By Michael E. Brooks
“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.'” (Jeremiah 6:16 NKJV)
On my first trek into the Himalayas to visit remote congregations there I walked the rock road from Dunche to Syafru Bensi, a distance of some 9 miles. One Nepali brother and I walked together while 2 other Nepalis kept company behind us, fully engaged in conversation. One of these was Sircha, a member of the Tamang mountain tribe noted for its trekking and mountain climbing skills.
Gradually Gun and I outdistanced them until they were out of sight behind us. Some time passed with no indication of them catching up and we finally decided we would arrive at our destination well ahead of them.
Suddenly upon rounding a curve we were surprised to find them sitting quietly by the roadside, waiting for us. How did they get ahead of us? The answer was simple. We stayed on the road which wound its way down the mountain side in a series of switchbacks; Elijah and Sircha took the more direct route straight down the hill on ancient paths which the Tamangs had walked for centuries.
The road we walked had several advantages. It was wider and easier to follow. It ascended and descended the mountains at a much gentler angle, making walking somewhat easier and safer at least for those not accustomed to the mountains. The paths also had advantages, however. They were much faster as they ran straighter to their goal. There were no changes of direction or distractions on the paths. They represented the quickest and surest route to our destination.
Spiritually speaking we often seek for the easier, more comfortable way. A gentle slope attracts us, as do smooth surfaces and wide borders. These features of physical roads may translate religiously into more modern and attractive facilities in which to worship.
They may mean more exciting worship assemblies, filled with contemporary music and the latest trends in praise and enthusiasm. Or we may seek a religious experience which is less demanding of our time, finances or moral commitment. These switchbacks by which we attempt to make our climb less arduous take us away from the straight and sure approach and at best delay our arrival.
The prophet Jeremiah exhorted Israel to walk in the good way, the old paths. These are not always the easiest, but they have endured for a long time because they lead to the goal, and they do not divert or distract those who walk upon them. Jeremiah assured his listeners that the old paths would lead them to rest. Those paths represented the truths which God had taught in his law and which he had given them for their salvation.
We too have old paths to follow. Ours are the teachings of Jesus, which he commanded to be taught to and followed by all his disciples (Matthew 28:19). Only in them do we have the assurance of eternal rest.
By Michael E. Brooks