sailing; in multitudes or solitude; in wealth or deprivation? Just where can we look today to learn this lesson and find the old paths spoken of by Jeremiah the prophet? What exactly does the Bible mean when it instructs: "Ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein?"
What are these old paths wherein is found "the good way."
"Jesus saith unto him [Thomas, the disciple], I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). Curious language. Our Saviour claimed to be the embodiment of "the way, the truth, and the life." He gave earlier instruction through Moses, who explained the old paths like this:
"I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live" (Deut. 30:19).
These old paths are defined in the simple terms of "life and death, blessing and cursing." Twice Moses entreats:
"And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up" (Deut. 6:6-7).
Yes, when we choose "the old paths" we choose life over death, success and abundance and blessing over cursing. The old paths are set out in terms of keeping the words of God close in our houses, upon our door posts, in our hands, on our lips and deep within our hearts. Can we understand the old paths, the blessings versus the cursings, which bring life versus death, even with ample shoes on our feet, even with modern conveniences of indoor toilets, running water, and TV sets a plenty? Only by finding, understanding and following what the Bible calls the old paths can we find an abundant, blessed life in this world.
"Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes" (Deu 11:18).
"And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up" (v. 19).
"And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates" (v. 20). This language shows that our devotion to God and to the Bible should be more than a few minutes every day. This language entreats that we build our lifestyle from the time we get up in the morning until the time we go to bed every night right out of the Holy Scripture. Why?
"That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth" (v. 21).
"For if ye shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to cleave unto him;" (v. 22).
"Then will the LORD drive out all these nations from before you, and ye shall possess greater nations and mightier than yourselves" (v. 23).
General prosperity follows when we walk in "the old paths." Abraham followed the old paths when he was called from Ur of the Chaldees into the land of Canaan.
"Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee" (Gen 12:1).
"By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went" (Heb 11:8).
"By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise" (v. 9).
"For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (v. 10). Yes, Abraham followed the old paths of the true God, and Sarah followed Abraham, "calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement" (1Pet. 3:6).
Of Abraham, the LORD said: "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, [the old paths] to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him" (Gen 18:19).
Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt by following the old paths, reconstructed and revealed afresh by the God who appeared in the burning bush and spoke to Moses, "mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches" (Num 12:8). Moses taught the children of Israel against worshipping Aaron's golden calf when he brought the old paths down from Mt. Sinai, codified in the form of the ten commandments.
Jephthah, whose father was a Gileadite, was cast out of his father's house and inheritance, by his brethren, because his mother was an harlot. Much later, the elders of Gilead recalled Jephthah, then a proven warrior of great valor, to defend Israel against "the children of Ammon [who] made war against Israel" (Jdg 11:4). Jephthah sent messengers to Ammon, with an appeal for peace based on the old paths given to Israel when they were led by the hand of God through the wilderness and into the promised land.
"Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent him. . . Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. . . and the LORD delivered them [the Ammonites] into his hands.
"And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel." (Jdg 11:28, 29, 32-33). Thus, Jephthah conquered by walking in and defending the old paths set in place by the God of Israel.
Jesus told his disciples: "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10), another way of saying, He taught how to walk in the old paths, even at His time of history.
The psalmist writes: "I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times" (Ps. 77:5); and, "I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands" (Ps. 143:5).
Yes, the old paths teach us about the great miracles of God, the plagues upon Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea; the giving of sweet water and raining down of manna; the crashing of the walls of Jericho and the mighty conquering hand of God whereby He delivered the promised land into the hands of His children of Israel.
The prophet Micah prays: "Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old" (Micah 7:14).
When we walk in the old paths, God feeds and blesses us with peace, solitude and prosperity, even while the world around us falls apart.
In the midst of a world of strife, when compromise against the old paths is rampant: "When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet" (Prov. 3:24).
With the old paths firmly in place: "Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day" (Psa 91:5).
"Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday" (v. 6).
"A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee" (v. 7).
The old paths are established throughout the Bible as the ways of God.
"But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you" (Jer. 7:23).
"Walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you" identifies the old paths.
We are warned: "Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein" (Hosea 14:9).
Yes, the old paths "are right" ways, waiting to be adopted and restored as a way of life in the earth.
What happens when we reject the old paths? "Because my people hath forgotten me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up. I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy; I will shew them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity" (Jer. 18:15, 17).
How can we today restore the old paths, and "walk in all his ways?"
Answer: "And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul" (Deut. 10:12).
As to the soon coming restoration worldwide of the old paths, when the kingdom of God is restored unto Israel, the Bible says:
"And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem" (Micah 4:2).
Those words of Micah are recorded again by the pen of Isaiah:
"And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem" (Isa. 2:3).
"And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in" (Isa. 58:12).
How can we restore the old paths today, even under the hand of God's chastisement for our backslidings?
Answer: "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby" (Heb 12:11).
"Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees" (v. 12).
"And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed" (v. 13).
Yes, we return to the old paths when we "make straight paths for [our] feet."
The prophet Isaiah tells of the time of the restoration of all things, in the Kingdom of God, where Jesus Christ has returned and bears rule with His rod of iron:
"Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain" (Isa. 40:4).
"And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them" (v. 16).
A great restoration of the old paths is coming soon. Will you make straight the crooked places now, in preparation for that future time? Will you restore the old paths in your life today?
If so, then you will order your life, the way you walk day by day, from your rising in the morning until you lie down at night, by the very words of this book, the Holy Bible. You will restore the old paths in your life by learning to live, as the apostle Luke recorded in chapter 4, verse 4: "not live by bread alone, but by every word of God."