The Ancient Paths

Jeremiah 6:1–30 (NKJV)

6:1 “O you children of Benjamin,
Gather yourselves to flee from the midst of Jerusalem!
Blow the trumpet in Tekoa,
And set up a signal-fire in Beth Haccerem;
For disaster appears out of the north,
And great destruction.
2 I have likened the daughter of Zion
To a lovely and delicate woman.
3 The shepherds with their flocks shall come to her.
They shall pitch their tents against her all around.
Each one shall pasture in his own place.”

4 “Prepare war against her;
Arise, and let us go up at noon.
Woe to us, for the day goes away,
For the shadows of the evening are lengthening.
5 Arise, and let us go by night,
And let us destroy her palaces.”

6 For thus has the LORD of hosts said:

“Cut down trees,
And build a mound against Jerusalem.
This is the city to be punished.
She is full of oppression in her midst.
7 As a fountain wells up with water,
So she wells up with her wickedness.
Violence and plundering are heard in her.
Before Me continually are grief and wounds.
8 Be instructed, O Jerusalem,
Lest My soul depart from you;
Lest I make you desolate,
A land not inhabited.”

9 Thus says the LORD of hosts:

“They shall thoroughly glean as a vine the remnant of Israel;
As a grape-gatherer, put your hand back into the branches.”

10 To whom shall I speak and give warning,
That they may hear?
Indeed their ear is uncircumcised,
And they cannot give heed.
Behold, the word of the LORD is a reproach to them;
They have no delight in it.
11 Therefore I am full of the fury of the LORD.
I am weary of holding it in.
“I will pour it out on the children outside,
And on the assembly of young men together;
For even the husband shall be taken with the wife,
The aged with him who is full of days.
12 And their houses shall be turned over to others,
Fields and wives together;
For I will stretch out My hand
Against the inhabitants of the land,” says the LORD.
13 “Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them,
Everyone is given to covetousness;
And from the prophet even to the priest,
Everyone deals falsely.
14 They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly,
Saying, ‘Peace, peace!’
When there is no peace.
15 Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination?
No! They were not at all ashamed;
Nor did they know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
At the time I punish them,
They shall be cast down,” says the LORD.

This lengthy indictment against Israel is full of references to her rebellion, spiritual adultery, and her fate at the hands of the nations of the North.  The Lord is actually calling the nations to come and defeat her in battle.  The grace of God is being retracted at this point, and the justice or judgment of God is about to be poured out.  It is an ominous passage, with language that should be awesome and fearful, yet it seems that Israel wanders through it oblivious to the impending doom.

16 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.’
17 Also, I set watchmen over you, saying,
‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’
But they said, ‘We will not listen.’
18 Therefore hear, you nations,
And know, O congregation, what is among them.
19 Hear, O earth!
Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people—
The fruit of their thoughts,
Because they have not heeded My words
Nor My law, but rejected it.
20 For what purpose to Me
Comes frankincense from Sheba,
And sweet cane from a far country?
Your burnt offerings are not acceptable,
Nor your sacrifices sweet to Me.”

Yet, even in the midst of the pronouncement of doom, God offers a glimmer of hope:  walk in the old paths, and find rest for your souls.  Many translations use the phrasing, “ask for the ancient paths.”  God wants to lead you in the paths of righteousness, but it is time to ask.  It is time to inquire, dig, root out the paths of God.  Ancient or old does not signify something old-fashioned or culturally-rooted.  Instead, it means serving God Biblically.  If you do that, it may look different than the decor or dress code or musical style of your predecessors, but it will reflect the love, devotion, and commitment of the disciples of Jesus Christ.  Ask for the old or ancient paths, and walk in them!  Hear the watchman’s cry and run to safety!  However, this nation(and many nations today) does not ask for the old paths, and ignores the trumpet of the watchmen, and destruction looms at the gate.

21 Therefore thus says the LORD:

“Behold, I will lay stumbling blocks before this people,
And the fathers and the sons together shall fall on them.
The neighbor and his friend shall perish.”

22 Thus says the LORD:

“Behold, a people comes from the north country,
And a great nation will be raised from the farthest parts of the earth.
23 They will lay hold on bow and spear;
They are cruel and have no mercy;
Their voice roars like the sea;
And they ride on horses,
As men of war set in array against you, O daughter of Zion.”

24 We have heard the report of it;
Our hands grow feeble.
Anguish has taken hold of us,
Pain as of a woman in labor.
25 Do not go out into the field,
Nor walk by the way.
Because of the sword of the enemy,
Fear is on every side.
26 O daughter of my people,
Dress in sackcloth
And roll about in ashes!
Make mourning as for an only son, most bitter lamentation;
For the plunderer will suddenly come upon us.

27 “I have set you as an assayer and a fortress among My people,
That you may know and test their way.
28 They are all stubborn rebels, walking as slanderers.
They are bronze and iron,
They are all corrupters;
29 The bellows blow fiercely,
The lead is consumed by the fire;
The smelter refines in vain,
For the wicked are not drawn off.
30 People will call them rejected silver,
Because the LORD has rejected them.”

Here the Lord applies the final brush strokes to the picture that describes the destruction of His people.  Because of their insolence and rebellion, God will put stumbling blocks in their path, and the nations from the North will take over their cities and will destroy their families and friends.  The defeat will decimate the ranks, and they will mourn deeply for their loss.  God calls them to put on sackcloth and roll around in the dust.  Still, He leaves a little room for their repentance.  But He calls them bronze and iron, not silver and gold.  He tells them that the hot smelting process is coming, but the corrupt nature of their silver will require it be thrown away.  Judgement has come to the house of the Lord, and it is fierce!

While grace is amazing, and the sacrifice of Christ most definitely offers us forgiveness, it is imperative for Christians today to seek His face and follow His leading in order to live in the blessed place.  We may presume upon His grace for a time, but do not trifle with it.  Do not play games with your devotion or the Lord’s call to holiness.  Let Him cleanse you daily and listen to His voice.  The God of Creation, the God of the Universe, the God of Heaven will not be ignored forever.  Hear Him and live!

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